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.

Married to a Bedouin

Petra streets and tombs jordan by eva the dragon 2013

Leaving the Treasury behind, we followed a young, Jordanian couple.  Wearing city attire, they looked like tourists, not Bedouin.

I assumed they were newly-married since the man could not stop taking pictures of the young woman wearing hijab.  At the amphitheater, we caught up with them.  They asked us to take their photo together, and we did, insisting that they do all sorts of fun poses.

Across the street, I recognized the stall selling Marguerite’s book,  Married to a Bedouin.  A little higher than the road, it sat next to the WCs carved out of the red cliff.

Marguerite lived in Petra with her husband, Mohammed Abdallah Othman for twenty-four years.  After his death in 2002, she returned to Sydney where her family lived.  At the end of her book, she wrote,

I might go back and see if I can find a Petra I can live in without Mohammed…..Without Mohammed to hold me I am no longer married to a Bedouin and, despite all the things we have accumulated, I have become a nomad once again.

I pointed out the stall.  There, dressed in western clothes, was Marguerite!

We rushed towards her, gushing.

“We met you in Dubai.”

“We loved your presentation.”

“I’ve been reading your book.”

“What are you doing here?  Where are your children?”

“Where was your cave?”

When Marguerite smiled her gold tooth, a present from her father-in-law, gleamed.

Time healed her broken heart, and, once again, she found herself living with the Bdouls near Petra.  Her children were grown with families of their own.  No longer a nurse, she was a published author and “doing something fun” – creating jewelry.  Inspired by the Nabataen carvings, local women smithed the silver jewelry.  The Amarat Jewelry Workshop helped support eleven families.

As much as we wanted to talk, Marguerite was busy.  She only had seconds to entice the dusty, hot tourists walking by to either purchase a book or some earrings.  As we stood there, a Mexican, then a Greek tour group huddled around her stall as she said a few words to them in their own language.

Happy to support a fellow adventurer, mother and writer, I purchased a charm – the out-lawed goddess, al-Uzza.

al uzza by amarat jewelry

Al-Uzza, “The Powerful One”, was part of the original, Arabian goddess triade.  Some archaeologists say she was the Nabataen equivalent to Aphrodite, but, according to Barbara Walker, she  was older than that.   Marguerite strung my Uzza on a black, braided cord.

When you go to Petra you will find either Marguerite or her handsome son tending the shop.  Like the other vendors, at night, they shuttered their stand and, guarded by The Powerful One, everything stays where they left it.

To be continued….

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