The small sand coloured Lizard known as the Sand Dragon scurried along the warming desert. The night had been a cold one and diminished of the energy it needed to consume. Its beady eyes began scanning the rocks and boulders, nooks and crannies. Stephanie surveyed her breakfast with a touch of apprehension.
The hotel served up slightly familiar food but apart from a small pastry and a coffee nothing seemed that appetising. The goat looked up as two small girls approached its pen. They were carrying its favourite desert – grass, and greedily it showed its friends out the way to get first serve. Three days later these three creatures were to meet in the Jordanian desert but the encounters would only prove to be a happy one for just two of them.
The Middle East is much in the news at the moment, and all of it bad. Therefore it is with some satisfaction to report back from the region with some really cool news: THIS PLACE ROCKS!
It was nice to escape the mountains and see something so completely different that it totally shifted my perception of how a cool adventure should work. Climb up, come down was restructured to: enter deep canyon, boulder, jump into blue pools, scramble, traverse desert plains, camp under stars, cook on open fires, find a way through a maze of huge sandstone domes, become Indiana Jones, interact with desert nomads, stand in wonder at the edge of an enormous gorge and finally enter the magical Petra, a place like nowhere else on our planet. Like my team repeatedly said, this is way beyond ordinary!
The highlight however was a human one: to experience life from a Bedouin point of view. Their ancient caravan routes criss-cross the desert and their camps are never fixed in place. Their way of life is to follow age-old grazing lands so their livestock can pick away at the bleak desert offerings until there is rain elsewhere and it’s time to pick up camp again. We followed one of their trade routes and as it had been raining. Many nomad camps dotted the horizon.
The southern part of Jordan still hosts over 50,000 Bedouin leading nomadic lives and like them we walked their route, looked for a place to camp, collected firewood, slaughtered livestock, ate delicious meals with our right hand from the one pot and sat around the fire singing songs and having fun. Our hosts were the real deal and even though they took full advantage of the offerings of the modern world their heart was always in the desert. As true Arabs their first calling was to offer hospitality to travellers and the way they let us into their lives would leave us with a totally different take on this much publicised region.
And what happened to those creatures at the beginning of this story? Well, the goat enjoyed its last meal of desert grass before Stephanie ate it for dinner and the sand dragon’s breakfast was temporarily interrupted as our group surrounded it, scooped it up and held it up in wonder before it leapt back to the desert floor where it made its escape amongst the rocks. Then, as the modern world intruders continued on their way, it resumed its hunt for insects, just like it had always done.