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.

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.

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.

The Land of Shared Ancestors

“You want to see my cave?” asked our Bedouin guide, aka Mr. Friday.

Had we not already established a trust, his proposal would have sounded like a proposition.

“Yes, we’d love to,” cooed the three women.

We climbed up a small slope and voila, there in the rocks was Juomaa’s front door – locked against wandering bandits.

“Here is where we kept our fire,” he said pointing to a small pit with ink-colored sand stained by the ash.  “Here is where our cousins slept.  The men here.  The women there.  And over here was the cave the tourists slept.  They used to come up here and we would offer them hospitality.”

The bedroom-sized caves must have been cramped when all the cousins slept over.  I imagined there was a lot of giggling at night.

“At the bottom of this canyon is Haroun’s orchard,” said Juomaa.  As he looked over the site, he sighed.  “I loved living in the caves.”

Without their inhabitants, the caves were not homes, and there was little else to see inside.

Outside, the multi-colored stone was brilliant orange as the sun dropped.  To the right of his front door was a stunning view of the Monastery.

We stood enjoying a quiet anyone living in a city has never heard.  The desert is a place where life is pared down to the bare minimum.  You get enough water to survive – with nothing to waste.  You eat to fill your belly; no left-overs that might spoil.  Your possessions must fit on your back or your donkey’s.  Your entertainment is Nature’s round-the-clock exhibition of her array of colors.  The air was fresh, tinged with the freedom of living without masters.

“I could get used to living up here,” my friend said.  “I don’t think my husband would like it.”

“No CNN or A/C, mine would complain,” I said.  “But I feel free.”

“It is gorgeous.  I can just imagine sitting around the campfire, telling stories and watching the stars,” Louise said.  Her eyes had gone dreamy again.

It was a pity we were unable to enjoy the Bedouin hospitality, but the sun waits for no woman.  If we wanted to end our day in true Thelma and Louise style, then we had to get to the cliff at the top of the world.

Many signs pointed towards the canyon’s lip.

Climbing the mountain, we rushed towards the edge, but our donkey stopped just in time.  Regardless of what anyone else wanted, he refused to take that last step.

Maaz stopped to lean against a fence made of sticks.  My mother’s heart stopped.  My friend encouraged him to step away by asking him to take her photo.  Soon, he was leaping around like a mountain goat snapping shots our stomachs could not endure.

“Over here,” called Juomaa.  Taking off his sunglasses, he squinted and pointed west to some distant spot where his camels grazed.  “Wadi Araba, my winter home.  It is warmer there.  Araba is the real desert.”  He turned and pointed south.

“See the white roof on the top of that mountain.  That is Aaron’s Tomb.  In Islam, we believe Aaron was a prophet and a priest like his brother Moses.”

IMG_1037 aaron cave petra jordan by eva the dragon 2013

My great-grandfather’s name was Aaron,” I told him.  Suddenly the pieces came together.  “His grandfather’s name was Eleazer.  In the Old Testament, Eleazer was Aaron’s son.  Very curious,” I said, watching the sun set.  “It all feels so familiar and comfortable.  This is truly our shared ancestral land.”

“Welcome home,” said the smiling Juomaa.

To be continued….

ABOUT JUOMAA KUDBLAN THE PETRA BEDOUIN GUIDE

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 You Carry in Your Heart

In the desert, the hour before sunset feels like someone turned down the oven thermometer and set out that day’s pie, with its perfectly golden edges, for everyone to savor.  It is a magical time as the light and the dark merge.

The Monastery was at its breath-taking best; a brilliant carnelian like the gem the ancients placed on the dead to protect them during their voyage to the afterlife.

Less than twenty people sat at the Monastery Café savoring the view before beginning their walk down the stairs.  It was now or never.

Eva anjayasana at Monastery small v2

Emulating the mischievous Hanuman, the saffron-colored, monkey-god, I scrambled up into the cavern.  The Ramayana tells how he used his siddhis to shape-shift.  Perched on the edge, I bowed deep into hanumanasana.  My whole body grew and filled the monastery’s entrance before shrinking down to normal.

Hanumanasana in monastery petra jordan 2013

Amazed, others tried to access the “cave’s” power.

One man did flips.

Maaz tried handstands.

bedouin boys sitting on monastery petra jordan

The Bedouin boys climbed to the top of the temple and dangled their legs over the edge, hoping they would be stretched to the ground.

Their faces, arms and legs remained unchanged.  And my secret stayed in my heart.

The Monastery – 1839 and 2013

Safely reaching the summit, we slid off our donkeys’ backs.  Standing in front of Al-Deir, the memory of our steep journey rolled away.

“It is glorious,” marveled Louise.  “Save for a little wear and tear, it looks just like David Robert’s painting.”

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