Facebook Saints and Mobsters

gold shoes and sandal close to petra cliff edge by evathedragon 2013

My photo collection began after my grandmother gave me my first Kodak Instamatic camera.  Processed at the drive-through Foto-mat, a lifetime of pictures are mounted in albums with sticky backs and plastic covers.  Stored in our spare bedroom closet, the photos have faded but you can still tell who the characters are.

They are my personal treasures – both for the memories and for their value.  Half-jokingly, I have threatened my friends with,

“If I ever find out someone says something rotten about me, I will post these to Facebook.”

While in Jordan, I found a kindred spirit in our young, Bedouin guide, Mazan.

After my friend loaned her camera to him, his professional demeanor dissolved into a child’s joy. He scampered around the cliffs recording choice moments for digital posterity.

petra cliff walking by eva the dragon 2013

Joumaa conned Louise into crossing a tiny ledge along the Petra cliffs.  She cursed and nearly fainted but made it across.  When we stopped to regain our composure, Mazan nudged my elbow and asked for my camera.  I could not tell what he was looking at but I figured it must be interesting.

He started snapping photos, then shouted something in Arabic.  I recognized one word – Facebook.

“What do you see?” I shaded my eyes and squinted.

balcony scene from petra version romeo and juliet by evathedragon 2013

He placed his hands on my ears and moved my head.  Across the canyon, like Romeo and Juliet, two, star-crossed, Bedouin teenagers, sat alone on top of the cliff.

Mazan took more photos and shouted again, “something, something, something Facebook.”

Facebook is going to turn all of us into either saints – or mobsters.

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To the Edge – or Falling into The Treasury

Entrance Road to Siq

Road to Siq

“Hey Bahrain!” the Jordanian cowboy called out as he waved me down.  “You want your horse ride today?  It’s free, part of your ticket.”

“Sorry,” I told him.  “We are allergic to horses.  Plus, we arranged for a donkey today.”

“With Juomaa?” he asked.

“Yes,” we confirmed.

Defeated, he shook our hands and said good-bye.  The game was over.

9:20. Of course, we were late.  The tour groups had already made it to the Treasury.  A sound floated our direction – a whistle? Our eyes followed the sound to the grinning Maaz, still dressed in brown.  We hardly recognized Juomaa sitting next to him, looking regal in his thobe and gold ghuttra.

Our Salams said, we boarded our 5-star donkeys.  Our tent-mates insisted we could make it to the High Point of Sacrifice by ourselves, but Joumaa’s promise to show us the unmentionable place held my curiosity.  Maaz led my donkey while I texted my husband.  “If you don’t hear from me by the end of the day, then send someone to look for the circling buzzards.”  Following narrow trails, we reached a silk-rock cave.

“This was a classroom.”  Joumaa pointed out the markings on the walls.  They were early 19th century, nothing ancient.

“And here is the place,” he said ushering us around the corner before he hurried away.

Ancient Fertility Symbol

The unmentionable  – a reminder of the Goddess’ rites practiced under a full moon – a huge phallus carved in the back wall.  After seeing that big boner, I understood the Old Testament tirades against Baal.

The visit took ten minutes.  4,000 years later, save the lone phalli, there was nothing left of those wild, fertile times.  When we returned, our donkeys were gone.

“I sent the boy ahead.” said Juomaa.  “We will walk this way.”

Joumaa Kudblan #petra bedouin guide @evathedragon 2013

He led us through trees and boulders, narrow passages.  We were not the first to cross the ancient steps, but we definitely needed a Bedouin’s guidance.

I heard humming, the echo of a thousand, gathered voices and whispered to Juomaa.

“Shhhh, he said pointing at Louise.

Still wearing her gold shoes, Louise broke through the brush.

“Close your eyes,” I said.  “Hold out your hands.”

“Why?  What are you going to do to me?”  Conjuring the vestal virgins, she stood tall and held out her palms.

“We will guide you.”

As if she knew her fate, she asked in a regal tone, “Where are you taking me?”

“Trust us,” said Juomaa.

It took us a dozen steps to walk her across the boulders.

