Rounding out the Middle East with one last trek through Jordan provided just the hospitable end to the desert travels.
Hospitality abounds in Jordan and the Middle East. Some of my favorite experiences were results of kind locals taking us in or explaining life in their country. Odeh, a man who drives his truck as a taxi service from Aqaba (the border of Egypt and Jordan) to Petra (where he lives), invited us to his home for tea after we rode with him through a sand storm for two hours. As we sipped the sweet, hot tea adorned with fresh mint leaves, grandchildren spied on us, the strange visitors from the doorway of the sitting room. Odeh explained that his children and grandchildren often go back to their own home only to sleep at night and that he is so grateful that he lives in a place where he can constantly spend time with those he loves. He was educated and knew Western families often have their own separate lives, which astounded him. He plans on building more above his current floor plan, which is located at the top of a hill with a view of Petra. On this upper floor he will add onto his house to accommodate his growing family and hopes that they will be able to move in permanently some day. More of our discussion with Odeh is explained later in this post.
Above: Odeh’s garden gate, where he invited us to his home.
Also very hospitable were the people at Petra Gate Hostel. Every night, a dinner of Bedouin chicken was made and numerous Jordanian salads were available, most complete with cucumbers and tomatoes. The owner went out of his way to give us a ride to the bus station when we left town. He must have been scared for me when he saw the size of my backpack, which has grown in the last few months!
Above: View of Petra from my bed at Petra Gate Hostel
Listening to the music of simsimiyya, a type of lyre, highlighted with Arabic lyrics sung by a Bedouin man, I found myself completely entranced. Checking my watch proved it was 10 am California time and a smile curled on my lips to think at one time I was just getting to my desk to put in a 12-hour work day. I prefer this style, I thought.
Bedouin people live in cement buildings or large tents in some of the hottest areas of the Middle East and eat whatever animals and plants are abundant at that time. While in Jordan, I tasted Bedouin chicken and rice, made even tastier wıth sliced almonds. Also on the menu was Bedouin lamb- a large dish with excellent local herbs and spices. The Bedouin people we met live the slow-paced life, chatting with family and friends for the larger part of the day and selling goods in town for extra income, if needed. Some choose to host travelers, again very hospitably, and cook for them, making a large sum of money for just one or two nights’ work. Still others run a taxi service out of their vans to make a living for their extended family.
Above: A Bedouin home for many generations of family.
An ancient city which was redıscovered in 1812, Petra was the center for the caravan trade of the Nabataeans. The orange rock walls enclose streets of polished stone and massive buildings which were carved out of sandstone. It is evident that flash floods were once a common problem in this now dry area by the cisterns and dams that still remain.
Above: Petra’s high walls surround us.
Much of the city’s original use and time frame remain a mystery, but nearby areas present themselves throughout history. The Ain Mousa (Spring of Moses) is mentioned in the Old Testament as the place Moses struck a rock with his staff to extract water and Aaron is said to have died in the Petra area and been buried on what is today the sacred site atop Jabal Haroun (Mount Aaron). The Petra scrolls, a series of the Dead Sea scrolls, which had much to say about agriculture, taxes and religion, were found here in 1992. They date back to 528 AD until the reign of Tiberius Mauricius.
Petra has made many appearances in films as of late including an Indiana Jones movie that was readily available for us to watch at Petra Gate Hostel.
The Treasury is the most famous site here, followed by the Monastery, which involves a climb of over 800 stairs.
Above: The Petra Treasury was probably built as a temple but is called the Treaury because of the treasures that were hidden inside.
Above: The Monastery in Petra is reached after an hour’s hike.
Above: Rainbow-colored sandstone is carved to make large temples and tombs in Petra.
Marriage in Jordan
Our taxi driver Odeh discussed, as we sipped tea, his idea of the Jordanian Muslim idea of a good marriage, which involved a few chuckles from our end. Although the marriage is arranged, in his family a woman has the ability to tell her father if she does not agree with the match. When the offer is presented to a woman’s father, the father and daughter have a heart-to-heart and if they believe the match is possible, they check around town to make sure the man’s reputation is decent. Basically this is an excuse to get the local gossip on the guy, so hopefully he has not angered any loud mouths in his 20+ years of life. If the girl decides she does not like the prospect, there are no hard feelings and life goes on. If the girl decides to marry the man, they do not date, but are engaged immediately. In Odeh’s case, his daughter was presented with a cash gift from the man’s family in order to help with the wedding and to purchase her wedding jewelry but then it was Odeh’s responsibility to buy the newly married couple furniture and everything they needed in their new life. He explained that this is why it is more expensive to have daughters.
The part that made our jaw drop was that a negotiation is made at the beginning of the marriage, which resembles a prenuptual agreement. If a man gets sick of the wife a few years later, he can let her go but needs to pay her the amount of money they decided on at the beginning of their marriage. This price is his ticket to singledom again. Many times the wealthy men decide to take more than one wife. At this time, he asks his current wife if she likes his new prospect. If she agrees that he can take on this new lady as well (something inconceivable for us Western women) the new woman will move in and have more children for the husband along with the first wife. If the fırst wife decides she does not want him to have the new wife, the man can agree or, he can pay off the first lady to divorce her and just take the second one. Odeh said there are no affairs because of this ”superior system” they have! Everything is out in the open and they understand that feelings for partners can change as life moves on.