PETRA, Jordan – Jordan's ancient city of Petra was officially declared a candidate Tuesday in the contest to name the new seven wonders of the world at a ceremony amid its rose-colored stone buildings.
Contest founder Bernard Weber presented Jordan's Queen Rania with Petra's official candidacy at the event that included a presentation on the way the city's first inhabitants lived.
The New 7 Wonders of the World contest was launched in 2001 by Weber's Geneva-based NewOpenWorld Foundation, which aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments.
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It relies on private donations and revenue from selling broadcasting rights. Twenty-one sites around the globe are vying to be declared wonders of the world.
Petra, located 162 miles south of the Jordanian capital, Amman, is built on a terrace around the Wadi Musa or Valley of Moses.
It was the capital of the pre-classical Arab kingdom of the Nabateans, a center of caravan trade, and continued to flourish under Roman rule after the Nabateans' defeat in A.D. 106.
It is famous for water tunnels and stone structures carved in the rock, including Ad-Dayr, "the Monastery," an uncompleted tomb facade that served as a church during Byzantine times.
Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burchhardt in 1812 discovered the city, which is hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains.
The city is one of 830 places that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, has designated a World Heritage Site.
Nominations for the contest were whittled down by public votes to 77 last year. Then a panel of architectural experts, chaired by former UNESCO chief Federico Mayor, shortened the list to 21.
Interest has grown as Weber and his 10-member team visit the 21 sites. Their final visit will be March 6 to New York's Statue of Liberty.
Egypt's pyramids of Giza is the only other site in the Arab world that has reached the contest's short-list.
The New 7 Wonders of the World will be announced at a ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday, July 7, 2007.