Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Just Another Mamluk Monday

Since the institute where I'm studying doesn't like to give its students proper weekends--they say it decreases motivation or some other such educational blah blah blah--we have Mondays and Fridays off, Friday being the Muslim holy day and Monday being a totally random choice, a convenient day to have off. (That's right: Friday is the new Sunday and Monday is the new Saturday. Just try to imagine how much that confuses me.)

As a further aside, I should note that, since I only have two hours of class a day, every day feels like a weekend day; I spend my time going to the gym, meeting friendly Jordanians at the gym, and eating lunch with said people instead of working out at said gym; bargaining over vegetable prices at outdoor souqs; going to outdoor concerts of Palestinian protest hip-hop groups, watching documentaries about Palestinian protest hip-hop groups, and then listening to yet other Palestinian protest hip-hop groups conduct a Q&A session about their protests, their hip-hop, and their Palestine; and watching a Turkish soap opera dubbed into Arabic and then discussing it--can you believe he kidnapped her?--with everyone I know. And, of course, I still sit on the balcony every evening to watch the wedding fireworks over the city. (When the invasion comes, how will we know?) Homework, schmomework.

On Mondays, though, I get to blow off homework even more, and so, with my last Monday off, I rounded up a roommate and hopped on a bus to Karak, home of a 12th-century Crusader castle. We were prepared for too much adventure--my roommate woke up feeling sick, so we spent the morning joking about the possibility of projectile vomiting on a public bus--but, in the the end, got just enough, leaving us very proud of ourselves: we successfully found and rode a public bus, we understood a tour of the castle's underground tunnels given entirely in Arabic, we didn't die of heatstroke, we (okay, I) didn't succumb to panic attacks when it turned out that the "Desert Highway" was not, in fact, misnamed.

Plus, we had an awesome time. I love castles, so of course I was predisposed to enjoy myself, but the day exceeded even my expectations: we arrived just in time for the noon prayer, and so as we first stood on the walls of the castle, looking down over Wadi Karak and Wadi Mujib, river valleys cut into the desert landscape, seeing all the way to the Dead Sea and the possible site of Sodom and Gomorrah in one direction, we heard, from all the towns spread in the valley, and finally coming out of the wadis themselves, the call to prayer: Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar!

And it only got better from there: after the magic of that moment, we spent a few hours exploring the interior of the castle, adding the word "crusader" to everything as we tried to figure out the castle's structure: Crusader kitchens, Crusader ovens, Crusader parapets, Crusader tunnels, Crusader barracks where Crusader soldiers slept on Crusader cots, my Crusader dumb idea to climb up a rocky Crusader wall to a Crusader window.

Until, of course, we found out, from our Arabic tour of the underground tunnels, that only some of the castle was built by Crusaders; the rest was built, after the departure of the Crusaders, by Mamluks.

Okay, fine--Mamluk tunnels, Mamluk garrisons, Mamluk keeps, Mamluk castles, Mamluk bottles of water to keep us going in the Mamluk midday heat. I can live with that, just like I can live with Mondays instead of Saturdays off. Anyone up for a trip to Ajlun next week?


KrumperKids said...

Hey--there's that Indonesia t-shirt!

Diane said...

For Castle lovers a poem:

All through that summer at ease we lay,
And daily from the turret wall
We watched the mowers in the hay
And the enemy half a mile away
They seemed no threat to us at all.

For what, we thought, had we to fear
With our arms and provender, load on load,
Our towering battlements, tier on tier,
And friendly allies drawing near
On every leafy summer road.

Edwin Muir (don't read the rest of the poem ,it turns sad.)

Th. said...


Wait a second.....what were the Mamluks doing that far from Alaska?

Ginsberg said...

Hey, you're wearing that really, really old t-shirt in that picture, aren't you?

Petra said...

People, people, people! There are pictures of CASTLES and you're commenting on my T-shirt? Where are your priorities?!?!

That said, yes, I'm wearing the really old T-shirt in the pictures. I only brought a week's worth of clothes to Jordan so, uh, get used to repeats.

(I'm actually wearing it right now as I speak/type, too.)

Petra said...

Also, and Th.--

You confuse me.

Kaneeneenie said...

this reminds me of how much i want to live in a castle.