Tuesday, November 8: Back at the Rocky Mountain Hotel, I’m feeling hungry and am ready to go down to the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp where I will meet two of my colleagues David and Mario for dinner. Hussein drives me to a little restaurant where I buy a delicious chicken schwarma and then he takes me to see Little Petra, a short distance north of Petra. Wild and beautiful outcrops of rock, the color of pale honey, form what is called al-Beidha in Arabic, ‘the white one’. It’s beautiful but I don’t have much time here as the sun is ready to set and I want to get to the Bedouin camp by sunset.
At the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp, the Bedouin boys, including Atef from the Rocky Mountain Hotel, have built a toasty fire. I meet a bunch of fellow travelers, Frenchmen, Germans, and one German family who is working in Saudi Arabia. Hussein tells us we should climb up a giant rock that overlooks the camp and so Hussein and the two German kids, a boy and a girl, and I climb precariously up and up until we reach the top and look out over the beautiful camp with its white lights, its Bedouin communal tents, its little tent-huts, and the glowing desert beyond. I feel a real sense of accomplishment climbing this, and then, oh dear, I have to go back down. Much of my downhill journey consists of me sitting on my butt and sliding down.
I sit around the campfire then with the other travelers, then go inside a partially enclosed tent with a toasty campfire. There the Bedouin boys sing and dance and finally David and Mario arrive and we all sit and enjoy the music. We have dinner then in the communal tent where David tells his story that is every traveler’s nightmare, how he got to the airport in Muscat and tried to use the ATM, only to have the ATM eat his card, his only source of money for his trip!! Luckily he had his friend Mario along who was able to lend him money along the way.
Later Mohammed Gabaah texts me and tells me to come to Petra Kitchen, which his family owns and operates, when I’m finished at the Bedouin Camp with my friends. I hang out a bit longer, then go outside to ask Atef about a ride back into Wadi Musa. Atef says, “I see you and Mohammed. I see love in your eyes!” I say, “No! I don’t love him! It takes me a long time to fall in love.” He says, “Yes, but if you have love, you should change your life. You could come here and make it work.” We talk about Mohammed and the general consensus is that he doesn’t have women in his life, he works a lot, he needs a woman. But I hardly know him and don’t really think, actually, that he would ever be the one for me. Atef keeps at it though, telling me I should try to make it work. He points to himself and Jane as an example of a couple who rearranged their lives to make things work.
Atef tells me to follow him and he takes me into one of the tents at the camp. “Look, I have Arab clothing, an abaya, scarves. You should wear one of these tonight when you go to see Mohammed.” I say, “No, that is not me and I would never change for anyone.” He says, “Mohammed would be so surprised! He would like it!” I stand my ground. “No, I won’t do it.”
Finally I get a ride back into Wadi Musa with one of the boys. I go into Petra Kitchen where Mohammed is sitting at a tall table around which six men are sitting on stools eating a feast. They invite me to join them and they start passing food my way. I protest, say I already ate dinner at the Bedouin camp, but they insist on me trying the food. I try some and it is delicious. Mohammed’s brother is the owner of this place; he is impeccably dressed in a business suit and tie. He keeps staring at me unabashedly and then asks me if I would like to smoke shisha. I say sure, but instead of him bringing it to the table where I’m sitting with Mohammed, he invites me to another table. The whole time Mohammed barely speaks to me, engrossed as he is by a story one of the men is telling in Arabic. I go to join the brother to smoke shisha, but ultimately I feel uncomfortable with him. I don’t understand why he is so focused on me when I’m here with his brother! I finally excuse myself from the brother with the excuse that I have to use the toilet. When I come out I walk up to Mohammed. I say “Are you going to even talk to me tonight?” I’m baffled by his total disinterest. He says, “I’m sorry. I’m listening to his story,” pointing to the man who has been telling this story for about 30 minutes now.
Mohammed gets up and takes me upstairs to his family’s very expensive shop that sells handcrafts made by local Petra craftsmen or women. The things are beautiful but way out of my price range. I see several delicate hand-woven rugs which sell for 300 dinar ($422 USD)! I don’t know if he’s just showing me these things because he’s proud of his shop or if he really expects me to buy something. He ends up buying me a small hand-woven bookmark as a token of something, who knows what!
Mohammed has no car tonight and has to borrow his brother’s car to drive me back to my hotel. The first night he met me, he came in a huge brand new SUV, but it belonged to the Jordanian government and he returned it the next day. The second night, he came in an old run-down car he borrowed from his cousin. This last night, he must borrow his brother’s car but I can tell he’s afraid of his brother and is worried about driving it far or doing damage to it. His brother is obviously the successful one in the family and Mohammed seems to live in his shadow.
I say goodnight to Mohammed and I know when I leave him that there will be no future at all with him, in any way, shape or form.