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3 rocks for 1 dinar… bargain right!?

Petra – the capital city of the Nabataeans dating from the 6th century BC and one of those iconic ‘must see’ travel destinations. You’d think then that it would be the stunning Treasury (Al Khazneh), the Monastery (El Deir) or the walk through the narrow gorge they call ‘Al Siq’ that would stick in the memory right?

Well of course these are amazing, but often I find it is the encounters with the locals that form the lasting memories and this is a short tale of one such encounter.

Virtually everywhere you go on your travels you’ll find someone who wants to sell you something and of course Petra, being such a major tourist attraction, is no different. These people are more often than not, little kids – in this case Bedouin kids.

After seeing some of the main attractions I went for a hike with one of my travel companions Neil. We were looking for a 12th century crusader castle, but never found it, and I noticed whilst writing this post that we were never going to as we were completely the wrong side of the Petra site.

On the trail we were followed by some Bedouin kids who clearly saw us as both a source of amusement and income. They weren’t selling the usual trinkets or jewellery though – one was selling crocus bulbs, whilst another was selling rocks!

Now I must admit these situations can be a pain in the backside, but equally I do love these encounters as it is good fun haggling and interesting to hear the things people say to get you to buy stuff – some are so clever. I also like to try and trade on some of the trinkets I’ve previously bought along my journey, and I have a lot… partly because I seem to be a magnet for these people, and I have to confess that I’m a sucker when it comes to pretty women or cute kids!

These kids were good fun and I managed to trade one of my many necklaces for – you guessed it – another necklace (a better one – I think).

There were desert crocuses growing along the sides of this part of the path although they weren’t in flower yet. One girl had pulled a couple of bulbs up and wanted me to buy them saying “put it in the ground and in a day it will have flower”. I think she thought I’d take them home with me – not sure I’d get them through customs though.

Earlier in the day I’d had tea with a young Bedouin woman on the way back from seeing the Monastery and she had folded and wrapped my ‘keffiyeh’ for me. The red and white ‘keffiyeh’ or ‘shemagh mhadab’ as it is known in Jordan is a square cloth, or scarf, usually made of cotton with decorative tassels on the sides and has been used by Bedouins for centuries. It is folded and wrapped in various styles around the head and is great protection from the sun and from getting blown dust and sand in your mouth or eyes.

Now I’m pretty sure that my ‘keffiyeh’ was tied correctly, but the little girl selling rocks thought otherwise and insisted on ‘doing it properly’. I tried to explain that it was done by a Bedouin, so it was funny when she’d finished and I showed her a picture of the young woman who I’d had tea with and explained she tied it the first time – you could see she was embarrassed realising it had been tied by another Bedouin.

Any embarrassment soon passed though… wrapping the kaffiyeh had given her the opportunity she was after and the hard sell and negotiations got underway.

She hand a collection of three small rocks in a cardboard tray she was carrying. The rocks had different colours running through them. Interesting though they were, I didn’t really want them… but, you guessed it, I ended up making a purchase (much to the annoyance of the little girl with the crocus bulbs).

3 rocks for 1 dinar – bargain… I think !?

The photographs in this post were taken by the Bedouin kids on our cameras – a couple are a little grainy as it seems they prefer to shoot at ISO800 in daylight!

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