Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wildcard travels–San Diego Bound



Let’s just pretend that it hasn’t been months and months since the last posting. Since then, we’ve been to Cyprus for vacation during the 10 weeks back in Abu Dhabi, and then we came home but soon we went to France – Paris and Strasbourg; Mark went on to spend a couple more weeks in Abu Dhabi while I stayed on for some “alone time” with Paris.


Claire and Lee Wedding 023


Then I went to Alabama, where I met up with my Abu Dhabi besties Donnette and Terry, and then on to Baltimore for my niece’s wedding – where I joined a girl band called the Temptresses with my sister Mary. Mark stayed home and worked on the boat.



South Lake Reunion 018

In July, Mark and I went on a road trip to Nashville and Memphis; we went camping in Montana, Wyoming, and Utah; we went to my 40th high school reunion in Michigan, (where a lot of people said they had read and enjoyed the blog!) and since then we’ve been traipsing back and forth to the San Francisco Bay Area as we finally got Wildcard back in the water.

Jeez, so far this sounds like a Christmas letter …

All of these trips had very blog-worthy moments, (we caught a Paris pickpocket with Mark’s wallet in his hand and ejected him from the train!) but I could not find enough  time to write and maintain the quality that I have come to demand of myself. I have a folder full of barely-started blog posts.

But not writing depresses me. So, I’m going to try something different: not so much editing, not so much scrutiny. Not so many photos. Not so many links. I’m going to try for shorter posts. Because, while I am writing for you, dear imaginary reader, I am also writing for myself – the older me, 35 or 40 years from now, who wants to remember all the cool stuff we did.

Wildcard refit 001So: Wildcard is back in the water!!! We spent a ton of time and money on her, and maybe someday Mark will grace us with a recap of the process. But suffice to say, all her problems are fixed and we have a jewel of a boat. Just as we were paying the final boatyard invoices to paint the bottom and launch the boat, Wildcard’s sister ship in Los Angeles, Celerity, was finishing first in the Transpac Race from San Diego to Hawaii. This was heartening, to say the least.


61766733-2015JazzCup-45We raced our first big race a couple of weeks ago. The Jazz Cup starts off of Treasure Island in SF Bay and finishes 26 miles later at Benicia, in the Carquinez Straits which is the gateway to the Sacramento Delta. We had our old friend and Quantum Sails pro, Jeff Thorpe, on board, along with a crew that was … well, we’re good but we were very rusty and our bowman was rather unfamiliar with our setup. First spinnaker set, the halyard was fouled and we couldn’t get a full hoist. But we recovered and, long story short, we won our division and placed 3rd overall in the 94-boat fleet!


Now, we’re preparing to drive down to San Diego with our OTHER sailboat, the “little” one, the J70 Prime Number that we own with our Aussie partner Peter (who appears in an early blog post when he came to visit us in Abu Dhabi.) When people’s eyebrows go up I say, “It’s not 70 feet, it’s 7.0 meters! About 22 feet.” We’re sailing in the J70 Nationals, and we were the 50th boat to enter the other day. We expect to be racing against some of the very best sailors in the USA, and probably the world. Olympic class guys (I use that term in a non-gender-specific way.) But that’s what we love about sailing – what other sport is there, where you can be out of shape, even drink during beer the competition, and go to awesome parties where you rub elbows with the best of the best?


Prime Number 001


So … stay tuned, because Wildcard – and her little sister, the J70 Prime Number – are back, and we are traveling.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jordan Day 4–Ancient ruins of Jerash

Donnette’s and my last day of our girls’ road trip in Jordan.
The drive from Petra in southern Jordan to Jerash in the north – just north of Amman, Jordan’s capital -  was about four hours on Route 15, also known as the Desert Highway. It was a boring drive compared to the King’s Highway through the mountains from the Dead Sea to Petra, but after our intense day of driving to Petra, and the intense day of sightseeing there, Donnette and I  were ready for a little bit of boring. Further south, if we’d had time to go there, we would have driven through  the amazing desert landscape of Wadi Rum. But, alas,we had to head north.

