Today’s Facebook status message: Experiment with life – constantly. Do things other than your job and be fulfilled. Balance, you will soon learn, is a matter of logistics.
After the eventful trip to Jordan in November 2010 where I met a lot of interesting people; followed by a wondrous, never-to-be-forgotten side trip to PETRA where I felt for certain that I am destined for bigger things and distant lands – quite literally, actually – Sir Mano and I took the first flight out of Amman, Jordan bound for Cairo, Egypt – for work.
We arrived in Cairo a few weeks before the political unrest that would go down in political history as the one that would ultimately oust former President Mubarak, was to reach fever pitch. At that time, there were no talks and not even the slightest hint of the Egyptian political landscape turning out the way it did.
Since I only had three full days in Cairo, I made sure I got all my meetings done from morning until late night – usually, at the hotel lobby or at the office of our supplier, who turned out to be such a wonderful host. He took us to a dinner cruise on the Nile River on our first night and it was there that I first saw an actual bellydancing performed and I thought it was very sexy!
There was also a band featured that night who sang mostly Egyptian ballads and maybe three or four English songs for the non-Arabic/non-African people in the audience. One thing I noticed about their music is that almost every single one of them begs for some gyrating type of dance, if you are to dance to it – that is. Everyone who got on their feet were pretty much rounding their hips suggestively and occasionally thrusting them forward in very sensual motions as in frenzied lovemaking.
The highlight of my short trip was, of course, the visit to the breathtaking Pyramid of Giza – some of the startling and most impressive monuments of the great ancient Egyptian civilization. As I only had a small window in my day schedule, I was advised by my colleagues to leave as early as 7am so I can make it back in time for my afternoon meetings. Sir Mano, along with our other colleagues, set out on a separate journey to Mt. Sinai.
We drove for about an hour or so to reach the pyramid complex which, incidentally, is now the only one left of the ancient wonders of the world still in existence. The sky was slightly overcast when we set out on our journey so that the tips of the pyramids were nearly concealed by the clouds when we were approaching the site. When I saw the facade of the three pyramids from the back of the car where I was sitting, my eyes instantly welled-up! I was so overcome by emotions so deep it was hard for me to even breathe. I know I will probably never become conventionally wealthy, but these glorious little treats of life more than make up for whatever real or imagined deprivation.
Egyptians are probably among the warmest people you will ever meet in this world. They smile a lot and are completely unreserved in offering a helping hand, even to foreign strangers like us. The children and women are especially delightful! Despite the language barrier, they make an effort to engage you in a conversation and make you feel somewhat right at home.
Sara and Ahmed are easily two of the sweetest Egyptians I have met while there. We spent so much time cooped up in the car but there was hardly any dull moment as the three of us shared/traded cultural tidbits. It truly is amazing how, sometimes, it is when you feel you’re farthest from home (geographically, that is) that you are brought to a strangely beautiful realization, after getting to know the locals, that you not so different after all. That there are commonalities, passions, and interests that you share which ultimately lead to cultural gaps being bridged. This is what I love most about traveling – you discover much about other people which, in turn, lead you to discover a little bit more about yourself.
I have nothing more to say about Egypt, its beautiful and strong people, or the Pyramids that have not already been said many times over by so many people. I have been blessed and fortunate enough to make that life-changing trip and whatever beautiful things I want to say but failing miserably to put into words, let these photos speak volumes…
If there is one date that I will never forget for as long as I’m breathing, apart from my birthday that is, it would be the 6th of December 2010. The day that I set foot on one of the most beautiful historical places on earth: PETRA. I was in Amman, Jordan in late November for an event and the day before I flew out to Egypt, Sir Mano took me with him to visit Petra. Now, this is the part where I cringe in utter embarrassment because up until that moment, I had never heard of Petra. *facepalm* I have seen the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but it was so long ago that I had already forgotten most, if not all of it. In fact, the only time it would ever click in my head was when we finally reached the end of The Siq (or narrow passage) – where Al Khazneh (The Treasury), which housed the holy grail in the movie, is finally revealed.
