Saturday, October 13, 2012

Week 7: Generosity/Desert Excursion

Nabatean Rock Carvings
To me it looks like a representation of a hunt
This past week my entire program spent the night in a Bedouin style village in Wadi Rum and visited the ruins at Petra. But before I dive into our trip, I'd like to touch upon a theme that's been forming for me in my interactions with Jordanians. One day last week I experienced an instance of extreme generosity when I visited an ice cream shop with a few friends after class. While they were all deciding and ordering their ice cream I spoke with one of the employees in Arabic, asking about the names of ice cream and finding out that he was fluent in Italian from his time studying there. After trying a few samples I remarked that this was the best ice cream I'd found so far in Jordan. I'm not sure if it was my compliment or its combination with my effort to speak in Arabic, but the employee ended up refusing my money and gave me the milkshake for free. It turns out he was either the owner or the manager of the ice cream shop. He gave me his business card and said if I ever needed anything just give him a call. I was so surprised by this, you never expect someone to go the extra mile like Mahmoud did. But it happened again this week with a cab driver. On Wednesday night I took a cab to have shepherd's pie with a few friends at the Amideast apartments. I spoke in Arabic with the cab driver and had a genuine interest in our conversation about soccer, Palestine, and his family. When I arrived at the apartments the cab driver wouldn't accept my money. He said to me in Arabic ma salama sadeeqi (with peace my friend) and pulled away down the street. I'm beginning to think that my persistence in learning Arabic is  endearing to Jordanians. Or maybe it's just my genuine interest in their lives. I also received a remark this week from a Jordanian that they were proud of me for addressing them in Arabic. All I can say about all this is I feel so welcome here. Even with the difference in religion every cab driver I've had or security guard I've talked to who has brought up the Abrahamic religions has dwelled up their similarities rather than their differences. This often takes shape in naming off all the common prophets (Musa-Moses, Ibrahim-Abraham, Yusef-Joseph...), the cab driver's or security guard's compliments towards the Bible, or their assurance that Allah loves "people of the book" (Christians and Jews). It is always so refreshing when a Jordanian brings up religion, a topic I don't pursue out of respect, and is nothing but smiles and handshakes.

I was hoping my camera would do the sunset justice. In this particular picture it did.

In Arabic Wadi Rum means valley of the Romans. It is a true desert, nothing but sand, shrubs, and towering boulders as far as the eye can see. The sunset was amazing and the stars were unbelievable there. I've never seen anything like the night sky in the desert last Sunday night. The Milky Way spanned the entire sky and meteorites appeared every 15 minutes or so. My camera isn't good enough to capture what I saw that night. This is just more of an impetus for anyone to seek out stargazing spots with minimal light pollution. I was so captivated by the stars I slept out on the sand and learned how it has a tendency to leech your heat if you sleep without adequate padding beneath you. But waking up a few times shivering was so worth it. I woke up extra early the next morning to catch the sunrise. The photo to the left does neither the desert sunset or the sunrise justice. We often agree within our group how hard it is to convey our experiences here in Jordan to loved ones. I'm doing my best however to do so with this blog.

Seeing shepherds, sheep dogs, and their flocks is a normal occurrence in Jordan.

Now I'll take you through a bit of time lapse photography to help convey my growing excitement as I walked down the ravine towards the ruins at Petra.

Centuries ago the ravine actually had a cobblestone road on which
chariots would enter the ancient city. 

This was my first glimpse of the treasury (Khaznah) from the ravine.

Later on we hiked up one of the towering boulders overlooking Petra. Though you can't see them very well in this picture, it was then that I realized it would take weeks to fully enjoy all the ruins at Petra.


  1. Matt you are a wonderful ambassador to represent the majority of Americans. Keep up the spreading the peace. Betsy

  2. Thanks Mrs. Liano. Will do. Thanks for the input on my newer post. While I was rushing to make it to Aqaba I forgot to explain the pronunciation of jamas.