Arranging for Our Sacrifice

high point of sacrifice #petra #jordan @evathedragon

“I want to show you something.  There is a cave near the High Point of Sacrifice.  In it, is something they used to … used in the old days,” said Juomaa.

Our Bedouin guide was obviously struggling to wrap his tongue around something.

“What is it?”

“I cannot say the word.  Before Islam, they used it – for ceremonies.  Would you like to see it?”

“Of course, we would.”

“Tomorrow I will take you by donkey.  I will meet you at the Siq’s at 7am?”

“No, we’ll never make it by 7.  Try 9 o’clock.  I will confirm with you later.”

We exchanged mobile numbers.  While I paid Juomaa, my friends slipped Maaz his tip.

“Until tomorrow.”

“Inshallah,” we said.

Maaz had kept up the pace, but his smile had faded.  He had not eaten anything.  He had turned down the drink we offered him, obviously instructed not to ask for anything from us.

After a shower and dinner, we were ready for bed.   My friend had made it through the day and enjoyed our trek to the Monastery, but she was fighting bronchitis and was exhausted.  She begged off the next day.

Around 10, Juomaa gave me a missed call.

I texted back.

Salam.  There will be 2 of us coming tomorrow.  We will see you at 9am at the dam near the Siq Entrance.  Thanks, Eva.

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More Angels than Stars

“In all the years the Bedouin lived in Petra there was not one foreign casualty in the area …” wrote Marguerite.

“But in the years after we moved, several people lost their lives, simply because no one was around to tell them which was the correct path, or to hear them calling when night fell and they lost their way, or even to notice which way they went – so that when they were missed and a search was initiated, no one knew in which direction to look and they found them too late.” – from Married to a Bedouin

IMG_1061 ligh on wadi mussa petra jordan by eva the dragon 2013

The sun set. The beam of light reflected from a Wadi Musa rooftop went dark.

“We must leave now,” advised Juomaa.

We didn’t argue, nor insist on enjoying the after-sunset-drinks the young men at the café offered us.

“Want to stay and party?” they grinned.  Young, old, married or not, it never hurt to offer.  Who knew? Maybe one or two ladies might be tempted to stay and raise glasses to the mountain djinns.

Hungry, our donkey train was ready to return home for dinner.  The breeze must have carried the scent of alfalfa.  On the way down, going through the low tunnel, they would have cheerfully scrapped us off if Juomaa and Maaz had not held them steady.  Fifty-rounds of “Jesus, Joseph and Mary” later, we landed on the empty Colonnade.

Walking the length of the Colonnade, a few shop keepers shined their flashlights at us and called out an invitation for tea.  A couple tourists wondered between the tented shops.  The Treasury coffee shop was still open, but our impatient donkeys wanted to turn around.  Juomaa enlisted the tea man’s help so we could get a night photo.

Donkeys in front of treasury petra at night

Re-tracing our morning steps to the Siq’s entrance, we rode in pitch blackness, holding out our arms to push our donkeys away from the sandstone walls.  To navigate, Juomaa looked towards heaven and followed the star trail above the canyon walls.

Not a soul shared the Siq.  They had adjourned to the sky.  It’s been said there are more angels than stars.  If that night was an example, then their numbers cannot be imaged by humans.

We could not get over our good fortune.

The man at the ticket office was wrong about that Wednesday night.  Someone had arranged with the Bedouin for us to see Petra.  And the day ended when Juomaa and Maaz valeted our donkeys at the Movenpik’s front door.

To be continued…

ABOUT JUOMAA KUDBLAN THE PETRA BEDOUIN GUIDE

Jouma Petra Bedouin Guide Jordan by Eva the dragon 2013

Juomaa Kudblan, Mr. Friday, was a man we instantly felt comfortable with.  His mobile is 00 962 7 7753 5425.

You can arrange to meet him at the Petra entrance, or, if you are lucky, arrange to meet him at Haroun’s for a sunset trip to the Monastery.  He charged us each 50JD for our four-hour tour.  His rate matched the rates quoted on Frommer’s.  His donkey were well-cared for, and he is a kind, stable individual.

The Land of Shared Ancestors

“You want to see my cave?” asked our Bedouin guide, aka Mr. Friday.

Had we not already established a trust, his proposal would have sounded like a proposition.

“Yes, we’d love to,” cooed the three women.

We climbed up a small slope and voila, there in the rocks was Juomaa’s front door – locked against wandering bandits.

“Here is where we kept our fire,” he said pointing to a small pit with ink-colored sand stained by the ash.  “Here is where our cousins slept.  The men here.  The women there.  And over here was the cave the tourists slept.  They used to come up here and we would offer them hospitality.”

The bedroom-sized caves must have been cramped when all the cousins slept over.  I imagined there was a lot of giggling at night.

