Category Archives: Mövenpick Resort Petra

the ancient rose-red city of petra

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Monday, November 7:  Petra is more awesome than I could have ever imagined.  I have traveled extensively in the last two years, and often I’ve found that national treasures are a bit of a letdown because their “tourist attraction” aspect is so blatantly inescapable.  I felt especially this way about the Taj Mahal. But Petra, even though tourists abound, does not disappoint.  Its natural beauty is so unreal and fantastical and its man-made imprints so classic and imposing that even pictures don’t do it justice.  Just the magnitude of the sheer terra-cotta painted walls on the path leading to the surprising Treasury takes your breath away.   There is no easy way in and out of this hidden treasure, and the exertion is definitely worth every hard-earned step.  I love this place.

I start my morning with breakfast at the Rocky Mountain Hotel and in the lobby I meet, purely by accident, a colleague from the university, Matt.  He has come alone to Jordan for the Eid, as I have, and he is planning to go back to Petra today to climb to the High Place of Sacrifice.  He says he can accompany me until he has to turn off to make his climb.

I am going for the first time and so am looking forward to taking it all in by myself.  I love going to a place like this on my own, with no one to distract me with chatter.  I take my time, soak it in, move at my pace and in my way.  I am finding that I mostly prefer to travel this way, alone.  I do enjoy meeting fellow travelers along the way, and I love time with them if they have a certain zest for life and an adventurous outlook.  The nice thing about traveling this way is that I’m never tied to anyone and if I find someone difficult, boring or not to my liking, I can take off in my own direction and be done with them.

But this is awkward.  Matt is a nice guy but he talks nonstop. And he’s a colleague so I don’t want to be rude.  The worst part of his talk is that a great deal of it is about sports.  Anyone who knows me knows I have ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN SPORTS!!  When Matt starts talking about the Redskins and the Bills and God knows who else, I tell him the same thing I say above: I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO INTEREST IN SPORTS!  Does that stop him?  NO!  Funny thing, this.  I find honestly that most sports fanatics, even if you tell them you have NO INTEREST IN SPORTS, will keep talking about them ad infinitum as if you never said such  a thing.  Maybe they just don’t believe such a thing is possible, for a person not to care about sports.

Soon after the main gate to Petra, we come upon some men offering horse rides down a long path to As-Siq, the ancient main entrance.  It’s quite a long walk to As-Siq and I love to ride horses, so I take one up on his offer.  Matt doesn’t want to do this, so he walks on.  I ride the little horse for a leisurely walk down the trail for about 3 dinar.  I hop off, and there is Matt waiting for me.

me on a horse to As-Siq

me on a horse to As-Siq

We walk into As-Siq, which is an impressive and breathtaking 1200 meter long, deep and narrow sandstone gorge. It towers over us up to 80 meters.  This is apparently not really a canyon, though it looks like one.  It’s really a rock landmass that was ripped apart by tectonic forces. We see colorful rocks, bizarre-looking geological formations, agricultural terraces, and water channels cut into the cliffs (what we call aflaj in Oman).  We see tombs, facades, theaters and stairways carved into the rocky cliffs. The sunlight spills like shimmery liquid into the gorge and highlights parts of the high cliff faces, artfully gilding the already painted walls.  It’s stunning.

As-Siq ~ the ancient main entrance to Petra

As-Siq ~ the ancient main entrance to Petra

horse-drawn carriages clatter through As-Siq

horse-drawn carriages clatter through As-Siq

A carriage barrels through As Siq

A carriage barrels through As Siq

This early in the morning there aren’t many tourists.  If only Matt would stop talking.  I want to be silent, to soak it in, but there is this chatter, non-stop.  I wish so much I was all alone.  To contemplate, to linger, to appreciate the natural beauty and the history.

And oh, what a history. Petra is the ancient rose-red city of the Nabataeans, ancient Arab tribes who controlled the region’s trade routes, levying tolls and protecting caravans filled with Arabian frankincense and myrrh, Indian spices and silks, African ivory and animal hides.  Profits from their caravan business enabled them to establish a powerful kingdom that stretched to Damascus and included parts of the Sinai and Negev deserts, effectively ruling the greater part of Arabia.  This wasn’t an easy task as the region at the time was dominated by rival Greek factions, the Hasmonaeans and later the Romans. The city itself was built in the 3rd century BC by these enterprising people who carved palaces, temples, storerooms, tombs and stables from the cliffs.

