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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011


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Today we visited Petra which was INCREDIBLE and our instructors asked us to reflect on what it was like when it was thriving, so here are my thoughts.

I find it difficult to reimagine Petra. The foreign traders and adventurers that once frequented its sandy byways have long since been replaced by a stream of foreigners of the camera-toting variety and the vendors that so eagery cater to their touristy tastes. An elite commercial Mecca of the ancient world, its once impressive standards in merchandise have stooped to the gimmicky and overpriced. Today, staring at its crumbling facades, I wonder about the people who crafted them, about the civilization that left behind this monumental city.

The civilzation of Petra was fascinated with death. At its entrance is a necropolis that honors generations of the deceased of every economic class. Especially in death, it seems, the people of Petra sought to astound their descendants with their wealth, to preserve and prove their reputations with these impressive tombs. But today even the most basic facets of their identities are speculations, extrapolations based on minimal pieces of data. It saddens me that their stories have been lost, that we can only comprehend what they did and not who they were, and that these tombs, intended to preserve at least some vestige of their personhood, are now nameless graves, monuments to their anonymity.

Now that it has been discovered, Petra is not so much a city forgotten as it is a city unremembered, for we have no recollections of how its people lived or who they were; we only have Petra, the fruit of their labors. I guess history is little more than a litany of feats and acts; we are remembered for the things one does, not who he or she is. When we remember a civilization, we remember not throngs of idiosycratic individuals, but a protean mass of humanity about which we generalize and to which we assign universal traits, lifestyles, and behaviors. Perhaps it can't be helped, perhaps we have too little information to generate a makeshift story with any veracity or authenticity, but I would like to think that in pausing to at least remember that Petra was erected and inhabited by individuals, we pay silent tribute to the thoughts, lives and stories of those buried beneath the literal sand of Jordan and the figurative sands of time.

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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Petra

John Bowman,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

Today we visited Petra which was INCREDIBLE and our instructors asked us to reflect on what it was like when it was thriving, so here are my thoughts. I find it difficult to reimagine Petra. The foreign traders and adventurers that once frequented its sandy byways have long since been replaced by a stream of […]

Posted On

07/20/11

Author

John Bowman

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As I stand hundreds of meters above the ground, I can only hear the desperate cries of animals being sacrificed upon our holy alter. I have left behind the familiar sounds of horse bells jingling as they proceed towards the city center down the cold cobble stone road. All around me I see bright colorful ribbons that seem as if they were painted onto the warm red rock around me- but in reality, this is nature presenting herself to us mere humans in forms indescribable. Our city, built into the monstrous yet glorious mountains of the wadi, concealed from the rest of the world is one of a kind. Our culture, our people, our traditions and our ways are all tucked into the deep, cascading mountains that my family has learned to call home.

Sacrifice is one of the most valued practices of my culture. To die for our deities- Dushara, the god of strength and al-Uzza, the goddess of water and fertility, is one of the greatest honors an animal or human can give to our world. In this case, sacrificing an animal is not only a ritual for the animal, but also a time to praise its owner for raising a creature so magnificent that he or she may be presented to our gods. This morning I prepared my goat for the ritual. Brushing out its brown soft fur I remember feeling sad for the animal yet also pride. This goat was to be humanely killed for the sake of my people and all I could think about was how this was my animal. My animal that I grew and raised. My animal that I fed and loved. I knew letting go would be hard but if this sacrifice was to bring us more rain it was my responsibility to offer it today at the Place of High Sacrifice.

Three other animals were being sacrificed today- as if more sacrifice meant a better rain. Over my thoughts I hear the cry of the third animal, a sheep belonging to my uncle, which lets me know that it is now my turn to bring forth my goat. I can feel his heart beat pounding, shaking his whole body, as I carry him gently to the altar. People have congregated around the altar in hopes of seeing the killings. Sacrifice should be a private and intimate event in which only the leader and the animal are present so that there are no distractions and the goat reaches the gods in the heavens sooner. Unfortunately, my goat will be killed in front of all these people despite my request that it be done in private. For some reason I feel like the end of my life is coming as well. It is almost as if the goat and I are sharing thoughts as we both begin the last stage of this ritual. He is nervous and shaking with fear. I want to tell him that it will be painless and what he is doing will benefit the community for months to come, yet he is an animal- unable to understand my words. I look at him calmly hoping that he sees the reassurance in my eyes as I place him on the altar.

