Jordan // Petra //

The Theatre

Just past the Street of Facades sits Petra’s massive Theatre. Obviously classical in design and inspiration, it’s nonetheless been dated to the first century AD, before the Romans annexed Nabatea but at a time when links between the two powers must have been strong. Though the Romans refurbished the building after they took over in 106, the basic design is Hellenistic, with seats coming right down to the orchestra’s floor level. As many as 8500 people could be accommodated, more even than in the vast theatre at Amman. Aside from the stage backdrop and the ends of the banks of seating, the entire edifice was carved out of the mountainside; one whole row of tombs was wiped out to form the back wall of the auditorium, leaving some of their interiors behind as incongruous gaps. Recent renovation work has built up the stage area, with its niches in front and elaborate scaenae frons behind (tumbled in the earthquake of 363), the high back wall of which would have sealed off the theatre from the street outside.

The path continues past cafés and stalls on both sides down to a point at which the Wadi Musa turns sharp left (west) into the city centre. Straight ahead the valley opens up towards Beidha, with the Wadi Mataha coming in from the northeast, while way up to the right, some of Petra’s grandest monuments have been etched into the East Cliff.