The canyon walls of Petra

The canyon walls of Petra

continuing along through As-Siq

continuing along through As-Siq

Despite fierce battles to protect their independence, the Roman Empire annexed the Nabataean kingdom in 106 AD.  Petra and the Nabataean kingdom managed to prosper for many more years until trade routes shifted and demand for frankincense declined as Christianity replaced pagan religions.  Archeologists  believe that several earthquakes, including a massive one in AD 555, forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. A Swiss traveler named Johann Ludwing Burckhardt rediscovered it in 1812.

I honestly didn’t know about the Nabataeans before I came here, but I’m impressed by their architectural and artistic sensibility.  What they managed to add to an already beautiful and impenetrable landscape is of fairy-tale quality and explains why movie-makers picked this place as the setting for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  It’s simply unreal, unimaginable, what they created here.  Yet.  They did indeed imagine it.  And then they ran with this vision to chisel the towering rock facades into a city that lasted, and flourished, for hundreds of years.

As Siq

As Siq

As Siq and another horse-drawn carriage

As Siq and another horse-drawn carriage

We meander along through the curvaceous As-Siq and I’m waiting for the surprise of the Treasury.  I can imagine it from pictures.  And then, around a bend, there it is, looming before us, through a sliver in the gorge, yes, there is a slice.  Al-Khazneh, the Treasury, with its Alexandrian Hellenistic columns, its unique Nabataean facade.  I feel dwarfed by its height, its immensity, and struck by its proportions, by its elaborate carvings. It was carved in the 1st century BC as a tomb of an important Nabataean King.  Some scholars believe it was later used as a temple. Locals believed, mistakenly, that an Egyptian pharaoh hid his treasure in the top urn, thus the misnomer “The Treasury.”

my first view of the Treasury

my first view of the Treasury

the Treasury

the Treasury

The Treasury

The Treasury

A camel at the Treasury

A camel at the Treasury

Matt gets excited by the "Bills" blanket on this camel

Matt gets excited by the “Bills” blanket on this camel

Camel at the Treasury

Camel at the Treasury

At the Treasury, I can’t pass up the opportunity to get on a camel and have my picture taken.  Part of the problem with traveling alone is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get pictures of yourself.  I ask Matt if he would mind taking a picture of me on the camel, and he grudgingly does so.  I’m thinking it’s pretty darn selfish that he is so put off by my request.  I’m always offering to take pictures for solitary travelers or for couples who can only take pictures of each other but none together.   So I don’t understand why it should be such an imposition.

on a camel in front of the Treasury

on a camel in front of the Treasury

After the camel photo shoot, we continue and the way broadens into the Outer Siq.   This is the Street of Facades, with over 40 tombs.

the Street of Facades

the Street of Facades

Street of Facades

Street of Facades

Then we come upon a 7,000-seat Theatre.  To the left of that are the steps that lead to the High Place of Sacrifice, a hill-top altar, where Matt plans to climb.  We part ways, saying we will meet for lunch later, and I head further back into the depths of Petra.

the Theatre

the Theatre

Across from the Theatre are the Royal Tombs, a set of tomb facades cut into the cliffs.

The Royal Tombs

The Royal Tombs

Camels and the Royal Tombs

Camels and the Royal Tombs

I continue to walk along a colonnaded street that used to be lined with shops.  I head toward the Great Temple and the Temple of the Winged Lions.  At the end of the street, on the left, is the Nabataean temple known as Qasr al-Bint.

The Royal Tombs

Strolling down the colonnaded street to the Great Temple and the Temple of the Winged Lions

Steps to one of the temples

Steps to one of the temples

colonnaded street

colonnaded street

I keep walking until I come to an area where boys are offering donkey rides up to the Monastery.  Despite the fact that I took a short horse ride, and sat on a camel, I’m game to pay the boy 7 dinar to take me on his donkey up the 800-step rock-cut staircase.  I think of this as a kind of adventure, just to ride the donkey upstairs.  There are magnificent views of the mountains as we climb.  Once he drops me off, there is still plenty of walking to be done.

