Thursday, July 14, 2011

the Last Crusade

secluded lunchtime retreat

50 Euros for a tour.  Yes, that's right.  50 Euros.  "But I want to know what I'm looking at," my mother reminded me. I should have made her pay for the entire thing.  Not that the 3 hour tour into Petra wasn't enlightening, it just wasn't worth the price.  Unless... . If the following day's adventure was brought into account, which was due to that 50 Euro tour, the price wouldn't seem too astronomical.

Our guide walked us down the Siq (the hour long entrance to the city) and told of a time when the entire gorge was filled with trees and greenery.  He showed us the artwork carved into the walls, rocks made to look like animals, and boasted of his photography skills as he would take pictures of us without getting another soul in the shot. He gave a brief history of the ancient city as we walked past the enormous cliff buildings.  He explained that most of the buildings were family tombs, and there were many more below the ground which we were standing upon. The city seemingly went on forever in every direction.

When the tour was nearly finished, we stopped at a cave shop to get a drink. There we met the Bedouin shop owner, Ali, who after a friendly conversation invited us to a genuine Bedouin dinner at his house that evening.  We had to decline, due to the Petra by Candlelight tour we had planned (which, in case you were wondering, is not worth seeing).  So we planned on meeting him in the morning and having a genuine Bedouin lunch instead.

8:30 the following morning we piled into Ali's truck after breakfast and drove to his house.  We met his wife and kids, grabbed a few bottles of water and started on our behind the scenes trek into Petra.  The hidden back entrance to Petra provided views of cliff side buildings most tourists never set eyes upon, or know exists. Ali led us up and around all the places we hadn't seen the day before, walked with us into the dark rooms of open cliff buildings, introduced us to more of his family and showed us the cave he grew up in - which is now inhabited by his sister and her family.

Around lunchtime we were joined by a friend of Ali's with a donkey loaded with food goods. Together we hiked around cliffs, down hills, and across stretches of green sagebush, until we were in a private valley surrounded by brilliantly colored canyons and an occasional tree.

Ali (on the right) and his friend
They gathered brush and began a fire on which a beautiful lunch of chicken and vegetables was served with yogurt and flat bread. That along with the scenery made the whole afternoon seem somewhat surreal. But my watch continued to keep reality in check. The time raced forward to the hour when our bus to Amman was scheduled to leave.  I was unable to truly relish in the moments of the carefree Bedouin way of life because of it.

When I voiced my concern, and the current time, we quickly packed up and hurried towards Ali's house.  But even at our quick pace, we were still losing in the race against the clock. Once we reached the center of Petra, knowing we would never make it to the bus on time, Ali commandeered two donkeys and a horse. We all jumped on our respective animals and galloped (as quickly as donkeys will) to our destination... making it to the bus just in time.

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