Making Room for New Wives, New Stories

holy land mount nebo jordan by eva the dragon 2013 When God told Moses “Behold you are about to sleep with your father,” Moses quickly finished writing down his book of laws.  After finishing his final sermon to his people, God told him,

“Ascend this mountain of Abarim, Mount Nebo which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho; and view the land of Canaan….and die on the mountain you ascend.” Deuteronomy 32:48-50

Depositing my poor sick friend at another host’s house, my Irish friend and I continued to Mount Nebo so, like Moses, she could view the entire Holy Land before she died.

I first ascended Mount Nebo several years ago.  At that time, we simply walked up small road, past the boys selling chocolate and bottles of water, to the old Byzantine Church. Standing on the balcony built facing west, the sky was filled with dark grey clouds. As we looked across the Dead Sea to Jericho, a few clouds split open and the sun’s rays streamed through highlighting the small piece of earth causing such turmoil. It was a powerful moment. Both my husband and I felt it was a Divine experience.

This time I easily found my way by following the government signs posting the road to Mount Nebo. We parked in the nearly full lot outside the newly constructed gate. While my friend gathered her things, I said “Salam” to the group of guards manning the Guard House and a Jordanian guide and walked through. I began taking panoramic photos of the entire valley. Behind me, footsteps crunched on the gravel.

“Madam, madam,”

I turned.

It was a short, brown-uniformed security guard and the guide in a sparkling-white thobe.  He was very tall and carried a long, goat-herding stick. They came up alongside me, a little too close.

“Madam you must buy a ticket.”

“Really? That is new. I apologize. How much is it?”

“One JD.”

I rummaged through my bag. I only had twenties, fifties and hundreds. I offered my twenty. The man shook his head. “You don’t have one JD?”

“Sorry, maybe my friend does.”

The man came closer. Too close. His closeness was not respectful. He pointed down the hill.

“You see the big tree? That is Mousa’s spring. There he took his stick and opened the rock. Sweet water comes from the spring. If you want later, I can take you.”

Mousa is Arabic for Moses. Very interesting. I had never been there before. At the end of the curvy road, cars were parked near the leafy tree. I could see flashes of color as children played in the stream.  After seeing the church, we would go, but not with this man.

“No thank you. I am a very good driver. My Pajero can make it down the road.”

“Where are you from? UK?”

“No. America.”

“Ahh America. I have always wanted an American wife,” he smiled. Again, he moved too quickly to intimate matters. It was aggressive.

“I am sure,” I said. “American wives are very popular. We are very independent and know how to make money.”

His eyes brightened with appreciation. “

Yes, I am looking for an American wife.”

“So did my husband. And he got me.”  I thought that would stop them. The man in the thobe piped in.

“I have three wives. I can have one more wife. I would like an American wife.”

Time to teach them a lone woman was not an invitation.

“My husband has three wives too,” I told him. His eyes nearly popped out of his head.

“Yes, my husband is Saudi. Right now he has three wives. Me and the other wives are tired. We want him to marry an American wife.”

“Your husband is from Saudi Arabia?” I nodded. “I am first wife. I have given my husband three children. Two boys and a girl. The other wives are pretty, but they are, well, not so good like me. We are looking for a new wife.”

The man nodded in understanding and appreciation. The security guard was watching me.

“How can I get an American wife?” the guard asked. He stepped back a respectful distance.

“You must look on the internet. Lots of people find someone on the internet. There are many websites for good Muslim girls. Put up your photo and I am certain you will find someone here in Jordan.”

“I want an American wife. Can you help me find one?”

“No, no. American women are very particular who we marry. He must be a man with very high standing. He must have a good job. He must be able to buy a house. It is very difficult to find an American woman to come to live in Jordan.”

“I speak English. I have a good job.”

“It will be very hard for you to find an American woman. But maybe,” I shrugged my shoulders.  “Try the internet.”

“Your daughter, how old is she?”

“Absolutely not.  She is too young to be a wife.  She is smart and must go to university.  Besides we are very careful who our daughter will marry.”

“I am a good man.”

“I am certain you are. But we do not know you. You would have to fill out an application, tell us all about your family, your history, your job. Only the best man will marry our daughter.”

“I work for government. I have a salary.”

