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.

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Messing Around with Bad Deeds

Ad in Thursday’s newspaper

“Haraam” people say here when something bad happens.  Technically, haraam actions are those that violate Islamic prohibitions.

The kiraaman kaatibeen are the angels who sit on our left shoulders and record our haraam or bad deeds.  But, it is not only angels who notice haraam things.  If I tell a sad story, such as a friend having breast cancer, then the listener will say “haraam” to express their agreement that it is a sad situation.

When I first moved to Bahrain I remember chatting with a Bahraini store clerk.  It was clear he was unhappy with his job working in the mall.

“Haraam”, he said without a smile when I told him my family had just moved here.

“You think Bahrain is haraam?” I asked.  “Why haraam?  You have a job.  The government pays for your schooling and health care.  You live with your family.  Bahrain is a nice, peaceful place.”

“The whole Middle East is haraam right now.  I don’t know when things will get better,” he told me.

I walked out feeling bad for him and his hopeless outlook.  Bahrain was his country and he was young.  He was not willing to give up everything and take the risk to start over, as a nobody, somewhere else.

This region is filled with expatriate workers who take a huge risk to come here.  Most laborers are so poor and with little hope for work in their own country, that, for $150 per month, they pay an agent a job-finding fee and leave their families to pick up garbage.  Nine years later, I remembered my conversation with the young man when I read about two Bangladeshi, street cleaners killed by a homemade explosive, hidden in a trash bin.

The angel on my shoulder cringed.

“Haraam,” he said.

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