After spending last night in Wadi Musa, a small town in the south of Jordan, it was time to see Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. An expensive one at that. Not that money should define an experience, after all it’s just paper and you don’t need a lot of it to be happy, but after spending £50 on a taxi ride to get there, and another £50 to enter the site itself, you’d think you’d invested enough to not be hassled for anymore once you’re in. Not so. While the site itself is something else, ancient buildings carved out of mountains, it’s not a living city, rather, it’s an open air museum. The locals are strategically stationed, overly zealous touts, trying to spruik a camel ride / horse ride /donkey ride /souvenirs etc etc, until you crack and start just plainly ignoring them, which makes them accuse you of being English. You can’t even get a small meal, you have to have a buffet at £17. It all left me looking back longingly at my days in the West Bank (which were, um, 3 days ago) where often I couldn’t even buy fruit because they’d want to give it to me for free. Where people would come up and shake my hand, not to take me to their store or mangled donkey, but because they wanted to know who I was and where I was from. People that were poor, repressed and isolated, but, energetic, beaming and hopeful, and still able to see me as something more than a dollar sign.
The cruelty to the animals was a bit much too. Not that I want to be a bleeding heart, but seeing donkeys that are nothing more than bags of bones, malnourished and unhealthy, being constantly beaten with a stick to carry tourists around was a bit much. Their agonising cries would ring out across the whole town. Often, they’d try to defy their masters and run away, only to be caught and beaten, much like the Palestinians with their Israeli masters. Not just donkeys, the camels have their mouths chained to the ground, barely able to move. All for the tourist dollar. Maybe i should man the fuck up and just deal with it. Either way, it just ain’t my thing.
It probably makes me sound like an impossible to please prat, shrugging his shoulders at one of the great wonders of the world. I’m actually easy to please, but it’s the simple things that please me. I travel less for the sites, more for the experience; the people,the politics, and to see life from a different perspective. Today I saw amazing sites but no life.
It’s all relative when you finish the day swinging in a chair on a rooftop terrace, surrounded by cliffs, mountains and the sounds of the town under a setting sun. At times like these I remind myself what time it is in London, and what I’d be doing right now if I wasn’t travelling… At my desk, working. And in that moment the stars all briefly align and everything makes perfect sense.