Petra from on High

Our second full day at Petra was one of the highlights of the trip. Fred had been impressed by several  photos taken of the Treasury from above and he had heard rumors that there was actually an easy route to get to the vantage point. The challenge was to find a guide who knew the way. A visit to the guide office found Achmed, who would guide us. He recommended taking horses to make the climb easier for Denise and although Fred was very unsure about this, we agreed. It proved to be a wise and most enjoyable choice. Achmed discussed horses just inside the gate and procured three excellent ones, complete with their owners, and we set off. The horses ambled at an easy walk, except for when the track was too dangerous for them to carry anyone and then we dismounted and walked beside them.

At this point we pause for a quick aside. Tourists today enter Petra through the narrow and spectacular Siq, but the site is, of course more easily accessible from the north and south as the city actually sits in a broad valley. And, of course, any invading army could easily climb over the mountains. So why is Petra where it is? Water. The mountains around Petra actually get a fair amount of rain and the Nabateans were experts at channelling that water into the city where it was stored in cisterns. And, while it is not immediately obvious from the tourist route, Petra is surrounded by large, flat plateaus which are perfect for agriculture.

It was quite fascinating to be up above the Petra Valley on the flat agricultural lands. The Crusaders destroyed the olive groves and they have never been replanted.


A project is currently attempting to recreate and reestablish the Nabatean water control methods with a view to irrigating for agricultural purposes. The Nabateans grew grapes and olives and traded wine and olive oil from the Petra valley.


We had quite a scramble to get to the viewpoint above the Treasury but it was worth it.


The first view was spectacular. (Like all of the images, this one is quite large, click and zoom.)


And then, when you climb down, you come to this: Notice the people on the left, they have come up one of the steeper climbs. If you zoom in and look directly in front of the facade, you can see the underground rooms that have been unearthed.


Denise paused to take in the view.


And what can she see? Zoom in on the next picture and see if you can guess. Hint: Look for something man made. (Answer at the bottom of this post.)



Back on the horses and off to the Place of High Sacrifice. After more riding, walking, and scrambling, we came upon the site from behind. The Nabateans weren’t adverse to digging and carving – notice that the two pylons are carved out of the mountain, not erected. Can you imagine the work it took to smooth the cliff faces on the right of the image?


Back in the day, it looked like this.

High Place

The High Place of Sacrifice.

The point of a high place is to build an altar and the Nabateans did some beautiful stone work with channels to carry liquid. We can simply imagine what liquid. From the stone work still remaining, it is likely that much of the site had walls at one time.

We wandered and took photos before beginning the descent of the steps. It was certainly an easier descent than it would have been to climb up. Fred was never able to find the section of stairs that had scared him so as a child.


Back in the valley, we admired the theatre. By this time, after Amman, Um Qais, and Jerash, we were about theatered out!


We made our way back to the Treasury to hit the refreshment stands and to indulge in a bit of people watching.

Achmed composed and took a great shot of the Treasury in Fred’s glasses.


Fred took one last stab at a slightly different take on the classic Treasury-through-the-Siq shot.


Goddess through the Siq.

We hiked, OK, trudged, our way back up through the Siq, stopping to admire what had been a fabulous carving of a camel caravan. Complete with a person leading. Sadly, the soft sandstone has washed away, but you can see that the water course actually ran behind the camels’ legs.

We were back to our hotel by about 4.00 pm. Again after a shower and a rest, we headed to the buffet for dinner. Afterwards, we stopped to chat to a gentleman putting sand in bottles in various patterns and designs. Fred remembered these from his childhood and he was happy to purchase a couple. Sadly, he had closed up by the time Fred went back for his camera.

And what could Denise see? The top of the Monastery. Amazing! Actually, if you know where to look, you can see it from several of the higher points around Petra.

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