taking the donkey up the 800+ steps to the Monastery

taking the donkey up the 800+ steps to the Monastery

Heading up to the Monastery

Heading up to the Monastery

path to the Monastery

path to the Monastery

views as I climb up to the Monastery

views as I climb up to the Monastery

At the top is Petra’s second most famous attraction, Ad-Deir, or the Monastery. The proportions of this are much bulkier and gargantuan than the Treasury, whose columns are much more delicate and intricately carved. The architectural embellishment is much simpler than the Treasury.  But it’s overpowering in its sheer magnitude.

the Monastery at the top of an 800 step climb

the Monastery at the top of an 800 step climb

the Monastery, up close and personal

the Monastery, up close and personal

After reaching the Monastery, I sit at an outdoor coffee shop, sip some tea and take in the view.

having tea across from the Monastery

having tea across from the Monastery

me dwarfed by the Monastery

me dwarfed by the Monastery

The Monastery

The Monastery

After, I walk up to one of the viewpoints on a cliff top, where I can see the rock formations of Petra from above, Jebel Haroun, and even Wadi Araba.  A Jordanian guy is sitting at the top playing some kind of guitar-like musical instrument.  He does double-duty as a shopkeeper, selling jewelry made by local artisans.

The Sacrifice View at the cliff top near the Monastery

The Sacrifice View at the cliff top near the Monastery

Guitar player doubling as jewelry salesman at the High Sacrifice

Guitar player doubling as jewelry salesman at the Sacrifice View

On the way down from the Sacrifice View, I pass by the Monastery again.

the Monastery on the way down

the Monastery on the way down

Finally, I must walk down and this is the worst of all.  Down the 800 steps is hard on my knees, one of which is bad anyway, but also surprisingly  on my toes.  I am wearing these Keds tennis shoes today, and going down my toes are jamming up against the end of these shoes.  By about halfway down, with all the walking I did just to get to the area near the Theatre, plus the difficult walk down, my legs and toes are killing me.  I’m actually thinking someone may have to come and carry me out of here.

Back at the bottom after a long hike down

Back at the bottom after a long hike down

on the way out of Petra, camels galore.... wish I had one to give my poor legs a rest.. :-)

on the way out of Petra, camels galore…. wish I had one to give my poor legs a rest.. 🙂

By the time I get to the bottom, I am starving and dead tired.  I go into the only restaurant around which happens to charge an exorbitant 10 dinar for a buffet lunch.  At the lunch counter, who do I find but Matt, who has haphazardly just arrived here himself.  We sit at an outdoor table and eat lunch.  I am hesitant to get up and walk again, because I know the way out is still a long one.

Finally, after eating, we wander into the museum and there I buy two rings, one with amethyst and one in turquoise and coral.  A little further on, Matt decides to go explore the Royal Tombs, and I continue on by myself.  He’s disappointed I won’t go to the tombs with him because he wants to share a taxi back to the hotel, but I don’t care about the cost of the taxi.  I’m ready to go and I want some peace and solitude.  I say it’s best that we part ways.  I continue the long journey out, which seems to take another hour at least.

a local family I pass on the way out of As-Siq

a local family I pass on the way out of As-Siq

Finally, I hobble out the entrance and look for a taxi which I take to the Rocky Mountain Hotel.  I can hardly move my legs.  They are throbbing with pain.  Misery.  I can’t remember when my legs have known such agony.

After a warm shower and a nice nap, Mohammed Gabaah arranges to pick me up at 7:00.  He comes in hiking shoes, khaki pants and a red fleece jacket ~ his work attire I presume.  He takes me to the Mövenpick Resort Petra near the entrance to Petra and buys me a couple of glasses of wine.  I actually enjoy his company here. We sit at the bar for a while and talk and talk.  Everyone in the hotel knows him.  Then he takes me to the Oriental Restaurant, where we share a veggie pizza.  Here, more people know him, come up to him and hug him, pat him on the back.  It’s clear that everyone knows him and respects him.  Seeing how other people treat him makes me warm to him.

I’m too tired to stay out late and the wine has made me sleepy.  I ask him to take me back to the hotel so I can rest for my trip tomorrow to Wadi Rum.  Parting ways, I find I feel a new appreciation for him.  Funny.  I had been so determined to brush him off.  Now, he appears in a new light.  Still not a bright light, but a new one just the same.

