I want to write something Sensitive and Important about the post-Sandy recovery, but all I can say is: donate to the Red Cross or your favorite relief organization; make sandwiches and buy supplies to bring to a donation center (for a list of donation centers click here). I have nothing more to say other than to suggest that I think the props Chris Christie has been tossing towards Obama have just as much to do with hoping that now Springsteen will return his calls as they do with anything Sandy related.
Given that I can’t tell you about the relief work I’ve been doing for hurricane victims other than clicking the “donate now” button, I’m going to regale you instead with tales of an ancient city that probably never had to confront hurricanes or floods: Petra.
If you’re a person whose kids, hypothetically speaking, start to gag and quiver at the mention of “museum” or “sight-seeing,” then Petra is the place for you. It’s history, and museums, and sight-seeing, all wrapped up in one climbtastic site. I mean, not that my kids balk at the thought of cultural enrichment; my kids thrive on museums and on exploring cities; they love trying new foods. As long as the new food looks exactly like the food they get at home.
For a person used to the way the U.S. does ancient sites (or what passes for ancient in that neck of the woods), Petra is wildly unsupervised: you can climb up to the thresholds of ancient temples; clamber around on stone walls that have been standing for millenia; lean against columns that have been there since Christ was a boy. And, of course, you can fall off any of these places onto the rocky ground, or you could plummet to your death into the crevasse alongside the approximately eightygazillion steps up to the top of the mountain overlooking Petra.
You can see, thus, why this place would bring deep and abiding joy into the hearts of eight & twelve year old boys, right?
But they weren’t the only ones smiling in amazement. I mean, how can you walk along this road and not gasp in delight and awe?
There are horse-drawn carts that clatter along this road–frequently racing with one another through the narrow space–adding yet another frisson: there is a strong chance that one could get mown down by an over-zealous cart-driver.
At the final turn of the wadi, the money shot:
The Treasury Building, which is the first thing you see as you emerge from the wadi road. If you’re an Indiana Jones fan, you’ll remember this building from the final scenes of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (which is only worth watching for the scenes filmed in Petra or if you’ve got a really long plane ride).
See that little dot at the bottom, just below the doorway? That’s one of my children, but I can’t tell which one. But that gives you a sense of scale, doesn’t it? The Treasury is the only building that’s firmly roped off to tourists, although even ten years ago, you could camp right up on the Treasury front porch.
But climbing! The boys wanted to climb! Enough with this ancient, awesome, perfect structure, which had once been decorated in those two top rectangular panels, with bas-relief of axe-wielding Amazons.
Found some old columns at the top of one set of steps:
Found a cave somewhere else:
And that was only the first day. On Day Two, we trekked up to the monastery (816 steps but who can keep count, what with the panting and wheezing and dodging of nimble-footed donkeys racing up and down; and that’s not counting the part of the climb where there weren’t steps but just rock that had been worn smooth with the ages).
But Day Two will have to wait until tomorrow, because I’ve enrolled myself in NaBloPoMo this month and that means a post a day, every day. The first time I did NaBloARGH was when I visited Abu Dhabi for the first time, two years ago. It seems appropriate that I use a trip to another country as the launch for this year’s effort. I’m linking up with NaBloBlahblahblah through the YeahWrite site: an entire grid of writers feeling the pain of “just writing.”