Dearly beloved, pay close attention, there's a magical land you should travel to, and it's called JORDAN. [insert adventure music: dun dunnnn dun dunnn dunndunn AAAAHHHH ahhhh AAAAAHhh ahhh]
Okay, here's a sneak peek through the seeq...and the same bloody picture that a billion other people have taken.
Petra! Remember it Indiana Jones? Well it's sooooooooooooo much cooler than I ever possibly imagined. First, take a long winding walk through the seeq (canyon) or hire a horse carriage if you're not feeling plucky.
Then, [dun dun DUUUUNNNN], the Treasury of Petra!
Congratulations, you've made it as far as 99.9% of the tourists. But don't stop now, it gets even MORE AWESOME.
There's tombs carved into rock (some of them are HUGE), Bedouin caves, a Roman ampitheater, ruins of a Roman town, it's such a completely awesome mix of cultures and it's all set in some of the best hiking scenery I've ever seen. Okay, 50% of tourists make it this far, but wait, IT GETS BETTER. Climb higher (or hire a donkey) until you find the [aahh ahhh AAAAHHHH] monastery!
Okay, it's tiny in this photo because we climbed above it, but it's huge and arguably cooler than the more famous rose red Treasury at the end of the siq. Look, here are our intrepid explorers!
Can you see vertical black line just below the dark doorway? That's a person standing up. The monastery is HUGE. Congrats, only 10% of the tourists make it up here.
Also, I would like to officially declare my deep love for camels.
Ahhh...what devastatingly gorgeous creatures. Awkward yet graceful, elegant yet beastly.
Ok, don't stop now, hop back on the road and venture farther south to Wadi Rum!
Hire a Bedouin guide, camp out overnight in the desert!
Red sand dunes, craggy canyons, rock arches, breathtaking landscapes, it's incredible.
And Husam finally had a chance to show off his raw brute strength:
Speaking of brute strength, did I mention how much I love camels?
Ah, Jordan, land of wonders...Where else can you visit places like Mt. Nebo, where Moses first viewed the promised land? (You mean all those places in the Bible actually exist? Galilee? River of Jordan? They didn't just make up all those names I learned in Sunday school?)
And you know what? We didn't even see half of what Jordan has to offer! There's some awesome Roman ruins in the north we didn't have time for, and I'd really like to spend some time living in the capital city of Amman - full of twisty hilly streets where everyone stops you just to say, "Welcome to Jordan!", and the most gorgeous otherworldly prayer chanting blasts/echoes through the streets at 5 am every morning.
If you're thinking about going, definitely take a look at this website: Ruth's Jordan Jubilee.
The other side of the story? A few weeks ago, I joined some friends and impulsively bought a plane ticket to visit Jordan. I had a lot of reservations about it. I've been growing away from one-night-stand tourism where I drop into a place, look at all the sights with the other hordes of one-night-stand tourists and then leave again. It's started feeling kind of hollow, especially after seeing what kind of changes rampant tourism can bring to a place. I mean, I suppose it's good for local economies, but at the cost of becoming trashier when they start catering to all those one-night-stands. I've also noticed that I have a ton more fun during travel like D-Lab Zambia, where we don't see any sights but just live and work in communities. It feels more connected. And full. And real.
I've been making quiet promises to give up my wasteful, carbon-spewing, one-night-stand tourist ways, so I nearly passed on this Jordan opportunity. ...but Husam is a native Jordanian, and he was coming too...and we were meeting up with Sheena's friend, S.J., who's been living in Jordan for a few years...and those pictures of Petra just looked so wicked cool...and I wasn't likely to make this trip on my own...
Ha. So, in short, I came up with a list of excuses and justified it to myself. And I'm glad I went. It was kind of like a scouting expedition--Jordan is definitely on my list of places I'd like to live.
Okay, so my no one-night-stand tourism goal isn't working out. But I have a new goal to work towards now: spend more on donations to my favorite groups than I spend on airplane flights in the same year. I'm pretty durned far from reaching this one right now, but it seems to be a better framed goal than STOP TRAVEL. I think it will serve the double purpose of making me think twice before jumping on a plane, and stretching me to give more freely of my money to groups who use it better than I will.
Aaron: "I think Laura and I have the same hair style."
"Yeah, we both go to the same salon."
Aaron: "That's right...the salon of riding on a camel in the desert."