The Smiling Faces of Wadi Rum

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The Smiling Faces of Wadi Rum

It was an adventure day. Having just descended over 9000 feet in a hot air balloon to set foot back on solid ground, I was ready for more. It wasn’t long until I was loaded into a big SUV and driven off in the direction of Wadi Rum village, the entrance into the Wadi Rum desert, the battlefield of T.S. Lawrence.

As we pulled in to the village, dotted with the shells of homes, kids came running from every direction. I hopped out of the truck and went to a local shop to get some falafel. On my way, I ran into this foursome of smiling bubbly little girls. It didn’t take long to make friends and eventually the gatekeepers let me pass.

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Downtown Petra

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Downtown Petra

Jordan’s ancient city of Petra is jaw-dropping. Most of us are familiar with photos of the two most famous buildings, the Treasury and Monastery. However, beyond the glitz and the glam, lies a whole city. Ancient temples, tombs, banks and homes are spread throughout the UNESCO world heritage site. Each building was hand carved from the top down by stone smiths using hammer and chisel, while dangling from a rope. It truly is a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of mankind.

Run. Run Away, And Never Return.

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Run. Run Away, And Never Return.

I climbed out of an old 4X4 in the Jordanian desert to get a look around. I was surrounded by towering rock-faces, jutting out of the golden-red sands made famous in Lawrence of Arabia. The barren rocky landscape was flecked by one lone tree, clinging to life.

To The Treasury

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To The Treasury

As I walked through the long winding canyon into the heart of the ancient city of Petra, I couldn’t help but whistle the theme song from Indiana Jones. I couldn’t contain my excitement, walking in the footsteps of one of my childhood heroes. Thankfully, other explorers shared my love of all things Indy and joined in. As I turned the last corner and a sliver of the famed Treasury building poked through a crack in the canyon, the whistling air escaped my lungs. Speechless and awestruck, I stared in silence.

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Salty Sea

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Salty Sea

I made the mistake of letting water get on my lips while swimming in the Dead Sea. The ensuing sting reminded me of just how salty this water really is. It is almost 10 times as salty as the oceans, so it is little wonder it is called the Dead Sea. You would be hard pressed to find an organism that could survive in this environment.

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The Dead Sea has a white contour that runs around the entire sea. Over time, the salt settles and deposits build up along the shore.

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As I floated in Jordan, I looked across the expanse of water to the far shore to see Israel. In the setting sunlight, it looked peaceful and beautiful and not at all like the most contentious country in the Middle East.

Meet Ayman

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Meet Ayman

At 8 years old, Ayman works as a donkey guide, bringing tourists from around the world up the steep steps of Petra to visit ancient hand carved stone buildings. We begin to chat and he tells me that he has been working for 4 years as a guide and lives in the hills around Petra. As we talk, half in English and half in Arabic, I notice his bleeding gums and rotting teeth, which look quite painful. We sit looking out over Petra for awhile and then he seems to decide I won’t be joining him for a ride. He slaps his donkey with his little stick and they start off in search of another potential customer.

Yo Ho Ho And A Photo Of Wadi Rum

Jesse Sharratt

Yo Ho Ho And A Photo Of Wadi Rum

The kingdom of Jordan has been in the news a lot lately for it’s role in the humanitarian crisis coming from Syria. Jordan is a relatively small country with a population of 6 million yet is currently sheltering almost a million refugees and asylum-seekers. This has been heavily taxing on the Jordanian economy but the people have responded to the needs of the Syrian people.

When I was there, I drove through the Wadi Rum desert where T.E. Lawrence had fought during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule. It is a beautiful country with incredibly kind and hospitable people.

To help the over 2 million Syrian refugees across the Middle East, donate here.

https://donate.unrefugees.org/site/c.lfIQKSOwFqG/b.8015219/k.3AD/Help_Syrian_Refugees_Survive_Donate_Now/apps/ka/sd/donorcustom.asp?kntaw36705=A337B835CD1D40C4B43EF4C7AA07956F

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A Cold Morning, Sleeping Policemen, And A Balloon

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Waking up anywhere cold is hard. When you wake up and see your breath as steam, it is usually not a good sign. It was that kind of morning my girlfriend and I woke up to on December 30th in Jordan. We were on our last full day in Jordan for our winter break and would be heading off to Beirut for New Year’s celebrations. Despite the frigid temperatures, we had high hopes for the day.

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Now, adding to this morning chill, was the fact that it was 5:40am. We made our way downstairs in the small guest house we were staying in. The thoughtful staff had laid out a breakfast of falafel, eggs, pita and Nescafe. We ate and went outside to wait for a driver to pick us up. He arrived late. Very late.

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We were headed to Wadi Rum to float over the famed desert landscape in a hot air balloon. To get us there on time, our driver drove at breakneck speeds down the King’s Highway. In Jordan, most service cars have an alarm that rings if the driver goes over 120km/h. We went from speeding to squealing as we went over the numerous speed bumps. Our driver looked at me and with a grin said “You see these bumps? In Jordan, we call them sleeping policemen.” So for the better part of an hour we listened to the chime of the speeding alarm and squealed over sleeping policemen.

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We finally arrived in Wadi Rum (and on time) and joined a couple from Austria while we waited for our balloon to be inflated. The crew busied themselves with preparations and began to inflate the balloon. Huge flames roared while fans blew in the hot air and soon it began to rise.

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Once the balloon was hovering above the basket, we climbed in. Within seconds we were off, soaring into the morning sky. As we lifted off above the ground, the great jutting mountains of Wadi Rum grew smaller and smaller. We looked in every direction, stunned by the beauty of sunrise over the Martian landscape. Between photos, I held my hands to the flames to keep them warm. Unfortunately, it was not to be for my feet, they were frozen blocks inside my shoes at 9,000 feet.

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After an hour and a half in the sky, we began our descent. The crew who’d helped prepare the balloon were trailing below us in a truck, towing a trailer. Our captain landed the hot air balloon right on top of the trailer, we jumped out and the trip was over.

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Yo Ho Ho And A Photo Of Wadi Rum

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Yo Ho Ho And A Photo Of Wadi Rum

The kingdom of Jordan has been in the news a lot lately for it’s role in the humanitarian crisis coming from Syria. Jordan is a relatively small country with a population of 6 million yet is currently sheltering almost a million refugees and asylum-seekers. This has been heavily taxing on the Jordanian economy but the people have responded to the needs of the Syrian people.

When I was there, I drove through the Wadi Rum desert where T.E. Lawrence had fought during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule. It is a beautiful country with incredibly kind and hospitable people.

To help the over 2 million Syrian refugees across the Middle East, donate here.

https://donate.unrefugees.org/site/c.lfIQKSOwFqG/b.8015219/k.3AD/Help_Syrian_Refugees_Survive_Donate_Now/apps/ka/sd/donorcustom.asp?kntaw36705=A337B835CD1D40C4B43EF4C7AA07956F

A Donkey and His Guide

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A Donkey and His Guide

Trekking to the Monastery in the ancient city of Petra, you are passed by people riding on donkeys. Many of the tourists opt to take the ride with a local guide to the top of the mountain. On my way back down, when a ride was most tempting, I looked over to see a man relaxing with his donkey. The relationship between a working animal and its master is one as old as time, even older than the ancient city of Petra. We’re all in the throes of history, even when we’re not exploring its physical relics.