The decision to go to Jerash, which is Jordan’s second-most popular tourist destination after Petra, was a bit spur-of-the-moment. We were booked at the Marriott in Amman for our last night, and when I looked at the map it seemed that the Syrian border was a bit too close to Jerash for comfort. But this was purely psychological,we felt really safe in Jordan, and we decided that at 48km (30 miles) north of Amman, and the same distance south of the border with Syria, a detour to Jerash was worthwhile. We could tour the Greco-Roman ruins and still be able to get to the hotel in time to check in at a decent hour, and have our cocktails, and  get some dinner.
DSC01532It was a very worthwhile detour. Ancient Gerasa, as it was first called, was founded around 300 BC –although the area had been inhabited since the Bronze Age - by Alexander the Great, or perhaps one of his generals, as a sort of retirement community for soldiers of the Macedonian army – gerasmenos meaning “aged person” in Greek. It was conquered by the Romans in 63 BC, growing and flourishing as a trading center under Roman rule until falling to the Persians in AD 614.

A  major earthquake destroyed most of the city in AD 749, although small settlements in the area remained. Subsequent earthquakes and wars caused further destruction, and the ruins of the ancient city lay buried until the arrival of German Orientalist Ulrich Jasper Seetzen in 1806. Seetzen began excavations, and people returned to Jerash from the surrounding settlements. A  Muslim community, the Cirassians, emigrated to Jerash from the Caucasus in 1878, and more people came from Syria at the beginning of the 20th century.

DSC01539 As Donnette and I got out of the car, we were faced with the question of what to wear, both clothing and feet. It was November, but warm. We were still tired from traipsing through Petra, and I had the idea that, in comparison, this would be a “walk in the park.” I wanted to glide through the ruins in my long skirt and sandals, shaking the stones out like the people who lived there once did. The sandals that I had were really old –  I might have even owned them when I met Mark in 1997. They were flat and comfortable, if lightweight. I’d brought them sort of hoping that I could throw them away at the end of the trip. So I put them on and  grabbed my long-sleeved cardigan because we were, after all, in a conservative, largely Muslim country and it’s always best to have the option of covering one’s arms.


We paid our fee at  the souvenir marketplace at the south entrance, which was filled with merchandise that is now all too familiar to us both …

… and entered the ruined city through Hadrian’s Arch, a relatively late addition built to celebrate the Roman emperor's visit in AD 129-130. Hadrian, whose policy was to defend existing territory rather than conquer more, was named  one of the “Five Good Emperors” by Machiavelli.
The bones of the city are easy to see and interpret,  with well-placed panels giving just the right amount of information and interesting details.

The Hippodrome, or circus, was the stadium for horse racing and chariot racing. Performances called Roman Army and Chariot Experience are offered twice daily. 
Then we strolled the long promenade toward the Forum and the Cardo, a long colonnaded street that was the commercial heart of the city.
All along the way, we saw remains of what used to be workshops and stores …


… including the remains of an olive oil press.

Although it seemed like a pretty quiet day, there were the ubiquitous tour groups gathered in the Forum. We preferred to read the interpretive signs (that cute blonde is Donnette.).
We saw the grooves that the Roman chariots made, still visible in the stone, just to the right of Donnette.
Zeus Temple

