Evoking Magic  

Posted by Donna

There are just a handful of places in the world that instantly create an image of exotic beauty and eternal mystery by their name alone. Glastonbury Tor. Machu Picchu. Angkor Wat. Petra is one of these places and it did not disappoint. I was excited to find out that a horse ride was included with the price of admission. My dream of traversing the desert landscape astride a bejeweled Arabian was almost in my grasp. Just inside the gate was a multi-level stable complex housing the working horses of the ancient city. Three Arabians stand at the ready, waiting for their next job. Immediately I can see that the reality of the situation is not going to exactly match my Lawrence of Arabia-esque inner movie. First clue: no bridles or reins. As you can see, I did indeed ride an Arabian in Petra, but only in the sense that I was sitting on a horse in a saddle while he was led by a gentleman down a gentle hill. This trek took less than 10 minutes but I was happy to get my fix. (Photo credit: Gillian da Silva)

As far as I could tell, every horse in Petra was a purebred Arabian, absolutely suited for the heat, terrain and marathon duties of the tourist trade. At every opportunity I was wandering away from the group to take pictures of the many animals that called Petra home. Not to take anything away from the stunning natural formations and incredible works of art that make up the ancient city, but it was the life that was drawing my eye.

This picture has been taken many thousands of times, the first vertical glimpse of the Treasury from the Siq, the meandering mile-long crack in the sandstone mountains that leads you into the Nabatean city. This was actually the second time I had stood here, but it was no less impressive than the first. The day before we were there with many other visitors, being jostled by countless amateur photographers not paying attention to where they are walking as they stumbled on the uneven cobblestones. It's hot. It's dusty. We'd been walking for a long time. Suddenly, none of that mattered as The Moment We Had Been Waiting For was upon us and we all stopped to listen to the beating of our hearts and savor the view that changed and widened with each step.

The camels were the perfect touch, placed strategically for added effect. It's quite shocking, the scale, the color, the details. Thinking of the skill and time required to carve these buildings out of solid sandstone in the 1st century BC is humbling.

Feeling very small indeed, here I am posing in front of the fifteen story facade.

There were many friendly and quite lovely little cats in Petra, intelligently gathering where they would get the most handouts from adoring visitors. This is one of my favorite shots of that day: gorgeous rock face, old wooden bench and sweet white kitty.

I heart camels. I didn't think I would, having the preconceived notion that they spit, were ornery, smelly and generally unpleasant creatures. Without exception, every camel we saw in Jordan was quite lovely, personality wise. They're so ugly they're cute. They are also very, very tall, more giraffe than llama.

I had never met any of my fellow travellers on this trip, our only connection was our tour manager, the amazing Tara Bradford. A sense of adventure, a love of travel and wanting to become better photographers was our throughline, but very quickly I think we could all sense that something very special had occured -- we were friends, good friends, people who cared about each other, who were supportive, vulnerable and incredibly funny in a constant rotation. We would all spill out of the van at each destination wearing our cameras like diamond necklaces and take pictures of the same subjects, yet now that we are sharing them in a collective we see the many different ways that we saw the same things. This little donkey caught my eye, again, there's something about finding life in the nooks and crannies of sand, wind and rain-painted rock that is so compelling to me. Plus he's just darn cute.

These carriages were constantly roaring up and down the Siq carrying unwitting tourists. The drivers would push the horses to a full gallop along the rocky and sometimes very narrow path, making me wonder how many collisions per day happen. It seems like a wonderful and sublime way to avoid the uphill trek back out of the city, but we saw many people holding on for dear life lest they be bumped out of the buggy entirely.

Click on the photos to enlarge, and stay tuned for many more pictures and stories from Jordan. As you would expect, getting a glimpse of how a simpler people live, their unbridled generosity and their love of country and its traditions, has had an effect on me, as it has on all of us who were there. My high-stress corporate job seems trivial and quite silly at times, but it pays for the important things. I am finding solace and purpose in my riding, in the relationship between me and the horse, whether that be Missy or a lesson horse. I had my first group lesson this week and, while it was a little unnerving to be careening around the arena with three other horses, I had fun and know that was a good decision, to ensure that every single Wednesday I WILL ride. Consistency is what I really need.

Back in my normal routine, the heartache of the loss of Bailey is cushioned by the unconditional love and irrepressable spirit of Tucker. Still having a dog in the house has been incredibly comforting, and he is just so silly and sweet you can't help but laugh. We laughed so much in Jordan, it's really what made it possible for me to stay in the moment and drink in the experience.

This entry was posted on March 20, 2010 at Saturday, March 20, 2010 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Your pictures are incredible. Such an amazing journey.I am looking forward to seeing more.

Glad to hear you have scheduled regular riding lessons. Sounds like a great plan.

Again, I am so saddened by your loss. Hang in there.

March 21, 2010 at 12:08 PM

I am having a cup of coffee from Jordan, thinking of you, enjoying more of your thoughts and images from our trip. xoxo

March 21, 2010 at 2:49 PM

What a wonderful trip. The carvings are absolutely amazing. I like camels too, they have the most expressive eyes, glad they didn't spit at you. Of course the Arabians were pretty too. Sorry about Bailey, that's always so hard. Tucker sounds adorable though.

March 21, 2010 at 5:52 PM

Wow, I'm just thrilled that you included the picture I took of you in front of the treasury. :)
I'm glad you came away from Jordan with good memories: we all wanted you to. We all worried with you, and for you.
Tucker has big shoes to fill. I'm sure he is up for the task. Dog's hearts are BIG and WIDE and VAST. They can comfort you like no other creature. Well camels come close like you said but yes, they can spit. At least dog slobber is adorable. xoxo

March 21, 2010 at 6:57 PM

Gillian, after I published this post I realized I didn't give you photo credit! I will do that. I feel badly that I made all of you worry, I am so grateful for the care you all took of me in my most fragile moments. xoxo

March 21, 2010 at 7:23 PM

oh, wow, this is one place I want to visit. great post!
- The Equestrian Vagabond

March 22, 2010 at 8:55 AM

I don't want credit!
I didn't mention it for that reason.
It was easy to help you along, you are fabulous!

March 22, 2010 at 9:53 AM

Thanks Gillian, but you got credit anyway!

Merri, thanks for commenting!

March 22, 2010 at 9:59 AM

Oh my. Breathtaking. Magical. Otherworldly. I'm envious!

March 23, 2010 at 10:22 AM

I thought I had posted a comment! something about sending you a picture of MY cute burros...
But I've been thinking of you this week, as Cruel Fate has afflicted me w/camels - I've been kicked twice already, thank God they don't have hooves! Have to see the lil' darlings one mo' time on Friday, as I certify their TB tests & sign off on their health certificates so they can go merrily on their way to MO...

March 24, 2010 at 9:18 AM

Love this post and your photos. So glad you were along for the journey! xoxox

April 3, 2010 at 11:00 AM

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