Archive for the ‘petra’ Category

Of Camels and Buses

Posted: December 14, 2006 in christianity, Israel, jerusalem, petra

I woke up just before sunrise to Rafa getting up. He asked me if I wanted to see the sun come up and I said hell no it’s too warm in my bed. He got up and left and after a few minutes I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I got up and went out to see the sunrise as well. It was beautiful as expected, and the light felt good on the skin.

The camels were waiting for us so after a breakfast of fruit, pita and jam, we mounted the camels, waved goodbye to everyone at camp and began the 12K trek back to Wadi Rum. Camel riding is like horse riding except that your’e alot higher and the up down rhythm is more pronounced on a camel. We trudged along and the camels tried to stop and eat everytime they saw a bush but their keeper kept moving them along. The morning was warm but then we hit a cross current of wind and it was a chilly wind. It didn’t help when the camels walked into the shadow of the mountain next to us either, but we got back into sun and warmth a few minutes afterward.

After about 2 hours of riding the camels the town materialized in the distance and we arrived finally after passing a few goat herds and other camels. We met at Mohammeds house again and after some tea and a little computer help with his email, he gave us both a big hearty hug, and invited us to come again. Our cab back to the border was ready and we jumped in and were on our way back to the Aqaba border crossing station.

Back on the Israeli side Rafa got questioned alot (as usual) by their security but we got through and caught a cab to the bus station. After just an hour or so of being back in Israel I mentioned to Rafa that I already felt a difference in the people and that I missed the warmth and open heartedness of the Beduins. He said he noticed the same thing. Our bus finally arrived and we got on.

What happened next on the bus was something that caused alot of emotion in me and I spent alot of time thinking about the situation and reminding myself that I didn’t know the exact details of what happened so it may not actually be how I perceived it. However it looked extremely ugly to me and made my stomach churn. I will attempt to tell it as objectively as I can.

As we were pulling away this young Orthodox and his wife ran up and got on the bus almost missing it. They got on the bus and were looking for seats. The bus from Eilat to Jerusalem had assigned seating so we had no choice where we sat. The front of the bus was mostly filled. Each 2 seat row had at least one person in it. There were a couple of rows where the aisle seats were both empty, which would have allowed a couple to sit together, just across the aisle from each other. The couple scanned the seats then went to a pair of seats that were filled by 2 darker men, presumably Arab. These were the only 2 Arabs in the front of the bus, the rest were light skinned and many wearing yarmulkes. The Bus was already down the road five minutes and the couple kept standing next to the Arabs, talking to them. I saw the Arabs shake their heads a number of times, and then I saw some other passengers say a few things to them until they finally got up, and one came to the back of the bus the other sat in another empty seat. The look on his face was frustrated embarrassment. As he sat down some of the other guys in the front of the bus kept looking back at him giving him hard stares like he wanted to fight him, which made me think to myself that if they were such gentlemen, why didn’t they offer their seats up themselves! Now I don’t know the details of what happened, whether the Arabs were in the wrong seats or whether the Orthodox just picked their seats because they were Arabs or just random picking, but it felt all wrong and made me mad. It made me think of the USA circa 40 years ago. For a long time I sat and stewed over it and when the bus stopped for a 15 minute break, I approached the Arab guy to try and get his view, since he was obviously the minority in the situation. I asked him if he knew English and he shook his head and walked away. I can understand why he lied. I should have asked the Orthodox their side but didn’t. We finally got back to Jerusalem and I was happy to be off the bus.

We booked a night at the Hebron Hostel in old city and Rafa met these two British girls named Ros and Lottie who offered us a ride to Tel Aviv the next day. We had dinner with them and then called it a night. I was glad to be back and happy to be able to shower again.

View today’s photos

Video of us on camels

Shadows of the camels

Rafa writing on camelback

Passing camels


Aceves of Arabia

Posted: December 13, 2006 in christianity, petra

In the morning we had breakfast and Nasser called for our cab. When it arrived Nasser gave us all a hug and off we were to Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum was about an hour from Wadi Musa and it was back down in the low desert region. Not too far from Wadi Rum we passed the 7 Pillars of Wisdom, a large rock formation named so by T.E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. The desert here is enormous and divided up by giant ancient rocks. It’s pretty much uninhabited except by nature and the Beduins who have lived here for generations.

