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A Nabetean love story in Petra, Jordan

Travelling from Bali to Jordan on a budget is pretty tough…but certainly not impossible and 110% worth the 3 days of upheaval. In a nutshell, we left Bali early on the 14th May, landed in Singapore for 5 hours and then arrived in Dubai the early hours of the 15th May. In Dubai after a few hours sleep we rushed around the worlds biggest mall (literally the worlds biggest mall) looking for some clothes to wear in Jordan. We had packed sparingly…and badly. After 5 hours of shopping with intermittent IBS attacks we still had nothing and had to leave to get to the airport for our flight to Jordan, Amman.

That blissful last flight was smooth going and we arrived at 10pm on the 16th May. We met with our then driver, now friend, Abd and he took us for a tour around Amman. We ate Shwarma and drank Arabic coffee which is thick and strong and ground with cardamom seeds while we waited for our friend and photographer Lottie to arrive on her 4 and a half hour flight from the UK at midnight.

This all seems pretty dramatic I know, but I promise you it was worth it.

friends sit together in cafe in Jordan drinking coffee

Caffeined up after just 7 hours sleep over 2 nights we collected Lottie and jumped in the car for the last leg of our travel to Petra. Abd drove us the 300km whilst Lottie and I chewed the cud and Alex snoozed, mouth agape in the front seat. It took a good three hours of solid driving but as we drove Lottie and I laid our heads back and watched the glittering milky-way snake across the skies. Like a blast of diamond dust in the black unpolluted sky, it hung there in all its glory, seemingly just for us.

Finally arriving into the Marriot at 3am, worn out, smelly and weary there was a mix up with the rooms which we sorted in a daze, just desperate to sleep, we had an early morning arranged and were due to meet with Dr Mohammad Alfarajat at a bright and breezy 9am. By 4am we were away with the fairies and after racking up a grand total of 10 hours sleep and 10,000km in 3 days,I think we stayed that way until way into our 3rd coffee at around 11am the next day.

Meeting the Dr after talking wedding plans with him for 3 months was wonderful. Finally putting faces to names after working closely on a project for so long is a real pleasure and although we felt like we already knew him, to meet him in person and continue with the plans, to see his passion for cultural tourism and archaeology in Jordan was inspiring and contagious.

English couple meet the Petra faculty of tourism and archeaology

Dr Mohammad and his team at the Petra faculty for tourism and archaeology work hard to teach the importance of tourism to their students, they want to push forward and show the world that Jordan is a safe and welcoming place to visit. We all know the problems in the Middle East, we can’t help but see them on a daily basis in the news and it is terrifying. However, Jordan is suffering unfairly, like a good neighbour in a bad neighbourhood. The King Abdullah is working hard to promote peace and is adored by all, there is no political unrest and ultimately, if anything, the only danger you will face there as a tourist…is never wanting to leave.

Friendly welcoming faces abound, invites to tea coming from left right and center and from warm genuine people who all want you to experience their magical country. Even the guys selling trinkets in the archaeological site of the Treasury are polite and friendly and put you under no pressure to buy. They have amazing manners and many just want a chat to practice your language. The government have kept the prices regulated so there is no chance of being ripped off and you find yourself actually wanting to buy things that you are ordinarily put off buying because of the pressure to do so….anyway, I am getting ahead of myself and the entire experience.

Bedouins sell trinkets in Petra Jordan. Donkeys and camels sit in the sun

The many faces of Petra

Once we had met with Dr Mohammad and his wonder team, he told us they had made a plan to produce a short movie to set the scene for our wedding in Petra to the delegates of their first ever international conference on cultural tourism. We had timed our visit with this conference so that we could showcase a traditional Nabetean ceremony to the international audience in the hope that the news of the wedding, and the fact that Jordan is a safe and wonderful place to visit, would be spread far and wide. Also, cultural tourism has become somewhat a serious interest of ours. We have found that through our adventure we have a small power to show people places that they have never considered travelling to. Our audience can travel with us vicariously and one day, we hope they; we hope YOU, will step out of your comfort zone too and travel to those magical places on your bucket list, safe in the knowledge that you can talk with us about our experiences, or that you can read our thoughts here on our blog.

couple makes friends at the Treasury in PetraA boy leans between two camles and a man wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt rides a camel in front of Petra, Jordan

The video sounded like a great idea, despite our lack of acting skills and our severe lack of sleep we agreed to go with the flow and to see what happened. The video was to explain a Nabetean Love story leading up to our wedding the next day. Alex played a sculptor who was enrolled as a soldier who was charged with protecting his city, Petra. One day, before his enrollment, when busy by the local well, he saw a woman lost in the desert. Exhausted from the heat she drops to the ground and he rushes to her side with water from the well to quench her thirst. He saves her life and sends her in the right direction. They part ways but after he returns from fighting for his country they meet again, they tie a ribbon in a knot in a tree, a symbol of their engagement and the wedding is planned.