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the king’s highway to the bedouin camp at petra

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Sunday, November 6:  I wake up at 2 a.m. to the same loudspeaker I heard when I went to sleep.  Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla.  Unbelievable!  Somehow I do manage to go back to sleep, but I’m wondering how on earth the owners of this shop, selling whatever “enticing” goods they are selling for whatever bargain price, can even stand this repeating announcement themselves.  And I can’t imagine this sound actually lures shoppers to buy anything!

Later I awake around 4-4:30 to hear that the loudspeaker has stopped. Sweet heavenly relief!  FINALLY that damn thing has quit its bellowing.  I was beginning to think I was in some episode of the Twilight Zone. There is still a buzz of activity on the street below but it’s a gentle buzz now, like static.  I roll over and drift off again….only to be awakened a half hour later by the call to prayer from the mosque!  It never ends, this noise in Amman!

In the morning, I eat an omelet, cucumbers and tomatoes, bread and cheese, followed by hot coffee in the lobby. Our driver for today, Aboud, brings his tiny sedan, already carrying a Turkish couple, to the Jordan Tower Hotel.  The plan is to drive from Amman back to the Dead Sea where we will pick up Minako from the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea.  Then, all four of us tourists plus Aboud will take a long meandering drive along the King’s Highway.  This drive will take about 11 hours, including numerous stops along the way, with the destination being Petra.   The actual direct drive from Amman to Petra is really only 3 hours, but we all want to stop and see the sights along the way.

The Turkish couple, Emre and Zeynap, are friendly but Emre’s English is rudimentary.  Zeynap’s is very good.  Of course I have to tell them how much I adore Turkey, how it is my favorite country ever, how I love Cappadocia and Istanbul.  They live in Taksim, not the beautiful hill in Sultanahmet graced by the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

The car is very small and it is only slightly comfortable with me, Emre and Zeynap.  When we stop at the Movenpick by the Dead Sea to pick up Minako, even though she is tiny, it suddenly becomes miserably tight.  Minako sits in the middle between Zeynap and me; Emre gets to stretch out in the front seat with Aboud.  I’m so happy to see Minako again, I’m distracted from the discomfort.

the grounds of the Movenpick where we pick up Minako

the grounds of the Movenpick where we pick up Minako

At the Movenpick I run in to find Minako and she takes me out back to the magnificent view.  She tells how she spent all yesterday afternoon relaxing by the pool and swimming in the Dead Sea.  I ask her how she put up with the flies.  She said, “Flies?  What flies?”  She apparently didn’t have any problem with flies at the Movenpick.  All I can say is that hotel must do something right with regard to the flies, because I never had a moment’s relief from them at the O Beach Hotel.

Then I ask her if she had a nice massage or any kind of spa treatments.  “I didn’t have time!” she said.  “I was only there one afternoon and overnight.”  I say, “I was only at the O Beach Hotel for 2 1/2 hours and I had a massage!”  She finds that hilarious, that I managed to squeeze in a massage in my short time at the Dead Sea, while she was at her hotel overnight and “didn’t have time.”  I guess it all boils down to priorities.  The rest of the day, she jokes about this ridiculous situation.

another view of the Movenpick

another view of the Movenpick

Our route today is along the King’s Highway, a trade route of vital importance to the ancient Middle East. It began in Egypt, and stretched across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba. From there it turned northward across Jordan, leading to Damascus and the Euphrates River.  The Nabataeans used this road as a trade route for luxury goods such as frankincense and spices from southern Arabia.  The Highway has also been used as an important pilgrimage route for Christians as it passed numerous sites important in Christianity, including Mount Nebo and “the Baptism Site” at the Jordan River, where Jesus is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist.

Aboud tells us this road is the oldest road in Jordan, going back thousands of years.  I don’t know the fact about this road’s longevity, but no matter.  We do know it is old.  Ancient.

Our first stop is at the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve which was established for the captive breeding of the Nubian ibex, a desert-dwelling goat species found in the mountainous areas of Jordan, among other places.  These goats are even found in Oman! We are told that the reserve is closed and we can only stand at an overlook area near the entrance.  We protest, “But we can’t see anything!!” The keeper of the reserve relents slightly, “Ok, you can walk just around the corner.” We go around the corner and find another couple meandering from quite a distance down the canyon, or the Siq Trail, a gorge with a river that flows into the Dead Sea.  We figure since those other people are allowed to walk down there, so are we, so off we go.  Minako takes off her sandals and wades into the water.  I have on tennis shoes so don’t wade, but I cross over some rocks to the central gravel island.  It’s really quite beautiful and refreshing.  Guides call this place “Petra with Water.”

