April 6 and 7: On the 6th, we were with a small tour group as we crossed over to Jordan from Eilat to Petra. On the way, whenever we stopped, we took some pictures of the scenery, especially the mist-enveloped “Grand Canyon” of Jordan. At Petra, we walked through a maze of canyons until we saw the so-called Treasury, the most elaborate and monumental building of the ancient Nabateans.
We couldn’t take as many pictures as we wanted to because of the tour guide’s time restrictions, but the next day, we headed out on own at our own pace (until, of course, we had to be back at 3:00 to depart for Eilat). In our six hours in Petra, we savored every feature of its archeological grandeur—from the at times surrealistically sculptured cliffs, the chiseled (by nature and by the Nabateans) canyon walls, and the natural and man-made dams. Nor can be forget the caravans of tourists riding camels, donkeys, horses, and horse-drawn carriages. Our camera covered it all, plus a few unrehearsed shots of traditionally dressed Arabs.
While I was riding in a tour bus from Aqaba to Petra, Jordan, two solitary camels were traveling side by side along the shoulder of the superhighway, the only paved road for hundreds of miles. And then on the way back, I noticed a camel comfortably standing in the back of a pickup truck going at least 50 miles per hour. At noon in the Petra canyons, I wanted to sit down while my wife sent to the WC. There was one vacant spot next to an Arab woman. I took it for a minute until I heard a growl. In front of me was an indignant Arab man. He thrust his hands out and motioned for me to get off the seat. I did so immediately. I don’t know what—if any—relationship he had with the woman. Perhaps I had committed some sort of taboo. In any case, I was happy to stand up until my wife rejoined me.
Gobbledygook to the Rescue Our tour guide in Petra, Jordan, told my wife and me to shoo away any of the children who try to sell us souvenirs as we progress into the canyons. My wife, who once taught and tamed students at middle school, did a good job: when she said no, every one of the urchins stayed clear of her. It wasn’t just her firm voice; her body language left no wiggle room for ambiguity. I, on the other hand, wasn’t as successful at first. As with my grandchildren, I have difficulty saying no as if I really mean it. I am too inherently courteous to be curt. After my wife reminded me that I must be more forceful in dismissing these omnipresent pests, I dredged up a new tactic: relying on my patented gibberish—a kind of guttural guttersniping—that I delivered with resounding authority. As the next unsuspecting little entrepreneur approached with his wares, I snarled something like vachvatuch-kvark-pflutchig. Perhaps flabbergasted, perhaps cowed, he fled from me; and I never had to deal with him or his cohorts again. I had triumphed, pleasing my wife and regaining my machismo. At the same time, I did feel sorry for the poor kid. I guess there aren’t too many paper routes in Jordan, eh?
On the road back to Eilat, Stan (through the bus windows) took lots of pictures of the unceasingly exotic Jordanian mountains.