Too much. Time for the hammer.

“You are a security guard. My husband is a business man.  He would never allow it.  And you smoke. Look – your teeth are brown. I would never let my daughter marry a man who smokes. You will die early and leave your wife and children all alone. Who would take care of her?  Absolutely not.  My daughter will NOT marry a smoker.”

“Please help me find an American wife.”

“No.  I am first wife. I know who is a good wife and who is a good husband. American women like men with shiny white teeth and who are healthy.  Look at you.” I pointed to his large belly. “You must find someone who will take a man like you.”

Finally my friend arrived carrying two tickets. I laid my right hand on my heart.

“Shukran. Masallamah my friends. I pray that Allah blesses you with a good wife.

“Wives? What was that all about?” my friend asked.

“Laying down the law. Those men needed an ass-kicking.

Enjoying Jordan?  For more, click through to All the amazing sites from the Bible and ancient history you can find in Jordan. Jordan – The Holy Land Museum The Land of Shared Ancestors More About Moses’ family and exploring Petra

To Hire A Man or Not – Being assigned our Pajero at the Queen Alia Airport

Interested in Oman?  Click through to Touring Oman – First Stop Fanja

Or riding the train to France? click through to Don’t Pick Me Up – Eurostar Evaesdropping

Or life on a small desert island? – Read A Day in the Life of Unexpected Coincidences

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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.

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.

To Hire a Man or Not

Sign to Wadi Rum Desert Highway Jordan

Planning our excursion into the Wadi Rum desert of southern Jordan and Petra, we debated whether three women traveling alone in Jordan should drive or hire a male driver.

One advantage would be having someone who speaks Arabic.  However, that advantage was greatly offset by my experience with male drivers who drove too fast.  Too fast meaning 120 kph through tunnels marked for a 50 kph speed limit.  Even when asked to slow down, many pretended not to hear me.

None of us smoked.  Not only does the car smell, but I’ve had drivers who, after a couple of smokeless hours, light up even after I asked them not to.

The final advantage was freedom to manage our daily schedule.

When we decided to drive ourselves, my husband officially named us Thelma and Louise.

I booked a mid-size car since the SUVs were double the price.  I figured if the highway was good enough for broken-down Corollas, we would be fine.

Obviously the Eurocar manager felt differently.

Handing over our confirmation and my driver’s license, he looked at me.

“You are driving?” he asked.

“Yes, I am a very good driver” I said smiling.  “We are driving down to Wadi Rum.”

“I am going to drive too,” Louise said handing over her passport.  “Here is my license.”

Reviewing our documents, he made a phone call.

“I upgraded you to a SUV,” he said.  “No extra charge.”

After all the paper works was completed, he gave me his personal mobile number.

“If you have any trouble, please call me directly,” he instructed.

“What a lovely man,” we said, as we walked to the car.

“I was praying we would be upgraded to a bigger car,” Louise said.

Our SUV was an old Pajera that looked like it had been in at least three accidents.  It took nearly fifteen minutes to carefully walk around the car to note every single scratch and dent.

Driving out of the airport, the Pajero rattled so much, I stopped to check whether the back gate was open.  On the dashboard, a yellow light came on but I could not get the manual out because the drawer was broken.  Within a half an hour, the A/C turned off.  We could not seem to get it back on and after an hour pulled over at a restaurant.  I called Mr. Eurocar while Louise checked out the restaurant.

Three, roaming-charged telephone calls, I figured out the problem.  The A/C button had gotten turned off.  By then I was certain Mr. Eurocar’s confidence in our driving skills had gotten even lower.

To be continued…….

ABOUT THE NEW ALIA AIRPORT

The new airport opened on Mother’s Day in 2013.  It is a breeze to float through immigration and collect the baggage.   I think the visas are 20JD.

In baggage claim, if you are facing the Duty Free shops, there is an ATM in the right corner – something Investment Bank.  I withdrew 250JD and was given a mixture of 10s, 20s and 5s, not just large bills.  I thought that was fantastic as most taxis want small change.

The rental car companies – Eurocar, Budget and National? are outside Baggage Claim.  There are a couple more banks and ATMs in that area.