Mujib Nature Preserve ~ "Petra with water"

Mujib Nature Preserve ~ “Petra with water”

Me in the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

Me in the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

Emre and Zeynap from Turkey in Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

Emre and Zeynap from Turkey in Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

At one point I ask the Turkish couple their opinion of Prime Minister Erdoğan, who is slowly unraveling Ataturk’s progressive achievement of making Turkey a more secular state. From what I’ve read, Erdoğan is trying to take Turkey backwards to its pre-Ataturk, more Muslim roots.  I am curious about this couple’s opinion.  Emre goes on and on in  barely intelligible English.  All I hear are things about Gaddafi and Libya and some other unintelligible stuff about oil and America and blah blah blah.  I just nod as he speaks and say, “Mmm. Yes. Right. Yep. Yes….”  Later I tell Minako I don’t think Emre can really speak English.  She says, “I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, but you seemed to know what he was talking about.”  I laugh, tell her I was just faking it, pretending to understand.  She laughs out loud at this and says I sure had her fooled.

Me at Mujib Nature Preserve

Me at Mujib Nature Preserve

Minako in Wadi Mujib

Minako in Wadi Mujib

Zeynap and Emre climb the ladder out of Mujib Nature Preserve

Zeynap and Emre climb the ladder out of Mujib Nature Preserve

our tiny group and our tinier car

our tiny group and our tinier car

After we explore the canyon for a bit, we climb back up a metal ladder and walk back to our tiny box of a car and squeeze in again.  Our next stop is Lot’s Cave.  In the hills east of Ghor as-Safi (ancient Zoar) a cave was found in 1991 with Early and Middle Bronze Age pottery inside. Speculation linked the finds with Abraham’s nephew Lot who, according to the Bible, moved to a cave in the hills above Zoar after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

me at the entrance to Lot's Cave

me at the entrance to Lot’s Cave

We all know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah: Sodom and Gomorrah were two of the wickedest cities in the world. God therefore decided to destroy them both, but  there was just one good family in the city, so God decided to save them. Lot and his family were told to flee the city, but not to look back. Unfortunately his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.  After escaping,  Lot and his daughters hid in a cave where they watched the awesome destruction of the wicked cities.   This is apparently that cave.

me with Minako at Lot's Cave

me with Minako at Lot’s Cave

We climb and climb to the top of a small mountain overlooking the Dead Sea, where we find the aforementioned cave.  We enjoy an amazing view of the Dead Sea and the valley below.  Breathless and tired, we climb back into the car for a long drive to Karak.

Our guide Aboud

Our guide Aboud

The ancient Crusader castle of Karak (or Kerak) was the setting for 12th century battles between the Crusaders and the Muslim armies of Salah-ad-Din (Saladin). Karak is only one in a long line of castles built by the Crusaders stretching from Aqaba in southern Jordan to Turkey in the north.

random Jordanian and me at Karak

random Jordanian and me at Karak

entering the ancient Crusader castle of Karak

entering the ancient Crusader castle of Karak

steps at Karak Castle

steps at Karak Castle

A particularly evil Crusader, Renauld de Chatillon, arrived from France in 1148 to take part in the Crusades.  He took delight in torturing prisoners and throwing them off the walls into the valley 450 meters below.  It is said he fastened wooden boxes over his victims’ heads so they wouldn’t lose consciousness before hitting the ground.

one of the few walls left standing at Karak

one of the few walls left standing at Karak

We enter through the Ottoman Gate and cross a bridge over a dry moat.  Karak sits impressively at the top of a large cliff and the views are phenomenal, especially the golden valley below dotted with farmhouses and bushes and cloud shadows.

another beautiful view from Karak

another beautiful view from Karak

view from Karak

view from Karak

the stunning view from Karak

the stunning view from Karak

The castle itself is not that impressive, considering that only parts of walls are still standing, but the view is amazing.  At one point Minako climbs to the top of the only full wall left standing of Karak, following in the footsteps of some Jordanian boys.  At the top she is buffeted about by the wind and I fear as tiny as she is, she will blow right off that wall.  Like one of Chatillon’s victims.  But she slowly makes her way back down, clinging for dear life to each stone so she won’t topple over.