“At the bottom of this canyon is Haroun’s orchard,” said Juomaa.  As he looked over the site, he sighed.  “I loved living in the caves.”

Without their inhabitants, the caves were not homes, and there was little else to see inside.

Outside, the multi-colored stone was brilliant orange as the sun dropped.  To the right of his front door was a stunning view of the Monastery.

We stood enjoying a quiet anyone living in a city has never heard.  The desert is a place where life is pared down to the bare minimum.  You get enough water to survive – with nothing to waste.  You eat to fill your belly; no left-overs that might spoil.  Your possessions must fit on your back or your donkey’s.  Your entertainment is Nature’s round-the-clock exhibition of her array of colors.  The air was fresh, tinged with the freedom of living without masters.

“I could get used to living up here,” my friend said.  “I don’t think my husband would like it.”

“No CNN or A/C, mine would complain,” I said.  “But I feel free.”

“It is gorgeous.  I can just imagine sitting around the campfire, telling stories and watching the stars,” Louise said.  Her eyes had gone dreamy again.

It was a pity we were unable to enjoy the Bedouin hospitality, but the sun waits for no woman.  If we wanted to end our day in true Thelma and Louise style, then we had to get to the cliff at the top of the world.

Many signs pointed towards the canyon’s lip.

Climbing the mountain, we rushed towards the edge, but our donkey stopped just in time.  Regardless of what anyone else wanted, he refused to take that last step.

Maaz stopped to lean against a fence made of sticks.  My mother’s heart stopped.  My friend encouraged him to step away by asking him to take her photo.  Soon, he was leaping around like a mountain goat snapping shots our stomachs could not endure.

“Over here,” called Juomaa.  Taking off his sunglasses, he squinted and pointed west to some distant spot where his camels grazed.  “Wadi Araba, my winter home.  It is warmer there.  Araba is the real desert.”  He turned and pointed south.

“See the white roof on the top of that mountain.  That is Aaron’s Tomb.  In Islam, we believe Aaron was a prophet and a priest like his brother Moses.”

IMG_1037 aaron cave petra jordan by eva the dragon 2013

My great-grandfather’s name was Aaron,” I told him.  Suddenly the pieces came together.  “His grandfather’s name was Eleazer.  In the Old Testament, Eleazer was Aaron’s son.  Very curious,” I said, watching the sun set.  “It all feels so familiar and comfortable.  This is truly our shared ancestral land.”

“Welcome home,” said the smiling Juomaa.

To be continued….

ABOUT JUOMAA KUDBLAN THE PETRA BEDOUIN GUIDE

Juomaa Kudblan, Mr. Friday, was a man we instantly felt comfortable with.  His mobile is 00 962 7 7753 5425.

You can arrange to meet him at the Petra entrance, or, if you are lucky, arrange to meet him at Haroun’s for a sunset trip to the Monastery.  He charged us each 50JD for our four-hour tour.  His rate matched the rates quoted on Frommer’s.  His donkey were well-cared for, and he is a kind, stable individual.

The Pearls of Our Lives

“My mother loved pearls.”

“During my college vacations, I returned home to Ramallah.  We sat together at her dining room table, stringing pearls and talking about my life in the US,” said Lina, Juman Pearls’ designer, to the gathered women.

We were at the Anamil 296 Gallery to hear women artists describe where they found their inspiration.

“I got married and moved to Saudi Arabia.  My finance studies were, how shall I put it? Not wasted, but I did not get the opportunities I wanted.  After a tearful visit, my mother sent me home with a bag of pearls.  She said pearls saved her life after my father died, perhaps they could help me.”

Pearl by pearl, Lina sorted through her bag to design pieces inspired by the particular pearl’s luster.  Working with eastern-province goldsmiths, she created jewelry she imagined elegant women, like her mother, Wedad, would wear.  With each sale, her confidence grew.

Together the mother and daughter traveled to Hong Kong to bargain for cultured-pearls, diamonds and other gems.  Wedad loved stringing pearls, while Lina loved designing.  Their “pearling business” grew and before they knew it, they needed an official name.  They named their company Juman Pearls, after Lina’s only daughter.

Since antiquity, legends say within each pearl was life – everlasting life.

Gilgamesh, British royalty and Jacque Cartier found their way to Bahrain, the land of two seas where the tiny, high-quality, juman, pearls were found.

Bahraini Pearls at Qal at al-Bahrain UNESCO World Heritage Site

“The pearls round Arabia on the Persian Gulf…are specially praised,” wrote the Roman, Pliny the Elder.

By the 1930s, pearl buyers flocked to Japan for Mikimoto’s less expensive, cultured pearls, and the Bahrain pearl divers lost their livelihood. Today 95% of cultured pearls come from China.  Rumor has it, the Japanese have returned to the island in search of Bahrain’s now-elusive, natural pearls.

