//Into the Dana Preserve
Mohammad

Into the Dana Preserve

After the morning’s excitement with the police and some falafel, I took off south. Once I got on the correct road, I immediately was invited to lunch again. Something I have a firm belief in when I travel is to say “Yes” to whatever I can. It’s almost a spiritual choice—to not turn down any offer of connection if I can at all help it. So I said yes and spent the afternoon with another nice family.

This family was far more Western than most of the families I’d come across so far—every room had beds (rather than cushions on the floor) and the kitchen was quite nice. The teenage girls both spoke a degree of English (a bit more than I did Arabic) and their room was quite sweet (and Western).

(By the way, everyone’s got smart phones here and 99% of those with smart phones have Facebook.)

In just about every household there’s a young teen boy who really pays attention and is often one of the best communicators with me. As much as the two daughters spoke a bit of English and it was fun communicating with them, the boy pictured below was one of those super sensitive, aware teens I kept running into.

smart-Teflia-teen-web

After eating duwalis with them (stuffed grape leaves which I’d gotten to help prepare), I made my way south again. This time I got picked up by a guy in the tourism industry; he tried to convince me to go to a hostel in the Dana Preserve for a bargain price. I considered it, as I wasn’t broke and could earn money if I wanted to, but in the end I stayed true to form and said sleeping outside would be just fine. He then dropped me off at this construction project that had a fantastic view over the Dana Preserve. Apparently his brother owned both the hostel and this new construction and Talib told me, if anyone asks me, just tell them he gave me permission. Meshi.

The view was spectacular and my wish had been to find a nice chill place to relax and sleep in, as I really hadn’t had much sleep in the last few days. And I needed some alone time—so I was really looking forward to a beautiful place to sleep. This one wasn’t exactly ideal, as it was right off the road and there were two shepherds there who knew what I was doing (I’d briefly confided in them as they’d seen me and were apparently friends of Talib’s family).

Confiding in them turned out to be a mistake, however (which is funny, because it’s something I never do). While waiting for them to leave, I ate my dinner and took some photos, not wanting them to see where I’d be sleeping. Finally one loaded the sheep up into the truck and took off—the other stayed behind. In fact, I thought they’d both gone until I heard one of them on the phone not too far away. Afterwards, I asked him what he was doing and he said he was getting food for the sheep. This seemed a bit strange, as the truck had already gone. It started getting dark and since where I was sleeping was going to need a fair amount of prep, I got started. Within moments the shepherd came to sit next to me, starting up a conversation. I found this decidedly uncomfortable—I don’t like anyone near my sleep spaces and I couldn’t figure out why he was still here. The next thing I know is the tourism police show up.

I mean, really! Twice in one day I get the police called on me! They forbade me from sleeping there (even though I had permission!) and told me I had to go sleep in a hotel down in the Dana Preserve. This pissed me off! If there’s any way to stimulate my stubbornness it’s to try to force me to do something I have no intention of doing. And honestly, I really need to work more on my lying—when they asked me where I was sleeping I should have just told them I was up there just to take photos and I was later going to a hostel. Instead, I argued with them (because I had permission). Really, sometimes I can be an idiot.

It didn’t take long for me to concede to them and told them I was walking on to get more photos and then would go off to a hotel.

“Why don’t you want a ride?”

“Because I want to take more photos and I’m losing the light. Can I have my passport back now? I want to go.” (It was true that I was losing the light and the view was spectacular.)

“Can’t you wait a few more minutes?”

“No, I’m losing the light. Why do you need it?”

“Just a few more minutes…”

“Really—look at the light. I need to go now.”

“Ok. Give her her passport back.”

I took off walking. The shepherd got into the truck with them (it figures!) and they took off. It turns out that the police station was right at the entrance to the turn off to the preserve—I couldn’t help but think they were waiting to see me walk past. (I was still a bit skittish from the morning’s events.) So I took a few more photos, waited until dark, and then went to see if I could find a new place to sleep.

