Please Don’t Stop the Music

On our second day in Petra, I decided that Chet and I would make the arduous trek to Ad-Deir – otherwise known as the monastery. Ad-Deir is about as far as you can get from the Petra Visitor’s Center without ending up in Palestine. And to get there, you must climb 800 perilous steps straight up into the mountains. What’s not child-friendly about that?

In my child-free days, I would have hiked it. And I’ll admit, for a moment, the desert sun caused a momentary lapse of judgment and I wondered if maybe Chet could handle it. You know, because nothing’s better than hearing your child’s whine of “Mommy, carry meeeeeeeee,” echo through a mountain passage. Except, you know, hearing your tortured breath as you actually do carry him and the sixteen “special” rocks he’s picked up along the way.

Instead, we opted to hire a Bedouin guide and make the trek on donkeys. Oh, excuse me, Chet would like me to inform you they were “horsies.” Because if Shrek and Fiona say that a donkey is a noble steed, then darn it, that should be good enough for the rest of us.

It was an incredible journey to take. As our donkeys scrambled up the rocky, stone stairs, Chet’s laughter seemed to reverberate across the world. He couldn’t have been happier. And when our guide, Esa, a traditional Bedouin, started to sing, the trip only became more magical.

“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah eeeeeeeeah keereeageee aaaaaleeeeeeeeeeohhhhhhhhhhhh.”

Not be outdone, Chet joined in. At first, he tried to sing along with the Bedouin lyrics. But when they proved too much for him, he started his own song.

“We’re riding on the horsie, horsie, horsie. We’re riding on the horsie, here we go.”

The Horsie song is of those annoying ditties from Chet’s school that include clucking sound effects and incessant lap-patting. Of course, it’s one of his favorites. Usually, when I hear him start to sing it I have to go to my happy place lest the song burrow into my head and suck out my will to live.  For a moment, I worried that Esa might feel the same way, especially with his gorgeous melody being interrupted with utter kiddie schlock.  But he paused, listened for a moment with a smile, and then changed up his song so that he could weave it in with Chet’s.

From this day forward, I will be unable to hate the Horsie song.  Because when coupled with Esa’s lovely, haunting chant, I can honestly say it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

“Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeahhhh kaaaaaaaaayoooooooogeeeeeeeeeeee  ohyiiiiiiiiiiiiiii sharrrrrrok…We’re riding on the horsie, horsie, horsie. We’re riding on the horsie, just say whoa.”

Holding on to my donkey for dear life, I was unable to capture the moment on video. I regret that I didn’t. But all I have to do is close my eyes and it’s right there, strong and exquisite, in my head.  And I know the sound of their duet will remain with me for a long time to come.



  1. says

    I was digging through my reader, catching up on about a million posts and then I came to this one. What a standout. Of course, I’d expect no less from you Kayt.

  2. Coralie Waschkowski says

    I am a single parent world budget traveller…my daughter and I backpacked through the Middle East the summer before last (2010 – she was turning 10)…when we finally made it to Jordan and the magical Petra city, we were pumped and ready to trek it ALL, including that BIG trek up the uneven, shale-like sandstone to the Monestery…I am not an animal person, and hate horses. I didn’t want my daughter to go on her own on a donkey (we did not hire a guide, but guided ourselves) as I saw several people who had put their children on a donkey cantering by leaving their families far behind scrambling in the 120 degree heat (we visited in July) to cach up on foot.

    Like you, my child started becoming exhaustyed from trekking in the mid-day heat, and I hired one of the roving donkey handlers to take her up the hill with the instruction to walk beside me. Well, someone’s family was going much faster and did not stop, but passed us too quicklu on the cliff side, and the father of the family’s donkey slipped and they both went over the was horrifying. All the commotion spooked my daughter’s donkey who took off running scared up the hill. All I remember was seeing my daughter go unaccompanied around a corner and I could hear her screaming for me and I was screaming for her and the handler who was also on foot and could not catch up to her…fortunately a bedouin around the corner near the top, had the sense to see that the donkey was a run away and stopped it and held it for when I caught up. My daughter was in tears and scared that I had gone over the cliff ans I was fearful for her…needless to say it makes for a great story, but not so much for the man who went over. He was medivaced out with what they worried was a broken, back, neck, leg and ankle…scary stuff.

    I am glad that your family adventure was done in a safe way. I would caution other thinking about this destination to make sure you outline with the donkey people you deal with that you DO NOT want to pass on the cliffs, and to go slow and yeild for others. I saw with my own eyes that a lot so them take this opportunity as big business. They rush people up, so they can whip the donkeys back to the bottom to carry more people up…this is a lot of money for them, and many of them did not seem to care for the donkeys well (in my opinion), or really care anout the safety of the passengers.

    Another tip for others. Arrive early, head straight for the Monestery on foot first thing in the morning so it is not the big heat of the day, and take your time looking at the rest of the great stuff on your way back down.

    This is still a wonderful memory for us both. We were able to stay in the bedouin cave at the top and rest, drink tea and get rid of our shakes so we could enjoy the rest of our time in Petra…it WAS awesome!!

  3. says

    Coralie, I would have lost it if that had happened to me! We did go early in the day before the bulk of tourists arrived. And our guide was not the first one who approached us–nor the cheapest. He was the first guide who made Chet feel comfortable, which was exactly what I was looking for.

    But thank you for passing on the warnings. Definitely important for future visitors!

  4. Coralie Waschkowski says

    Yes…hindsight would have had me wait for the “right” guide to assist us, and not the “first one” just because my daughter was wiped from the heat!! There are always good tips to share for sure!! Either way, we loved every second of our backpack trek through the Middle East, and ESPECIALLY our time in is a magical place!!


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