We spent about three hours in Jerash, taking photos, soaking up the landscape, and blending into it. It was bigger than we’d anticipated, but we were able to make a pretty complete tour of the walled city which included temples to Zeus and Artemis, theatres, baths, more  temples, and churches. And the mosaics! I love the ancient mosaics.
From where we stood, Jerash seemed like two cities: the ancient city to the west, populated by visitors and ghosts, and the modern city to the east, which has benefitted from the growth of tourism and  the arrival of  waves Syrian immigrants and Palestinian refugees. Although it’s not on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, it seems like it should be, or maybe could be someday if they can meet the  strict criteria and management requirements.
And then, as we wound down, rested, and got ready for the trek back across the city to Hadrian’s arch and the parking lot, as the sun lowered in the sky, the call to prayer rose up out of the in the east. Muslim communities have mosques everywhere – they are supposed to be only a five-minute walk to pray. The same call was reaching our ears from near and far, so that it resonated, reverberated, and resounded upwards from the mosques dotted among whitewashed modern buildings, over the ancient walls and through the columns, bouncing off of the mosaics of the church where we were resting. It was a sound we hear each and every day in the UAE. But here, it was a gorgeous, timeless, and riveting sound. Without speaking, we both knew that we needed to sit, and listen. And reflect.

This was Donnette’s and my fourth day of traveling together, and I had noticed several things. First, we were really bonding. Not that we talked a lot, but we just  … got each other. We had so many things in common – born in Michigan the same year, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember, but was getting spooky … I was kind of feeling like we were soul sisters. If  Donnette and I  were in high school together, we would still be friends. We told each other some stories about our lives, which at our age means there is a lot to choose from. I was thinking, wow, this is really a great girls’ trip, and what an opportunity to get to know Donnette. Maybe we were lucky that we didn’t get on each other’s nerves (at least not that I know of) but the message is, if you get a similar opportunity to travel with someone, take it.
But what I really noticed was that we stayed together. Now, that may seem an obvious thing to do, but it struck me because Mark and I have developed a bad habit of NOT staying together. We wander away from each other; somehow, we have both emerged as the Pack Leader. But then, I find myself spending half my time looking for him (right, girls?) With Donnette and me, that didn’t happen. Why? I think because we were being friends, and it isn’t nice to ditch your friend. And sometimes, married people who have been together for a long time forget these things. Sometimes you just take each other for granted. It’s that simple. When you travel with a friend, especially a new one, you are more considerate.
Trekking back, we noticed some ongoing excavation sites,had a great view of the Forum from the hillside …
… and stopped in at the south theater to hear some Arabic bagpipe music. Bagpipes are believed to have been invented in the Middle East. Not Scotland.
Then we decided to document the day with  a timed-release selfie together. I set up my tripod, dashed over, and  we posed together on the ruins of a wall, while a small group of Jordanian men passing by noticed us.

Oh, dear. One of them came over and insisted on taking our picture for us with my camera. I tried to tell him we didn’t need him, we have a tripod, but he would not be deterred. So we posed for one more, but I figured I needed to cut this short, or we would have trouble shaking the guy off. He then started trying to direct us, so that he could keep taking photos. “One more! Smile!” “No, no, we have to go now!”


I had to run up and literally grab the camera –nicely – away from him, thanking him profusely. Yes, we did notice that the men behaved a bit differently here than in Abu Dhabi. They’re a lot more … friendly.
It was on the final push back through the south entrance to Hadrian’s arch that the old glue gave out and my sandal finally came apart. Yes! Perfect timing. Now I could finally throw them away.

The Marriott in Amman was the nicest of the three, and the busiest, bustling with business suits and military uniforms. We had the benefit of the executive lounge, with its free drinks and snacks, so we headed up there. We got the last free table, but soon a group of four men came in, and Donnette suggested we ask a pair of young women (the only other women in the room, or almost) if we could join them, and free up our table which was greatly appreciated by the group of men. The women were American, and they seemed a little take aback when we joined them, (who are these middle aged mom/grandma types moving in on us?) but we were soon exchanging names and stories. It turned out that they were American, based in Washington DC, and working for the US Citizenship & Immigration Services, interviewing refugees. How interesting! I pictured them going into the refugee tent camps that I’d been thinking I was seeing in the desert, but they said, no, they usually see people in their homes or apartments. Oh. Really.
Then I realized that I had been making a broad and erroneous assumption, visualizing refugees fleeing with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and living in tent camps. This may be true some of the time, maybe a lot of the time, I don’t know; but many refugees have education, skills, and money when they leave. And the tents we saw as we traveled through the country were probably Bedouin camps. It was yet another lesson in how superficial my knowledge of the places we visit is. You cannot really know a place unless you have lived there.
Visiting Jordan has fueled my interest in the this land and its stories, its history: of religions, conquest, and never ending turmoil. It’s a fascinating place.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Leaving Abu Dhabi (again)

