Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fateful Encounters

I've been participating in the couchsurfing project for a while now.  Couchsurfing is an online forum that allows people to host travelers and then be hosted themselves when they travel.  I've met a lot of wonderful people through couchsurfing, including my friend Mosa, who manages a camp in Disi and over the past year has become one of my closest friends in Jordan.  

In early November, I received a couch request from Carmella, who had decided on the spur of the moment to visit Jordan.  One chilly Wednesday after Eid, I waited for her in Aqaba as she crossed two borders from Egypt to Israel to Jordan to get here.  She arrived with two Spaniards from Cairo in tow and we all headed up together with Suleiman, my regular friendly taxi driver, to Wadi Rum.  After dropping off the Spaniards with their guide, we headed out into the desert with my neighbor Salah with the intention of meeting four mysterious ladies who had come to Wadi Rum to camp in the desert.  As it was quite late, they had already disappeared into a desert canyon for the night - so Salah, Carmella and I slept next to the fire in the camp, making funny rhymes and attempting a communal dream.  In the morning, we awoke to discover that Lana, Ban, Fatima and Ruba had emerged from the desert for breakfast, which we happily shared with them.  Very quickly, we became fast friends - chatting excitedly about life, the universe, tradition, community ... everything under the sun.  We discovered that Lana has been reading Carmella's blog for years.  We decided that, with the support of Salah and his family, we would create women's camping experiences in the desert.  We analyzed gender, cultural and spiritual relations and had an amazing time.    Travelers passing through the camp were quite curious about this laughing group of ladies who seemed to be enjoying themselves so much together in a world that is usually populated by men.  After breakfast and a walk to the sand dune, we hopped into Ban's Kia (same car as mine but newer model!) and headed back to the village where we visited Salah's mom and sisters, sharing with them our ideas.   And then in a flurry of good cheer, the five ladies (minus me) disappeared into the horizon for an adventure together in Petra.    

Tasty breakfast!

Alena, Fatima, Ruba, Ban, Lana, Carmella - wow!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

11.11.11 Full Moon Yoga and Breathwork Retreat

Last month, I had the pleasure of welcoming Lisa Sahakian to Wadi Rum for the first time for a yoga and breathwork retreat under the full moon.  The retreat was a fascinating experience for all who attended, allowing us to learn more about ourselves and our world through the practice of kundalini yoga and ecstatic breathwork.  This retreat also served as a rallying point for more events to come in Wadi Rum!  Keep an eye out for a calendar of events to be published soon for 2012!  

After Dinner on 11.11.11
L - R Top: Salah Zawydeh, Lisa Sahakian
L - R Bottom: Alena Bartoli, David Lloyd, Liesbeth Van Der Giessen

Friday, December 2, 2011

Desert Treasure

At the beginning of November, I was waiting at the bus stop on my way to Aqaba when I was approached by Zidan, a friendly, talkative gentleman who works at Disi city hall.

"Lina," he said, "Dr. Edoardo is here. You must meet him!"
"Can you take me to him?," I replied.
"Yes," replied Zidan.

Dr. Edoardo - a Disi legend - is a Czech-German-Italian paleoanthropologist who has spent the past 40 years studying Wadi Rum and published over 300 articles - all in Italian - on his findings.

And so Zidan and I wandered down the main street of Disi to Dr. Edoardo's house on the far edge of the village. As we proceeded, Zidan took great pleasure in telling the people we met that he was taking me to Dr. Edoardo's house to marry him.

"No, no!," I protested, "I'm already married!" To no avail.

We arrived and were met by Dr. Edoardo and one of his colleagues. As it turned out, the only language that we shared was Italian and so I found myself translating from Arabic to English to Italian so that everyone could communicate. As I was in a bit of a rush to get to Aqaba, I agreed to meet the two scholars the following day for lunch.

I returned the next morning and spent a good part of the day (we had pasta for lunch!) learning about the research that Edoardo and his colleagues had done in the area. Dr. Edoardo's house, which is located on land given to him by Sheikh J'lael, the leader responsible for settling the Zawydeh tribe in Disi, is full of knowledge reflecting the history of the area. The walls of the house are covered with photographs, drawings and articles reflecting his work to date - including several representations of the rock inscriptions found throughout Wadi Rum. Most, if not all, of this rock art - inscriptions of figures and symbols in the sandstone - has been documented by Dr. Edoardo. I was fascinated to learn that the rock art in Wadi Rum can be anywhere from a few thousand years to a few decades old, as this art was the primary method of recording history used by the pastoral Bedouins until their settlement in the later part of the 20th century. My conversation with Dr. Edoardo opened my eyes to the speed and amount of change that has occurred in this part of Jordan over the past century.

Of course, I could not leave without a task to complete. As we looked through Dr. Edoardo's books, he informed that someone had inscribed the death of Lawrence (random motorcycle accident or calculated assassination attempt? you be the judge - the artist sure has!) in a cliff out in the desert. He described the place and I told him that I would go to look. And here, the next day, is what we found:

Taking a Tumble?

Vroom!  Vroom!


The Whole Picture