Sacred sisterhood – Aqaba, Jordan

We arrived into Aqaba and searched around for a place to camp. The ladies really want to “rough” it this week but because things were much busier than anticipated, we ended up at Ban’s family house. We spent the night in luxury at the resort condo right next to the beach. Just across the water I could see Egypt and Israel…so strange to know the turbulence between them first hand.

We decided against cooking in favor of picking up some food to go. Ruba, Ban and I opted for fish while the other two searched out some chicken. they also found the sweet noodly syrupy dessert they had raved about earlier. I was chuffed to try it.

We ate up our supper in relative silence and I realized that throughout the time I spent with my new friends, we had never had music or much sound at all. I can most certainly confirm this contributed to the sense of serenity I felt over the past few days. Gratuitous noise really wears on me and most people don’t understand. I am super sensitive and tend to get drained when I don’t make quiet time a serious priority. I was so grateful for the powerful gentle strength I felt with them.

I had expressed my desire to try wearing a headcovering, not for religious reasons but out of curiosity. Not only did it look comfy, it was also much more elegant than the black U of A toque that has been keeping my head warm for the past few weeks. Ruba and Ban gifted me with a scarf and taught me how to wrap it. I felt a bit silly because I couldn’t seem to get it right but after a few tries, it was satisfied. I felt different and looked different in a way I can’t explain other than that I felt protected.

After we finished up our meals then made our way down to the beach. The moon was beaming down on us proudly as we all tried to agree on just the right place to nestle into the sand. We ended up quite close to the water equal distance between two long docks. Even tho it was dark, the moon lit up our faces and I was able to take in even the most subtle features of these fair women.

We shared the delicious dessert and all prayed in our own way. I gave a little speech to my newfound sisters and tried to convey how significant this meeting was for me. I gave them each a bookmark and kept one for myself, to remind us all of this meaningful trip.

I got pretty tired after that and crashed hard. We had breakfast in the morning but I wasn’t really present. I found out that the fast ferry was cancelled and I would have to navigate the exhausting overland trip back to Egypt through Israel. Recognizing I was on a time crunch now, the girls offered to drive me to the border with solemn faces I didn’t really understand. It didn’t occur to me until we were minutes away that this was a big deal for them. For a couple of them, this was the closest they had ever come to this very controversial spot in their life. I felt the emotion choking up my friends as we drew closer to the gate of the border and I began to regret having agreed to let them take me there.

We took some photos and said tearful goodbyes before I hurried off to catch up with Lee. He had waited until our meeting time which I honored but since he didn’t recognize me with the headcovering, he started off without me. As I began going through the protocol to leave Jordan and enter Israel, I felt a tug at my heart. I knew I would see these woman again but some part of me had changed having met them.

Grateful for teachers.


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Petra by Night – Petra, Jordan

I surveyed the countryside as we sped towards Petra. The mountains were less like serrated knives cutting the sky and more gently rounded spoons. Just big rocky ones that went on forever. I have to say there was not much green at all. It was brown and reddish sand, stone and rock though not much else. But against the crystal blue sky the shades of earth matched in perfect harmony.

On my right, Ruba gazed dreamily out the window, completely in her own world. To my left Fatimah was sleeping peacefully, empty chocolate bar wrapper still gripped in her tiny hands. I listened to Ban and Lana speaking softly in Arabic up front, trying to guess the context of the conversation. I was piecing together the occasional English word and would ask them when I thought I was on the right track. They seemed to be impressed with my eagerness to understand.

I thought it was interesting when we stopped to ask for directions at the police station and they invited us in for lunch. We politely declined but I did wonder what they would have served us, at the police station. I commented on how chivalrous men can be and one of the girls made the accurate observation that many of the male persuasion just like to “seem” that way.

We rounded many twists and turns finally coming upon the city of Petra. It wasn’t a modern town by any stretch of the imagination. The buildings were mostly made of cement and were stacked along the mountain side. There were herds of goats being guided by a boy with a stick right down the middle of the highway. We also passed a donkey who had his head poked into a cornerstore. I realized after I looked closer that the child who held the end of the rope was perusing inside.

We did a bit of exploration and finally decided that I would come with the girls to the Bedouin camp they had prebooked. Seven Wonders Camp was out of the town in the open desert near Little Petra. We had to go through quite a rough road but that was no problem for Ban, our excellent driver, who I had fondly dubbed Auto-Bahn.

