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Manu | 23 November 2012 | 1 comment

A moment of peace & contemplation, High Place of Sacrifice in Petra

Today, I’m hoping to make it up to the High Place of Sacrifice. The 800-odd rocky stepsbegin near the Amphitheatre. But I get the impression fewer people visit this spot. Of course, everyone visiting Petra will see The Treasury; the first sight. In one day, it’s possible to hike up to the Monastery too, as I have. But many people come to Petra for one day. And that’s a huge shame.
With so many sights spread far out, so much walking and hikingand such a powerful atmosphere, it would be a waste not to allow Petra the time it deserves to be appreciated. Two nights is not enough for me, but certainly enough to feel satisfied that I’ve really managed to dig deep into the heart of the sprawling sandstone site.

I start a little later this morning, having figured out my bearings from yesterday’s full day of exploration. Knowing exactly where I need to go makes it much easier to get to the starting point and begin the ascent before the full-on midday sun and heat. But it’s impossible not to still be distracted and overwhelmed by the Siq, the narrow gorge entrance to Petra.


Steps leading up to the High Place of Sacrifice, Petra

The altar was the site of animal sacrifices

The High Place of Sacrifice is a slightly steeper and edgier climb. During the ascent, don’t be afraid to take a few minutes every now and then to catch your breath as it’ll also give you a few moments to just stop and look around at your surroundings. It’s only when I stop that I realise just how epic the landscape is, as the structures and people below gradually fade into toy models then, further up, miniscule dots. On some sections, all I can see is the winding steps up with sharp bends, beyond which spectacular drops lie. I can just imagine the processions that would have ascended some 2000 years ago; animals and priests alike.

Nearer the top, the route isn’t immediately obvious and it’s only

Altars at the top of the High Place of Sacrifice

once I reach the spot that I realise there are several ways to get up, depending on how fit and daring one wants to be. And once at the top, I come across a large flatter uneven surface bearing two Obelisk. This is the Attuf Ridge.

The altar area is fascinating, historically. The first thing I notice is a large well-type structure, where water was once collected for the sermons. On the opposite side sits another altar that is thought to have been used to collect the blood of sacrificed animals, before it poured down the mountainside. I ask my guide if there were ever any human sacrifices. The answer is that no-one knows for certain, but it is likely, as some inscriptions may indicate. And then On the summit of this mountain, far above Petra, the panoramic views are jaw-dropping. The gargantuan Royal Tombs below look like toy models and people are moving dots.

The whole of Petra is clearly visible from this spot, making it my favourite on the site.

There’s a peaceful aura up here: just the sound of a gentle breeze wafting through now and then. This high above Petra’s busy grounds and away from most tourists, it’s easier to appreciate the beauty and immensity of the site. Up here, I feel blessed to have turned the Petra dream into reality but feel a tinge of sadness that it’s done…all the dreaming, longing and imagining are now over. There’s just enough time for an Arabic coffee and to make a new friend (below) at a Bedouin stall (yes, there’s even one here) before the descent.


A wild cat ont he road back

Now, one important note to make is this, if you plan on hiking up to the High Place of Sacrifice, be sure to take the back route down. It’s terrifying as you’ll walk down tiny narrow winding steps carved into the sheer cliff with no edges. But en route, you’ll pass many more historical sights which you’d otherwise miss. They’re just as beautiful as the Treasury or Monastery, with the added benefit of savouring them all to yourself.

This side, I really feel as though I’m the only person in Petra, which is both exhilarating and unsettling.

Garden Hall, back route down from High Place of Sacrifice


Petra by night, guided through the Siq by oil lamps and candlelight

Perhaps the most beautiful and sacred experience in Petra is to visit by night. Although you won’t be alone…I certainly wasn’t with about a hundred other tourists…there’s a strange sense of calm and inner peace that guides everyone’s journey through darkness into the monumental site. Walking through the Siq feels surreal, with oil lamps as the only light. The moon and stars are my only alllies as I look upto the sky, feeling closed in by the towering sides.
As the Siq opens up to the Treasury, a sea of candles appear to float before it in a spectacular scene. In candlelight, it’s just about possible to make out the impressive Treasury building. The night visitors are asked to sit on rugs on the ground, next to each other, as we’re welcomed by the Bedouin people.
Tea is served as a medley of Bedouin tribal music is performed.
Hearing bells, flutes and voices echoing through the chamber before the Treasury, in near-darkness is as moving as it is fitting and I find myself slightly ovecome with emotion. I look around at people’s expressions, glowing in the glimmer of the candlelight, and everyone is in awe, mesmerised by the melange of music, scene and unique ambiance. Petra by night is a most atmospheric experience and simply a must for any visitor. It’s the perfect way to end a dream exploration.

Candlelight filled Treasury

Hearing so much from the Bedouin people, I’m very eager to get under their skin and get to know them. The tales of potent camel milk, several wives and 30+ children are intriguing! What better way than to go to a Bedouin home for tea and hang out under a deserted tent in Wadi Rum smoking Sheesha, talking philosophy! 

ANISHA SHAH: Editor of www.ani-shah.com: TV/ Radio News Reporter (BBC) turned World Traveller, writing about stories that fascinate around the world, from the big issues to lesser-known humane elements. She says, ‘I’ve travelled much of the globe, it’s never enough. The more off-beat the destination, the better. I love to learn the politics & history of new countries, as well as exploring culture, food & wine! S
She has already published with us her 1st impressions of her Arrival in the Wadi Musa desert and her first sight of Petra Monastery.

Thanks Ani for sharing these great photos and emotions with us!!!!