“Stop here,” Juomaa commanded only centimeters from the edge.  Gripping her forearms so she could not break away, he said, “Now – open them.”

Startled, she nearly fell.  Then tears swelled in her eyes as she took in the Treasury below us.  From our ledge, the tourists and the Bedouin looked like ants.

treasury overlook people are ants by @evathedragon 2013

“It’s so beautiful,” she whispered.  “I am overwhelmed.”

Surprise,” said Juomaa.

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.

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.

Get Your Ass Out of My Shop

“So we meet again,” I said to the brown donkey.

Jouma, our Bedouin guide, looked puzzled.

“Your donkey is a good salesman.  He was afraid we would walk past Haroun’s café and started braying.  And now, here we are, your afternoon customers.  Who is this?  Your son?”

Holding two white donkeys was a small boy dressed completely in brown.

“No.  He is part of my tribe.  His name is Maaz.”

“No school today for you young man?” Louise asked.

Jouma spoke on his behalf, “His father doesn’t let him go to school.  I am teaching him how to handle the donkeys.”

With only a halter and reins made of steel, we pulled ourselves onto the saddles. Having had a sneeze attack, I was pleased that the blankets did not smell dusty nor did the donkeys stink. They were well cared for and not too skinny.

Journey to the Monastery Petra Jordan

“Tally ho” we shouted as Jouma and the ten-year old Maaz led our donkeys down the Colonnade in the opposite direction of the tourists flooding towards the Siq’s entrance.  We were in high spirits.  When we passed an acquaintance on the road, I shouted,

“Tell our husbands we are off to live in the Monastery.”

They looked confused as we waved our good-byes.

Once again we came to the boy selling rocks.

“That’s the boy I bought my rock from,” I said.  “I saw his mother tell him to sit by the road and quit playing.”

“He has a bad mother,” Jouma said.  “We have told her many times he cannot sit in the hot sun without a hat.  But she does not listen to us.”

We passed the boy who, unlike my donkey, sat mute and watched his potential customers walk by.

“What is my donkey’s name?”  I asked Jouma.

“It is not a donkey.  He is a mule,” he explained.  “I have been experimenting crossing horses and donkeys.  You ride him like a horse.”

“I used to ride horses but never with a halter.”

Our caravan positions worked out quite naturally.  Jouma led Louise’s donkey.  I rode solo on my mule.  Then Maaz followed leading my friend from LA’s donkey.  Donkeys are not guided like horses.  As they wander to the left, the driver hits their neck with a switch until it veers right.  But along the stairs, switches were not used.

The eight hundred stairs to the Monastery began behind the restaurants.  As we were going up, we dodged people walking down.  Along the trodden path, Bedouin women set up stalls selling trinkets and water.

My back straightened when a Bedouin man called out, “Nice mule.”

“Careful, careful,” his wife scolded as our donkeys weaved between her small tables and poked their nose under the tent coverings.  Jouma ignored her hiss of distaste.

I felt vindicated after a European guy said, “You are smart” as he stepped aside to let us pass.  “There are a lot of steps.  It takes about forty-five minutes.”

His friend, however, grumbled while dodging the donkey pies our steeds laid.

“Sorry,” I called out to him.  It did not take me too long to quit apologizing for my mule.

The Monastery trip was my first donkey ride – excuse me – mule ride.  I felt like an overloaded burden balanced on tiny ballerina hooves.  My mule preferred to either hug the stone cliff, scraping my stirrup along the red rocks, or to tiptoe on the stairs’ edge as I looked down into the canyon floor that fell further and further from sight.

From the beginning, Louise proclaimed she was afraid of heights.  She was determined not to let her fear ground her and kept her gaze fixed away from the edge.

Donkeys are less spooked than horses.  But, my half-horse’s nervousness came out when confronted by the extraordinary: music from a disco-ball decorated cave, flapping tent corners or cursing Irish.

When Louise’s trip-trapping donkey stumbled on the stones, she exploded.

“Jesus, Joseph and Mary!  I can’t look.  I am too frightened.  Don’t leave me, Jouma,” she screamed as she grabbed his shoulder.

