Sunday, June 5, 2011

Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba

Friday morning a large group of us (the BYU interns, the Zaytooners, and myself) hopped on a bus to explore the southern part of Jordan. A few hours later we were in Petra, an ancient city built by the Nabataeans thousands of years ago. They built structures into the rock - a city carved out of stone. You may recognize some of it from scenes in movies such as Indiana Jones and Transformers. I'm not so educated as to the history of this location, so I plan to research it soon. The place looks a lot southern Utah, doesn't it? It reminds me of the Narrows in Zion's National Park. Zion's, however, does not have this ancient city. Although I took hundreds of pictures, it is not feasible to upload them all onto this blog. Hopefully you can get a sense of Petra's wonder by viewing the following:

The main site of Petra, the Treasury, slowly creeps into view through the narrow crevice as you walk closer and closer. This picture does not capture the Treasury in the background because the sun was too bright, but I assure you that it's behind me.

This is what it really looked like:

Here's the Treasury in full splendor. As soon as you step into the scene, you are surrounded by Bedouin people. They offer to take you further down the canyon on their donkey, horse, or camel. There are dozens of Bedouin children who speak English remarkably well that try to sell you jewelry of all kinds. I did not ride a camel (because they are expensive and because I wanted to enjoy this place at my own pace), but I almost bought some necklaces from this kid. He used a "bait and switch" method. When I figured out what he was doing, I told him I didn't want anything anymore. But he persistent and followed me for a while. I had to learn that ignoring people is the best way to get them off your back here. But for a bunch of children with no education, their English and business skills are off the charts.

I didn't ride this camel, but I would eventually. Keep reading.

Isn't this amazing? I took a lot of pictures, but it is impossible to take this all in.

This boy's name was Solomon. He spoke great English. He offered to take me on his donkey, which I declined. We became good friends for about 20 minutes. Too bad his eyes were closed.

This is the Monastery, a good hour-or-so long hike after the treasury. It was just as beautiful.

This is the view from inside the Monastery. It was just a big square room with a stage-like structure from where I am taking the photo. I can't fathom how they were able to carve big rooms like this into the rock with such skill. The surfaces are perfectly flat and the room is perfectly square.

So that was Petra. We spent several hours there. I probably explored about 40% of what was there. It was such a big place with a lot of offshoots and different trails. It was a lot of fun, but we were without food for most of the day, so all the hiking and hot sun were taking their toll on our poor bodies. We hopped back onto the bus and drove down to Wadi Rum.

I was told we were camping in the desert...and I was not too excited. I was expecting very little of Wadi Rum: sand, heat, no amenities, etc. I was grossly mistaken.

We pulled up to our camp and I was blown away. It was like a hotel with no roof. These are the tents we stayed in. They had two or three beds (yes, with matresses) in each room.

They had a large common area in the middle of the camp. This is where all the eating and dancing took place later that evening. (Yes, dancing. Jordanians love to dance, which usually consists of a circle of men holding hands or clapping. Their clapping is usually off-beat, but man, these people love to dance. They love to watch Americans dance even more. Whenever we go out there, Arabs grab their cameras. I'm sure I'll make it onto Jordan's YouTube eventually.)

Dave, Joel, and Bruce kickin' it Arab style: touching each other as much as possible.

Wadi Rum was the most wondrous place I've ever been. There was a silent power throughout the whole place. It was majestic and marvelous in every sense of those words. While dinner was being prepared we all spread out and explored our surroundings. It was Lake Powell-esque with all its sand and rock.

This was a special moment: Jordanian sunset in the desert complete with camel. Priceless. (My Chaco flip-flops are also priceless. I love those things.)

I wish I could have spent more time in Wadi Rum. It was so great. As I mentioned, I was expecting very little of Wadi Rum. I thought it would be the least-enjoyable part of the trip, yet it turned out to be my favorite. It was a spiritual experience where I was able to witness God's glory.

The next morning, after breakfast, we again packed into our tour bus and drove even further south to Aqaba. This is a city on the shores of the Red Sea. It was hot. We drove to a beach, which was a slight disappointment because it was so rocky that it hurt our feet. Luckily there was a pier where from which we could jump into the sea. The water is gorgeous: such clarity in its shades of blue and green.

That night we took it easy. We walked around the city and walked to the beach. I had some delicious ice cream.

Standing outside of our hotel presented a first for me. This man came by on his camel and asked if we wanted a ride. We refused at first because they usually swindle you out of a lotta money, but he insisted he didn't want it. He took us on rides up the street and back. Jini grabbed the rope and led the camel for me. She the camel ran. I was bouncing out of the saddle. Camels are super tall and I was close to knocking my head on several low-hanging signs, but it was so fun.

Before the camel ride (these pictures are out of order), we jumped onto a boat. For the next couple of hours we made our way around the Gulf of Aqaba. This picture shows across the gulf to Israel:

This is our boat. There were about 10 of us Americans on board. The boast had loud speakers...and a big open deck...which means dancing was inevitable. They blasted Jordanian music for the first part of the trip. We knew they wanted "the Americans" to dance when they played I Know You Want Me by Pitbull. (They played the same song the night before at Wadi Rum. I don't know why they assume we love this song.) Before anyone was dancing, I was talking to Dave and Keri with my back to the dance area. Then suddenly I feel a hand grab mine. I turn around to find an Arab man pulling me onto the dance floor. I resisted, then gave it. That started a full on dance party. Eventually my American colleagues joined. Again, Arab people grabbed their cameras and phones to record us.


Arabs are so romantic. I've been hurt so many times that this wall explain my deepest plea:

So there's a snapshot into my weekend. It was 'mumtaz,' as they would say here. The whole thing exceeded my expectations and I gained a greater appreciation for Jordan the country and its people.

This blog entry didn't satisfy you? Left you with questions or comments? Try writing me. I'm more than happy (and begging) for communication.


Tyler, Brooke, Britain and Braden said...

I love how the Arab style is "touching each other as much as possible"...does that mean you'll never come home now? That camel ride is unbelievable, my gosh what fun!!! I love these pics and what an adventure! And by the way, I don't believe you truly believe in the last picture:):) Love ya and keep posting!

Barrett Family said...

A-MAZING! Love, love every word and every picture. Where do I even begin? The treasury is stunning! Your pictures are unreal. I LOVE the obsession with the dancing. "I Know You Want Me" will have sentimental value after this trip. You look great in every pic! Thanks for updating us.

Barrett Family said...

Nate Christensen, I'm waiting for your comment on the Indian Jones scenery! You would appreciate that more than anyone I know!

Naters said...

"Indy, Henry, follow me. I know the way. Ha!" "Got lost in his own museum, eh?" "Uh-huh." "After you, Junior." This is a very impressive blog post Brady. Keep up the good work. I took half a semester on the desert water works of the Nabateans and their engineering feats; therefore, I am extremely jealous. PS - You are watching Lawrence of Arabia with me when you get home ... it was filmed in Wadi Rum. It was incredible in the movie: can't imagine the real thing. Bye

Jenny said...

Brady, your blog is soo great!! Keep posting. Highly entertaining as well.. haha :)