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kingdom of jordan

crossing the land border into the kingdom of jordan
greeted by large photos of king abdullah II
and his father, late king hussein

passing the last jordanian soldier who checks our passports
and here we are on jordanian soil
only one person stands outside the border crossing
we ask him “are you taxi?”
“no” he answers
pointing at a white car he says “this is taxi, i am driver”

he’s driving us towards aqaba
where gigantic jordanian flag proudly waves above the city
in the desert wind
the flag is so large that it is fully seen
from across the red sea in the israeli side

once in aqaba he’s introducing us to his brother osama
who gives us big smile and asking us if we have cell phone
we ask what for
he answers “so you can call the white house
and get your 25 million dollar reward for finding osama”

heading with osama to wadi rum
vast colorful desert with canyons, rocky mountains,
and flowing sand dunes

arriving at night to rum village
to meet ali and eli two local bedouins
this is where the paved road ends
from here on it’s only desert paths
osama’s car can’t go any deeper into wadi rum
we continue with ali and eli in their jeep
driving up and down sand dunes
until we reach ali’s bedouin tent
large tent with small burning fire in the center
for food and boiling water
the tent stands alone in the empty desert
surrounded by dunes and mountains
dark night
red full moon begins rising above the dunes

morning
we’re in the jeep passing tall mountains
that look like melting chocolate
other mountains are multi color rocks
with shapes that look like skulls

driving below huge arches
creative collaboration of rock, sand, water, and wind
climbing up to the top and walking on the arches
the modern dancer among us begins fantasizing
choreographing dance performance on top of the arch

stopping on wide stretch of wavy sand
soft and warm
digging three inches below and revealing layer
of comforting cooling sand

dages getting into some yoga postures
using the sand as endless yoga mat
ali and eli who never got exposed to yoga before
joining as students
in what turns into bedouin sand dune yoga class

passing by rocks where underground city used to exist
coded map of this city is engraved on hidden rock

stopping for midday break from the sun
snacking on fruits and resting in the shade
eli bringing small purple rock and with another rock
crashing the purple rock into powder
gently applying it on the faces of the women
natural bedouin make up

from a distance noticing tall reddish sand dune
getting closer to find out this dune
leans against a vertical multi color mountain
that feeds the dune with new layers of fresh sand

the dune is over 300 feet tall
we begin climbing it
sinking in the sand
footsteps quickly fill up again with rolling sand
leaving no trace of footsteps left only seconds ago
towards the top of the dune crawling on all four
reaching the peak with hearts beating fast
resting on our backs on caressing sand
view of the open canyon and the erect mountain
known as jabel rum

when the time arrives to head down from top of the dune
rolling all the way to the bottom
the speed of rolling gets faster and faster
one couple rolling down while hugging each other
becoming human ball cutting through the red-purple-pink sand

driving back to rum village before we head north
towards the city of petra
rum village full with trees and lots of green
surprising for dry hot desert
the secret lies underground with many square miles
of fresh water reservoirs below the layer of hard rock
fed by seven tributaries

arriving to petra high up above sea level
entering petra through a mile long narrow deep canyon
wild fig trees growing along the walk
in some parts the road is twenty feet wide
in others the rock almost touches overhead
making it possible for handful of men
to hold it against an army

petra means rock
no city was ever more aptly named

suddenly the end of the chasm is seen
and unexpectedly in bright sunlight
cut facade of great tomb
gigantic
all of it part of the rock

petra built by the nabateans more than 2300 years ago
inside great rift valley
the impressive tombs and structures reveal history
of edomites, nabateans, romans, muslims
each with their architecture
spread in area of over 25 square miles

passing near royal tombs
glorious palaces curved in the rock
each for one dead person

tombs of the common people are also curved in the rocks
the living people dwelt in free-standing houses
upon death living situation is upgraded

the colors of the rocks and the tombs
result of rain, sand storms, minerals, and oxidation
yellow – orange – purple – red – black

after hundreds of years that petra was deserted
bedouins moved to live inside the valley and the tombs
in 1986 the jordanian government moved the bedouins out
into a buildings project now called little petra

the bedouins still allowed to come to petra during daytime
with their goats, horses, camels, and donkeys
to offer camel/horse/donkey taxi rides to the visitors
as well as sell jewelry and food

we’re meeting three young bedouins
all three were born in petra inside tombs
sometime they sneak into petra at night
to sleep on mountain peaks
or inside nostalgic cozy tombs

climbing flight of 800 stairs cut into the rock
taking us up the ad-deir mountain
marvelous mountain scenes all along the way up
huge tomb awaiting us at the top
overlooking tall pointy mountain peaks
putting us all into appreciative silence
nature
history
cultures

meeting osama again
heading with him back to the border
but first going with him to his tire shop in aqaba
where he has five employees and lots of business
chairs pulled for us to the sidewalk outside the shop
for drinking tea and discussing gender in the muslim society

in addition to the tire shop
osama also owns four taxis
when he has the opportunity
he loves being the driver for people from out of the country
leaving the city behind
getting into conversations about culture, religion, and history
while cruising the roads up and down the jordanian mountains

goodbye hugs and kisses at the border
until our next visit to the desert kingdom

© 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Zemach Zohar Wilson, Jordan, April 2005

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