Once we arrived, I was immediately enchanted by the people, the location, and the facilities. We each got our own charming little tents which were lined up side by side into something of a village. Inside there were well made beds complete with a white mozzie net which was useless in this season but pretty all the same. There was a small electric lantern and some candles which cast a romantic warm glow within the heavy canvas shelter. It was a cozy little camp and it didn’t take long to realize that we were some of the only guests that night. The other two happened to be two other women who were also traveling alone.

The seven of us drank tea in the tent while we warmed ourselves in front of the fire. Stories flew around and books were recommended. I suggested that we could have a very interesting book club between the few of us, the bookworms were were. Several of us happened to be writers as well so we all had more in common than we realized.

We ate a satisfying dinner of BBQ chicken, salads, veggies and pitas. The whole staff serving us and taking care of us seemed to be male. I flirted shamelessly with the little 6 and 10 year old brothers that were in charge of manning the buffet table. They giggled shyly and practiced their English with me giving me permission to practice my very limited Arabic right back.

After we were sufficiently stuffed, we jumped back in the SUV and headed to back to town to experience Petra by Night. The tickets were $12 JDs (Jordanian Dinars on par with the Euro right now) and we were to be there by 830pm. We scampered along to the gates and hurried down the long pathway towards the main attraction.

Now I know many people know what Petra (means “rock” in Greek) is but for some reason I didn’t. I had some idea that it was some mountain or some structure. I didn’t know it was a lost city. I had no clue that it would make such an impact on me. This was certainly a unique way to experience such grandeur.

There were hundreds if not thousands of candles stuck in sand bottomed paper bags lining the path all the way to the Treasury. Must have been miles and the glowing orange flickers were set about a meter apart the whole way. It was nothing short of spectacular and I was drunk on the romanticism of it all. The moon was full in the sky casting a ring of light in a perfect circle around itself. I noticed a jet must have just flown by because a trail shot through the very center making it look like Saturn.

The weather worn sky-high rocks sandwiched the pathway which seemed to be on an ever so gentle downward slope. The sandstone swirled in a whimsical way even Dr. Seuss would have felt at home. The moon and candles worked together to create mysterious shadows in the curvaceous rock formations. I pointed that fact to Ruba and she just looked at me with eyes pie wide requesting that I not talk to her about scary things. I chuckled to myself noting never to ask her to accompany me to any kind of supernatural thriller or horror movie.

When we finally arrived to the Treasury there were a gathering of a couple hundred people sitting quietly in stillness. Lana and I found an empty space at the front. We claimed one of the carefully set out mats trying not to disturb those around us. There were hundreds of candles set in front of the awesome monolith towering above us. There was a man seated on a stool in the very center singing in a language that even Lana could not interpret. The beautifully haunting melody penetrated my soul as I gazed up at the humongous carved rock face. When that man had finished another came along and played a delightful flute type instrument while a small cat pattered out of the structure, through the candle maze finally disappearing into the crowd.

I didn’t actually get to see the whole area or explore it in its entirety but it was no matter. I felt the gravity of the place and was hella impressed by the way these people had married nature with their needs. The water system was quite genius and worked well for the Nabataeans until an earthquake in about 300 AD rendered it non functional. The Romans who didn’t comprehend the spiritual nature of the city of Petra destroyed it in their hostile take over.

When we finally found our way back to camp, I was more than ready to hit the sack. We were all dazzled by the lights the camp men had placed in all the little nooks and crannies of the rockface hovering over us. Hundreds of orbs adorning the mountain like a Christmas tree. I gave one last glance to the moon bidding it good night before ducking into my quarters. The air was chilly but I was protected from the wind as I layered the extra blankets before crawling in side. Needless to say, I slept very well.

Grateful for fire and rock.







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Jordanian Road Trip – Jordan

The ladies were heading up to Petra then Aqaba which was pretty handy because that was exactly my plan. I checked and double checked that I wasn’t intruding or crashing their road trip to which they unanimously assured me was nowhere near the truth. We five piled into the SUV and began our Jordanian Road Trip.

