I arrived at the border crossing eager to meet up with my Desert Eco Tour group for my day trip to the ancient city of Petra. I had read online that it was considered safe to visit Jordan and my local Israeli contacts agreed… Huh, Carolina’s Israeli friends in the states told her not to go… But my local friends who currently live here say it’s ok… Hmmmmm. Eryn, when will you ever get the chance to do this again… And if it’s your time, it’s your time… Let’s do this!
The tour guide gathers us on the Israeli side and gives us instruction that we will go through 5 different check points to cross into Jordan, where we will then be met by Muhammad, our local tour guide on the Jordanian side. Huh, the Israeli Eco Tour people don’t accompany us into Jordan… Hmmm. Well, ok, here we go… I’m told Israel and Jordan have, sort of, a quiet agreement to get along as opposed to the other neighboring countries, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, which I was advised NOT to visit – Disappointing to be so close and not be able to see the Sinai Desert and the great Pyramids… Eco Tours is actually still offering 4 day tours to Egypt as extensions to the Petra tour, which I was really tempted to take, but I didn’t want to risk it…
We have no issues going through the check points and we’re now officially in Jordan. No worries mate, this Jordan thing is no problem… Relax… Those of us that went through first, have some time to browse the gift shop and I befriend Ahmed, the store employee, as I’m browsing the local trinkets. Ahmed asks why I’m not wearing my scarf as a head wrap. I tell him I planned on using it when we arrived at Petra. I read that women should show very little skin and wear headscarfs when possible. Huh, is this out of respect for their local customs or for safety as to not attract the local men… Ahmed says, “Here, let me show you the new style how everyone is wearing it…” Oh, cool, yes, show me how the local women wear it. I stand face to face with Ahmed, awkwardly smiling at him as he places the scarf over my head and wraps it up just so. This feels strange – wonder how it’s gonna look when he’s done.
I say goodbye to Ahmed, wearing my not so fashionable head wrap, and head towards the bus with the group, maybe 20 of us. I am so taking this thing off the second I’m out of Ahmed’s view – I don’t want to insult him though by taking it off too soon. As I leave the gift store, skeptical thoughts invade my brain… Hmmm, maybe Ahmed tied my scarf a certain way to signal someone to come kidnap me. Could he tell I was traveling alone? Hmm, maybe I look like a rich American, easy to snatch… Oh calm down Eryn, you’ve watched too many episodes of Homeland… You’re in an organized group of tourists and your tourist dollars bring huge income to their country. Yeah, but so does ransom money for a single white American female… Chill Eryn, chill… Just take the freakin’ scarf off and get on the damn bus…
I really felt safe the entire time – not once did I feel any escalated behavior from anyone or sense I was in a dangerous situation… It’s just my skeptical, fearful post 9/11 thoughts that are still there in the back of my mind and come to the foreground from time to time. (I’m being alert Charlie Metcalf – high alert!! LOL)
Muhammad, our guide is informative and entertaining. As we take the 2 hour bus ride through the Jordanian desert and mountains, he explains much about the local culture… Let’s see what can I tell you:
- The locals drive 20 minutes to Saudi Arabia to fill up their gas tanks because it’s so much less expensive than to fill up in Jordan. Holy shit man, I’m 20 minutes from Saudi Arabia? Eeeekkk….
- From the city of Aqaba you can take a 30 minute ferry to Egypt. Geez, I really wanna get on that ferry!
- There are gypsy like groups among the Muslim countries, called bedouin communities (pronounced ‘bedwin’) where they live in tents and shacks made from camel or goat hair.
- Many of those in the Bedouin communities live there by choice to carry on the tradition, not due to limited means. They may be educated and sometimes wealthy but they choose to maintain the traditional lifestyle of their Bedouin heritage.
- Jordan has a large granite industry from their mountains, but despite the proximity to Saudi Arabia, there’s no oil industry.
- Jordan attracts many students to study geology, archaeology, etc. and they have 34 universities
- Education is mandatory and all children are required to complete 12 years of school. They only have a 3% illiteracy rate, very low.
- They are a 98% Arab Muslim country, with only 2% non Arab occupants. Ummmm, is it too late to change my mind???
- When a family builds a house, they build one story for themselves and they leave the rebar and area above the first floor unfinished. When their son grows up and marries, his family builds on the second floor.
- Apparently inside Petra, only 15% of the “lost city” has been uncovered and there are many hidden buildings expected to be exposed in the future.
We arrive to the city of Petra and begin our walk from the bus parking area into the main gates of this incredible tourist attraction. Petra was recently named one of the “New 7 wonders of the world” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Holy Wow, I’m lucky to be here! It’s been filmed in many movies, most notably from my era was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – love that movie!! “The penitent man will pass…” said Sean Connery… Remember? Anyone… Anyone??
The sites are beautiful, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves… Chiseled text, stone stair steps and ancient tombs are carved from the mountain sides in this rock-cut architecture.
Holy Wow is all I can say! Breathtaking to see such a huge structure carved from the side of a mountain. Apparently inside is nothing more than a tomb. This is the location that was shown in the Indiana Jones movie…
But one of the venders in the parking area fixed my flip flop for me with a piece of wire. He asked if he could take me back to his bedouin community and make me his wife… I laughed and said, “Which wife will I be? The first, second or third?” LOL He said, “The first baby, let’s go.” We both had a laugh and I ran off to catch my bus before he had the chance to think about it too long…
We all loaded back onto the bus, exhausted from the long day under the Jordanian desert sun…
Here’s a link to the wiki site in case you want to learn more about this ancient city…
I’ll close with a poem written about Petra by John William Burgon, which won the Newdigate Prize in 1845 (not sure what Newdigate is, but it sounds important… LOL)It seems no work of Man’s creative hand, by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned; But from the rock as if by magic grown,
eternal, silent, beautiful, alone! Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
where erst Athena held her rites divine; Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain; But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn; The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
which Man deemed old two thousand years ago, match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
a rose-red city half as old as time.