Adventure and Existentialism in Petra


My friend Stephen feels the freedom of an open desert at night.


A view of the deserts and mountains of Ma’an


The Nabataean monastery sits atop one of the highest hills in Petra


While I did a lot of cool things this weekend—camel riding in Wadi Rum, sleeping in a Bedouin camp, romping around the desert, exploring the ancient city of Petra—I really only brought one significant thought from it, one experience for which “cool” is an inaccurate understatement of its reality. It was a weird convergence of realizations that led to a state of mind I’ve never really been in before.

After walking through an expansive, once-thriving, long-dead city, wealthy enough to support a population of 20,000 people in the middle of the desert, with complex architecture and intricate water conduit system, I climbed to one of its highest points, where the monastery is located. I stared at the building’s huge facade, in awe at its sheer size, but more so at the people it stood to commemorate. Then I hiked over the peak of the mountain to overlook the sublime scene of the surrounding rift valley, and for the first time in a long time felt completely insignificant. Like the strong breeze that had just kicked up could blow me away like a grain of sand without remorse.

But at the same time I looked at the people around me–American, Jordanian, British, Italian, and others—and felt a sense of connectedness to them and the world around me. But standing with them in the face of the universe we looked out upon, I felt very at home in this pile of insignificant grains of sand, who, despite wildly contrasting lifestyles and cultures, really have a lot in common. I felt free and happy to be even the smallest part of something so sublime.

Comments are closed.