We stopped into Salahs house were we met his wise mother and had some tea, which is the custom in most of the places here. Everyone invites you for tea, all the time. Its the way it is and this is a part of their culture that I just love. I have to admit, it sure does differ from the hurry hurry lifestyle we are accustomed to in North America. They are tiny tea cups so it’s not a huge commitment…therefore you most always comply. But even just that small cup gives you enough time to catch your breath and recenter. It’s very valuable and can really make a difference in the quality of your state of mind. Connection with others and reconnection with yourself. The ladies took this time to pray (they do this five times a day!) and I did a bit of internet. After a short time, we bid adieu to Alena and continued on our way North.

We stopped at the gas station and discussed the role women have in this culture. This was spurred by the fact that there was a man filling the car. I asked if this was a man thing or a service thing. I asked if we were allowed to fill up to which they admitted “Yes, but why would you? It is his job.”

As the man finished filling up we pulled over to the garage to the mechanic. We sat for some time while the attendant ignored us, even serving other vehicles who had arrived after us. Finally, when I realized we were only waiting to get air in our tires, i jumped out proclaiming proudly that I know how to do this. I was excited to get my hands dirty when the man rushed over all of a sudden spoiling my fun. We talked about the relationship between service and disability. I expressed my desire to work towards interdependence and temper my “i-am-an-island” tendencies.

Grateful for rhythm.




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Recognition and Inspiration – Disi, Jordan

I woke up and felt an intense dry chill in the air. I snuggled in deeper and tried to ignore the impending day. finally my curiosity got the better of me and I rose to greet the others who had woke long before I had. I stretched and took a short wander to survey my surroundings. Now that the day had come, I was able to fully grasp the magnitude of the beauty which surrounded me. Though it was chilly in the shade of the valley, the camp was perfectly placed. It was shielded and guarded from anything and everyone. I felt very safe indeed.

I was drinking some tea and having a chat with Alena when four women joined us near the fire. I introduced myself and cheerfully inquired as to their story. I had heard that there were some mysterious Jordanian women who had roughed it in the back country last night. I was fascinated to know them and what they were about.

Lana, Ruba, Ban and Fatimah turned out to be four dynamic adventurous godesses. They were a little shy at first but I turned on my charm and they opened up like precious roses drinking in the sun. We all sat in a circle and shared a scrumptious breakfast of pita, jam, tahini, cheese, lebneh, halwa, cucumbers and tomatoes. And tea..we mustn’t forget the tea. yummers!

The conversation had me spellbound and it didn’t take long to realize these were some outstanding specimens of humanity. The energy we were generating between us was tangible. Groups of tourists who were visiting the Bedouin camp came and went intermittently, but we were oblivious as we drank tiny cups of tea and chattered away excitedly. The longer we talked the more apparent it became that these were women of high stature. Not only were they extremely intelligent but their modesty was striking. We talked about womens rights and how it was to grow up in the middle east. Together we concocted a plan for an innovative retreat that would attract women from all over the world. I get shivers right now just thinking about it.

At one point the conversation came back to me and they began to inquire about my travels. As I shared my experience, Lana became very animated asking me some pretty pointed questions. Then somewhat stunned, she informed me that she had been reading my writing for years. At first, I didn’t really get it. Surely she was mistaken and there was some other whereshegoes out there who she had followed around the world. It actually took some time for me to realize that this was one of my loyal readers who had allowed me into her heart and soul. We were both flabbergasted and didn’t quite know what to do with this unique serendipitous moment. Lana admitted that I had helped inspire her and that it was her dream to travel like me. I felt overwhelmed and strangely self conscious. Here is a phenomenal woman who knows me, accepts me, and believes in me! After the shock wore off (well in all honesty it still hasn’t even as I write this), we did the obvious…traveled together 🙂

Grateful for serendipity.20111114-094030.jpg




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Hidden Wadi Ranch – Disi, Jordan

Alena dropped me off at her place to freshen up while she hurried off to talk to some people about a camel race. Yes, that is how they do it here in Jordan. I was a bit taken aback at her humble abode but after a short time, began to appreciate the simplicity. She came to retrieve me and we made our way with Salah, her Bedouin friend to his “kingdom”.

I admired the humongous rocks seemingly dropped smack in the middle of a vast sand desert. These are no little stones by the way. they tower like mountains but are less ranges than stand alone monuments of natures grandeur. We sped through the sandy dunes as I admired the way the moon lit up the landscape just enough to give me a taste. My mind naturally began to try to fill in the blanks but I resisted, allowing for the anticipation of the surprise tomorrow morning. I would for now just focus on the feeling of this place without the distraction of the eyes.

