After arriving in the city of Aqaba we met our couch surfing hosts Iskander and Raz who took us out and around the seaside for a stroll alongside of the beach resorts and restaurants. All around us were expensive and ornate hotels that were swimming with local tourists who waded in the large pools in the moonlight and watched the belly dancers performing on the terraces. I remember saying this was not what I pictured Jordan to be like.
“How did you picture it?”
I pictured Jordan, and particularly Aqaba, to me more align to the Arabic cities I had visited in Israel and Egypt – more chaos, less touristic and stylized, and much less developed. Asaf reminded me the importance of showcasing wealth in the Middle East – that Jordanians valued being treated as kings. The next morning as we strode away from the chic part of town and into the unfashionable outskirts I began to feel more of what I thought our experience in Jordan would be like.
Treading into the local parts of the city I began to be cat called by the men in the storefronts, the taxis pulled up close calling ‘my friend, where are you going, I can help!” the self employed bus drivers offered us rides to Amman, Petra, and to where we were headed – Wadi Ram. Before climbing aboard our bus we found a small hummus and falafel place filled with local people, and outside a small line was forming. We knew we had hit the jackpot and entered inside for a warm and fresh breakfast.
We arrived to the touristic centre of Wadi Rum and had to argue a price for a jeep ride into the centre of the desert where the Bedouin camps sat below the mountains. Once we arrived we were acknowledged by the local tenant who our driver called Crazy Man. He walked quickly from the bathroom and into the main tent wearing just a pair of boxers and an old white tank top – so far from the typical white Jordanian dress worn by the rural Bedouin and Palestinian communities who occupy this area. He waved his hand and gave loud grunts before shouting to our driving in Arabic.
We learned that millions of years ago this desert used to be underwater. The red mountains that now jut out and intersperse the sand with great beauty used to be cliffs bearing land. We climbed the mountains easily and once we were atop of the highest point the entire desert came shockingly in view – its vastness, colour, depth, and stillness bringing a resonating peace. With the waxing moon just a sliver overhead soon the desert would cool to lower temperatures and bring a darkness alight with thousands of stars.
We climbed down as the night started settling and saw in the distance two approaching jeeps. From the vehicles arrived three young Spanish men and an older couple from Italy. We spent the evening around the fire in the tent, eating dinner, and playing music. Crazy man played and sang traditional songs on the Ud, a typical arabic instrument, and I played a few American and Canadian folk songs on my guitar.
What I liked about our journey here was the uniqueness of the land. Never had I been to a place so barren but beautiful. Without any distractions the desolate landscape forced you to be in the present and appreciate the beauty of what is. In the early morning I took a cool walk across the red sand and again climbed a mountain for a view of the rising sun. All was quiet. All was calm.
Being in Jordan was hard for me as a woman. Like many Islamic cultures the Arabic woman are rarely seen – coming out into the world only when they are completely covered from head to toe. I have always found that in these places women are so far oppressed that the dominant male energy is something so palpable it fills the atmosphere entirely. As a result, I found myself being disrespected, undervalued, and treated as a touchable object. I felt Jordan was hard for Asaf as well because we both felt I had to be under his careful watch to feel protected – nothing about that making us feel free.
What is unfortunate is how such a beautiful place can become tainted through the way you are treated. As beautiful and stunning as this place was my desire to return back into the country whose people watched me with such uncomfortable eyes slowly diminished. If I hid myself under typical Jordanian attire maybe things would have been different, but the atmosphere would have still been the same. The adherence to these old attitudes that keep woman veiled from the truth desperately need to change.
It worries me also how the women here live and what they feel about themselves. I have always connected deeply to my female spirit and in turn to the female energy of my sisters. It pains me to know that there are places in the world where woman are so widely undervalued, where they feel they can not be heard, and where they fall into a sense of failing hope.
I hope that the female energy of the planet begins to rise as we as sisters, and lovers of these women, stand up removing our veils and embrace the wisdom and power of women. After leaving Jordan safely, saying my goodbyes and packing up in Israel, I sit in Istanbul after just completing my Doula training course and began to wonder where my insight and teachings will take me – can I help to bring these energies back into balance?
I believe a change will happen soon because of the earths power for balance – the female energy is rising. My efforts will start from the moment new life is brought into this world – safely, comforted, and securely able to grasp the innate lightness of what it means live. It is my aspiration to transform birth into an experience that is alive with consciousness. I feel that this consciousness will seep into the awareness of our children, allow them to feel whole, and enable them to feel worthy of respectful love.
Jordan, I thank you for your quiet and serene beauty that reminds us how we can connect and feel the beauty of even the most remote and desolate places. As humans we have the ability to live and flourish even in the driest places of the world. If we can use this understanding as a form of strength and empowerment we can began to crawl out of the darkness that still outlines our civilizations.
For me what Wadi Rum symbolized was change – even sea can turn to dust. If nature can move with such great power so can our believes and collective thoughts – so can our hearts.