When we arrive the cabbie drops off the American father and daughter to meet their guide then continues on to our guide Mohammed’s house. Mohammed is a very friendly old guy who is basically the chief of his village and is somehow related to most of the people in the village as well. He’s lived in this desert all his life, he knows this desert in a way that only the Beduin can, with knowledge passed down through the generations. He welcomes us into his home and has a pot of tea ready to share. He explains that we’ll get a jeep tour of the desert during the day and then meet at his camp at sunset for Beduin dinner and finally sleeping in the Beduin tents. Rafa and I want to do a camel trek and end up arranging to do it the next morning on the trip back to the village. All is agreed upon so we stock up on water and pack out stuff into one of his jeeps and his nephew Mehedi gets in. He is to be our driver. He is a young 20 year old Beduin with a warm smile and a friendly demeanor. That’s one thing I’ve really noticed about the Jordanians, particularly the Beduins, there’s an authentic warmth and open heartedness that I was not expecting. These were simple, friendly people and they seemed happy and content in life. Genuinely.

Off we go bouncing along in the rickety old jeep, swerving to and fro in the loose sand. Mehedi stops occasionally to show us things of interest, like a desert spring, an old Beduin cemetery, natural rock bridges, and rock formations that look suspiciously like animals. When you step out of the jeep and into the big emptiness, you feel so small and insignificant. It’s so quiet that when you stand still and just listen, the silence itself rings in your ears. It’s a little unnerving, and humbling. The land itself looks alien at times, like as if you were on Mars. The desert is painted with different color rock and sand; red, yellow, white and black. From one hill you can see miles of the desert that goes from red to yellow to black. Mehedi took us to one large rock formation that we climbed up on and he started singing loudly, and when he stopped the echo if his voice bounced around the rocks and mountains for a good 30 seconds. On top of the same rock I found some Arabic scratched into the rock, so I grabbed a quartz rock and carved ACEVES below it. The sandstone was soft and easy to cut. Maybe sometime some other Mexicans, Chicanos or Spanish will happen upon it and smile and say “just like a Mexican to do that!”.

Speaking of Spanish I forgot to mention that we were sharing this experience with a couple from Spain, Manu and Susana. Rafa and I conversed with them in Spanish as much as we could, or at least as much as Rafa could. Mehedi stopped for lunch and while we ate, he started a fire and warmed some tea for us. I love that red tea. Great stuff. After lunch the tour continued until we finally hit camp around sunset, in time to catch the sun going down over the mountains of Saudi Arabia.

The tents we we in that night were traditional Beduin, rectangular with the door in the middle of the longest side. Inside were woven Arabic rugs and mats to sleep on and a fire pit. It also had a bar like table with hookahs on it. In the center of camp was a circular tent where there was a fire already going. Mohammed was there and invited us in to prepare for dinner. We had chicken, rice, hummus, veggies and pita, prepared by Fatima, a muslim girl from Indonesia. It definitely hit the spot and the fire felt great since the dark outside brought with it the cold.

After dinner and a bit of conversation these 3 young Beduin men arrived. One had a tabla drum and another had a case that contained an ornate Ut. They were all polite and cordial, but I got some vibes off one of them that I didn’t like. They asked where we were all from, and I said Mexico. The one guy who vibed me was actually kind of a dick, but mellowed out later on. Turns out only one of them was a musician, the guy with the Ut, who was the most mellow of the 3. The other 2 were just his buddies, and neither one of them could keep rhythm on the drum while their friend sang and played the Ut. He sang really well, had a nice tenor voice and his Ut sounded like it was not cheap. He sang for a couple of hours taking smoke breaks in between. I asked what the songs were about and he said they were Beduin songs about the desert and love. Rafa told them i could play the drum so I ended up playing it while the guy sang and played his Ut. We jammed for awhile. I thought it was neat to be able to jam with a guy I can’t even speak to. The other 2 guys got up and danced and Mehedi joined them while the rest of us clapped.

I decided to take a break and stepped outside for some air. The night sky was incredible. It was like one from a Sci Fi movie. It was the cleanest most sparkly starry night I have ever seen. The stars in the sky were countless and crystal clear, and every minute or so you could catch a shooting star streak across the sky. I just stood and stared in the cold for what must have been a half hour. I even attempted some delayed exposure photos but they just can’t do it justice. Afterward I was feeling tired so I thanked the Beduins and bade them good night. I wandered into our tent and crawled under the two heavy blankets they gave us and slept warm and snug.

View today’s photos

Video outside Wadi Musa

Wadi Rum Desert

Walking in the Desert

Bouncy Jeep Ride

Wadi Rum Echoes

Wadi Rum 360

Desert Graffiti

Beduin Tuning his Ut

Beduin Singing

Beduin Singing 2