“Don’t worry. I will take care of you,” assured Jouma whose whispers soothed sixteen children, two wives, an extra boy, horses, donkeys, camels and terrified tourists.

To be continued….

ABOUT JOUMA THE PETRA BEDOUIN GUIDE

Jouma Petra Bedouin Guide Jordan by Eva the dragon 2013

Jouma Kublan 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.

Charmed by a Bedouin

Petra Panorama behind blue church Jordan by eva the dragon 2013

Our water bottles emptied, we could not take another step.  The empty café next to the Byzantine church welcomed us.

A majlis of red and black cushions surrounded a jewelry case in the center of the room with a full view of the Colonnade.  A young man stood behind the counter.

“Do you have lemon with mint?” I asked pointing to the picture.  He nodded, unable to speak English.

“How about some juice?” I asked my weary friends as they peeled off their hats and camera bags.  Their mouths were so dry, they nodded.

As we lounged on the couches, the proprietor walked between the necklaces houses in glass shelves, lit a cigarette and sat down.

“Salam ah-lay kum,” I said, starting our exchange with peace.

“Ah-lay kum a salam,” he responded appropriately.  “I hope you are having a good day in Petra,” he said in perfect English.

“Yes, it has been wonderful.  Is this your son?” I asked as the young man brought our fresh juices.

“No, he is my friend’s son.  He is from Egypt.  You know how tough things are in Egypt today.  He needed a job so I brought him here to Petra.  He will learn about tourists and learn to speak English.”

“My husband’s family is Egyptian,” I told him.  “We live in Bahrain.”

“Really?” he raised his eyebrows.  “How many wives does he have?” he asked with laughter in his eyes.

“Only me,” I countered.  “That is all he can handle.  What about you?”

“I only have one wife.  She is from Spain and believe me, she is more than enough for me.  I could not handle anymore wives.”  We all giggled.

“You must know Marguerite,” Louise chimed in.  “We just met her along the road.”

“Marguerite used to be the nurse at our clinic in the cave,” he said.  “That was a long time ago when her husband was alive.”

“Do you know which cave she lived in?” Louise asked.  “Is it that one across the way?” She pointed across the canyon above the other side of the Colonnade.

He corrected her finger and pointed out the cave.

“It must have been extraordinary to have lived in a cave.  What a life she must have had.  Cooking over a fire and raising babies there.  Living among the Bedu.  Extraordinary,” Louise said.

“When I was young, we all lived in the caves,” he announced.

“Really?” we exclaimed.

“Have you been to the Monastery?”  We shook our heads no.  “My family, we lived up there.”  He pointed out towards the mountains.

“That is so interesting.”

He smiled.  “We loved living in the mountains.  Now most of the Bedouin live in the village.  Do you like your juice?”

“Yes, very much.”

“The lemons are from my orchard.  I grow oranges too.  Everything you see here is fresh.  Made at home.”  He pointed to the poster over the table filled with Arabic mezza and salads.

“What is your name?” we finally asked.

“Haroun,” he said pronouncing the h softly making it sound like Aaron.

“Aaron,” I asked, “Like the brother of Moses?”

“Yes,” he said, pointing again towards the mountains.  “We could see his tomb from our cave.”

A man wearing jeans parked his donkey in front of the café.  A blond woman climbed off its back.

Haroun shouted out, “Salam!” and got up to greet the man with a hug and many kisses.

“My Uncle Jouma,” he said.  “He is my uncle, but he is younger than me.”

Jouma took off his Ray-Bans and said hello to us in perfect English.

“Jouma means Friday.  You can call me Friday.”

“This is Saturday and my friend, Sunday,” I said.  “You can call me Monday.”

As more men stopped by, Haroun turned his attention to them.  I felt the push of inspiration.  It would be a treat to be guided to the Monastery by someone who lived there.

“Can you show us the Monastery?” I asked Jouma.  “Wouldn’t it be great to go there with him?” I turned to my friends.

