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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Petra Reunion

A little while back, I made my first trip to Jordan's most famous site. In December I received my Ikama (Residency permit), in the form of a grey plastic card with flowery prints, Arabic writing, and a hologram. With this card I now pay what Jordanians pay for admission prices. You may remember Petra as the place Indiana Jones, Sean Connery, and that fat guy ride up to in their search for the holy grail. Later you get to hear that old knight say "He chose poorly," after the Nazi rapidly ages into a pile of bones and then Harrison Ford says "this looks like the cup of a carpenter." If Gonch makes it out here we'll go to Petra and I am confident a large portion of our  day will be spent uttering those phrases. Looking forward to it. Another good part of Gonch coming to Petra is that he'll be a tourist and have to pay the entrance fee of 50 Jordanian Dinars (around $70), but when I flash my grey hologram I have to pay just 1 Dinar.






So with my Ikama in hand I finally made the trip south to Petra. Victoria and I stayed in a hotel overlooking the town of Wadi Musa looking down towards the Petra site. The hotel was modern, clean, and had a great buffet. We found a couple of t-shirts in the hotel lobby that we bought so that we could fit in and look like locals. The next morning we met up with our friend Florence and three of her fellow French air traffic controllers that were in Jordan on Holiday. Pierre, Julian, and Sandy rounded out our group of six. We met at the Treasury around 8:30am the next morning. 

Before reaching the famous treasury you enter a narrow high walled wadi called the Siq. You wind through this trail for a bit less than a mile until you round a corner and catch your first glimpse of the treasury. It's very dramatic and the Nabateans design continues to inspire awe 2600 years after the site was created. The spectacular treasury is the main attraction but Petra actually encompasses a huge area where the Nabateans carved hundreds of edifices in the multicolored sandstone. The carved walls of Petra actually are the entrances to tombs. Excavation continues and new sites are still being discovered. I was very surprised how expansive the site was and how you could explore most any route through the sandstone mountainsides.



Victoria and I





Florence knows Petra well and guided us through the main attractions but after a short time we headed away from the primary sites to some off the beaten path spots. We walked up to a sacrifice area, checked out some of the sophisticated water harvesting systems, and continued making our way up and down the sandstone mountains. 


Sandy, one of our new French friends told us she had visited Petra with her husband around half a year earlier. At that time she met a Bedouin family that lives in a couple of the carved rock facades northwest of the main Petra site. The family invited her and her husband to share tea with them and the children asked to have their pictures taken and later to take shots themselves. Sandy now revisiting Petra with the hopes of finding the family once again printed the pictures for the family and also brought a small book with sleeves for the photographs. 


As we walked at one point Sandy pointed to a truck way off to the north and said "I think we need to go there." We bounced up and down the rolling sandstone past open graves, marbled rock, going on and off trodden paths. After a while we came to a ridge and looked down at the truck which sat beneath several Nabatean facades. These appeared to be residences as we saw goats, small gardens, laundry lines, and patches of smoke. Perched on the ridge the six of us spotted a small red dot below that waved at us and a half second later we heard "Hello!" We shouted back in greeting and the red dot began heading towards us. After a few minutes a girl of perhaps 13 years appeared before us in a bright red hijab. Sandy recognized her and pulled out the photographs to show her. She began flipping through the portraits saying names, pointing, and saying "sister!" or "father!" and looking at us expectantly. She was very excited to see the pictures and motioned for us to follow.


The home we visited


Scrambling down the mountain we followed Hissim to her family's home. As we approached a small army of children stood perched at overlooks looking down at us saying "hello, welcome!" We drank tea, shared snacks, and Victoria and Florence (the Arabic speakers) did most of the communication while the rest of us did a lot of smiling.


There are ten in the family including six girls, two of which are twins, two boys, and a new born baby girl, plus mom and dad. They took us inside their cave like dwelling to see the four day old baby sleeping peacefully on a blanket on the floor. Sandy shared the pictures with all and they brought us others to look at as we sipped tea, chatted, and looked out on their beautiful view.






Florence and new friends

Sandy with the newborn

Hissim

Zahra



Sakar

3 comments:

  1. Fantastic story, mate! Keep spreading the good will! =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! Awesome story! Thanks for continuing to share!

    ReplyDelete