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A long sandy walk in Petra

Have you ever walked in a desert before? Walking in the desert is a very tiring and thirsty experience, and even more if you were like me at that time – 7 months pregnant.

You may be wondering, what was I doing, waddling around like a penguin in a desert, at 7 months pregnant?

On my last ever article on my blogspot last year, I mentioned I was flying off to Amman, Jordan. I never got around to writing about my experience then. And so I write about it now in my all new and improved site SanaSiniSitu.com

I got to thinking about this trip when I was writing a speech for Toastmasters.

This desert that I am referring to in particular was in the lost city of Petra, and houses one of the most iconic of all monuments in Jordan. This building is the Treasury building, which was featured in an Indiana Jones movie.

Recognise this? This is the Treasury building in Petra
Recognise this? This is the Treasury building in Petra

I was in Amman, Jordan to attend the 2015 Mosaic International Leadership Programme Summit as a Group Leader for 2 weeks. Previously, I was a delegate for the 2013 programme summit, when it was held in London.

The programme organizers had arranged this trip, as they felt it would be a lovely visit for everyone, as it is “an experience you cannot miss”.  And indeed, since it was my first and only experience in the Middle East, I wanted to see as much as possible. And beyond the confines of the hotel we were staying at.

Map of Petra

The map above barely justifies the actually amount of travelling that you need to do to cover the area.

To even reach the famed Treasury building, one of the monuments closest to the entrance, you would have to first reach the entrance of the Siq, a mile-long narrow gorge that leads into the city of Petra. The distance between the visitors centre and the start of the Siq itself is about half a mile (or 800 meters).

The “good” news is, you have three choices to get up to the Siq. Either you go on a donkey or horseback, or take a ride on a horse driven cart.

The third option is the cheapest of all choices, which we chose.

We walked.

For a normal person of average fitness the walk might take you about  15-20 minutes to reach the Siq, which you would walk through for another 15 minutes to get to this iconic building. Hardly exciting thoughts for women with a 7 month old belly.

For someone of my condition though, it was not advisable to take the horse either, as the ride would be too rough.

But we did. For all of 5 minutes. At least it felt that way.

And the price was frankly, unreasonable. We probably spent about RM100 for the 2 horses to carry both of us for that very very very short trip.

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Going by horseback… the first few minutes

For the remainder of the trip, we walked, because of 1) my condition and 2) because Petra wasn’t cheap and we didn’t actually have a lot of cash to spare for frivolities.

A bit difficult, since Bedouin children are quite the entrepreneurs, we found out. One little girl offered to show us how to tie our keffiyeh, the red and white Arab headscarf, and demanded a  “gift”. Others demanded for us to take their postcards as a gift.

I guess that is one way they make a livelihood for themselves.

A Bedouin girl helps Robert to tie his keffiyeh properly
A Bedouin girl helps Robert to tie his keffiyeh properly

Being the optimistic person that I am, and also because the possibly of ever visiting Petra again is very remote, we decided to walk as far as we could for the first 2 hours and make our way back slowly and enjoy the sites more as we pass them on the way back.

We even made it halfway up the hill to the Monastery, as we were told that we can see the entire lost city from the top. It was a good thing we didn’t continue, because after listening to our friends, they said it was quite a distance away and steep. They were amazed anyway, that I made it that far, being pregnant and everything.

In spite of not being able to see everything, we still saw a lot. We saw crumbling buildings that have been carved into the side of the rocks. We saw smaller holes in the rocks which were the size of rooms. There were tall pillars and pavements and bridges. But no water. Buildings that may use to have a proper walkway with access to them that didn’t require climbing. There were big sand colored crumbling buildings, like a hall. Or an open air arena with lots of seats circling the stage.

We imagined how life could have been back then, as a bustling metropolis. And what could have caused for civilization to abandon this city. Water resources that ran dry perhaps. Or an earthquake.

Getting to as far as we wanted to go into the site was only half the battle. Coming back to get the bus was the other half of the battle, and far more excruciating.

I would have loved a ride back, but couldn’t. So I had to endure the whole shuffling and waddling back to the bus, my back killing me from the undetacheable weight of my belly. And I got grumpier and grumpier by the minute.

It made it worse that every few minutes, nay seconds! Someone would ride over with their camel, donkey or horse and asked if we wanted to ride back for 40JD. That is about RM200. After the 6th or so offers, I was struggling to stop myself from screaming at them to go away.

Indeed it was a lesson in patience.

Trying to climb up the rock
Trying to climb up the rock
Some sites at Petra
Some sites at Petra

The sand was finer than I have ever encountered. It slipped through the cracks of the soles in my beloved Nikes, that the rubber sole came off. My shoes are still in a plastic bag today, colored red from the sand.

We’d stop every few minutes to allow me some rest. I think the worst of all was… That people couldn’t tell that I was pregnant! I think I probably just looked like a very fat woman, who was huffing and puffing away from lack of exercise.

I mean, when I was checking in my flight from KLIA, the lady didn’t even ask for my letter from the doctor. She just smiled when handing my ticket and said “have a nice flight, Miss!”

She said Miss!!!

So as I was on this excruciating sandy walk, sloping upwards in some places, we took a seat on a long bench to rest near a small hut. My face was all red and sweaty. There were a few men who were also sitting there, and I can’t remember the conversation that followed. But he remarked to my other half, Robert, “she’s a bit fat isn’t she?”

I was speechless and just squinted my eyes to show my rage at him. Robert told him that I was in fact pregnant and then the guy offered me a drink of water which I declined and went on my way.

To cut a long story short, we made it back to the bus in good time. And a cold can of cola never tasted so good. Well it should, at 1JD or rather RM5 each. And my friends said it was inspiring for them that someone as pregnant as me could still do all these things.

I am just happy to still be alive to tell the tale

Looking back now, as tiring and excruciating as it was to walk down the long, hilly and sandy place, it was an unforgettable experience to visit a place that you would normally only read about. Or see in the movies.

Echoing the thoughts of Mark Twain, he said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

One thought on “A long sandy walk in Petra”

  1. Very nice sharing you have there! Got to love those humor! Love it! I always wanted to go there but I missed on my supposed trip to Jordan this year. Keep it up =)

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