My camping trip to Wadi Rum and Petra in southern Jordan was a rather exhilarating change of pace after last weekend’s rather plush accomodations on the Red Sea—I’m not sure this opinion was shared with my fellow student though, as his first comment upon learning that we would be staying at the Desert Oasis Camp was, “What exactly is the point of this trip?”
The drive down was an adventure in itself as I had the pleasure of chatting with our driver (named Ahmed, what else?) on just about every subject under the sun, most especially those subjects that are particularly relevant under the Arabian sun—politics, governmental structures, income, and standard of living. By the time we pulled up to the modern city of Petra my head felt close to exploding from all the effort of keeping up with the conversation, but I can finally say that I can see some sense in studying history, economics, and politics in Arabic…I was able to have a conversation with Ahmed that would have been quite impossible two weeks earlier.
After hiking on foot down to the ancient “red rose city” and alternatively being caught up in wonder at the immense beauty of the ancient building carved into the rocks, and being caught up in wonder at how incredibly hot a Jordanian summer afternoon can be, we made our trek through the desert to a small Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum. In some ways, Bedouins can be compared to Native Americans living on the reservations in that they are often celebrated as some sort of national trophy or pecularity, but then conveniently shuffled aside to live a rather poor and austere life in the areas of the nation that no one really wants to visit for more than a day or two.
The Jordanian desert is as austere and beautifully arid place as once could ask for, with a strking contrast between huge geological formations that have been shaped and molded by powerful winds and huge dunes of sand so fine that I’ll be picking it out of my ears and nose and . . . for quite some time. Such dunes are astounding in their size and color…usually a reddish pink and maybe 400 meters tall, and they were just pleading to be climbed. So, after removing my socks and shoes and empyting my pockets of all their valuables I began the slow ascent to the top. After getting to the top, I realized that the dunes hadn’t been pleading to be climbed so much as to be tumbled down. So, once again I obliged and with a shout I flung myself out into space and then rapidly rolled and somersaulted to the bottom, arms and legs and hair flying every direction.
Another highlight of the trip was the party after sundown back at the camp. Again, my fellow student and travelling companion was less than impressed with the horde of college students who descended on the camp to celebrate the completion of the spring semester (and graduation for some) with blaring Arabian music, dancing, and hot tea and Bedouin chicken and bread. I, on the other hand, made quite a fool of myself joining in the festivities and came away with three or four new friends—all of whom were really and truly shocked to meet an American Christian in the Middle East. They had a hard time understanding why I would be in Jordan and why I could possibly be interested in learning Arabic. They all told me they couldn’t wait to get out of Jordan and into Europe or America…the exact reason I am in the Middle East and hope to come back again some day; so that people like these young guys might have a reason to stay in their country and even deeply invest themselves in its development.
Other posts on my travels in Jordan:
An American in the Hashemite Kingdom
Over the First Hashemitic Hump
“Live Blogging” on the Red Sea