Below me my people walk the streets of Petra, some unaware of what is about to happen. To my left stand the higher council, proud and elegant in their demeanors as they watch my frail body carry the heavy goat to the altar. Above me is the immense blue sky of the heavens, just having greeted the last 3 animals and patiently awaiting the arrival of my own. I place the goat down and a huge weight is lifted from my body as I walk away. Looking back I say goodbye to my animal as I know he is about to become an honored 'martyr' in the name of the Nabateans. The blade is lifted high into the air and all the panic releases from the goat as he takes his final breath. In the distance I see a storm cloud rolling in and a bit of thunder far in the distance. Rain and water keeps this society flourishing. Without it, we have nothing.

As I look up into the sky, I spot a rain drop falling quickly towards my face. As I anticipate its arrival I take one last look at my goat. The rain beings to pour, and the blade falls.

This is just a story that I came up with about a traditional Nabatean animal sacrifice in Petra. Our task was to travel to a place in the park and think of a story or narrative that could have taken place there.

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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The High Place of Sacrifice: Petra

Gabriela Flax,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

As I stand hundreds of meters above the ground, I can only hear the desperate cries of animals being sacrificed upon our holy alter. I have left behind the familiar sounds of horse bells jingling as they proceed towards the city center down the cold cobble stone road. All around me I see bright colorful […]

Posted On

07/20/11

Author

Gabriela Flax

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    [post_content] => Hello everyone! I'm currently in Wadi Musa and I have just completed the homestay portion of our trip here. We completed a total of three homestays- one with a small group in Wadi Rum desert, one alone in the village of Disa, and a final joint stay with a family in Rajif. Each homestay experience was very different from those surrounding it. Although each stay was incredible, the stay in Disa definitely stood out; we were there for a total of 6 days, giving each of us a chance to sincerely bond with our families. Unlike the other two homestays, in Disa we were joining not as guests, but rather as a part of the family. Thus, we were treated as any other family member would be, and were expected to both dress and act the part. Dragons commits itself to having each of its students feel as if he or she is a traveler, not a tourist. In Disa this was very apparent. During my time there, I stayed with a lovely newly-wed couple, Amnah and Farris, who were exceptionally kind to me. Amnah in particular took on the role as my teacher, making sure by the time I left I was entirely informed on her way of life. An English teacher at the local school herself, she was incredibly helpful in building my Arabic vocabulary. She also was kind enough to invite me to partake in a few of her daily prayers. This was a particularly interesting experience which she took very seriously; each time we finished praying, she would inquire how I was feeling. Usually I was feeling more relaxed or centered than I had beforehand, something I may have not taken note of had she not drawn my attention to it. Additionally, she taught me a lot about Islam and how it affects her daily life and relationships. Despite my best efforts, I am quite certain I could not touch on all of the ways Amnah taught me during my time in Disa. The way in which she taught was not traditional- I learned through observing and conversing with her throughout the day, leaving me with more lessons than I could possibly record in a single yak. The next few days I will be traveling from Wadi Rum/Petra into Dana. Surely more adventures are to come and I look forward to reporting them in the near future. Until then, once again, I miss everyone and wish them well!
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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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Disa Homestay

Caitlin Kelley,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

Hello everyone! I’m currently in Wadi Musa and I have just completed the homestay portion of our trip here. We completed a total of three homestays- one with a small group in Wadi Rum desert, one alone in the village of Disa, and a final joint stay with a family in Rajif. Each homestay experience […]

Posted On

07/20/11

Author

Caitlin Kelley

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This is a story we were asked to write while sitting in front of Petra's many stunning structures.

The secret path mentioned is in fact true. We were led by our local guide Musa through a serene, yet treacherous canyon out of the city.

Setting: Royal Palace of Petra (City Center)

My name is Adam and I am an Israelite. I havesuccessfullyfound my way into the city of Edom. I must first off say, it is truly fantastic, the most spectacular city I have ever seen. You may be wondering how and why an Israelite has found themselves inside this exclusive city, lets just backtrack a little. Moses, along with the Israelites and me, had been walking on our forty year Exodus and we stumbled upon the Kingdom of Edom. It is here where our leader Moses found water but was denied refuge for our people by the Nabatean King Reqem. Moses, whose fiery temper can get the best of him, devised a plan. Moses' brother Aaron had heard gossip nearby of a secret canyon path leading into the city center, where King Reqem's Royal Palace stands. I, Adam, one of Moses' most loyal followers was chosen as the assassin of the Nabatean King. For him to deny hospitality and any sort of asylum for God's chosen peoples is despicable. He must be destroyed. And so it was, I disguised myself as a Babylonian trader and set off along the secret path. Through all of our tribulations in the desert, it finally occurred to me that we, the Jews, are truly God's chosen people. I know that murder is a sin, but this is not murder. This is my duty from God. This is why I find myself currently sitting above Edom's city center on a ridge reflecting on my present quandary. I am writing to whoever finds my writings after I perish. I know that killing King Reqem and living to tell about it will be unlikely. I just want my story to be known. I just want my intentions to be known. I just want my people to be free. This is my true duty from God. I love my people so very much. I hope God gives me the strength to save our people. His people and my people.

