Saturday, January 5, 2013
Fake Marriages and Holy Water
A quick word about the scenery as we get started.In most of the cities, the buildings were a pale brown, blending seamlessly into the desert they rose up out of. But not Amman, aka The White City. The buildings there are all made out of limestone and they glittered in beautiful contrast to their surroundings like a shining bridge between the warm browns of the shifting sands and the brilliant lapis of the cold, cloudless sky. Stunning. It was a great place to start our Jordanian journey.
Speaking of Moses, he (like St. Patrick) seemed to have a habit of going around splitting rocks with his staff and causing water to pour out. I guess it was kind of a thing back in the day. Mid-afternoon on that first day as we drove from site to site we found ourselves just moseying along on one of the long winding roads that stretched through the desert and I got to see actually see one. We were in a sparsely populated area when our guide aka The Flirt had our driver aka The Mouth, pull over. There were a few low dusty buildings strewn along the side of the road and a lot of sand but not much else where we had pulled over. I was wondering what in the heck we were doing in this isolated spot when The Flirt urged us to get out of the car and follow him inside one of the structures. I thought to myself "Oh, so THIS is where I get kidnapped and sold into white slavery. Okay, then" but got out and followed him anyway, curiosity overcoming my reservations.
We ducked in through the rough clay door and stood there for a moment, blinking our sun blinded eyes and gulping in the cool air inside. Slowly the dim interior came into focus. The framework was nothing more than four thick clay walls, baked over hundreds of years into becoming a part of the landscape itself and a packed earth ceiling with a few slits that let in shafts of light filled with softly dancing motes of dust. One of these illuminated a large rock that the back wall had clearly been built around. In front of the rock was a large rectangular depression with a bit of water swirling at the bottom. The Flirt had jumped over the small reservoir and was kneeling by a large crack in the stone on the other side that I now noticed water flowing out of. He waved us over and told us that Moses had happened by this place in his travels and that since the area was so desperate for water he struck this stone with his staff and the water started pouring out, saving the local village. I closely inspected the rock and saw no plumbing, no evidence of any trickery of any kind - the water really was just gushing out of the rock all on its own.
It was at this point that The Flirt unscrewed his water bottle and filled it up right from the stone itself. I sputtered about whether or not that was a good idea and he just gave me an odd look. I was reminded that the water was made to come forth to help those who suffered thirst and that we should utilize this gift, that that was what it was there for. Well, when you put it like that, yeah, that makes sense I guess. It just felt a bit like filling up from a holy fount in a church or something but then I looked around and saw my surroundings anew. This place had not been made into a museum. There was no fee for entry, no souvenir stand, no signs advertising what miracle lay within, heck there wasn't even a parking lot. It was just an old dusty clay building, much like the others sporadically dotting the landscape. There was nothing remarkable about it from the outside at all. The locals knew what it was and accepted it for just that. No muss, no fuss, just grateful for what they had and happy to keep paying that original gift forward by leaving it for whosoever needed it. I leaned forward and filled my bottle and then scooped some of the water into my hands to cool the sweat from my flushed face. I took a sip and found that the water coming through was just as sweet and pure as I imagine it was the day when Moses first smacked the boulder with his stick. Stuff like that always gives me pause. Like my first visit to Rome when it was casually mentioned that "O yeah, Julius Caesar was stabbed right over there. Anyhoo, on your left you'll see..." Wait, what? Double-take. It's surreal. There was a lot of that going on in both Jordan and Egypt.