Ya se que no vendras
Todo lo que fue
El tiempo lo dejo atras
Se que no regresaras
Lo que nos paso
No repetira jamas
“Tawfiq, Shakira! Shakira!” Tawfiq was my given desert name during my ten days living and working in the Wadi Rum desert in the very south of Jordan, and it means “Good Luck”. Shakira was the music of choice of Mahmoud, the only other worker at the Sunset Camp. Sunset Camp is one of many outfits that organize tourist expeditions into the Wadi Rum desert, with most of the attractions having a story related to Lawrence of Arabia who inhabited these lands for some time. In the evening, the tourists are brought to a campsite in the desert where they watch a brilliant sunset and after are served dinner. The next morning breakfast is served and then all the tourists are whisked back to the village, around 15 km away.
My job was to help Mahmoud with his work which consisted of making breakfast and dinner and cleaning up the tents after the guests left. Mahmoud is from Kharthoum, Sudan and he came to Jordan to work for a year where he can earn more than back home. In his ten months that he’s been at Sunset Camp, Mahmoud has not had any music, not even Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” on his mobile phone like everyone else in the Middle East regrettably seems to have. So when I first put on my iPod with speakers in the kitchen while we were cleaning up after breakfast he began dancing while mopping the kitchen. I knew I was on to something. I cycled through several different artists to try to get a feel for what he liked and Shakira was a clear winner with Michael Jackson and the Gypsy Kings also a big favorite. I soon realized that my real value in this camp was to play iPod DJ for Mahmoud.
In exchange for my chopping vegetables and DJ’ing, I got a tent, food and the rest of the day to myself. From our campsite the desert sprawls on endlessly in every direction and some days I would head out for a few hours long trek in a new direction. I’d return by lunch time where Mahmoud would have cooked up a lunch of eggs, bread and an addictive Sudanese desert made with short noodles and a whole lot of sugar. Sugar in large quantities seems to be a requirement in all Sudanese cooking, especially when making tea.
After lunch, during the hottest time of day, we’d take a foam mattress each and head up to a nearby mountain for the midday nap. In a shady nook on the west face of the mountain we’d put our mattresses down, cover our heads with bed sheets to keep the flies away and take a nap with the wind keeping us cool and not a sound to be heard.
There is no power in the campsites so no tv, no radios and so some days I would head over to nearby campsites to hang out. Sitting around and chatting over a cup of tea is the primary means of entertainment in the desert. I got to know the guys at the nearby campsites pretty well including a good friend I made Rakan, aka Ricky Martin, as he was so lovingly named by Andrea and Tracey, two great travelers who made the campsite really fun the one night they were there. You should have stayed another day!
In the late afternoon the tourists begin appearing at the campsite ready for the sunset, and it is time for me to chop some vegetables. I probably chopped a couple hundred cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes in my ten days while I left all the real cooking to Mahmoud. He seemed more than happy with the set up. As long as Shakira was in the kitchen with us.