The problem with falling behind on travel blogging is that all of the stories that have happened since your last update become too many, and the thought of blogging becomes overwhelming. I am fighting that overwhelmingness, simply because so many things from just the past two days desperately need to be blogged. As a compromise, below is a list of stories that I’m not going to blog right now, but should in the future:
How 42 HaPalmach became the Grimmauld Place of the Jewish resistance
The difference between prepping for an American anti-Occupation action, and an Israeli anti-Occupation action
Economic solidarity, blocking the Damascus Gate and body positivity
Confronting Mizrachi Olami in Hebron, or reminding Modern Orthodox Jews that anti-Occupation Jews reside amongst them
Losing Simchat Yom Tov, or realizing that Palestinians are more intimately familiar with the Jewish calendar than nearly all American Jews
The Hartman Institute still sucks
If I don’t under Rosenzweig at a normal hour of the day in English, why did I think that I would understand him at 2AM in Hebrew?
Travel insurance showdown
Navigating Hadassah while left-wing
Why is there no HIPPA in this country?
Diving with shitty dive company and 15 Russians
Playing rugby underwater
Diving with fabulous dive company and a father-daughter expat pair
Green snapping turtles, moray eels, Napoleon and trevallys
Ramadan in East Jerusalem vs. Aqaba vs. Petra vs. Amman
Bedouin kindness on the trails of Petra, part one
Now on to the actual stories that I’m going to tell…
Sunday was my third and final day exploring Petra. At this point I have wandered through the edge of town and hiked the monastery, and done the Khubtha trail, so I figured that I’d gotten the lay of land. Ha. All that’s left to do is hike to the high place, where human sacrifice once occurred. No biggie, I know what I’m doing. Ha.
Unlike the monastery, which has only one path, which you both take up an take down, there are at least three ways to get to the High Place (which, by the way, Bedouins refer to as al-madbah). There are also far fewer kiosks selling trinkets and drinks. So I’m basically alone on the way up, and even more alone on the way down. It really does seem like I’m following the track specified in my guidebook—although my guidebook was published in 1994, and does not include the fairly major excavation of the Great Temple of Dushrat which was started in 1993. Maybe less trustworthy than I had assumed?
After a few forks in the road with minimal guidance from trusty guidebook as to where to go, I randomly choose the downhill option, thinking that when getting lost, it will be the less exhausting form of getting lost. Worth mentioning: at this point I’m out of water. I come across three children, riding three donkeys. Each donkey carried two large canisters of water. They inform me that down the hill is the stream. The exit and all of the other sites are, in fact up the hill. So much for my brilliant downhill strategy. But will I come to their house and drink tea? Heck yeah. And not just because I’m craving the water currently on your donkeys.
Manal, who looks nine but is actually thirteen, then offers to let me ride her donkey for five dinar. Hon, I am all over that deal. Setting this up involves transferring her water to her brother Qasm’s donkey. She and Qasm will ride her donkey while I ride Qasm’s with the water. While my previous donkey rides in Petra involved a raised platform that makes it easy to swing mh leg over, this jump is going to happe from ground-level, which will involve leaning quite a bit on tiny, looks-like-she’s-nine Manal. Obviously, the kids are cracking up that 28-year-old white girl can’t even get on a donkey. In spite of their giggles, I get on donkey, and am all set to head up, when Manual and Qasm’s father, Ibrahim shows up (child number three, Mariam, isn’t related).
Ibrahim has a truck. He offers to take me, by truck to the family’s house, drink tea, then take me to the snake monument (hadn’t heard of it until that point, but Manal, my new bestie, is quite insistent that it shoild be sedn), and then take me to my AirBnB in Wadi Musa, all for 50 dinar. I negotiate him down to 40 dinar, and we are off. He tells me (by the way, all conversations described are combo English-Arabic, with more Arabic with the kids and more English with Ibrahim) that he has six children, four boys and two girls, and his wife will give birth to their seventh child in 2 or 3 days. After meeting his wife... this is an entirely plausible scenario. And yet she’s still sitting on the floor. The remaining boys are Abdullah, Sami, and Mohammed.
Potentially due to the upcoming birth, Mariam (this one is related), the eighteen year-old, gets charged with bringing me water. Thank you!!! I compliment her henna-decorated hand, which, naturally, means that Ibrahim has Mariam bring out her henna, and once again, my palms are decorated. She also decorates her siblings’ hands, and Ibrahim puts some in his hair. Mariam will be marrying a relative in one year’s time. As Mariam is busy, Manal is responsible for pouring tea, which only Ibrahim and I drink (it’s clear that no one is observing the fast in this family—Ibrahim had just gotten them each a juicebox from a store). Manual very kindly fills my waterbottles from the family’s water supply. Ibrahim’s wife, who’s name I have forgotten is very concerned with my sunburnt cheeks
Ibrahim takes me, Manal and Samir to the Snake Monument, which is very close to their home. To be perfectly honest, it’s nowhere near as impressive as the other monuments that I’ve seen in Petra, but it is very off the beaten track, and I feel like one of the very few tourists who gets to see it, so that’s pretty special. And then, after dropping off the kids, Ibrahim takes me home, where I pack up before heading to Amman.
Today, on the recommendation of my former roommate, Aaron, who lived in Amman for two years, I hiked Wada Mujib, a fresh water hike. The way in is very challenging, and you’re fighting the current the whole time, and pulling yourself up with ropes over slippery boulders while water sprays your face. The way back involves lots of floating on your back, which means that by thighs and butt got quite scraped. I can now sit comfortably in a chair, but that was not the case a few hours ago. Prior to the Wada Mujib hike, my guide had suggested going to the Dead Sea after the hike. I firmly nixed that afterwards—not with all these scrapes on my backside.
Tomorrow to Jerash, and then back to the US on Wednesday!
*Title refers to the listing of destinations in Bemidbar chapter 33 that the children of Israel visited during their forty years in the desert, some of which I’ve been to this week.