“This Abu Dhabi adventure has lasted longer than we expected, hasn’t it?”
I posed this question to Mark yesterday as we were driving from mall to mall doing some errands, and he nodded. There is more of a sense of finality as we prepare to leave this time. But still … the door remains open. Mark will probably be back, maybe an 80% chance. For me, it’s more like 50%. But those are pretty good odds. People are always leaving. Then they come back.
We’ve been here for 10 weeks, living in a small hotel room on the 7th floor of Traders. It’s weird living in a hotel; like living on a boat, kind of. You learn how to keep out of each other’s way. We have a bit of water view  from the balcony, if I lean out. It’s a little place to call home, for a while.

Mark is at work during the day, so I have the room to myself. Except when the housekeeper, usually Sidath, a tiny, charming Sri Lankan man, comes daily to refresh the room.  He is always watching, and he’ll pop in while I’m gone somewhere. When I come back the bed is made, towels and water bottles replenished, and any strewn clothes neatly folded. Including underwear … which I try not to let happen. The second week, he asked if we like animals and when I told him we like elephants, he made an elephant with towels.


This ten-week trip has not turned out as we expected, mainly because Mark worked much longer hours than we anticipated. A project came up, and he’s been working overtime on the base, and even most weekends. We weren’t able to take any day trips. Whenever he’s been off work, he’s been exhausted. Usually, if he wants to go out at all it’s to the mall to look expensive watches …
… or cars.
So I’ve been on my own a lot. People at work have been asking Mark, ”How is your wife doing?” They felt sorry. But the answer is, I’ve been having a great time! The people I met when we lived here before – the ones who are still here, living at the Shangri-La, who haven’t left yet – are great friends. Girlfriends. I haven’t had this many girlfriends since I was in high school!
Whereas I was a bit isolated when we lived in the Al Seef apartment compound, living here at the Traders/Shangi-La complex means I have neighbors that I know, and there is always something to do: golfing, silk painting, coffee at Starbuck’s, canasta at Traders, handbag shopping ... and parties, especially Halloween and Thanksgiving.
It’s a group. The Real Housewives of Shangri La. You don’t have to live there to get in. But you do have to be there, sometimes.
This trip back to Abu Dhabi was, for me, all about realizing how connected I feel to this place, and the people I met here. After three and a half years, since we first became aware of the UAE, it’s grown on us. Changes happen so fast here, it’s like watching a kid grow up. When did that building get so tall? All finished, already? Or, finally?
But it’s the people, mainly for me the huge expat community, that make this place so dynamic.
We’ve been looking forward to going home since the day we got here. Ten weeks is a long time to live in a hotel. But now that we’re down to the last two days, it’s feeling very bittersweet. We’ll be home for Christmas, the family is coming to our house in Nevada, there will be snow – at least up in the mountains – and I’ll be enjoying all the improvements that have been made to the house while we’ve been gone.
But I now know that this connection to Abu Dhabi is permanent. There is blood in my veins, and water … and now, sand.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jordan Day 3 –Petra

After our relatively late arrival the previous day, Donnette and I explored the hotel grounds a bit after breakfast. The views from the Petra Marriott of the rugged Jibal as Sharah mountains are stunning. Even as jaded as I am, having driven through so many amazing mountain ranges, I was impressed, and wished that we could have savored the drive more than we did.
About 9:00 a.m. we drove down the hill, winding our way through the narrow, crowded streets of the town of  Wadi Musa – or “Moses Valley,” so named because it is near the place where Moses struck water from a rock. The Visitor Center and entrance to Petra is in Wadi Musa.
We paid our 50JD (about $70 US) entry fee, which is high, but includes an optional horseback ride – a carriage is another option for those who prefer to ride. As we emerged from the visitor center onto the long path into Petra, we were besieged by horsemen following us, cajoling us to take them up on offers for a ride to the entrance to the Siq: “It’s included in the price!” Being conditioned to distrust, we didn’t believe it until we checked our tickets; it’s true. Of course, there is the obligatory tip at the end – so if you plan to take the ride, be sure you have some small bills.