That it took my nearly five months to write about my Petra adventure can only be attributed to the fact that I was this much overwhelmed. Truth be told, I was scared – I still am, as of writing – that I won’t be able to do justice to the awesomeness that is Petra. That my limited vocabulary and unsophisticated writing style will be exposed. But at the same time, I feel I would be doing Petra the greatest injustice by not even trying.
So I beg of you, dear readers, to send a little love my way and be gentle – be very gentle – for this blogger, for only the second time in her life (I will tell you about the first, but then again, I may have to kill you after), is rendered speechless.
Wiki has this to say about PETRA:
Petra, meaning rock, is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that is known for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourism attraction. It lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” in a Newdigate Prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.” Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of “the 40 places you have to see before you die”.
Petra is 3 to 4 hours away from Amman, depending on the traffic situation in the capital city of Jordan which, from what we have experienced while there, can get a bit tight especially during rush hours. From the hotel, Sir Mano and I rented a cab that will drive us all the way to our destination. The rate was 100JOD, if I’m not mistaken, which is quite expensive but at least you have the car – and the driver – at your disposal, and you get to travel at your own pace.
We left the hotel at 7am and made one quick stop at this roadside tea place for… you’ve guessed it right, tea! Now when did you get so smart, love? Arabic coffee is quite popular among connoisseurs, but as most of you who have been to the Middle East would know, tea is still considered the beverage of choice. We made sure to pack sufficiently for the 4-hour road trip – mostly fruits, sandwiches, and bottled water. Actually, I only took a pear and an apple but dear Sir Mano, boyscout to the core that he is, prepared the sandwiches which he would later on share with me – the awkward tourist.
It was almost noontime when we finally reached Petra and we went straight to the money changer as we were running low in Jordanian dinar. Mohammad showed us where he will be parked while we go around exploring the place. Now let me tell you something about this guy, Mohammad. Back at the tea place, we engaged him in a conversation and among the many things he shared, one glaringly stood out. On the subject as to why he remains unmarried at 28, he said and I quote: ‘There are many beautiful women here, yes, but I want one with a beautiful heart.’ Now I don’t know about you, but isn’t that just the sweetest thing? On hindsight, that is probably why I remain single to this day. Unmarried, that is.
At the entrance, we paid 60JOD each for the ticket. But it being a tourist hot spot, there are guides a-plenty for an additional 50JOD and obviously, we requested for an English-speaking one – because, you know, our French won’t exactly get us very far in that place. And that’s how we met Ahmed.
The three of us walked to the main entrance of Petra where we had to surrender our tickets and walk a bit to get to the horses’ station. They’re supposed to come for free but you gotta give the horseman a tip, the amount of which depends on how generous you are — or how deep your pocket is. The distance from the horse place and the entrance to The Siq is not that far actually, but we wanted to explore The Treasury as much as we can with the amount of time that we have, so we took one horse each.
We got off at the spot just before we hit The Siq, the narrow passage of about 1.2kms that will lead us all the way to The Treasury.
Although we had the option to hire a chariot, we opted to walk the 1.2km-stretch instead and bask in the wondrousness of Petra. It was cold at 10 degrees in Jordan that day, but it was sunny right where we were and Petra was just breathtakingly luminous! During our walk, Ahmed would regale us with trivia about the place and every now and then, we would stop to marvel at some stone carvings – usually of idols or gods and goddesses they worshiped before. And of course, to take photos. And more photos.
And finally, tadaaaaaaah, Al Khazneh! This magnificent structure carved out of stone and rock face is the highlight of Petra. I cannot tell you exactly how I felt when I finally set my eyes on The Treasury but I can tell you about how my throat felt constricted and I was so moved that tears as big as pebbles almost jumped out of my eye sockets. If you ask me, that feeling I felt at that very moment is exactly how I would want to fall in love – white-hot in its power and blinding in spontaneity.
Petra has stirred in me something powerful. Strange at best, but definitely potent in force and try as I might, I cannot seem to wrap my head around it. Not completely, at least. Someone once told me he considers himself a force of nature, unbridled and (is) constantly in motion. On that day, in Petra, I became that person – and more. Someday, I hope to be back.
Here’s a video I took just seconds before we walked towards The Treasury. Enjoy! http://s757.photobucket.com/albums/xx214/vickyras/PETRA%20December%202010/?action=view¤t=MOV04892.mp4