The camp (past Disi in the middle of nowhere) was nestled into a valley (wadi) and we were protected from any wind, though I am not sure there was any here or anywhere. It was like the earth ceased its rotation. The air was silent and still which almost made it seem like time had stopped. We noshed on a tasty rice, chicken and veggie mixture before feeding the rest to the two cats. We made a fire and drank some delightfully spiced (cardamom and cinnamon and ?) while we got to know each other. I taught Salah some cute word games like “see you later alligator – in a while crocodile” and “no way jose” then realized I had created a monster. He couldn’t get enough and implored me to teach him more. I wracked my brain then began to invent new ones…we created an Arabic response to Hello Jello…Merhaba Ali Baba.

We dragged some sleeping mats over to the fire and bundled ourselves up in piles of thick furry blankets. We chattered away until we all began to drift off. I watched the fire flicker as the cats gingerly tip toed around scouting out a nest for the night. I felt a great sense of peace while I basked in the serenity of the moment then I drifted off to sleep.

grateful for remoteness.





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Three countries in eight hours – Eilat, Israel

Once we got to the Taba border, it was a gong show. There was no real order and several large tour groups tried to muscle their way to the front of the tightly packed mob. others began to get upset hollering angry threats and I realized I wanted out of this fray as quickly as possible. We finally got stamped an walked the 2 minutes to the Israel border control which was a bit more orderly with metal corrals and fans blowing cool air. This quelled tempers for the most part except for a few screaming kids and one very large old man whom I was sure would give himself a heart attack.

when I finally made it to the front, the official began questioning me about my name, my heritage and my travel plans. Then he started hitting on me! This went on for a good ten minutes and I became acutely aware of the hundreds of eyes boring into my back. After all, he was the only person on duty and the line was not getting any shorter. Finally he gave up and stamped my passport somewhat reluctantly. He tried to make me promise I would come back. I told him I would have to since I was traveling by boat from Egypt. This was not the answer he wanted to hear but he smiled and sent me on my way.

I was surprised to find a wifi connection while I waited for the others to catch up so we could catch a cab together. The ride was a short 10 minutes and 60 shekels in a cool sweet smelling taxi with a friendly driver. We all peered out the windows at the modern clean city of Eilat which was just experiencing sunset.

We experienced some real issues with currency and credit cards while trying to pay our fees. My Gods there were lots of fees this day! I guess that is what you get when you traverse three countries in 8 hours. My strong advice is to make sure you have sufficient pounds, shekels and dinars because they are not interchangeable and bank machines are rare at these crossings. You may try your credit card but that may not work, as my Spanish friends found out the hard way. finally we got through all the stamps, checkpoints, interrogations and queues.

We took a 10 dinar taxi ride to Aqaba where I was shocked to find Alena still waiting. She was meant to meet me early in the afternoon and it was now almost 8pm. What a trooper! I thanked her profusely and she assured me it was no problem. She even arranged for my hardy travel buddies to get to their destination.

happily we all shared a taxi out towards wadi rum. We munched on spring rolls and chocolates and sipped pop as we realized we hadn’t eaten most of the day. The almost full moon was beaming in the sky and my mood was much lighter than I would have expected after having endured such a gauntlet of red tape.

Grateful for patience.






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Relaxing – Dahab, Egypt

Right now i am sitting in the bus on my way from Dahab to Taba, the northern tip of then Sinai penninsula. Today I will attempt Jordan through Israel which is said to be the more efficient way than the unreliable ferry from Neweiba. The bus is is full of backpackers like me and many of us are on the same route by the sounds of it.

