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"Our little caravan grew self-conscious…"
Day 10, June 23 1998, Wadi Rum

Slept quite late though still not as late as Dennis.

By bus to Ma'an, where we were again besieged by taxi drivers. An offer of 20 JD. Phew! We decide to first pick up some films for Dennis and change some money.

On the way back to the bus station we bought two melons. I spoke to a private driver who was willing to take us to Wadi Rum. He was going to Aqaba but he said he could drop us off at the crossing for 8 JD. We accepted. His name was Oman, and he was either a 'department' (according to Dennis) or a 'diplomat' (according to me). Suffice to say his English was not that good. We introduced ourselves, but for some reason Oman said my name was 'no good'. Next, he turned some music that the word 'horrible' would be inadequate to describe. It had this weird echo that made it sound like the mating call of a fevered African swallow stuck in a canyon. Whether or not I have invoked an ancient Bedouin curse by introducing myself ('Ana ishmi Gerben') I'll never know. Suddenly I understood how the Antichrist would feel, misunderstood and quite alone (and subjected to strangely tortuous music in the back of a car). I had what Mick Jagger calls sympathy for the devil.

We arrived at the crossing and were picked up by a pickup, who could take us the remaining 25 km. A windy ride in the back later, we got out and found ourselves at the Rest Room Restaurant in the village of Rum, where we met a Spanish couple. We amused each other with holiday tales. Dennis and I had an early dinner. I informed as to the possibility of having a 'patatje oorlog' (a Dutch culinary delicacy), but when I described it, it became clear that not all the ingredients were in their possession, the most vital ones being peanut butter sauce, mayonnaise, and raw onions.

They had decided to take a pickup for 18 JD for 2,5 hours to go on a quick tour through Wadi Rum. We decided to join them, making six passengers including an Austria couple, whose English was worse than Oman's. The Austrians wore design clothing and the guy had a video camera which I first thought was glued to his head.

The pickup arrived and seating was improvised by the driver, an elderly man whose English was even worse than the Austrian couple. Before we had left the Bedouin village of Rum, the seating broke down twice, before being elegantly repaired with metallic wire. Then we got stuck in the sand (the car was not a 4WD, and much pushing and flattening of tires was necessary. We visited a gorge with a spring, some Bedouin writing. Any and all rock formations that I came upon, I tried to climb.

"Our little caravan grew self-conscious, and fell dead quiet, afraid and ashamed to flaunt its smallness in the presence of the stupendous hills." (T.E. Lawrence, describing the Wadi Rum desert). Well, that might have been true for his little caravan, but certainly not for our little pickup. The Austrian guy tried to record everything by wildly sweeping his camera around, and Everybody was acting like it was a Saturday afternoon matinee. I found it very strange that people were not awed by the enormous proportions of the nature around us. How small and fragile we suddenly had become! Then I saw the Austrian guy videotape his girlfriend from below, so she would seem to be standing on a higher ledge.

The sunset looked very beautiful from where we were seated. We slept on the roof of the restaurant.


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