I didn’t have enough time to take a bus to Petra on my weekend break from working at Jordan’s community radio station, plus I was on crutches with a sprained ankle, so I hired a cab. One of my goals, aside from visiting Petra, was to stop at the Dead Sea to soak my swollen ankle in the warm and salty water. Walid, the driver, speaks English well enough, self-taught. As we rode along the Dead Sea he asked me, “Are you Married?”
“How many?” I allowed I had only one wife. He laughed “one is too much.” He started bragging about his wife. “She is educated, she has a diplom(a). She learned English in school and is learning more.” He pulled out his cell phone called his wife and handed me the phone. “Speak English with her.” Speaking a second language over a phone is more difficult than speaking it in person. There are no visual cues, no body language. But she worked at understanding and I worked at being understood on the ride to Petra. She was prepping for an oral English exam. I hope I helped her pass. Walid offered me a discount from the price he quoted for the cab ride, to pay for his wife’s tutorial.
Petra is the most jaw dropping place I have ever seen, words fail. Even pictures cannot do justice to the scale of the place. (Petra was where “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmed. The set may have seemed unbelievable. Believe it.) Because of my swollen ankle I got a permit to allow me to go all the way into Petra in a horse drawn carriage. The approach to Petra is through a narrow wadi called the Siq, at times only about 6 feet wide. The Siq descends into a valley at a 5% grade. By the time you get to the bottom you have dropped the equivalent height of a 45-story building. At one point the carriage driver stopped the horse and said, “it’s only 20 meters to the Treasury. You have to get out and walk it. Riding will rob you of an experience.” An experience I will not forget, the first sight of the Treasury, Corinthian columns carved in red rock, glimpsed through the narrow opening of the Siq, framed in sun, shadow and rock.
Two years later I was able to walk the Siq with Suzi, I walked it twice, once during the day and once under a three quarter moon. Tomorrow’s pictures will take us further into Petra. By the way, I don’t trust the markings on the map above. The Treasury is in the wrong place.