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…


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.

Follow the Brick Road to the Rose City

Starting at the Petra Visitor Center, Louise began asking me, “Is her shop here?”

The woman she was looking for was Marguerite van Geldermalsen.

married to a Bedouin

Louise was fascinated by Marguerite, a New Zealander who married Mohammed Othman, a Bedouin souvenir-seller from Petra.  She met him while on holiday.  After a whirlwind courtship, she moved into his cave where they lived for many years.  We met Marguerite in 2010 at the Dubai Literary Festival where she gave a talk on her memoir “Married to a Bedouin”.

During my previous visit to Petra I saw a stall selling her book.  But I did not think she lived there anymore.

“Do you see Marguerite’s stand?” Louise asked me for the second time as we entered the Siq.

“No, not yet.  We haven’t even entered the city yet.”

To most Westerners, Petra is the rose-colored Treasury featured in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Every year thousands wander through the six-foot wide Siq to glimpse Petra’s most famous landmark.

To the two-thousand, local Bedouin, Petra is – or was – their home.  They literally lived in the caves the Nabataeans carved out of the sandstone over three thousand years ago.

Lived that was, until the 1980s when the Jordanian government declared Petra to be a national landmark.  In the nearby village, Umm Sayhoon, cement block apartments were built to move the cave-dwelling people out the “caves” and off the colonnade streets.  Today some caves are occupied by the poorest families while others have padlocked doors.

“I can just see Burckhardt riding his donkey through here hoping to find the lost city,” Louise mumbled as she imagined herself dressed as a Muslim holy man.  A travel writer she did her research before our trip.  Not only was she intrigued by TE Lawrence and Marguerite, but the Swiss-born, Jean Louis Burckhardt’s account of “discovering” Petra in 1812 had captured her interest.

siq sign petra jordan

Burckhardt kept his discovery of the Rose-red City secret because he was afraid Petra would be spoiled.  His journals were released after his death in 1817, and that was when the Victorian travelers, poets and archaeologists, including the famed painter, David Roberts, flocked to Petra.

Walking through the Siq, a giant rock split apart by a tremendous earthquake, is to be transported back in time.  It is easy to imagine how impressed a desert traveler entering Petra would have been when they passed the channeled water ducts, the many shrines and the immense stone carvings of camel caravans.

As we studied the camel caravan, our American mates from the Mohammed Mutlak camp saw us and stopped to say hello.  They were in such a hurry to hike to the Monastery, had we not been there, they would have walked past the life-size, stone mural.

As we gazed at the ancient signposts, even the school children passed us.

“You want a ride.  It is included in your ticket,” the young horsemen asked us over and over.  They must have assumed we were tired since we walked so slow.

“No, thanks,” we shouted back.  “We’re allergic to horses.”

“Where are you from?”

“Bahrain,” we told them, but they did not believe us.

Without a horse and taking photos, our kilometer and a half walk took about two hours.

All along the way, Louise kept stopping the Bedouins to ask, “When Marguerite?”

To be continued……


The Visitor Center has been revamped since my last trip in 2009.  The entrance is right outside the Movenpik Hotel.  Taxis congregate at the entrance.  Leaving the hotel, they asked if we needed a taxi. I was wondering where they would have taken us.

Entrance fees have doubled since 2009.  They are posted on the Petra National Trust website.  In 2013, it was for 50JD/day for one day, 55JD for 2 days and 60JD for three days.  If you did not arrive via the airport and pay for a visa, your entrance fee will include a 40JD addition.  Technically, at sunset Petra closes.

In 2009, we hired a guide who spoke perfect English and who happened to be a Petra archeologist.  Unfortunately I forgot his name but I learned so much from him.  Because of my experience, we did not hire a guide from the Visitor Center but there are many available who speak multiple languages.  I linked to Frommer’s website as I agree with what is written there.  We did not hire a horse drawn carriage, but the men told us it is included in the ticket price – perhaps that is why they tickets prices have increased.  However, if you take a horse down to the Treasury you miss exploring sites along the way.


Tales by Chapter

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