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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Petra Narrative

Lucas Greenberg,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

This is a story we were asked to write while sitting in front of Petra’s many stunning structures. The secret path mentioned is in fact true. We were led by our local guide Musa through a serene, yet treacherous canyon out of the city. Setting: Royal Palace of Petra (City Center) My name is Adam […]

Posted On

07/20/11

Author

Lucas Greenberg

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Just over one week ago, our tribe moved out of the desert and into homestays with families in Alena's own village, Disi. Settled smack in the middle of Wadi Rum, Disi is quite literally a blip amidst the sand dunes; yet the people we met there and the experiences we had stand out quite noticeably in the course of our journey thus far.As anticipated in my last yak, these homestays showed a far different side of Bedoin living. On a superficial level, the people in Disi were much wealthier, some with 8 room houses and small orchards in the back yard. They wore nicer clothes, and had "real" jobs in tourism and construction. But this was not the most impressionable difference. The Bedoin people in Disi were different than the nomadic ones we had met in the desert on a deeper level as well. Unlike the isolated tents we had lived in in the desert, Disi exhibited an overwhelming sense of community. Everyone in our neighborhood was related (all the brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews of Salah, one of Alena's friends and also a neighbor). In Disi, the households rotated as centers for an ongoing family reunion. What we first perceived as hitchhikers waving their hands down the main drag we soon realized were the uncles and brothers of our families, welcoming us to town. We learned what it was like to have all of your best friends be your relatives, a concept that is personally very foreign considering that a 6 hour plane ride separates me from both sets of my grandparents.

My homestay family did seem to be a small exception to this, at least at the beginning. Not all of my family members were present at the beginning of my visit (some traveling, some away at university), and my "parents" were of an older generation, with children the same age as some of the parents of my peers. Nevertheless, I felt very much integrated into a real-life family. My family members were obviously kind and hospitable, but did not hesitate to hand me a broom to sweep the floor, or ask me to lay out mats for our dinner and fetch things from the kitchen. While my homestay family was different from my world back home, I still witnessed the cuddling, rough-housing, and quarreling that occur in any family. For better or for worse, I felt plunged into the inner sanctum.

Tomorrow we will leave Petra and move on to Da'na to begin some trekking and environmental education. More to come from on the road!

-Madeline

*Speaking of the kitchen, and considering that my Independent Study Project surrounds food, nutrition and heath, I made sure to learn a few traditional Jordanian dishes with my host sisters and mother in Disi. Be prepared to try some "Mansef" and "Maluba" when I get back, Mom and Dad!

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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A Different Disi: Disi Homestay Reflection

Madeline Hung,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

Just over one week ago, our tribe moved out of the desert and into homestays with families in Alena’s own village, Disi. Settled smack in the middle of Wadi Rum, Disi is quite literally a blip amidst the sand dunes; yet the people we met there and the experiences we had stand out quite noticeably […]

Posted On

07/20/11

Author

Madeline Hung

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Hello from Jordan

Our second and longest homestay in Disi, on the border of Wadi Rum, was magnificent. The experiences of living in a local village were invaluble. After the huslte of Aquba and the blazing heat of The Wadi the relaxed pace of the village was lovely. We would start the day of with fun lessons with a local named Sammy. After that we spent most of the day with our homestay families. The experience was an important view into the workings of settled Bedouin society. The guys spent a lot of time exploring and hanging out outside. The night was when many guys went to work at tourist camps. The village guys also rarley slept inside because of how hot the village gets. Instead we would drive out to the desert and sleep there. Weather in a camp or on the large falt plane outside town. The complete cultural immersion was fantastic and I loved all the people we meet who were kind enought to take us into their families.

David

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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Disi To Petra

David O'Donnell-Hanadel,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

Hello from Jordan Our second and longest homestay in Disi, on the border of Wadi Rum, was magnificent. The experiences of living in a local village were invaluble. After the huslte of Aquba and the blazing heat of The Wadi the relaxed pace of the village was lovely. We would start the day of with […]

Posted On

07/20/11

Author

David O'Donnell-Hanadel

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Hello from Jordan!We just finished our 6 day homestay in Disi. All of our families were so kind and accepted us into their family from the minute we walked into their home. Though we were limited to gender roles, we still had an amazing experience living like real Jordanians. The locals live very laid back life with flexible schedules whereas in most of us come from bustling cities. Our Arabic improved immensely due to the hlep of our homestay families and their willingness to teach us. We had a fascinating time living in the edge of Wadi Rum but we're glad to make our way to the incredible site that is called Petra.

