A Donkey (Hamaar) Adventure

Petra Travel Blog

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Three days ago I walked through the Siq at Petra, it is a long path that cuts through massive rock and ends at the Treasury (from Indiana Jones). It got more and more amazing as we walked through: the walls grew higher and since we went in the early morning, the path was quiet and still. When I first saw the treasury I tried to put my feelings into words, because Ali (a man I work with) told me to tell him exactly what I felt, but I couldn't do it. I didn't feel the awe that other people talk about. Maybe I have seen it too many times in pictures for that. The only think I can come up with is extremely curiosity. I went to the entrance and looked in, it opens into a large room, but by no means as large or ornate as Speilburg made it in Indiana. I looked at the bullet holes in the urn so high up, and I smiled that the bedouin shot there to try and find gold, sadly to no avail.

We moved on to the Great Temple and walked up its huge steps. My professor was in the middle of explaining something when Artie Joukowsky hollered from the top of the Temple. We climbed further up and I was able to meet Martha Joukowsky- the woman who has been excavating the Great Temple in Petra for the last 14 years. Artie was one of the nicest men I have ever met; he explained a lot about the temple to us. I asked for his card and he gave it to me so that I could email him about applying to Brown for grad school.

Eventually we left the Joukowskys, too soon for me, and were set free. I decided to climb to the Monastery with some people from my group. I was a little faster than them so I went ahead. On my way up I met a very nice Frenchman with his son who told me that the best way to get up was, "to walk slow, at the pace of a camel". With him I passed many Bedouin selling trinkets and jewelry- I told a few that I would buy things from them on the way down. After about 30 minutes I reached the Monastery. I barely glanced at it before proceeding to the "view point". It was beautiful! From a steep ledge the rock cascaded down into mountains and then faded into the desert beyond. A man who had set up shop nearby offered me tea and I sat down to look out and wait for my friends. When they came we used cards to buy jewelry from Mahmood who owned the tent. We couldn’t pass up the chance to purchase with plastic on top of a mountain.

On the way down I stopped to buy necklaces from the Bedouin. One girl about my age gave me a bracelet that I am wearing now "because you are honest and you come back". I ended up paying way to much for a necklace from her, but I didn't mind because she was so nice. When I was buying another necklace from an older woman, all her kids came out of the woodwork and wanted to play with me and touch my hair. She wanted us to drink tea, but before I could say anything my friends said no and started walking away. I smiled at her as I walked down the hill. Another girl loved the little hoop earings that I wear in my second holes, so I traded them to her for a blue necklace. I didnt like the necklace at first but I love it now.

When we were almost to the end, a little girl leaped out of a cave behind us and asked for a lighter. We helped her build a fire, but before we could really get it going a man named Talal came down the hill on his donkey and helped us out. We all drank tea and Talal gave me a free donkey ride the rest of the way. At the end of the ride Talal offered to take us (Me, Adam, and Michelle) to the High Place of Sacrafice and behind the touristy places to a canyon with a spring. We agreed to meet at 8 the next morning to go on a Donkey Adventure. He also told me about a book that a western woman wrote- it's about her marriage to a Bedouin man- I picked it up before we left from an amazing man named Attulla. We got to talking and he invited us up for tea. He is probably the most majestic person I have ever seen- with his multi-coloured kufia wrapped haphazardly around his head, his white shirt and dark skin, and the way he sat- looking out on the valley as if he owned it and the way he was completely comfortable even in the uncomfortable white plastic chairs we were sitting in.

The next day, we got there a little early and I found a gift for my father while I was waiting. A man asked me what I was doing in Jordan, and he sort of understood that I was here digging up bones. He told me about a cave where the Bedouin put many of the bones from the tombs that they used as houses. I wanted to go to the cave, but it was too far away, over two mountains and down a valley. After a little while, a nervous Talal came with his donkeys and two friends to help guide. I couldn't figure out why he was nervous, but soon we were on the donkeys (me on Talal's) and we started up the mountain. The valley fell away behind us and the sky expanded above us- the riding classes I took when I was a girl came in handy on the steep inclines and sharp declines. We stopped our donkeys short of the top and walked the rest of the way to the High Place. Talal was a fast climber but I was able to keep up with him while the others fell behind. We went to a ledge where the rock dropped straight down about 20 meters and sat with our legs dangling over the edge. The sight was amazing- mountains of rock pushed out of the ground and the desert looked like a yellow sea in the distance. We could see tourists walking, Bedouin selling their wares, and I felt very small looking up at the big sky.

We climbed down and got back on the donkeys and went down the back of the mountain. When we got to the lion's statue we met an old Bedouin woman who gave us some tea. She told us stories about when people used to live in the caves. The steps that we were about to go down were made so that goats could get up and down the mountain- she helped build them a long time ago. She told us about the cold winters and the snow. Before we left I bought a necklace from her made of camel bone. It is the most beautiful one I bought at Petra.

After some more hours of riding and exploring caves, we were on our way to the spring to clean our faces and sit in the shade. On the way there, Talal told me about how his knees were beginning to hurt because of all the walking he does with the donkey for tourists. A little while later, he asked if he could get up on the donkey with me, and I said yes, feeling bad for his knees. We went through what seemed like a forest of oleander. I pushed wave after wave of pink flowers out of the way so that they wouldn't hit my face. The flowers opened up to a little clearing next to a rock face that had been carved by water.

We all dismounted and walked through more Oleander. Me and Talal were in front and after we passed around a big rock Adam and Michelle were missing for a little bit. "They are kissing, yes?" Talal asked me, and I said, "probably". Then he told me how he likes my hair and how beautiful my eyes are, and he asked if he could have just one kiss. I wanted to know if he would be any good, because I was getting to like the Bedouin lifestyle, so I let him kiss me but it was horrible. Luckily Adam and Michelle walked around the boulder soon. From then on Talal kept on trying to get me alone. He brought me grapes and little figs and told me, "You are my greatest love". I thought, you don't know what love is, but I kept that to myself. I deflected his questions about me loving him by stuffing my mouth with grapes and talking to Michelle and Adam as much as I could.

After sitting in the shade for a while and getting asked more and more questions I felt it was time to go- so we left. After a little walking Talal got on my donkey and sat behind me for a while before he asked me, "why you not marry me?" I wanted to laugh, and I think a little giggle did come out before I explained that I would miss my family, he said, "I will be your whole family: your mother, your father, your brothers and sisters". To this I said, "you're nothing like my father". After that he was quiet until we got to the end. That was when I figured out why he was nervous earlier that day, and why he told me about the western woman's book the day before. When we got to the end, we paid an extremely low price and I shook Talal's hand and walked away with his pain filled eyes watching every step. When we got to Atulla's shop I looked for him and found him. He walked easily across the rocks toward us and asked us into the shade for tea. We got tea with mint leaves- the best tea I have ever had. I asked for his email, and he gave me his card. I told him that I would be back to go with him on a trek through the desert- one of his many businesses. He offered me a place to sleep when I come back, insha-allah (god willing). We took a picture and left.

From Married to a Bedouin by Margueritte Van Geldermalsen:
On we went. The valley narrowed and we clambered in and out of the sandy stream bed. We had oleander flowers in our hair and sunburned noses. Here we saw worn stairs disappearing like a dream on the rounded rock face, and now to the left, tombs with staircased facades. We could hear children's voices and a donkey bray.
sylviandavid says:
Very interesting blog.... It seems the adventure was great.... and even had a proposal of marriage. You are good at finding the interesting things in a day....
Posted on: May 11, 2008
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