A smiling Bedouin approached me and said, “Here. Please take my card. It has my website on it. I am here if you have any questions at all.” Impeccable english. Within seconds, I was blown away by the archaeological treasures before me and now, this interesting chap. I looked over to his camel and visualized riding off over the sand dunes never to be captured by the modern world again.
We’d been tipped off by the locals to get here as the gates opened if we desired a tranquil experience. The Red Sea was not far away and swarms of air conditioned, modern tour busses would soon load their pink-skinned cargo straight off of their plush cruise liners and they’d be upon us like locusts! Best to make haste slowly. No time to waste!
The drive from Amman was itself an interesting trek across the Jordanian desert. Before the sun rises, then as it peeks above the horizon, the magical lights bring the quiet sands to life. Our driver asked what radio station we’d like and as we always do, we replied that we’d be very happy with his local station. Why on earth would we want to listen to something “western” when we are here? Please.
As we approached, descending to the site, our spirits soared. We could see the almost empty parking lot and my wife and I were glad that we’d risen at four in the morning to be the first ones here. Sweet tranquility.
So much to take in, so little time. Grateful, however, that at least we had this chance.
The walk from the exposed desert and immediately into the narrow gorge was wonderful. Looking up, all I could see was a strip of blue sky. It reminded me of an earlier adventure in southern Utah when I had waded up a chilly creek in Zion National Park (the Narrows). Shortly into the gorge, the wall carvings began to appear, some sadly worn at about the four to five foot height due to careless tourists touching them. Same damage as I had noted while in the ancient stacked pyramids in Egypt years prior.
If only we could select the humans that would respect these magnificent places…
Once through the gorge, the famous Treasury Building came into view and to my astonishment, about 300 other structures as well, all carved into the beautiful, red sandstone; a stone so curious with all of its various, curved striations.
So deep into the canyons were we that the sun only began to strike us as we hiked up the steep paths to the upper plateaus.
I could write an entire book on this morning’s experience, but this entry shall have to serve as a tease and an invitation for you who read it to go visit this wonderful site.
By the later morning, as we made haste to leave before the masses arrived, we found we were too late! Nooooooo… a primal “geschrei” arose within us! Through the narrow gorge, they all came streaming out, each grouping led by an underpaid tour guide with colored umbrella. Within seconds, we were overrun and the once quiet place was abuzz with rude tourists bouncing off of each other each in desperation for the much needed photo.
I could barely breathe as my wife and I waded upstream through the gorge and to our amused driver waiting at the edge of chaos.
Well…, it was a magnificent experience, one that I would highly recommend. If I had the Bedouin’s business card, I would surely post his contact information for you so that he might guide you for a quiet and contemplative experience of your own.