Wadi Rum

Out of the canyon nearing Wadi Musa. More cars, like the camping area around Slickrock before the BLM started containing things. Familiar but not expected here. Friday night, conceptually like our Saturday since a day off, families camped out on the sandstone with spreads of food, three foot high speakers, teens kicking the futbol around with the younger boys, older teens smoking with their uncles and fathers, women in groups laughing. Like Mexico or the 4th of July. Again timed it, well, not wrong, but, anyway, ill for riding in the light. 5:15 sunset leaves too few hours for civilized lunches or sitting for tea, thus gloves and puff jacket and headlamp. Alien, incomprehensible industry and majesty of Petra tomorrow.

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Now into Wadi Rum, Lawrence of Arabia fame, lofting rock, arches, red gold shadowed crags against swelling dunes. Essential wind and landscape.

Sitting in the tent with Eido and Mohamed, Beduins. Another arrives, introduces himself, Zedan asks where I am from. “So your English is good?” I confirm that I have some practice. He deadpans, “I speak English like a French person: not very bad but not good.” We laugh. They make fun of my American accent imitating another recent visitor with an exaggerated square, overclear diction, “Hell-oh. I am Day-Vid from Cal-uh-forn-ya!” When they say they haven’t met many brits either, I realize that mostly they’ve ever spoken english with people for whom it is not their native language, Continental tourists, this strange pseudo lingua franca that I foolishly take for granted.

Later, the boys are howling heartily in mirth. I ask whether the joke can be translated. Eido, gamely, “There is this man. He is going hunting far away on a camel. You know, camel?” I nod. “But he smokes a drug first to go hunting. He goes five kilometers and then falls off his camel and goes to sleep.” I sit impassively as they study my reaction. “My English not good.” I assume he means he can’t translate the rest of the joke. Mohamed says, “you see, some things are very funny in Arabic, but not in English. This must be true in English when you make it into French or Spanish, yes?” I say, “of course,” waiting for them to continue with the joke. Oh, I see, that evidently was the joke.