Like other pearl merchants, Lina eventually made her way to Bahrain.  And as life happens on the island, one day, while she drafted designs, she discovered she sat side-by-side with Bahrain’s preeminent, pearl trader, Mahmood Pearls.

“Your designs are wonderful,” she was told.  “Could you create a line for us featuring Bahraini pearls?”

Lina was thrilled to be invited to build a collection around such legends.

She confided to our group that day, “I never knew how expensive Bahraini pearls were.  And now, after so many oyster beds have been reclaimed, few pearls are big enough to make into necklaces.  A single-strand, pearl necklace is about $40,000.”

No wonder the pearl trader only gave his wife one.

“On a gold chain around her neck, she wore a round white pearl, a gift from his father; it shone like the moon in the night sky.” from The Little Pearl Merchant.

Mahmood Pearls will be debuting Lina’s designs at Jewelry Arabia.  Perhaps you will find your own moon, wrapped in gold, to hang from your neck.

ABOUT JUMAN PEARLS

Since the 1990s, Juman Pearls has found favor with Saudi Arabia’s high-end buyers who seek unique pieces that are not mass-marketed.  Lina also designs for expatriates who are tired of the traditional, 22K gold bangles and want more up-scale treasures.

For the first time, Juman Pearl’s designs will be for sale in Bahrain.  In conjunction with Mahmood Pearls, one of the oldest jewelry companies in Bahrain, Lina created the Arabesque collection with Bahraini pearls set in gold.

Juman Pearl’s showroom is at Desert Designs in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.  The entire Arabesque Collection, featuring cultured pearls set in gold, is on display at the showroom.  The website is www.jumanpearls.com.

ABOUT JEWELRY ARABIA

The biggest jewelry show in the Middle East starts November 19th at the Bahrain Exhibition Center.  Look for Al-Mahmood Pearls.

What Do I Have in Common with a Pope?

Raised a Lutheran, you would think the Pope and I have little in common.

Besides the theological differences, I cannot wear white.  When I do, I spill coffee or splash small bits of tomato sauce, sending my outfit back to the laundry.  Nor can I shake a Sheik’s hand.

He is a celibate man.  I have proven myself to be a fertile woman.

Yet …

On his first day on the job, Pope Francis prayed to Saint Mary.  I love Mary and pray to her often.

We are both from the Americas and are transplants to ancient civilizations.  Some call Rome the Cradle of Western Civilization.  Some call Bahrain, Noah’s Paradise.

Like Pope Francis, I haven’t had a decent, salaried job for years.  None of my shoes are red, nor do I own a pair of Pradas.  And, although I wore a cape to my wedding, I have since shunned it for simpler clothing.

During our recent visit to the Vatican, I learned that Pope Francis likes to sneak out and has thwarted his security by abandoning his limousine.  I also used to sneak out, disguising myself in an attempt to hide from security.

For our escapes, we both stuck to simple cars.  Pope Francis preferred his Ford Fiesta.  I drove my parent’s Volkswagen.

And here’s what I noticed at the Vatican.

There, in the pope-mobile exhibit, is the last, Volkswagen bug manufactured.  It is the same color blue as the one I used to drive.  But, unlike my parent’s car, the Pope’s is in mint condition.

What You Carry in Your Heart

In the desert, the hour before sunset feels like someone turned down the oven thermometer and set out that day’s pie, with its perfectly golden edges, for everyone to savor.  It is a magical time as the light and the dark merge.

The Monastery was at its breath-taking best; a brilliant carnelian like the gem the ancients placed on the dead to protect them during their voyage to the afterlife.

Less than twenty people sat at the Monastery Café savoring the view before beginning their walk down the stairs.  It was now or never.

Eva anjayasana at Monastery small v2

Emulating the mischievous Hanuman, the saffron-colored, monkey-god, I scrambled up into the cavern.  The Ramayana tells how he used his siddhis to shape-shift.  Perched on the edge, I bowed deep into hanumanasana.  My whole body grew and filled the monastery’s entrance before shrinking down to normal.

Hanumanasana in monastery petra jordan 2013

Amazed, others tried to access the “cave’s” power.

One man did flips.

Maaz tried handstands.

bedouin boys sitting on monastery petra jordan

The Bedouin boys climbed to the top of the temple and dangled their legs over the edge, hoping they would be stretched to the ground.

Their faces, arms and legs remained unchanged.  And my secret stayed in my heart.

The Monastery – 1839 and 2013

Safely reaching the summit, we slid off our donkeys’ backs.  Standing in front of Al-Deir, the memory of our steep journey rolled away.

“It is glorious,” marveled Louise.  “Save for a little wear and tear, it looks just like David Robert’s painting.”

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