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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Disi Homestay

Karma, Nick, Kenny,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

Hello from Jordan!We just finished our 6 day homestay in Disi. All of our families were so kind and accepted us into their family from the minute we walked into their home. Though we were limited to gender roles, we still had an amazing experience living like real Jordanians. The locals live very laid back […]

Posted On

07/20/11

Author

Karma, Nick, Kenny

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    [post_date] => 2011-07-15 00:00:00
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Greetings Friends and Familly!!

As we are enjoying the last few days of our amazing homestays in Disi Village on the outskirts of Wadi Rum Protected Area, we wanted to share with you a few phots of our adventures migrating through the entire Wadi Rum park. The hot desert conditions forced us to adapt and sdjust, drinking LOTS of water, taking rest in shade we could find in the middle of the day, and relishing the amazing sunsets and cool night slept out in the desert.

As we donned men's and women's traditional dress we headed into out first unique homestay experience with nomadic Bedouin families who still live tent-style in the middle of the desert grazing and herding their goats, sheep and camels. Many of us herded with our families and on our last day of this program segment before transitioning from Wadi Rum desert to Disi village we herded goats for a day, all our responsibility and truly discovered what a hard work it is to keep goats going in the direction you want them to!

In less then two days we head out of Disi village to the Beduoin village of Rajf. We will again find ourselves with internet access when we are in the World Heritage archeological site of Petra July 19-20. Expect Yaks from the students then!!

Four Winds,

Yoli

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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Pics From The Last Few Adventures

Yoli Maya Yeh,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

Greetings Friends and Familly!! As we are enjoying the last few days of our amazing homestays in Disi Village on the outskirts of Wadi Rum Protected Area, we wanted to share with you a few phots of our adventures migrating through the entire Wadi Rum park. The hot desert conditions forced us to adapt and […]

Posted On

07/15/11

Author

Yoli Maya Yeh

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It is difficult to describe in words the magic of the desert. It is something that is felt deeply, rather than conceptualized – the vast landscape of melting-rock canyons and infinite expansion of sand occasionally strewn with shrubs, all beneath a black blanket of sky perforated with millions of twinkling stars and the hazy outline of our galaxy’s Milky Way. Never before have I experienced a silence as profound as I have in the desert. It is a silence that pierces my being to the core, a silence so enthralling that I cannot keep myself from listening, again and again.

We have spent the past week in this unbelievable, indescribable environment. We began on a four-day trek through the desert valley of Wadi Rum, where we navigated the imposing landscape with the help of our guides Suleiman and ‘Umar, whose hospitality exceeds anything I have ever seen. We established a routine that served us well in adapting to desert life – Each morning we awoke to the rising sun, eating breakfast together as a Tribe, and making our way until the heat of day began to set in, at which point we found a shady area to hold our lessons, eat a delicious lunch, and take a much-needed nap. We continued our trek to our final destination, learning more and more, and having the incredible experience of sleeping beneath the breathtaking panorama of the universe. Despite my happy tiredness, I did not want to close my eyes.

I feel immense gratitude when I think back to the past few days, to my fortuitous opportunity of living with the Bedouin family of Abu ‘Aiid in the desert, who so kindly welcomed us into their home to participate in and learn from their lives. Experiencing desert life of the Bedouin has been a transformative experience for me; it has been an opening in my mind into living for the sake of living, a concept foreign to my European and American ears, so bent on the future, so bent on results. Our activities each day consisted of the same: waking up to the colors of the sunrise, preparing a simple breakfast of whole wheat bread with apricot jam and cheese, the continuous drinking of tea, the cleaning of dishes with water from the ground, the chatting with our gracious host mothers, aunts, and playful children. Despite the repetitiveness of our daily activities, I have never felt so at ease, so peaceful, and so content with being present in every moment. Looking around, I drink in my majestic surroundings, the smiling faces of my generous hosts – here in the desert, I feel truly at home.

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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The Desert

Alba Sorge Berenguer,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

Description

It is difficult to describe in words the magic of the desert. It is something that is felt deeply, rather than conceptualized – the vast landscape of melting-rock canyons and infinite expansion of sand occasionally strewn with shrubs, all beneath a black blanket of sky perforated with millions of twinkling stars and the hazy outline […]

Posted On

07/14/11

Author

Alba Sorge Berenguer

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Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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more pictures

Gabriela Flax,Jordan: Crossroads of Tradition and Modernity, Summer 2011

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more pictures

Posted On

07/14/11

Author

Gabriela Flax

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