The day turned out to be filled with adventures; we got our first look at the Treasury and my goodness, is it breathtaking! The affectionately named pink city lived up to its name and glowed in the afternoon sunlight. Huge smiles spread across our faces and remained there for our entire visit…my smiles were particularly wide when Alex was dressed as a Soldier and joined the ‘soldiers’ for a re-enactment of a fight scene.

Bride and groom stand with soldiers in front of the Treasury in Petra Jordan before their wedding

The video is on its way via post to the UK to be reduced to an up-loadable size so we can share it with you. The Dr and his team seem to have produced it in a size that means it could be played on the front of the White House…I think they liked our acting better than we did and have high hopes for the movie! Lottie captured some stills of the day which you can enjoy until we get the film.

Alex the groom gets dressed as a soldier and joins in a re-enactment of a fight scene in front of PetraA fight re-enactment ensues in front of the Treasury in petra before the wedding. a crowd gathers to enjoy the performance

By 6 in the evening we were truly worn out. Acting it seems is pretty hard work…even when done badly. The kind Dr invited us to his home for dinner and his wife had cooked up a feast. An enormous platter of Magluba was presented in front of us steaming and smelling divine. The traditional dish is made by boiling chicken pieces with spices and potatoes. Once the chicken is cooked it is removed and rice added to the broth to cook while the chicken is browned in the oven. The huge pile of sunshine coloured rice and chicken was dished out in large portions and that beautiful silence that reflects the enjoyment of a meal ensued. We ate as much as we could and washed it down with sweet tea in beautiful little glasses before we left, eager to get our heads onto a pillow.

Our first day had been such an adventure already, placing ticks on our personal bucket lists, acting out a Nabetean love story, eating fantastic food with great people and finding that we could talk at the conference the following day…Our wedding adventure in Petra was well and truly underway.

the bride is prepared in a traditional nabetean way and costumethe nabetean bride is ready for the wedding in PetraThe groom is dressed to act scenes for the Nabetean love story, a production by the Petra faculty of tourismthe bride and groom act out a scene in the desert

As we slept that night (a solid 8 hours) another piece of our Jordanian wedding experience puzzle fell into place. Jeff Wood Visuals had arrived in town! There would be no stopping us now!

The following morning, Lottie, Alex and I met with Jeff and the international delegates at the conference at the Petra college. Our nerves rode high as we wrote our short speech in total blind panic. The conference seemed to be a huge success with speakers from Germany, Egypt, America and UNESCO, not to mention some important local attendees. We nervously managed to jumble through our piece just before lunch  and the rest of our day was spent drinking beers and wearing pretty dresses while the sun slid behind the stunning Petra mountain range.

the bride and groom attend a cultural tourism conference in Petra

Lottie had bought along with her a gift from our great friends at Love Bridal boutique, a stunning Enzoani gown and a gorgeous crystal headband. The sunset was magical and we couldn’t resist getting a few snaps, with all the excitement mounting around the actual wedding, we didn’t know if there would be another opportunity to wear the gorgeous gown…any excuse haha!

As night fell over the mountains and the stars made their dazzling appearance we laid awake in bed minds racing about the wedding…nerves, excitement, ideas about the future of Petra whirled inside my head…this wedding really was going to be the experience of a lifetime in an absolutely stunning locale that had spent 26 years on my bucket list!

the bride has a white wedding dress to wear as well as a traditional Nabetean dress. the dress is hung for picturesthe wedding dress hangs in the balcony overlooking the mountain ranges of Petra at sunsetthe bride wears an elegant white wedding dress at sunset overlooking the mountain ranges of Petrabride and groom enjoy the sunsetbride and groom watch the sun set over the mountains of PetraPetra-wedding-jordan-elope (24)sun set the night before the wedding in Petra Jordan

2people1life Petra // directors cut from Jeff Wood Visuals on Vimeo.

Photography – Lottie Elizabeth Photography | Videography – Jeff Wood Visuals | Planning and Accommodation – Petra Faculty of Tourism and Archaeology |  Dress – Enzoani courtesy of Love Bridal Boutique

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