Minako celebrates making it down alive from the wall at Karak

Minako celebrates making it down alive from the wall at Karak

Jordanian boys at Karak

Jordanian boys at Karak

Karak

Karak

After we explore the rest of the castle grounds, where the most notable thing is the view all around, we meet Aboud at a local restaurant called Al-Fid’a, where we have the most delicious food I’ve had in Jordan so far.  I have a Spanish omelet and lemon with mint and some lentil soup.  Minako has a mixed grill with lamb and chicken.  It’s all delicious and the sun is amber-glowing and the air is as cool and crisp as a cucumber.  An utterly perfect day.

me at Al-Fida for lunch

me at Al-Fida for lunch

Al-Fida

Al-Fida

lunch time

lunch time

Lemon with mint.... my favorite drink throughout Jordan

Lemon with mint…. my favorite drink throughout Jordan

Our next stop is Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine.  Aboud tells us the story of this shrine which revolves around the Battle of Mu’tah in 629, where (according to Aboud) the Byzantines outnumbered the Muslims by about 10 to 1. Apparently the prophet Muhammad mobilized an army to confront Byzantine forces in the Levant (Jordan), because a Byzantine governor had treacherously killed one of his emissaries. He appointed Zayd ibn Harithah as commander of the army and gave the following instructions: “If Zayd is wounded or killed, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib would take over the command. If Jafar ibn Abu Talib is killed or wounded, then your commander would be Abdullah ibn Rawahah. If Abdullah ibn Rawahah is killed, then let the Muslims choose for themselves a commander.”  All three commanders were killed and replaced successively as Muhammed instructed.  This shrine we see today is where the second commander in that battle, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib, is enshrined.

Apparently the battle ended in a draw and the safe retreat of both sides, according to Muslim sources,but it’s recorded as a Byzantine victory by Christian sources.  Some have claimed that this battle, far from being a defeat, was a strategic success; the Muslims had challenged the Byzantines and had made their presence felt amongst the Arab Bedouin tribes in the region.

Ja'far ibn Abi Talib Shrine

Ja’far ibn Abi Talib Shrine

the courtyard at Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine

the courtyard at Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine

Aboud tells Zeynap, Minako and me that we need to wear headscarves into the mosque, so we put some on.  He tells Minako, since she is wearing only shorts and tights, that she should put on an abaya, but she never seems to find her way into one. She’s so funny when Aboud tells her to hurry out of the mosque so the Iman doesn’t get angry.  She does a hilarious high-step tiptoe out of the mosque.

Minako at the Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine

Minako at the Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine

As we wander around, a nice man offers to take pictures of Minako and me next to the shrine;  After, he promptly extorts one dinar from us for taking the picture.

Minako and me in headscarves next to the enshrined martyr ~ before the 1 dinar extortion

Minako and me in headscarves next to the enshrined martyr ~ before the 1 dinar extortion

in the courtyard at the shrine

in the courtyard at the shrine

Later, we take a drive further along the King’s Highway, where trees are permanently leaning in an easterly direction, due to the continual winds from the west.  It’s strange to see every single tree along this road leaning at 45 degree angles.

Our last stop is at a lookout point in the Dana Nature Reserve.  This is the largest reserve in Jordan, with landscapes ranging from sandstone cliffs to the below-sea-level Wadi Araba.  Of course, we don’t have time for any hiking in this reserve, sadly, because I’m sure it would be beautiful.  The view alone is breathtaking.  It looks like a fantasy landscape, otherworldly.

Dana Nature Reserve

Dana Nature Reserve

me at Dana Nature Reserve along the King's Highway in Jordan

me at Dana Nature Reserve along the King’s Highway in Jordan

We finally arrive in Wadi Musa as the sun is setting.  Wadi Musa (Moses’ Valley) is the village that has sprung up around Petra.  Aboud drops Minako and me off at the Rocky Mountain Hotel, run by Jane and Atef.  Jane is a pretty blonde New Zealander and Atef is her younger, and gorgeous, Bedouin boyfriend.  They also own the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp, where I’m due to stay on Tuesday night.  My colleague from the university has sent three gift packages of Omani dates with me to give to the staff at Rocky Mountain, so I unload my bag and hand them over to Jane upon my arrival.  Jane is a little stressed because she says there is currently no hot water in the hotel and she’s trying to get the situation resolved.  She thanks me for the dates and I say I’ll tell Willem she likes them.  Then she mentions to me that she doesn’t know why she got involved with someone ridiculously younger than her.  “I would have been happy to just be business partners; I don’t need all these problems with a younger man.”

