Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Feb 19 2013

Middle East trip, part 4

2/16
Our driver Nabil, the same one who took us up north, showed up at 5 a.m. We piled in his van and headed south, past the Dead Sea and into the desert, where we stopped so that Nabil could get out and do his prayers before the sun came up. The cold, vast blue of the pre-dawn desert was something to behold, especially with the smoking van and Nabil’s prone figure set against the lightening sky. Distant phosphorus mines looked like castles on the horizon.

We stopped for breakfast at a roadside stand, lit impressively by the rising sun, as drivers of cars, trucks and buses came and went, all demanding food from the busy kitchen and staring unabashedly at the women of our group. We continued down to Petra, which seems to be more Impressive Tombs than an Impressive Ancient City. As we entered, men kept trying to get us on horses and donkeys and into carriages, claiming it was included in the ticket price. I preferred to walk though the maze leading to the Treasury, however, humming the Indiana Jones theme as I did so. I imagine I wasn’t the only one. Petra is another amazing city, though rougher. Bored older men stood in front of monumental tombs that reeked of urine, wearing bad centurion costumes, and the donkeys’ brays made me realize where Lucas came up with the Sand People noises. We got about halfway through it before realizing that we stood no chance of seeing it all in the allotted time, and turned back. Nabil had taken our spent batteries to a restaurant for charging, handily enough, and he was waiting at the treasury for us. Lunch was had after our discovery that Jordanians and no-Jordanians have different price structures, or at least they do at a certain Shwarma restaurant in Petra. Still, it was good shwarma.

We drove up out of town and through increasingly barren terrain all the way to Wadi Rum, which is truly spectacular, the massive outcroppings becoming bluer in the distance. Nabil pointed out the huge broken edifice that constituted the Seven Pillars of Wisdom from Lawrence’s book. After we’d gotten as far as we could by road, we took a jeep into the desert where Lawrence and Faisal met, saw the tracks they attacked, and a monument to them. Our guide wrote “Welcome to Torden” in the sand, and then changed it to “Welcome to Lorden” before I grudgingly changed it to “Jordan”. We watched the sun set from a rocky outcropping in the desert, the temperatures dropping rapidly, before heading to the camp, which is pretty nice. Our tent is on a slope and the food is too cold, but all in all it’s nice enough.

After dinner, while the others sat around a small fire listening to music on Chenbl’s MP3 player, I walked out the camp’s gate, out into the middle of the desert. The vastness of the valley around me contrasted with the deep silence in a combination that threw me back into some forgotten state of mind, and I just stood there, enveloped, listening to the blood roaring in my ears, taking in the huge, ancient shapes of that world.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t been informed that the camp shuts the power down at 10pm, so I was caught completely lathered up in the showers when I was plunged into complete darkness. Still more unfortunately, my stomach took great exception to the cold fare, and stumbling over rocks as I walked though the pitch-black camp at night to the latrine several times was not exactly pleasant either.

posted by Poagao at 6:01 am  

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