Suddenly a great plan was hatched.  Jouma suggested that we go explore the Royal Tombs.  He would meet us there at four o’clock and take us by donkey to the Monastery for the sunset.

Refreshed and excited about our afternoon adventure, after lunch, we gathered our things and said good-bye to the men.

“Please, the juice and the oranges are my gift to you,” said Haroun.  “My orchid sits in valley at the bottom of Mount Hor.  You must come and see it.  I will wait for you there.  My uncle will bring you.”

“Inshallah,” we said.  “We will see you on our way to the Monastery.”

Then I realized, just like Marguerite, the Petra Bedouins had charmed us.  Enchanted, we were ready to follow a man we had just met to his ancestral cave on the mountain.

ABOUT HAROUN AND JOUMA

Haroun’s Café has a terrific view of the Colannaded Street and the Royal Tombs.  The food was good and the atmosphere was much nicer than the crowded restaurants at the end of the Colannade operated by hotels.

Jouma Kublan 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 donkeys were well-cared for, and he is a kind, stable individual.

Wanna Buy A Piece of History?

The Colonnade was empty except for the lone toddler selling Petra rocks by the side of the road.  He was actually even dustier than we felt.  I snapped his photo and gave him a JD.  Leaving his plate of rocks, he jumped up and ran towards the bushes behind him, waving his bill, while shouting, “Mama!  Mama!”

Half past noon, we were all hot and needed a break.  But the thought of walking to the end of the Colonnade where the tourist groups filled the tables at the all you can eat buffet restaurants did not sound appealing either.

As we stood next to a pistachio tree, a donkey started braying his lungs out.  His initial call trumpeted his displeasure then became a mournful crescendo about some personal tragedy.

“Either that donkey needs help or he is calling us to go this way.” I suggested to my friends, “Please, let’s go up this trail.  I want to take pictures of Aphrodite’s temple at the top of the hill.”

The place Jordan occupies in both political and spiritual history astounds me.

Blue Church with royal tombs in background petra jordan by eva the dragon 2013 v2

It is thrilling to be able to literally see how our religions evolved and built upon the past.  Only ten-percent of Petra has been excavated; yet marvelous pieces of our collective history present a unique opportunity to learn something about humanity.

  • The Nabataean tombs were constructed during Egypt’s 18th dynasty.  The 18th dynasty included Hatsheput (1479-1458BCE), the longest-reigning, queen/pharaoh, and Akhenaten (1353-1336BCE) who was called the heretic Pharaoh.   Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti abandoned Egypt’s pantheon of Gods.  Within seventeen years he convinced the entire country that there was only one God.  In ancient Egypt, God was called Aten or Ra.  In modern times, the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb made the dynasty “Born of Thoth” (Thut-mosis) famous.
  • The town surrounding Petra is Wadi Moussa, literally translated as Moses’ valley.  Moses, the Bronze-Age, Jewish patriarch of the mono-theistic religions was estimated to have lived sometime between 1600-1200BCE, during Egypt’s 18th dynasty.  His brother, Aaron, was buried on Mount Hor in Petra.
  • The Nabataeans’ temple dedicated to the God Dushara and Goddess Al-Uzza was built around 30BC.  After the Romans conquered Petra, the temple’s name was changed to Qasr al-Bint al-Pharaun or the Castle of the Pharaoh’s Daughter.
  • Built about 27AD, during the Roman times, the Temple of the Winged Lions (aka Aphrodite’s temple) is dedicated to the Syrian Goddess, Atargatis.  Referred to as the Fish-Goddes, Atargatis gave birth to a demi-goddess then abandoned her.  Desert doves raised the baby until she was found by a royal shepherd.  She became Queen Semirami leading her people to great military victories, founded Babylon and its hanging gardens, created her own religion and made her son king.
  • The Petra Church, aka the Byzantine Church, was built on a Nabataean temple foundation about 530AD.  After being buried in earthquakes, only twenty-years ago, archeologists began excavating the church.  The mosaics depict the ancient symbols incorporated into the new Roman religion, Christianity.  The ancient goddesses of fertility and harvest, spring, summer, fall, doves, fish, and my favorites – rabbits and roosters – paved the path towards the baptismal fountain where the water of life and resurrection was contained.

