I’ve been busy this semester, and have not been the reliable correspondent I was earlier in my adventures here. Apologies, but as I near the end of my fellowship, I’m trying to cram in as much work — and interesting excursions — as I can as my time in Egypt nears its end.
Here are some photos from last month’s amazing trip to the Wadi Rum in Jordan. This is the landscape where T.E. Lawrence once trod, and where David Lean brought his crew to do the film about Lawrence in 1962. It is a striking environment, with reddish hues waving through the brown sand, striking hills on the horizon and incredible formations, bridges and arches carved out of the desert by wind and time. We hiked into narrow canyons in the rocks where there are ancient petroglyphs. Our guide Zedan says the hands facing down in the primitive carving of the man means he’s happy. It’s an image I tried to emulate.
We camped for two nights in a Bedouin camp with large goat hair tents, and I spent one of them by myself outside, sleeping on a sand dune, looking up into a sea of stars (I know it’s a cliche, but an apt description nonetheless). The crew cooked chicken and vegetables in an oven dug into the desert floor with hot coals and a three-level grill contraption with a lid that they bury with sand. Tasty chicken.
Wadi Rum is also where I took my first camel ride with my friends and travel companions J & K (you can see J’s photo of me on camel back, here. I’ll share video soon.). It’s also where J’s camel tried to kill him… but you can hear that story straight from the, er, horse’s mouth, and get some pointers from a commenter on his blog on potential menswear for the desert. The camel took some getting used to, but you eventually get the hang of it and you know where to put your butt and legs for optimum comfort. We didn’t see much on the ride, but got to listen as the older of the two boys who guided us quizzed the younger with school lessons as they walked in front of the beasts with the leads in their hands. They stopped at a spring to water the animals (and for one to take the opportunity to try and scrape J off his back). As we neared the camp, we saw other camels standing in the desert, grazing on the occasional vegetation. The females were apparently in heat and the herders had put on some kind of chastity chaps — a leather apron over their backsides with a hole for their tales — to keep the males from, um, accomplishing anything. But the boys got nervous when the males saw the females, so they suggested we get off the camels and walk the 100 yards to the camp. Male camels in rut are known to be aggressive and umpredictable. Not unlike males of another species I’m familiar with.