We were tempted, but finally declined. Donnette’s back was feeling delicate, the mid-morning November weather was sunny but still cool, and we wanted to enjoy the walk. I was reluctant to even take a photo, and only shot from a distance, because it would invite another round of solicitations. Even so, they were like eagles! They would always spot me as I turned to focus on them, and gallop toward us.


After saying “No, thank you, thank you, no,” about four dozen times, we were left to make our way, marveling again at the massive sandstone djinn blocks and caves.

After about 30 minutes of walking, the path seems to end at a rock face. You walk through an opening and suddenly, the walls of the Siq rise up and close in.
The clatter of horses’ hooves and the rumbling of carriages rang off of the walls, and I thought of my silly comment the night before, that the sound effects were too loud. No! It was exactly the same volume.
Everywhere along the Siq were carvings and remnants of the falaj, or aqueduct, eroded over the centuries by powerful flood waters charging through the canyon.
This larger than life-sized camel caravan relief is dated 100-50 BC. The falaj runs below and behind the figure.
Springs, along with flash flood waters captured during torrential rains, were used by the Nabataean people to create an artificial oasis in the sandstone and limestone of Petra. Throughout our travels, I’ve been intrigued by the ancient aqueduct systems we’ve seen, some in ruins and some in remote villages, still in use.

Throughout Petra, Jordan, Nabataean engineers took advantage of every natural spring and every winter downpour to channel water where it was needed. They constructed aqueducts and piping systems that allowed water to flow across mountains, through gorges and into the temples, homes and gardens of Petra’s citizens. Walking through the Siq, one can easily spot the remains of channels that directed water to the city center, as well as durable retention dams that kept powerful flood waters at bay. (Wikipedia)

There is a lot to see along the 30-minute walk through the Siq. Stone steps carved into the rock lead to alcoves or caves.

For over two thousand years, people have been awestruck by their first glimpse of the Treasury as they enter Petra through the Siq. No matter how prepared you think you are, the sight of it will make you catch your breath.
It almost seems that you are not so much emerging from the Siq, as the Treasury is unfolding before you. First a glimpse, then a sliver, and then suddenly there it is – too much to comprehend in one glance, too much to capture in one photo. And it’s not a building, but a fa├žade, ingeniously carved from a massive sandstone face with no added structural support, and just a few small cave-rooms dug out behind it.
DSC01417 Stitch
In the book Married to a Bedouin, which I read just before I moved to the Middle East, Marguerite van Geldermalsen, the only white woman to ever live in Petra, tells the story of how she went traveling as a young woman, struck up a romance with a Bedouin souvenir seller named Mohammed in Petra, married him, and lived with him in a cave from 1978 until 1985, when they were provided with government housing where they raised their three children. That book made me want to go to Petra. Now, three years later, I was finally seeing it.
There’s a lot more to Petra than the Treasury. It’s almost like, if you can forgive the terrible analogy, the Flintstones meet Disneyland. There are lots of souvenir vendors, there are rides – albeit on camel, or donkey, or horse – and there is so much to see. The site is a huge, ancient, multilayered city.
A city of caves and tombs …

… and Roman ruins, complete with Roman soldiers to pose with.

Many people had guides. Local Bedouins, handsome young men colorfully dressed, eyes lined with black kohl (they reminded me of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean) approached us for a donkey or camel ride, or to guide us off the beaten path to see the views from the High Place of Sacrifice.