And under a desert sun, water is life itself.

Well – Lawrence Rode Camels

While eating our lunch in the shade of the rocks scrawled with Nabataean graffiti, we watched a camel caravan of expats cross the desert in front of us.

“We should have hired camels for the day,” Louise said wistfully.  “How can we come to the desert and not ride a camel?”

There were several reasons that came to my mind, and none of them had to do with desert romance.

After lunch, we hauled ourselves into the back of the pick-up truck.  Our enthusiasm was dampened after hours slogging through sand.  We declined Abdullah’s invitation to roll down the giant red sand dune and encouraged him to continue onward.  He pulled up next to another canyon.

“You will find more Nabataean drawings.”  He pointed to mountain.  “I wait here,” he said settling under a tent.

We walked down a small dune.  At the canyon entrance, a Bedouin was having lunch with his tourists and four camels.  Louise marched up to him.

“How much for ride?”

“Three JD.”

“Three? That’s ridiculous.  Two,” she bargained.  The Bedouin nor Louise budged.  We continued camel-less into the crevasse.

After taking photos of petroglyphs of men and women holding hands, Louise and I stopped for camel photo opportunities.

“I must ride a camel,” she insisted pulling out twenty JD bill.  The Bedouin did not have change.

“Here,” I said opening my wallet.  “I have change.”  I figured it was the least I could do after all the photos she took of me.

Perched on the camel, Louise hummed the opening score from Lawrence of Arabia.  The night before we left, she watched the entire 216 minutes featuring the young, handsome Peter O’Toole.  Her eyes looked dreamy as the Bedouin took her on a 3JD journey to our waiting truck.  I followed like the lowly, servant girl.

At the top of the dune, I found Louise and her camel surrounded by television reporters.  It was Jordan TV.

When I walked up, the camera swiveled towards me.  The lead reporter said something in Arabic, and the cameraman said to me, “Take two” before he turned away.

The reporter shoved a microphone into Louise’s face.  She began an exposition on the beauty of Jordan’s desert.  The men were astonished by their luck at having found an English woman riding a camel.  Louise finished her soliloquy and sat smiling.  The reporter nodded and turned to the Bedouin guide and spoke to him in Arabic.

Then it became clear.

The Jordanian reporter and camera men did not speak a word of English.  The Wadi Rum Bedouin had to translate for the hotshot, film crew from Amman.  When they said “take two” and turned to me, I called our Bedouin, Abdullah, to stand with me.  The reporter pushed him away.

I sent greetings to King Abdullah and Queen Rania from the people in Bahrain and blabbed on about something.  I doubt it will be aired.  Unlike Louise with her bedu guide, camel, blond hair and diamond-studded, gold hiking shoes, “take two” lacked glamour.

Left in the sidelines, Abdullah informed us it was time to go.  We said good-bye leaving the men without enough footage.

At the truck, Abdullah told me, “Tomorrow I will go back for my interview.  I told them no cameras today.  I want to wear a nice thobe.”

“It is better,” I agreed.  “Your future wife might see you on television.  You want to look good.”

To be continued…..

ABOUT TOURING WADI RUM

You can hike Wadi Rum, take a camel tour or a drive around in a truck.   We did not price the camels or walking.

The 7-hour, driving tour of all the key Wadi Rum sites cost 80JD for the three of us.  It included a sack lunch and water.

Along the way enterprising Bedouins have set up tent shops that serve tea.  Your guide will likely stop there for a drink.  He will also prefer to rest at lunch although we pressured ours to carry on. However, it is smart to be like the Bedouin and find shade in the hottest hours between 1-3pm.

HINT: If you are allergic to dust, take antihistamine in the morning and/or bring a scarf to cover your face. By the end of the day the fine red dust is in your nose and clothes.  I could not stop sneezing.

If you hike, then you must get up early to avoid the heat of the day.  Our camp mates told us the big bridge was a scramble not a hike and took two and a half hours.

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