Thursday, July 1, 2010
30. Visit Jordan Happy Hour, Part II
Strong as the desert, soft as sand, move like the wind, free forever.
-- Bedouin self-description
I'm way behind on blogging, largely because it seems like when I have Internet I don't have electricity, and when my computer is fully charged I can't seem to get on-line. But today I think I may have both in the lobby of the Farah Hostel where Connor, Siham and I spending our last two nights together in Amman. So it's time to do some catching up, beginning with a post of a few more details on what the three of us agree was one of the best experiences of our lives -- our trip to Petra.
I could go on for hours about the whole experience, and that's a warning to friends back in the States, because the three of us probably will. But if I were to try to be a bit more succinct, I'd say the amazingness of the experience boiled down to three things: first, the visit to the actual astonishing site that is Petra; second, the following day, our opportunity to do some things that most tourists don't get to, including having tea with the families of our new friends and visiting Little Petra, and finally, and probably most impactful, going on a sunset hike through the cliffs out of Petra and spending the night in a desert cave with our new friends, Khalide and Ibrahim.
Even if we hadn't gotten to meet Khalide and Ibrahim and had our desert adventure, I'd say Petra is easily one of the most astonishing places I've ever been. It's an ancient city, carved into the sandstone cliffs, and with caves, and huge buildings like the Treasury and the Monstery (pictured above) and a road that winds through steep cliffs on both sides for over a kilometer. It's beautiful and breathtaking, and everywhere you look is another cave or structure just waiting to be explored. It is truly deserving of its reputation as a world wonder.
At the end of the path through Petra, up an 800-step path that can wear you out climbing up (unless you get lazy and ride a donkey, which we had the pride to resist) is the Monastery. Across from the Monastery is a cafe and gift shop owned collectively by 5 Bedouin families, and it was there that we met Khalide and Ibrahim, whose families are part of the collective. We drank tea and chatted, and ultimately took them up on their invitation to go up further in the mountains to make dinner and spend the night under the stars. The whole story is too long for a post, but when they closed the shop for the night, Khalide led us on a long hike out of Petra where we stopped to watch the sunset and then went to a place where we could see beyond the Jordanian borders. Ibrahim went into town and bought some food, and then we met him in their truck and drove out to one of the small caves where they like to camp. They built a fire and we cooked a fabulous dinner, and danced and talked into the wee hours of the morning.
The next day after we got up and broke down the camp (in about 5 minutes flat -- those guys know what they're doing), we visited the cave home of Ibrahim's father and third wife (the first two live in town, but the third is in charge of the sheep herd) and then the home of Khalide's mom. Of course, we had tea and all kinds of goodies in both places, and soaked in a culture incredibly different than our own. Then Ibrahim and Khalide took us to Little Petra, another ancient town carved into sandstone, very similar to Petra only smaller, and with no admission fee and almost no tourists. There, we had free rein to climb all over the place, and we did.
Words really can't do justice to the experience, and it's killing me that I can only seem to get three pictures to load onto the blog. But here is the tiniest glimpse of our fabulous time -- one is of the Monastery, another of the sunset we watched together, and the one of Siham and Khalide, I must confess, is my favorite picture I've ever taken.
I think in many ways the Bedouin way of being is about as far away from the American experience as a culture can get. It's not concerned with money, or time, or obligation. It's about being in the moment and freedom, and for 24 hours we got to be a part of it, thanks to Khalide and Ibrahim.