Mehvash Khan, 24 Sept. ’10
Knowing I was arriving at yet another Middle Eastern desert-land, I expected to be trapped in no less than 40 degrees Celsius of scorching heat that I failed to escape from in Dubai. Little did I know that once I stepped out of the glass sliding doors of the Jordanian Airport of Amman, a cool breeze would slap me across the face, knocking the wind out of me. Rejuvenated by the unexpected pleasant weather and with a new sense of purpose, I proceeded to have an action-packed and unforgettable 7 days of my life.
For one who has an undying love for history, Jordan is the place to be, what with its vast collection of mesmerizing historic monuments and cities. I began my adventures (with my cousins) with cross-country road trips to several tourist attractions, one of them being the ancient city of Jerash. I revelled in the beautiful surroundings as my eyes devoured the sights I came across, some being centuries-old temples, coliseums, Roman streets, great arches and amphitheatres, to name a few.
The next few days passed in a blur, as town after town blew past me, taking my breath along with them. Never had I imagined that I would stand upon Mt. Nebo, memorial place of Prophet Moses, and breathe the air he breathed, walk the ground he walked, and survey the surrounding lands as he did, one of them being Jerusalem, which happened to be just a few kilometres away. Right after that I dipped into the natural hot springs of Madaba; the boiling water burning my skin was quickloy forgotten as the contrasting breeze gently cooled down my body, taking away all my soreness as my muscles relaxed.
With my mind giddy, trying to comprehend this legion of magnificent sights and scenes, we travelled to yet another historic city lying on the slope of Mount Hor; Petra – one of the natural wonders of the world. Riding on horseback through a city carved in stone, we marvelled at the splendour of the carvings on pillars, statues, temples, and to my delight, the ‘treasury’. Local children roamed through the tourists, selling beautifully crafted ornaments or delicate handmade jewellery. Their eager faces and enthusiastic demeanours won the hearts of many naive tourists, as they paid extravagant sums of money for not-so expensive goods, thus serving as an excelling market for the young salesmen.
However, none of these experiences could even begin to compare with the astounding activity that took place in Aqaba, the coastal city of the Red Sea. Squinting through the blinding rays of sunlight one fine morning, I struggled to make my way across the rocky shores of the Red Sea, as 25 kilos of equipment weighed me down. Yes, adorned with scuba gear, weights and an oxygen tank, I was all geared up to plunge into the clear waters for my first ever scuba dive. Impatience being my middle name, I hastily tried to master the several breathing exercises that the diving instructors were trying, in vain, to teach us, but of course, I paid no heed. As we dipped down to try a breathing technique, I choked on extremely salty water and shot up for air, spluttering and gasping for air.
Eyes and throat stinging, my cheeks burned with the chagrin of my foolishness. Slowly, I repeated the necessary breathing exercises needed for the scuba dive. After what seemed like eons, we finally took our final breath of air above water as one by one we plunged into the smooth waters of the red sea, breaking its smooth facade. At once water pushed in at me from all sides, building up pressure and causing my head to pound uncontrollably. However, I applied the techniques taught to me and soon my head and ears cleared. As soon as I stopped fidgeting about, I got a good look at my surroundings, and would have chocked once more had I not been learned in breathing through the regulator. The scene was breath-taking; shoals upon shoals of fish swam past me, within reach but not quite touching me. Massive coral reefs rested on the sea bed as hundreds of different kinds of fish swam in and out of their homes, going about their daily business, it seemed to me. Trying to imitate my instructor’s lithe movements, I kicked my legs, or should I say, fins, thus enabling me to move deeper into this unknown world.
Goosebumps erupted on the bare skin of my hands and legs as the frigid water got to me, yet I sought my best to ignore the numbness spreading through me as my eyes and mind were completely captivated with this strange and magnificent realm I had the good fortune to plunge into. Careful not to touch anything, I moved my arms to get me deeper into this world, greedy to see more, to find more.
Suddenly the instructor blocked my view, signalling to my arms and legs and pointing upwards. Only then did I realize that my body was convulsing in shivers, that sent tremors along the length of my spine, rattling my bones. Unable to take the cold any longer, I reluctantly began ascending towards the surface. Yet, before I reached, I somehow managed to breathe in the sea water; suddenly the world was spinning, my vision was blurred as water clouded my mask and my throat once again burned with the salt water pouring through it. My heart, which felt as though it were fallen in the pits of my stomach, pounded louder than ever, and I frantically wondered if this was the last time it would beat.
Miraculously, what seemed like God’s hands wrapped themselves around my waist and pulled me upwards. As I broke through the surface my lungs ached as if I had run a 100 miles- like de ja vu, I gasped and spluttered once more, attempting to return my breathing to normal.
The instructor pulled me towards the rocky beach, and I sat on the rocks, reliving those last few grave moments. I smiled and tipped my head towards the fiery orb resting in the midst of the cloudless sky, letting the rays of the sun dry the droplets of water dripping down my face.
An exuberant experience I will never forget; my dive into the unreal worlds of the Red Sea. Heart thumping away, I fervently hope that my next summer will be as unforgettable as this one.