I am really happy with my new setup which allows me to write on my iPhone with this handy dandy flexi-keyboard. The whole thing takes fits in one hand and weighs less than an apple. Soooo much better than having to cart around and worry about a laptop or netbook. Also in case you hadn’t noticed, my blog site is updated and I think much prettier now, not to mention more functional. If you have an iPhone (I promise this is not an Apple commercial…I am sure it must work on Andriods too, let me know), you can now view my blog in mobile form on your device. I’m now a regular futurista…welcome to 2011.20111113-110134.jpg

So I spent about three days in Dahab and in that time i did not dive once. infact i didn’t even step foot in the ocean. I did get a kick out of watching the hoards of young divers in full wetsuits waddle around the promenade either on their way in or out. Most of the dives around here are accessible from the shore save for some that you need to take a truck or camel…yes there is a camel dive. today Lee headed back down to Sharm to do the famous Thistlegorn wreck and Ras Mohammed national park. I am not sure if we will meet up again in Jordan or not but I have my doubts. Diving can take alot out of you and he may need some recovery time.

We are couchsurfing with Nader who lives in the center of everything and has turned out to be one of my favorite hosts. He is generous, kind and humble to a fault. He also has a sweet fat cat called Garfeild who doesn’t eat lasagna but apparently everything else under the sun. The first night we smoked the sheesha and had a beer, the second night I met up with some other friends who ate with me at Shark. The food was pretty good and the service was impressive. I have to admit I felt a bit strange when the guy came and washed my hands for me in this giant urn. They are very concerned with hygenine here or at least that is what they want you to think.20111113-110117.jpg

One should never come to dahab if they do not like cats. this is a paradise for cat lovers and no doubt you will end up with several feline friends by the end of your stay. they seem to be smaller than the typical housecat which makes them extra cute mini cats…perpetual kittens, if you like. well you can imagine, i was in heaven. every where i went baby kitties darted about or set up shop beside you while you ate. I know you may think this begging would be annoying but these cats are smart. Most of them will just sit very very still and politely wait until you are overcome by their charms. Finally when you cant take their adorable pie wide eyes boring into your soul you will be hypnotized into throwing them a scrap. I have had a cat claim me and sit pretty beside me guarding her possible lunch for a full hour before i rewarded her strong determination. How could i not? After ten days of Vipassana meditation training some people couldn’t sit that stone cold still. impressive. Anyway, most of them (save for a very few sickly looking ones) are adorable and some are super cute…like you want to put them in your pocket (they would fit) and take them home kind of cute. They are fed well by suckers like me and their looks are their livelihood. you had better believe they know it.20111113-110029.jpg

SO now i am here making friends who are on the same path as I. We all don’t really know quite we are doing but have agreed to work together to get to the finish line. there are several different theories flying around right now. Some will take the ferry, others with go overland to Israel and a few more will continue to Jordan. I land in the last group which put me with the couple from Spain. Here goes nothing.

Grateful for traveler camaraderie.

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Getting Bugged – Luxor, Egypt

My last day in Egypt was spent at the Karnak Temple admiring the sheer size and detail of it all. The area this complex covers is massive and it took me half the day just to get my head around it.

The Hypostyle Hall is architecturally amazing and I just sat there for an hour staring up at monster columns trying to interpret the scenes displayed. I wandered around the site climbing over rocks and exploring the hundreds of random rooms. I tried to imagine how magnificent the place would have been back in its day, full splendor. I gazed up at the markings and was completely overwhelmed at how much information is contained within these walls. read more

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Leisurely Luxor – Luxor, Egypt

I visited the Egyptian Museum which seems to be the other major thing to do in Cairo but then I remembered that I am not too much of a museum kinda girl. So I did the basics which included seeing mummies, shrines, ancient jewellery, tombs and lots of rocks. I ended up sitting and writing for sometime.

As I was meandering through, I saw a beautiful woman cleaning the display cases. I couldn`t take my eyes off her. She had the most amazing eyes and I was transfixed. Then the weirdest thing happened. She walked over to me and a little shy told me in broken English that she thought I was beautiful. read more

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Pyramids – Giza, Egypt

After a really emotional sendoff from my students (who saw me crying in the van and started singing me all the songs we had sung together over the last few months, including the alphabet), I boarded my plane.

I had a really nice chat with a Sudanese girl sitting beside me who reassured me that Sudan is not so dangerous as everyone thinks. Infact, she said its really quite the opposite which makes it pretty boring for a young person to grow up in. Then I met Christine who works in Cairo at the American embassy. She invited me to come visit her family and turns out they were celebrating Thanksgiving! So I got to enjoy a traditional dinner (They even let me carve the turkey!) complete with the bird (Gilbert, her husband is African and kept calling it the “animal”), stuffing and pumpkin pie. read more

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