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.

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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.

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