I settle in to my room to relax a bit while the staff gives Minako a ride to the Bedouin camp, where she plans to stay tonight.  I tell her I’ll join her for dinner at the camp, making a stop along the way to buy a bottle of wine, around 7 p.m.  A young and skinny Jordanian guy named Sammy comes to pick me up and makes a stop to pick up a friend.  He is busy yapping on his cell phone and sending messages the whole time he is driving.  He picks up the friend and sends that friend into some hotel to buy the wine, instructing him numerous times that it should be red wine.  The guy comes back with a bottle of wine, but I can see it’s clear.  I protest. “No, no, that’s white wine!  I want red!” As much as I’m paying, 20 dinar, I insist on getting what I want.  Then they have to go on a circuitous route to find the red wine.  Finally, they find me two half-liter bottles for 13 dinar each and I agree that it’s fine.  We don’t arrive at the camp until 8:30, and I fear Minako has given up on me!

the lobby at the Rocky Mountain Hotel in Petra

the lobby at the Rocky Mountain Hotel in Petra

At the Bedouin camp, I meet Minako already halfway through her dinner.  It is quite cold in the dining tent.  I am so happy I bought a winter vest and heavy sweater in Muscat before I left!  It is freezing.  We shiver and huddle over our food, which is mostly cold salads, with some lukewarm chicken and rice and lukewarm lentil soup served buffet-style.  Luckily the wine adds some warmth to the meal, and we down that quite heartily.

After dinner we go into another long rectangular tent where there is a nice fire in a kind of metal grill.  We bring the rest of our wine with us and order some shisha.  Some Bedouin guys play a stringed musical instrument somewhat like a guitar and sing songs in Arabic.  We smoke our apple-flavored shisha and drink our wine and warm ourselves by the fire.

atef and minako in the bedouin tent

atef and minako in the bedouin tent

While there I get a call from a guy named Mohammed Gabaah who I met online though a website called TravelBuddy over nine months ago.  He added me on Facebook soon after and then we spoke by Skype various times.  I actually was quite put off by him because he, like many Arab men I’ve met, was so sex-obsessed that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to him.  I deleted him from Skype but not from Facebook because the work he does in film-making in Jordan is quite interesting.

me smoking shisha in the bedouin camp

me smoking shisha in the bedouin camp

So when I post on my Facebook status my plans to travel to Jordan, he messages me numerous times, asking me to call him when I arrive in Jordan.  I do so reluctantly when I arrive in Petra. I figure it can’t hurt to meet him since I had spoken to him in the past.

When Mohammed calls, he asks if he can come meet me at the Bedouin camp, as he knows Atef and the other Bedouins who run it.  I tell him he is welcome to come and meet me but I’m with my Japanese friend and I am enjoying my time here.  In the meantime, I ask Atef if he knows Mohammed and he says yes, he knows him.  I ask if he’s a good guy, and respectfully Atef says yes, he’s a good guy.

me with Mohammed Gabaah

me with Mohammed Gabaah

Mohammed shows up and sits for a while with us, listening to the music and we are mellow and all enjoying ourselves in the warm tent. I introduce Mohammed to Minako and I say, “I’m so happy I met her.  She’s so much fun!”  Minako says, “No!  You’re so much fun!!”  I say “You’re the one who’s fun!”  This goes back and forth for several more rounds and I don’t remember now which one of us ended up on top.  At one point Minako tells me she’s not happy with her “room;” her tent is very small, unheated, with no bathroom.  We walk over so she can show it to me, and it is in fact all of these things she describes.  In the center of the camp is one public bathroom, with two toilets and two showers, unheated.  Much like a bathroom in an American campground.  It is so cold, I decide then and there that I will cancel my reservation for the camp Tuesday night and just stay my third night in the Rocky Mountain Hotel.

my warm and cozy room at the Rocky Mountain Hotel

my warm and cozy room at the Rocky Mountain Hotel

Later Mohammed says he will drive me back to the hotel, and of course he has to stop along the way and show me the beautiful landscape of Wadi Musa under the stars.  I tell him nothing is going to happen between him and me and, after he can see I’m serious, he takes me back to my cozy room at the Rocky Mountain Hotel.

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