The amazing Matthäus Kircher..student, gymnast and rock climber from Italy, takes a flip in the Jordanian desert!
//Sept. 09, 2010//
I sit here in the waning sunlight that marks Eid. There will be a new moon tonight; their indicator of the required darkness they subscribe to as the beginning of the end of Ramadan is “..until the white thread of dawn appears to you distinct from its black thread…” [2:187]. Eid begins on a night that is so dark that to confirm it, you should not be able to discern between a white thread and a black thread. Maybe if the world becomes lightless, we could all finally just get along.
No more starving through the day. An observance of suffering has been met. With such a moon-shunned night I suppose I’ll be able to see every star coming alive on the onxy staged sky, twinkling in excitement for their “spotnight”; all viewable from my bed that is the hard rooftop of the Rum village guesthouse.
This trip has been enlightening and each day is filled with more and more gratifying experiences.
Matthäus and I hiked for four hours today visiting all the different sites in Petra…working our way through al Siq to see the famous and touristy Al Khazneh (The Treasury) and to end at Al Deir (The Monastery). When I was young and spent summers on my grandparent’s Oregon ranch, I was in this constant make-believe function where I could see dips and markings in boulders and smoothed out rocks in the streams to easily make them become parts for a kitchen, a living room, a bedroom…… The small waterfall would be the divider between the upstairs and downstairs levels of my play home……but now being in the once mighty Nabatean city is like a true existence of nature and rock as “home”. I wish deeply we could go to this style of living. I feel like I would be happy to make many sacrifices but I also think with our advanced technology, we could make a comfortable, sustainable way to do this without the loss of too much technology. It CAN be possible! It’s just people don’t want to change. A lot of America doesn’t want to change.
This was my second visit (however, didn’t complete the first) and Matthäus’s first. He connected heavily with the site and especially with the bedouins; I do believe that he was one in his former life.
We finished by noon, hiking faster in some areas so we could avoid the crowds (it was a necessity to have had it all alone and not to let crowds of tourist disturb the calm connection; it’s a very strong feeling) and when we finished and dined on scrumptious hummus and other local treats, we traveled south for about an hour and a half to arrive here….Wadi Rum; another ancient rock utopia, yet accompanied with a modern village surrounded by sandstone mountains with even more Nabatean markings.
I am osmosing within this whole scene; engulfed in such a spiritual alliance with the ancient desert. Can’t believe I am here. I can’t.
But I am…sitting here enjoying the peace, the energy and the sunset.
I’ve found a rock that makes do as a nice seat and a boulder nearby as a writing desk. The massive expanse of infinite red granules of sand and their parent mountains stare at my back as I write this. To my right is the Rum Village and the occasional tumultuous roar of passing trucks whose lights drown way deep in the darkening desert as they go to set-up camps to celebrate their beloved and traditional religious holiday. Beyond the living are the past lives; mountains that hold secrets of antiquity in these parts; dressed in coded, relic carvings. A ‘V’ shaped notch casts a dramatic cleavage on the buttress that even the most conservative muslims here aren’t able to cover.
A black cat just appeared to investigate my presence. It’s tiny! Cute. Probably smells that I am not of these parts. I say “hello” and now it’s gone and becomes part of the night.
I am writing this in the dark now.
I was readying myself to leave but heard noises around me. I flash my headlamp at glowing eyes. More cats! They are as ubiquitous as the rocks. A few were in the process of ambling on their soft padded paws to get very close to me when I had startled them with the flash of my light.
But now I see a different form. A man. He is walking toward me away from the village and toward the beginning of the outskirts that I am at. I am a little nervous…. I am alone. But ultimately, I feel like I’m not in danger.
“Kayf halik” he greets.
“Al Hamdah-lilah” I respond. “Wa anta?”
And he responds similarly.
Silence as he nears. I don’t flash my light to him. To break the peace, I flash my light at a moving, feline fur ball and announce, “Qitta!”. I must have looked like a weirdo.
“Yes, there are many, many…….” he replies (cats).
“What are you doing coming way out here?” I ask. Everyone else had already gone further south to revel with family and friends in Aqaba (one of the nearer, larger towns) or they were proceeding out to the desert camps.
“I come for a smoke.” he says and yes, I noticed the bright, red dot crowning the end of the cigarette. He walks over to a rock about twenty feet to my right and seats himself for a puff.
I can’t see him. I did not want to turn my light on or just shine it in his face. There was a faint glow from the village but very little. My shadow was conversing with his silhouette.
We talk. I share a bit of my travels and my interest to climb in the area. He mentions that he has climbed on the rock and his brother is one of the main guys who has set routes behind where he owns a house. After about fifteen minutes, he invites me to his house for tea (which is a very customary thing for Jordanians to do; almost everyone you meet will invite you to tea (tea that has about a pound of sugar in a half cup of liquid).
Again, I feel fine but a bit uneasy as I’m going to a total stranger’s house. It’s a shame that as a female I am more conscious about this whereas if I had been a man traveling the globe, I’d feel very good about hitchhiking randomly everywhere (which is what Matthäus did) and just going over to men’s houses. In Turkey, the men are much more aggressive and I would not likely do that there…but in Jordan and even in the Gulf region, they are quite conservative.
We leave my seat, my writing desk and the feral family of cats to head back to the village. Along the way he points out homes that belong to his relatives (ummm..he’s basically related to everyone there. They marry within the family; cousin to cousin). We come to a stop at his metal-bounded habitat. I enter lightly through his heavy gate to feel the airiness of a 400 square feet or so open yard of flat dirt and get a first look at his very modest and basic home. First, there is a kitchen as I enter. Then, that opens to a larger room that was probably about 800 square feet or so that was very sparsely furnished. I don’t recognize many things here that sit, decorate or dwell in my home. I notice a single, full-sized mattress on the floor and some ruffled sheets. Right above the sleeping area is a poster of the constellation chart of the stars. I stand corrected; I had the exact same poster hanging in my room as a youth. I make mention of it….
Still proceeding, we head out onto the other side, back in open-air to his patio. There are clothing lines strung up….and a wooden table with plastic chairs. He invites me to take a seat and he will bring tea out. They are fast tea makers; next thing I know, I am cupping a small, clear, glass and allowing the hot sweet, liquid mint burn my accepting lips.
I am able to finally see my host clearly; a man a few inches from my height; dark, tanned skin and full, round eyes. He is handsome. His name is Abdallah Hamad. Shortly thereafter, other men start to come in and join us….first Abdallah’s brother..the climber (whose name slips my mind now) who is a petite fellow and incredibly friendly. Next, a cousin, named Mater….and then finally a very thin man in traditional Jordanian dress who is their other cousin. A bit of an anxious looking man that smiles little but is very nice. I had actually seen him as I was just starting my walk out into the desert and said hello…..his English was spoken with extraordinary preciseness and I reckon he went to school abroad.
My Eid was celebrated with these fine gentlemen as we talked into the night about their customs, their families; they assisted me with learning the language, including the one of climbing. Abdallah’s home soon emptied out as they all began journeys to partake in the festivals underway and I was the last one to leave.
Waving goodbye, I gave my deepest “shokran” for such friendly hospitality – something I’ve experienced consistently as a three-time visitor to Jordan. Petra and Wadi Rum are my top favorite places on Earth (along with Mali).
I head back to my roof bed excitedly for my next Eid night destination….. a visit with the stars.
Our Milky Way; taken from the roof…my bed for the night.