14 September 2016

Christopher Poindexter

"She was passionate about the rain and I was passionate about the way she loved it. It was that way with everything."

04 August 2016

Summer in Jordan part 2 (Gallery)

Summer in Jordan part 1

I am spending the month of July and the begining of August in Wadi Araba (somehow I thought it was a good idea to come to the hottest place in Jordan in the height of summer). It is a little sad that for the first time in 4 years I am not "archaeologizing" in Petra per se -- alas, we all need to move on and make new friends. So now I am stationed at Bir Madhkur -- or better put, near Bir Madhkur -- in a camp built by her Highness Queen Rania Al-Abdullah as a good deed for the local community. The truth is that although the camp was built as a "Tourist Lodge," no turist has ever set foot in this place (except for the Turkish couple who accidently found their way here when they were looking for a restroom). The house units are made of two double rooms, one bathroom, and one kitchen (which remains locked, we only use the communal one). Therefore I share my living space with 3 lovely girls - one Hungarian and two Americans. We sleep outside with mosquito nets because the rooms get too hot during the day. I must say that falling asleep under a clear milky way is something quite memorable and new for me.

Book quiosque in Amman, at night.

Hasheen Restaurant in downtown Amman - best place for iftar (breaking the fast after Rammadan) and delicious falafel. Too bad I was still a little sick from the food I ate on the diving boat...
Day trip to Jerash - It was good to see it again with more time. What a great site.

So what am I doing under the 40 degree sun? We are establishing hiking trails, building road cairns, and getting to know the area pretty dang well. We have also done some survey and recording of archaeological features, but this has not been the focus of our work here. The point is to help develop the community by allowing it to rely on the turism industry. We are training bedouin (Saiydin tribe), who unfortunately do not speak English, to be guides in the desert for all those who wish to follow "the Incense Routes" (by camel? That would be awesome.). Its a pretty cool idea (!) that might be injured by the fact the (1) there are no tourists in the Middle East (2) the original incense routes -- now mostly car backroads and wadis (debated, but I dont see major trade routes following the hard way up and down mountains) -- might not be very interesting for hikers, and (3) who knows if the community can actually sustain this project without having it be taken away by some powerful gang in Amman. But people do what they can.

Building trails leading to the Roman fortress of Umm Rattam

This said, the experience in the desert this summer has been educational in more than one sense. For example, as a woman in the Middle East I was never allowed to leave the house alone. But for the first time I am excepted to fence for myself anywhere I go. So far, I have gotten lost in the governement/military sector of Aqaba trying to get a stamp for my passport; took a donkey (BY MYSELF) from Ad-Deir (The Monastery) to Umm-Sayhoun (the Bdoul Village) -- here I must say that it was not an easy task and half way through I had to ask dear Awad (one of my crew members last year) to come with me and control Michael Jackson, the donkey; and spent 4 full days in a bikini-all-allowed resort on the Red Sea, wearing my SWIMMING SUIT! This latter experience was strange, to say the least. It is bizarre to sunbathe next to women wearing the burka, or wearing these awesome bathing suits (more like lycra diving suits) where you can be completely covered and still go in the water. I guess there is a place for everything in the Middle East, the hard part is to know when it is appropriate to do what and in front of who.

 Berenice Resort in Aqaba

 The best part of this whole month was to visit my dear people in Umm Sayhoun. How I miss them. Somehow many recognized me at a distance and screamed "MARIANA!!!" when I was walking around downtown Petra. I was not expecting that. I also get to sit down and talk with my Bdoul sisters: Manal, Feirouz, Nawal, Fatima, Tamam, Fara, Badria, Zeinab . The kindness of these people is unimaginable. Fatima and Badria cooked a wonderful munsuf with roasted peanuts (how else??) and I got to see all the new babies that were born this past year. They all have SO.MUCH.HAIR. 

Me and Tamam

Cute Dalia, 3 months old

It was also incredible to scuba dive in the Red Sea. Three dives, all approved: Cedar Pride (shipwreck), Power Station (drop), and Black Rock (at Berenice Resort). Amjad, the diving intructor of DIVE AQABA was simply 5 stars and everything was safe, professional and fun.