Jordan 2008!

After Jordan 2006, and Yemen 2007 comes the much anticipated return to Jordan 2008!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Mosaic Land!

Whats flat and old and more fun than a barrel full of monkeys? You guessed it! Ancient Byzantine mosaics! My roomies and I took a trip this weedend to historic Madaba. A land full of lots of things to do; You could see the mosaics in the historic byzantine ruins, you could peruse the local stores and their fine collections of... mosaics, or even see the oldest map of israel ever recorded! (it's a mosaic.) Anyway, after having visited this fascinating place, I began to imagine what this ancient byzantine culture must have been like. I'm not actually capable of imagineing any kind of document in their society besides mosaics. "Alright, the assignment is on the rise of the copper age and is expected to be a mosaic at a minimum of 10 slabs. Understood?" Typos would kill.

A more modern jordanian culture has since taken over, however. Not everything is in mosaics, and I think my favorite thing I saw while in madaba was this:

Thats right folks! The Iron Rod Internet Cafe! Looking for pornography? Look elsewhere! Experience the word of god, online! The heathen surfs on the beach, but the saints surf at the Iron Rod!

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Here it is. The mother of all places to visit in Jordan. The Nebetean capitol of Petra. It was the capitol of the greatest trading civilization in the history of the middle east, but the world knows it only as that cool temple thing that Harrison Ford went into at the end of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." We are such a well cultured people. This place is amazing. It's like southern Utah meets the roman empire. There are buildings cut into the rock all over this valley, and I'm not talking about no pueblos. This is bonafied Helenistic architecture. It's just amazing more of it hasn't eroded away. I would go into more detail, but I'll just post pictures instead. The picture posted to the left is "the treasury" the most famous of the buildings due to the aforementioned Harrison Ford film. What you DONT see in the film is the throngs of bedouin arabs who sell stuff in front of it. Many of them were born in caves, but none of them were born yesterday. They are among the most shrewd arab traders the middle east has to offer. Many of them speak upwards of 5 languages and could convince a Mexican that a burrito is actually a rare ancient middle eastern artifact. The favorite item to sell is a variety of necklaces made of "turquois" and "red sea coral" and "camel teeth" and "Bedouin Silver" which I'm pretty sure is actually melted pepsi cans. I can just imagine that they go out every day and look out on a ripe field of ignorant tourists and come home with a fine harvest. They are the nicest people in the world though. Right after one girl in our group bought 11 knives from a nice bedouin lady, she invited our entire group of 10 to eat with her family at her house for dinner.

This was a very interesting experience. We ate HUGE plates of maglubah, which is arabic for chicken and rice. They were very understanding of our american culture, so after we all sat down on the ground around large communal plates... they brought us spoons.

Getting back to the bedouins in petra, like I said in previous posts, ANYTHING can be bargained for. It's all about price. One of them tried to buy my fish hook necklace from New Zealand, which I'm sure he would have turned around and convinced some unsuspecting tourist that it was actually a precious Nebetean stone. We decided that we wanted to try our hands at bargaining by seeing if we could get a good healthy camel in exchange for our good healthy colleague, Allison. American women are a hot commodity here, and are rumored to make good wives and green cards. Our bedouin friends seemed to respond positively to this proposal. We even decided to throw in her backpack and sunglasses for a small donkey. We were pretty close to closing the deal when Allison blew the whistle on the whole transaction and made us go look at some more ruins. Rediculous. I mean, shop around, you cant beat that price. Transportation around Petra is definately haggleworthy. I cannot overemphasize the fun of camel riding. The bedouins will start camel rides at about $10, but if you name your price and convince them that you're willing to walk, you can pretty consistantly get them down to $3. You climb onto the camel while it's laying down, and then it stands up. This, in and of itself is very fun, because it stands up back legs first. They are very tall animals too, so this puts you at about a 90 degree angle looking straight at the ground. Then come the front legs. When they run you bounce about a foot off their back. This is painful, but a lot of fun. I think this is like the adult version of bouncing on your parents knee. I couldn't help but giggle all the way home. Petra is a MUST SEE.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Crazy Foreigners

Well, I've been here over a month now and I'm learning a lot about arabic. Probably some things that I shouldn't actually. My colloquial arabic class is crazy. Have you ever met a crazy foreigner in the states that leave you thinking "man all (insert ethnicity) are WIERD." I now understand why they are like that. allow me to explain:

Our colloquial teacher is a really funny 65 year old bug eyed arab named Samir. We really love him. He spends a good deal of time teaching us idioms and expressions, like archaic ways of saying "I want to go to the bathroom." "my desire is to cause water to fly." Today we discussed (I kid you not) the pros and cons of fire and water, in arabic. Now, I understand that cultures are different, but I can think of no circumstance in which an arab might say "Brian, I have ALWAYS wanted to know the american view on water; good or bad?" for my extensive opinion on the subject, see my post: "living waters." In class, Samir asked me to present one benefit of water. After much deliberation, I decided that water fights are pretty cool, and chose this as my answer. I should have known from previous experience (see aforementioned "living waters") that there has NEVER been enough water in the middle east to perticipate in such an activity. Naturally, Samir was confused by what I called "water fights" and immediately deduced the closest equivilent in the middle east: "OH, you mean using firehoses to break up demonstrations right?" I love the middle east. :)

So, to tie all these ideas together, next time you see a (insert ethnicity) in america, who just keeps saying things like "a stitch in time saves nine!" and "a penny saved is a penny earned!" and just wants to talk about the benefits of fire and water, don't blame the poor (insert ethnicity). They were probably taught to be crazy in their colloquial English class.

Mujib Gorge

This past weekend, our whole apartment and a few others from our program decided to take a litle jaunt down to Wadi Mujib. Its a slot canyon with a river running down it, much like the narrows in Utah. It was so awesome, and I'll get into the details of the gorge soon, but first I need to explain a little about getting around Jordan.
First of all, there is no planning. Even if you wanted to, there are no means for making arrangements ahead of time. So what you have to do is just go to a bus station, and hope that you can convince someone to take you where you want to go. Everything has a price, and that price can ALWAYS be negotiated. So when a group of 11 americans with matching backpacks and shorts arrive at the bus station early in the morning, every bus driver with nothing to do sees a dozen walking gold nuggets. They converged on us and the haggling began. The most aggressive one was also the shortest. About halfway through our haggling with him, another much larger arab came up behind him and affectionately threw his arms around his neck, in a very rested position, occationally kissing the shorter arab on the back of his head. What a way to undermine your friends bargaining power. It's really hard to take someone as a serious negotiator when they're in a spooning position with another man. It didn't take long for another bus driver to offer us a reasonable price which we took.

The Gorge is AMAZING. If anyone has ever hiked orderville canyon in Zion's National Park, you might have an idea of what this trail is like. It has beautiful high canyon walls and a clear river that is the perfect temperature. You could really just hike and play in this canyon all day and be perfectly happy. There are waterfalls that you can slide down, waterfalls to bath in/get pummeled by, cliffs to jump from. It's really awesome. I wish I had a great way of explaining the beauty of this place, but I don't, so I'll just try to hilight a few things with pictures!