I met up with Mahmoud and together we drove to my open air hotel for the following days. The rest of the afternoon I just enjoyed the situation, the scenery, showed Sarah how to operate the camera and played around with the kids in between uncountable cups of sweet tea. Men would just come along and have a cup of tea, updating everyone on the life in the valley. Fatma, Mahmoud’s youngest sister, was a stunning beauty. And although she was constantly running around serving everyone, she was part of the entire scene. It soon became clear that most of the young men dropping by didn’t really bother about the tea, but came for her. And she bloody well realized that, laughing, flirting and driving all the boys mad. Or maybe it was just my imagination, because I learned that she would have her engagement party the next week. I wondered if that was the reason why she refused to be in any picture and would not let me photograph her. It struck me that, although the women would still serve the men and do all the ‘household’ work, they somehow were an equal part in conversations and would joke and laugh with the men. It was totally different from other Muslim/Arab family situation I had been in, it was refreshing.
After dinner Mahmoud and his family went home. Fatma gave me a mat and some blankets and pointed me a good spot on the rocky outcrop to sleep. Fifteen minutes later everyone was asleep under the open sky.
After a simple breakfast of bread and eggs in fresh goat milk, freshly Laban (Arab yoghurt drink), hummus and flat bread, I set off wet Sael to Petra. He would take me through the mountains to the Monastery. He was a donkey guide in Petra, knowing the entire area inside out. We hiked through the plain, scrambled up and down mountains, slipped through narrow valleys (siqs) to emerge two hours later at the impressive Monastery. It is huge. It is beautiful. It is very hard to grasp. The same can be said about the rest of this ancient cosmopolitan city, showing a multitude of ancient architectural influences. Visiting Petra is a very personal experience, making it very hard to describe it. The entire site is immense and you can probable spend a lifetime exploring it. I scrambled one of the surrounding mountains and overlooked the central city centre, trying to imagine 30,000 people living here in its heydays. I thought of a quote by a certain Edward Lear:” Petra must remain a wonder which can only be understood by visiting the place itself and memory is the only mirror in which its whole resemblance can faithfully live.” He was/is right; to understand this place you have to see it, there is no point in me trying to inadequately describing Petra.
Early afternoon Sael and I reached his’ parents tent, after a hardcore donkey ride through a narrow and steep Wadi. I drove to town and had some of the pictures printed, as a gift for Mahmoud and his parents. The rest of the afternoon I just spent watching the clouds go by, showing pictures to Sael and Fatma (“you are traveling too much”, she said) and of course drinking tea. They were really happy with the pictures, and after admiring them, Fatma guided me to a small rock, pointed to my camera and said in perfect English: “You can take one picture of me.”