I was aching to photograph their faces but resisted, thinking that if I did we would never be rid of them. That may be untrue and maybe even unkind, but perhaps I’ve become a bit weary of some aspects of being a tourist with money in my pockets. Everything costs money, and your first offer is never enough. And Donnette’s and my blonde heads stood out a little, even among the tourists; if we even looked at a man with a horse or camel or donkey, he would be following us for a kilometer or more, saying “Excuse me! Excuse me!!!”
Instead, I brought an Approach Guide on my iPad – Temples and Tombs of Petra, by David and Jennifer Raezer, with an overview of Petra and detailed information about the most important sites. I’d read it beforehand and, as Donnette and I progressed along, we read aloud. It was a great way to appreciate our self-guided tour. And again, not to be unkind, but as a seasoned traveler I now know that sometimes guides can be exhausting. They want you to participate when you just want to contemplate, and – now please forgive me – often, I can only understand a fraction of what they are saying, even thoughtthey are speaking English. Why can’t I understand? Because they pronounce vowels differently, they use unfamiliar vocabulary, and they speak very fast.

The two monuments in Petra that are most famous, the Treasury and the Monastery, are quite far from each other. This map below shows all of the places we visited in Petra. The darker color is the high ground, and the light color is the lower dry river bed, or wadi, where the flash floods come through during the rains. Unfortunately there is no scale, but you can gauge walking times by the fact that the walk from the Visitor Center to the Treasury is about one hour. Dotted lines are uphill – the Siq is quite gradual, but from the Museum to the Monastery is 800 quite steep steps. So you can figure it’s three hours in and three hours out, plus stops. We did it in seven hours, and we walked 12 miles.

Well, almost 12 miles. Except for the donkey ride up to the Monastery.
Donnette had hurt her back lifting a golf bag (doh!) ten days before our trip. She didn’t want to be bouncing on a tall horse. But a slow little donkey was a different story, right? And when we arrived at the museum, where the long uphill slog to the Monastery begins, I wondered if she would make it climbing all the way to the top.
At the same time, I realized that the large tour group that was staying at our hotel had arrived at the same time, and their guide was arranging donkeys for everyone. I sidled over to a gentleman and asked, “How much are you paying?” The answer, 10 Jordanian dinar, seemed reasonable.
Then I realized that the tour guide was negotiating with a handsome Bedouin named Mahmood, who had introduced himself to us earlier. I liked Mahmood. I could see that he was mature; he was the leader. I trusted him. I turned to Donnette.
“I think we should do the donkey ride. It’s a long climb up, and then we have to come back down.” It was getting late.We were OK with not seeing the views from the High Place, but we were not going to miss the Monastery. Donnette said, “I’m game.”


So we saddled up – after a fashion – and headed up with the group. It wasn’t long before I realized how well-deserved is the donkey ride’s reputation for being terrifying. The path is part steps, and part slope worn slick by thousands of years of flood water. It winds, it skirts precipices, it’s steep in places, the donkeys slip here, they balk there. All the time the Bedouin guides, many just young boys, hustle them on.

I was carrying my camera, attached to a tripod, around my neck. That, along with the large handbag that kept falling off my shoulder, meant that I could only hold on with one hand. Added to that, the blanket that was functioning as a saddle was slipping sideways. Fortunately, the donkey I was on was not tall. My guide kept telling me to lean forward as the little donkey struggled uphill. It wasn’t easy!

Finally the boy stopped me, and while the others continued on up, he had me dismount while he adjusted and retied the blanket – breaking the flimsy tie not once, but twice. Donnette passed by and said, “You’re not leaving me, are you!?”

She was waiting at the top with her camera ready as we triumphantly arrived. I didn’t find out until later how truly terrified she was during the donkey ride. I’m still not sure if she’s glad that we did it, but I loved it. We did it!

