Khalyse Benjamin ’21 and Matthew Popkin ’19 describe their final days in Jordan visiting the ancient ruins of Petra and the Wadi Rum desert.
Our final days in Jordan were shared in three locations: Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba. Petra is a place many people know, as one of the seven modern wonders of the world, and never in a million years did I think that I would be looking at it and experiencing it. Walking through the ancient city, with sweat dripping down, we were able to see this part of the world for what it actually is. The sand in our shoes and the wind blowing in our faces let us know once again that it was real and that we were actually there.
As the group made our way through Petra we decided to see the Monastery, located at the far end of the city. The challenging hike up, with hundreds of stairs to climb, made us think about all the difficult things that will come our way in this lifetime. Our thighs were burning and we were out of breath, but we were not going to turn back. We pushed through and made our way to the top, and we were thankful that we did so. It was a memorable moment. We made our way back, found our bus, and began our journey to Wadi Rum.
After departing from Petra, we thought that the beauty of that site would remain unmatched for the rest of the trip. Once again, like many times before, Jordan proved us wrong. The scale of the mountainous rocks in Wadi Rum made jeeps look like hot wheels and people like ants. The desert seemed to go on forever and ever. All of these enormous sights should have made us feel small, but riding in the open air listening to Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar with our newfound friends, we felt very connected and very big.
The dinner and dancing we enjoyed in Wadi Rum were both just as beautiful as the land around us. The local people made us feel comfortable in a place in a corner of the world far away from anything we have ever known. We put up a valiant effort dancing, and, as always, we were champions at eating, but the real highlight for us was the stargazing. Wadi Rum was the first place where we managed to see every star in the night sky. In New York City, the lights are so bright that they drown out the starlight that would normally shine through. In Deerfield, we see more stars and even some constellations. But, at Wadi Rum we saw every star that a person could observe. We saw Orion and Ursa Major. We saw the foggy line of the Milky Way, observing for the first time our home on the galactic scale.
The beauty and size of the stars reminded us to take a deep breath and be present with the moment: To look not to quantify, but to look to feel. Growing up in New York City, opportunities to view nature in its purest form are few and far between and we will always be thankful for that experience – standing there, looking up into the all-encompassing vastness of space, into the Milky Way galaxy itself.