Mike, My Arabian Horse


On the road to Petra from the Dead Sea, with the shocked French lady still in my mind, I passed through Jordan’s rocky and scarce arable land.  Olive trees spotted the deep valleys. We stopped at a scenic overview near Shobak to take pictures. To get the desired background, I stood so close to a ravine that my friends yelled “John, don’t, you’ll fall!” It surely looked like that on the picture:

JS in Jordan

Arriving in Petra, I quickly checked into the Moewenpick Hotel and walked to the prehistoric Petra site. On the dusty access road, a stunningly beautiful black Arabian horse said “hello” to me. As I am from a family of horseback riders and breeders, I patted the horse and a voice said, “I’m Mike”. A Bedouin boy, wearing a large black cape and red-check keffiyeh came from behind it. It was he who’d had spoken for the horse. Ahmed was his name. His English was minimal and I don’t know Arabic, but he understood my instant silly desire to ride Mike and we agreed on a price in Jordanian Dinars.

Before seeing Petra, I wanted to mount the rocky mountains and see it from above to have some oversight. Climbing the rocks would not be easy, but Ahmed said Mike did that all the time, so I shouldn’t have any problems. This, I should not have done. Midway uphill, the saddle began to shift because the horse’s girth underneath his belly wasn’t tightened enough. With my weight leaning left, Mike could not keep his balance while climbing the rocks and fell on his side, with me lying half under him. Doing this on a 45 degree angle, with hard rocks poking in my left and heavy Mike scurrying his legs in the air on my right, was not an ideal position. Ahmed had stumbled up the hill behind us and reached Mike to help him back on his hoofs. I also struggled back up, dusted off my pants, thinking hard about how to mount a horse on a 45 degree angle. I helped Ahmed fix the girth, looked for a big rock to stand on, and pulled Mike uphill to the rock, and climbed on it to get back in the saddle. I’m still not sure how, but we made it to the top. From there I had a splendid view of the conglomerate of rocks with holes carved into it, where the inhabitants, the Nabateans, used to live.


JS in Petra_crop 3 Living Quarters

A women dressed in black garb offered me a welcome warm tea cooked on a stove in a hole in the rocks where she lived with her family. I could not take her picture as “her husband would kill her if I did.”

As I had lost time with the horse ride, it became clear I could not see Petra that same day. We took Mike down the hill, and I galloped to the exit – like the Bedouin riders did – eyed after in awe by tourists – with Ahmed hollering loudly behind me, jumped off and gave Mike a big pat on the neck. I had to get my suitcase out of the car before my friends drove off to Aqaba at the Red Sea where they had a retreat and I was not needed. I barely made it, as the car was about to leave.

The next day I visited Petra starting early in the morning. It was one of the most inspiring historical sites I have ever seen. The Nabatean society, which inhabited this area between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. must have been a class by themselves. They excavated their buildings, temples, tombs and living quarters from the rocks that remained their natural protection and obtained water from sources through elaborate supply systems that are still in tact today.

This space is too limited to show many pictures but a small selection follows.


Treasury 2The “Treasury”

Treasury Square 3The ” Treasury Square”

herder playing fluteHerder playing his flute

Next time: driving ahead of a sand storm.


Add yours
  1. 1
    Ala H. Al-Kazzaz

    Dear John
    Magnificent description of the experience. Every time I’m in Jordan, I used to arrange for visiting Al-Petra area. I have noticed that there are signs of four civilizations: Islamic, Pharaoh, Roman and Nabatean. You must have recognized that from the sculptures in the rocky structure.
    I’ve had great time reading your story. You should have invited the French woman !!

    • 2

      Ala: I could have written and shown a lot more about Petra. The saddest thing I found was that that magnificent civilization just withered away, because the trade routes changed and the Romans came in destroying them. I’m afraid the French woman was still having her Dead Sea mud baths and what would I have done with her on the back of my saddle….

  2. 3
    Dan Dwyer

    Really enjoyed your description of a place I will unlikely get to see. I though it was fascinating and rather serendipitous that you could see so much of the world on the World’s dime. Well, I guess someone’s got to do it.

    • 4

      Dan: thanks for your positive comments. Yes, I had to travel a lot and saw many things. Too bad we didn’t have Iphones for pics those days, as running around with a camera as an official was not customary.

  3. 5

    The theme of the blog is a picture I took at the Dead Sea in Jordan. So the blog theme was mine. The theme was constructed on Wordrpess.com and served by outstandingSETUP.COM. You may need to get a website domain from Bluehost.com. The website was developed by http://www.dalitopia.com. Thanks for your comments. John SChwartz

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.