You can book your car reservation online.  You can also book a car and driver through them.  Eurocars has an office in Aqaba also.  If you hire a driver, they will send one up from Aqaba to pick you up in Wadi Rum.  Drivers were 75JD a day.  Whether or not they would be amenable with our dozen photo stops or detours to sites was a question.  You can also book a driver through the Movenpik in Petra.  It was also 70JD.

Note the return time is 6am.  If you arrive later, then you will be charged an extra day.  That became a negotiating point when we returned the car.  Otherwise renting a car was relatively easy.  There are petrol stations all along the Desert Highway (Highway 15).  Coming from the Gulf, the gas seemed expensive.  42JD for 55Liters.

ABOUT THE CARAVANSERAI RESTAURANT

In Sad As-Sultani, about an hour and a half south of the airport, we pulled over into the Caravanserai Restaurant.

This tourist gift shop cum restaurant was clean and set up for large groups.  We ate their “plate” with the choice of chicken or lamb.  It included a huge plate of bread, hummos, rice, spicy salad and cooked vegetables.  We ordered water and coffee.  It all came to 10JD and was very acceptable.  I am comfortable recommending it.

I Cannot Win When a Man Has the Mojo

Fifth annual little league tournament in kuwait 2013

Mojo, Ace and Mark went to Kuwait for a baseball tournament.

Susan was invited, but she turned down their offer when she learned she would not be playing.

Doha Downtown from Arch

I invited her to go to Doha with me for a girls’ weekend of yoga, swimming and a little sightseeing.

“That will be fun,” she said.  “I’ve never been to Qatar.”

Doha front of Islamic Museum

She invited her friend, making the weekend even better as they shared a room complete with free wi-fi.  During class, as they struggled through downward dog, they giggled together before falling over during half-moon.  While I learned to breathe, they swam and ate ice lollies in the heated pool.  One evening, we were invited to a dinner party, and Susan was delighted to find herself in the company of cat lovers who also enjoyed telling stories about their precious, furry companions.

Returning to Bahrain, as Susan and I cleared immigration, I got a message that Mojo and the boys had already arrived home.  “You won” I texted back.

Susan wondered how the boys’ trip was.  I started telling her what I knew, but she shouted, “Spoiler alert!  I want to hear it from the boys.”

At home, after the initial run-down of games won and lost, they got to the good part: eleven, stinky boys under Mojo’s supervision, having an all-night, soda-palooza while watching “the epic” Back to the Future 1, 2, and 3.  Plus, all the popcorn they could eat.

As she listened to them laughing about Pepsi coming out their nostrils, she whined, “I wish I had gone with Dad.”

Ooooh, that Mojo!  He won again.

Tickling Games

Clarity is needed for all you Fifty Shades of Gray enthusiasts.  I am not using tickle as a euphemism for other tawdry acts.  This is a serious question.

Am I the only one whose husband loves sticking his fingers into my ribs and tickling me until I fall down on the floor and pee my pants?

Or is it merely Mojo’s character?

Perhaps his joy watching people squirm was what led him to become a lawyer.

And when does this behavior stop?  How many decades will pass before this ends?  It’s all fun and games until someone breaks a hip.

For those of you who really don’t care about my questions, and whose thoughts have shifted to other tickling games, you will love Dr. Sadie Allison.  Her San Francisco-based company  Tickle Kitty sells all sorts of things arriving in specially wrapped, brown paper packages.  The question is – will you get it through customs?

My Beautiful Beast

Some of my friends are very absorbed in their work and families.  Not that I blame them, but I don’t hear from them often.  As I scanned my emails this morning, one was particularly unusual.  I clicked on it.

“Hello my beautiful pastie!” it said.

Pastie?  As in a nipple cover for the sweater kittens?  I didn’t think that was what she meant. Mine are more like niblets than hooters.

I squinted and tried again.

“Hello my beautiful BEASTIE!”

Beastie?  I thought we were on speaking terms.  We had such a good time at Champagne-a-looza last summer.  And I drove her home, in her car (so she would have it in the morning), past the cops as she sang with her bare feet up on the dashboard.

I patted around the top of my desk looking for the new reading glasses I purchased.

“Hello my beautiful Bestie.  Happy Birthday,” it read.

Bestie – as in Best Friend.

Oh yes, thank you.  It is so great getting old together.

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