The Dana Nature preserve
The view from near where I was going to sleep.

No go. The farther I walked, the more city/town there was. When I tried to go around it I ran into dogs protecting property. (Please keep in mind that I’m fully loaded here with a large rucksack on my back and a full, smaller backpack on my front—hiking is hard in the dark.) I tried at least 3 different routes, all to no avail. (This took at least an hour and it was getting super late.) Eventually I gave in and decided to walk into the place I’d been stubbornly avoiding the entire afternoon and evening—the Dana preserve. I hate tourist destinations and the fact that people were trying to corral me into it didn’t help.

Luckily the police station seemed pretty closed down for the night and it was so late there wasn’t much traffic. One tourism guy stopped and tried to “help” me, but I managed to shine him off. Just past a cemetery I found a dirt road heading down and immediately took it. To my delight, it led straight down into a forest—the first actual forest I’d been in since I’d entered Jordan. It was a tree farm, of course, and fairly recently planted, but the earth was flat in between the trees and pine needles covered the ground. It was honestly the best place by far I’d had to sleep in the country. It’s funny how I’d asked for what I got, yet kept trying to go every other direction than in the one that would give me what I was looking for. In the end, the only open door was the one to which I was wanting to go…stubborn Teryani!

I had a delicious, languorous morning sleeping in and enjoying the land. Finally it became to leave—I hoped getting out would be as easy as getting in. It was definitely a climb out, but I my main concern was the cops—I was still on edge from the previous day’s encounters. I was hoping the intersection would be empty and it would be a simple matter of merely sauntering by the police station with no worries. Ha! I rounded a corner and saw something like 50 cars where the dirt road met the main one into Dana. The intersection was fully blocked—not only by about a hundred men but also by a large police vehicle parked right where the tow roads meet. There was nothing for it but to keep going.

When I got close enough to ask someone what was going on, he told me it was a funeral. “Whew!” I thought—“Maybe I can still get through.” I asked another guy how I could most respectfully go around (there wasn’t a clear path through the throng) and he sent a little boy to guide me. There were no women there, so I was relieved to have the help—the last thing I wanted to do was bring even more attention to myself by transgressing on a ceremony. I found out later that the funeral was for a soldier who had committed suicide. Almost the entire village turned out for his funeral (men only).

In the end, the police merely looked at me and put their attention back to the funeral and I managed to walk out to the town of Al-Qadisiyya without incident.

And sure enough, just a little bit of walking led me into a friendly old man who invited me to sit down and talk with him.

Mohammud
Mohammad

It turned into a bit of an event as a number of youths and children also gathered around me, asking questions, etc. (This happens often, actually.) I ate a bit of bread and cheese, hung out with them for a while (it was the heat of the day), and then walked on maybe a kilometer before getting invited into the next house by a woman getting off the bus. This was a fun house, and like in the north, I slept over night in the family room (which had couches, not cushions). Near sunset I went with the children to take photos, and though the view was nice, it was a bit too murky for good photos, so I took one of this shepherd instead:

sheep-in-al-qadissiya-web

They, like many families, had a hard time with me going out walking alone. I still managed a walk or two anyway. The next morning, as I was leaving, they actually made me stay to eat breakfast. This was a first (and much appreciated, though I wasn’t hungry). My past hosts had been really together in the evening, but always in a rush in the morning. Breakfast was usually just a cup of tea.

I took off south again and got picked up by these two laughing Buddha characters. They were hilarious, took me by the ruins of the town they were going to, and bought me a juice. The older one said he was looking for another wife as the one he currently had was old and fat—he, like all Jordanians who’d mentioned this to me, was looking for an “American” wife. (Muslims can have up to four wives, though very few ever go above two—it’s quite expensive.) This guy was over 60. I, of course, graciously declined.

laughing-buddhas-Shebak-web
These two, like Mohammad in the photo above, had asked for their photo to be taken.

They dropped me off in As-Shubak and from there I made my way with an engineer to the city of Wadi Musa, which opens on the gates of Petra.