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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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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