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A Thousand Footsteps to Petra

JORDAN | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [261] | Scholarship Entry

The scent of dust rises from the ground like a memory of the thousand footsteps we’ve walked to get here. A narrow pathway through black and red mountains overlooks Israel in the distance. But our path disappears around the bend like a mirage, allowing me to fantasize about the end of the trek. It’s a day I know I won’t soon forget. The ancient city of Petra waits for us at its end.

“We’ll stop here for rest!” Abraham, our main guide, directs us.

Mohammad, our other guide for this portion of the trip, heads towards some shelter from the relentless sun.

“Shukran,” he shakes the hand of a Bedouin man already waiting there.

This land is Mohammad’s home. He knows many of the Bedouins who also call it home. Together, they share an ancestry that goes back as far as the time of the Nabataeans.

So it’s quite natural that Mohammad already knows the man standing patiently while a small fire flickers below him, sending black smoke and the tantalizing scent of sage, cardamom, cinnamon, and sugar into the air. They share a conversation before Mohammad’s neighbour serves us some Bedouin tea.

He waits at this exact spot every day for someone, anyone, to come buy a cup of tea. Our group has been wandering this backcountry pass for hours. We’ve only heard traces of life through the distant drilling for metals near Israel's mountainous border. Does he get lonely waiting here alone for this long?

A heard of goats eventually advance from the side of a cliff, boldly approaching us as we sip our drinks. The old Bedouin adjusts the red checkered keffiyeh on his head and begins marching towards them. His hands wave in the universally understood gesture for “get lost!” and the goats start to scatter apart. He thinks they’re disturbing us (and maybe even scaring us a little) as they push us into the mountain wall, baaing wickedly, knowing there’s nowhere else for us to go. But it doesn’t take long until they’re stampeding down the cliff once again.

“How much for the tea?” I ask after the goats are gone.

“One dinar.”

Besides hearing the word "WELCOME" all the time, the phrase "one dinar" has been heard almost as much in this beautiful country. Many things seem to be a dinar – from taxi rides to these cups of tea I've had. Strangely, hearing one dinar said in this remote place gives me the spark I need to start our remaining trek to Petra.

Tea pots clang behind us as we raise a new trail of dust beneath our moving feet, almost as if we’re saying: “We were here”.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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