There was a short walk up to the Monastery after the donkey drop-off point – perhaps a poor choice of words – which is lined with souvenir sellers, many of them women. We were drawn in to have tea with a mother and her grown daughter. Afterward, Donnette and I each picked out a bracelet and necklace to buy. Amazingly, we both chose the exact same ones! We’re like soul sisters.

The Monastery – which was given that name by archaeologists even though it has nothing to do with religion – did not disappoint.
It’s massive, and it represents the highest and most refined example of the Nabataean architectural style.

We had a lunch of fresh, cold juice and a bag of chips before making our way back down the 800 steep steps. I was fine being on the donkey on the way up, but I did NOT want to ride back down. Just looking down was too scary!

It was getting late, but we had just enough time to pass by the Royal Tombs, which we had missed on our way in. This row of edifices represents a sort of “workshop” in which the Nabataeans experimented with architectural styles and techniques before eventually creating the masterpiece that is the Monastery.



By the time we reached the end of the long walk back to the visitor’s center, all we could think about was finding a beer. Suddenly we remembered that our friend Terry had told us to be sure and go to the Cave bar. And like magic, there it was! And there we were.

Once our thirst was quenched, we realized we were starving. Passing by the places with the proprietors standing outside waving discount leaflets at us, we arrived at Three Steps restaurant at 6:00 p.m., just as he was opening. Another Abu Dhabi friend who had recently been there had recommended, “Order whatever is the special.” So we did, and it was mensef, the traditional Bedouin wedding dish. We could choose beef or lamb, which was simmered in goat milk yogurt and served over a bed of rice mixed with parsley and covered with shraak, a tissue-thin bread. It was simple, elegant, perfectly delicious. But first, we were served a mezze of three dips with bread. And afterward, tea and a sweet which was a still-warm Arabic pastry stuffed with cheese, which was delivered fresh from the bakery just as we were finishing our main course.
It was a perfect day, perfect weather, and we were perfectly exhausted by the time we got back to our room. Too exhausted to drink the complimentary bottle of wine provided by Marriott.
It’s amazing to realize that Petra was largely forgotten, except among local Bedouins, for centuries until 1812, when it was described by Swiss geographer Johann Burckhardt. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985, and in 2007 became one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Petra siq in 1947 (left) compared with the same location in 2013 (Wikipedia)
We didn’t meet Marguerite van Geldermalsen, but that wasn’t really a goal of mine, although I can’t exactly explain why. I kind of wish I’d met her, but at the time we were so overwhelmed by our day, it just didn’t seem to matter. I saw a large image of the book cover at one of the souvenir places; that must have been her shop. But I guess I was so exhausted I didn’t make the connection.
I was thinking about how impossible it seemed that all of the people selling souvenirs there live outside of Petra, especially the ones up by the Monastery. What a commute! And how do they safeguard their merchandise? I suspected that some of them still live in caves. So I did a little research, and discovered this interesting story about the locals, along with a follow-up on Marguerite:
Life in Petra doesn’t look easy. We were told that the crowds have thinned – perhaps people are avoiding Jordan because of the troubles in Syria. Petra is in the southern part of Jordan, far from Syria, but people think of the entire Middle East as dangerous. So the locals are struggling to make their income. And maybe that’s why we felt so much pressure to ride and buy.
But no matter how many souvenirs or donkey rides they try to sell you, the fact is that Petra occupies unique place in human history, and nothing can overshadow its magnificence. You realize how gifted the Nabataeans were, that they ruled the trade routes and that they were amazing engineers. You appreciate the forces of nature that they tamed and the unique architectural style they developed, blending Greek, Roman, and Arab elements to arrive at their own classic Nabataean style.
Now , without the Nabataeans to maintain it, nature, aided by the impact of hordes of visitors, is reclaiming Petra. I don’t know exactly what is being done currently to mitigate the natural and human-caused erosion. But in the long run there isn’t much we can do to stop water, wind, and the salty airborne sands of time from reconfiguring the land.

Thanks for reading!