Now that I have your attention…Let’s be serious. I don’t really need a wardrobe full of Bedouin scarves. The only reason I continue to purchase these picnic table head pieces is so I can gaze longingly into the beautiful blue eyes of the Jordanian men. It’s great. I pretend I have no idea how to wrap my head Bedouin style and they offer to assist. I might need to import a few of these blue-eyed babes back to the States. This gives new meaning to the phrase eye candy. My favorite part of being a western woman is that Arab men are allowed to talk and to flirt with me. By putting on quite a show in the hotel lobby, the manager decided he would teach me how to wear the head scarf. Where do you think he took me? (Before you start assuming anything, recall that I am in a Muslim country). We darted off to the bathroom (the MEN’S bathroom) for the mirror. As I playfully asked him about the origin of his blue eyes (from his mother or father), he wrapped my head in all sorts of ways. We finally settled on a style conducive to climbing and conveniently cute. Now that I had him in my good graces I informed him I also had no heat or hot water in my room. He offered to “check out” my room and I thought that might be a bit much so I said no thank you but he told me all I needed to do was press zero and I would have his full attention. AHHHHH infatuation.
The next day I woke up at sunrise to set off exploring Petra. I booked a guide and to my disappointment he did not have blue eyes but he did want to talk about sex. It wasn’t the first thing he said but when he showed me a rock inscription he mention something about sex and American TV. Instantly, I thought here we go again. It occurred to me that when I am alone Arabic men must think it’s ok to question me about sex. Furthermore, every Arabic man and likely woman truly believes Americans are having sex at 14. Please! What about the French, the Italians or even the Australians? Last time I checked, Americans (minus Hollywood) act more prude than any of these other countries–sorry friends abroad. This guide Sloonie, I am certain I missed the English translation of his name, let me know that Arabic men are repressed since they don’t make sex before marriage. When I asked why he wasn’t married, he said because he needed to make money first. I am beginning to see comparisons between Arabs and Mormons. They marry just to have sex. What I find even more interesting is that all these men I meet want to talk about sex but they never cross any lines. They want to learn but not engage. It’s too much.
Back to Petra…I know you are getting tired of me saying this about every site I see but it’s amazing. Each place I visit seems to be better than the last. The Nabataean’s, an ancient Arabic tribe, created tombs and memorials out of sandstone rock around 526 BC. Since this was before Christ, they carved these temples for royal burials as well as their pagan gods. They cut the rock from the top down building theaters, irrigation canals and numerous tombs. The natural colors of the rock are even more spectacular than the tombs themselves- quite a feat considering the time period. The sea and sand and elements of air, wind and sun have mixed brilliantly with the sandstone portraying vibrant red, blue and yellow colors rippled through the rocks. Locals refer to Petra as the rose-red city and it fits perfectly. The Nabataeans fought off the Egyptians, Greek and Romans over the years but there are remains of Greek and Roman architecture leading archaeologists to believe these groups lived in harmony together. The city was likely abandoned around 126 AD due to severe earthquake damage destroying much of the infrastructure.
A Swiss man founded Petra in 1812 but locals lived in the rock town until 1985 when UNESCO named it a world heritage site.
I gave my body a workout climbing 1,000 steps to the Monastery at Ad-Deir. It was worth the hike as the peak gave way to the most incredible panoramic view of the Jordanian desert and Petra below. The scenery was outstanding and every step took my breath away (literally and figuratively). The color of the rocks in contrast with the sky and the sand below were overpowering. Every path led to another and my walk turned into a day-long journey.
Near the end of my hike, I encountered several Bedouin’s selling jewelry and rose colored rocks. Children were running free and locals were selling “taxi” rides on donkey’s and camels. It was all pretty exciting yet exhausting. Then, I watched a 2-year-old fall to the ground. Being the nurturing person I am, I couldn’t believe not one person came to tend to the child. I stopped and looked around but the child continued to holler. Despite my apprehensions, I picked up the screaming boy and tried to calm him. I know I know….babies and most children hate me. The child clearly had a poopy diaper and probably had not been fed. On further examination, I saw he also had a scrape from his fall. I found myself in a bind and I asked some passing tourists what to do. They all said to leave him. Finally, I saw a local on a donkey and asked him who the mother might be. He told me to take the boy to the women downhill. I walked with the baby for about 15 minutes and left him with the women who didn’t even acknowledge him or me. It was one of those what do you do moments and I was completely out of my element here. I assumed this was the way of the Bedouin people and came to the conclusion I did the best I could for the child.
I walked silently along the path out of the “city” and thought about how fortunate I am to even be in Jordan. Other than that episode, I truly enjoyed the city of Petra.
Today, I got pissed at the Marriott for not calling me a cab to the city. They wanted me to wait 30 minutes for the shuttle-like that was going to happen. I decided to show them and walk the 7 km. About 3 km in to my walk, I regretted my decision and started making plan B. A few people had honked at me and I recalled hitch hiking was safe so when a nice car honked I waved and jumped in the vehicle. The Toyota Corolla and man from Petra delivered me safely to town. Sometimes you have to do what has to be done. Already warmed up, I did more rock climbing and found even more hidden coves filled with colorful rocks and tombs. The city of Petra is not only a find it’s an inspiration.
I’m off to Amman tomorrow and making my way toward Israel.