On my last day in Petra, I start off late in the morning to do one final long hike. After discovering the Monastery via the back door and having the Treasury all to myself in the wee hours of the morning, I wanted to explore the High Place of Sacrifice, a viewpoint that had been recommended by every single guide I passed.
One last time my path leads me through the Siq. Just past the Petra Treasury, I take the first set of stairs that appears on the left.
It’s already past 9, which means I am far from alone. Right in front of me, two donkeys are ascending. The donkey in front placidly walks his tourist load, while the white one with a squealing girl on its back needs a little more encouragement from the driver. Their speed is slow enough for me to catch up. For a while, we swap positions ever so often:
They stop for photos; I speed ahead. I stop for photos; they pass me.
We reach the plateau together. In the distance, a corrugated iron hut, partially clad in stone announces a point of interest.
It is a sweeping view of the valley below with the Petra Street of Facades and the Royal Tombs to the right, the Byzantine church and the temples in front, and the High Place of Sacrifice to the left.
But I’ve heard of another Treasury viewpoint. So I leave the hut behind and venture along a path marked by two large piles of rock with flags on top. The route is fairly easy to follow until I get to the edge. A guide walks towards me and asks where I want to go.
“You need a guide! This is too dangerous! You will get lost.”
I smile politely and venture on.
I hate to admit it, but after reaching the edge, I have no idea how to continue. Too many paths zig-zag up and down the slope.
Luckily, the donkey-trio soon catches up with me. They had to leave the animals behind and are now scrambling down the slopes. I start tagging along, sometimes taking the lead so as not to appear too much like I’m taking advantage of the situation.
Once we can’t go further down, the path turns right, away from where I suspect the Treasury. We have to get to the other side of the canyon for a view of it.
After 20 minutes, we have finally made it.
The view is even better than the one we had a few days ago. Of course, at this hour there are plenty of people down on the square below us, but the Treasury seems much closer.
Back at the corrugated iron hut, I sit down for tea, leaving my guides and donkeys to continue on their own.
After 10 minutes of solitude — just me, my tea, the view, and the shop owner’s daughter demanding “Give me one dollar!” “Give me a biscuit!” “Give me a pen!” — I head for the High Place of Sacrifice.
Half-way there I meet my donkey-guides again. The couple is out of time and has to abort the loop to catch their car for the sunset in Wadi Rum.
One of the female shopkeepers at the High Place is venturing further than her female compatriots around Petra: she’s trying to sell guiding services to other supposedly hard to find spots in the mountains. She is very keen on her brother showing me a photo of the amphitheater from above. Of course, I barely ever hire guides. So her efforts are fruitless. Nevertheless, I decide to find that amphitheater view.
The High Place of Sacrifice itself is the endpoint of the procession path, which I’ll be using to get back to the valley.
All I have to do is follow the stairs. This time, they lead me down.
I almost walk past the Lion Fountain.
If it wasn’t for the lady selling jewelry with the standard “Business is very bad today. Only 1 dollar. Happy hour!”
She makes me look around to see why she chose this position: A giant lion hewn into the rock is part of a channel system that leads to the Petra Garden Complex.
Right behind the Garden Complex, the Renaissance Tomb is the first tomb cave I enter. Here, beyond the layers of colored rock, the interior carvings have been exceptionally well kept. Finest details are visible in 2,000-year-old columns.
The Renaissance and Soldiers tombs are the beginning of another long avenue of smaller tombs rivaling the Street of Facades by the Royal Tombs.
I enter one of them, and a group of tiny puppies jumps towards me, squealing, sits down, thinking and posing, then returns to one of the recesses in the walls where their human parent build them a bed.
Other tomb caves are fenced off to serve as shelter for the Bedouins’ goats. Yes, there are actual bedouis living in Petra, some in regular caves, come in the old tombs.
If I continued straight, I would eventually hit the Colonnaded Street. But I have one last panoramic location to explore.
I start climbing again, past the goat caves. Here, the rock is more fractured. So I find myself in dead ends time and again. Finally, I can see the amphitheater, about 100m from my location. It still takes another 10 minutes of climbing up and down, using my hands for balance and navigating on the brink before I have reached the top seats of the theater.
I don’t dare go as far to the edge at that High Place shopkeeper’s brother did, but I get my final shot. After, I sit down for a little afternoon snack watching the world below go by in absolute silence, just occasionally broken by birds chirping and goats bleating.