Exploring Petra - The Street of Facades, Ampitheatre and High Place of Sacrifice

Petra map - courtesy of Wikipedia

Petra map - courtesy of Wikipedia

Petra is not small, which is why I’d recommend buying a two or three day pass to the site (they are marginally more expensive than the one day pass, which many tourists opt for). This means you can come back, take your time, and really explore the area. There’s also some tremendous hiking options for the fit (or simply adventurous) although I’d recommend you come prepared because some of the trail really are quite arduous.

If you don’t have hiking boots and just want to soak up the atmosphere, then don’t despair.- there’s more than enough to see on the simplest of the trails,. If you don’t want to scramble up rocks, climb hundreds of stairs and lose a few kilos, then just stay on the path that leads directly from the Treasury and head off on the main path from the Treasury - taking you along the Street of Facades, Ampitheatre and onto the High Place of Sacrifice.

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Walking along the Street of Facades, you will see a row of Nabatean tombs carved into the southern cliff face. Over the years, the elements have destroyed a fair few of them but it’s still pretty impressive. You’ll then reach the ampitheatre - and let me say that whilst this is the grandest one I’ve ever seen (compared to those I’ve viewed in Italy, Turkey and Israel) what is impressive is how it has been carved out from the side of a sandstone mountain! .Hellenistic in style, it could seat (I am told) up to 6,000 people. The seating comes all the way down to the orchestra floor level and at its back you can see where a whole row of tombs was knocked away in its construction!

Close to the theatre, you’ll see some signposted steps - take this trail if you’re curious about Nabatean architecture or if you’re simply after a stunning view from atop the rocks.

In my opinion, you can manage this if you’re reasonably fit (although watch out because the stairs are quite steep). As you walk deep into this ravine (named Wadi Al-Mafur) you can’t fail to be impressed by the way the rocks have been chiseled into these stairs - again, another real feat of engineering. You’ll know you’re approaching the top when you see two large obelisks. The views from up here are nothing short of magnificent and, furthermore, there really aren’t that many tourists, compared to other sites in Petra.

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The High Place of Sacrifice is, indeed, quite high - it’s perched at the top of cliffs with a sheer drop of 170 metres to Wadi Musa, below. It’s very dramatic, having walked through these ‘rock corridors’ to suddenly find yourself out in the open again, staring at an alter area. In it you will see a rectangular Triclinium - a formal dining room - where those celebrating a sacrifice would eat communally). The alter is circular and close by are stone basins, where purifying rituals took place. The panoramic views are superb - though the primary thought on my mind at the top was how tough it would have been dragging an animal (or human) sacrifice up these steps!

As I said before, this is a moderate trail but you do need to be reasonably fit to take it on. However, it’s well worth the effort and off the main tourist drag, which is wonderful in itself, when you see how many people are wandering around Petra each dau. Climb down the way you came (as I did) or down the western cliff via Wadi Farasa. There are places to buy water along the way there (as there were on the trail I took) and if you’re really feeling lazy you can hire a donkey!

Conclusion: a hike that’s well worth the effort…