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Monday, 7 March 2016

Save the donkeys in Petra!

It’s all about the Benjamins for most of the people in our world.
Friendship, love, or compassion are only words seemingly lost in the sands of time.
For the soft-eyed inhabitants of the ancient site of Petra, life is not a symphony of butterflies and mellow pets.

I never knew that animals cried. Not until I met my first donkey in Petra and noticed its sad look and the tears in its eyes. I instinctively approached, caressed the blood marks on its skin, and encouraged it to be brave.
We went trekking to the Monastery after having already seen quite a lot of visitors on top of donkeys. The road up was neither gruelling nor was it long, but people found it easier to rely on donkeys. On this occasion, there was a seven-year boy arguing with his mother in Arabic because his donkey would simply not climb [they were carrying food supplies at that time]. We stopped for a short while to take some of our clothes off, so we stumbled upon this boy-donkey pair a few steps higher. They were still not agreeing. The boy was hitting the donkey with a metal rod and sips of blood were bursting from its wounds. My boyfriend and I stopped: ‘Why are you hitting it?’ ‘It won’t move.’ ‘You shouldn’t do this’… I said while starting to caress the donkey’s head. We were both crying. We tried to make the donkey go down the stairs, but the boy took over again. There was also an Indian gentleman who returned to help the donkey.
We reached the Monastery and went on a vista-hunt. I was not in the mood. I was disgusted. I would have beaten up that child, the same way he beat up the donkey, with the same rod, so he could feel its pain. As I watched Negev Desert and Wadi Araba in the background, I got more and more worked up and I noticed one other sad donkey. And we fed it one of our bags of chips, caressing it all the while. Tears were again running down my face.
As we descended the steps towards the main site, I could see drops of blood. The blood of the donkeys owned by the men and women who were constantly harassing the people who came to see Petra. ‘Buy something. Just 1 Jd’ – though you would have paid more: your self-respect, your dignity, your principles.
Heading to the exit, infuriated to the extreme, we met the donkey that had been beaten on the steps. It seemed at peace now, though fearful and sceptical. We approached it, gave it the remaining bag of chips, caressed it, kissed it, and talked to it. The donkey lightened up and watched us with its big and dreamy eyes as if begging us to take it along. I couldn’t stop the tears freefall as I left it behind.

Replying those ‘A donkey, ma’am?’ with ‘I can walk!’ and defying the looks of those heartless men made me feel like I was partially revenging the innocent donkeys. The second step was a letter to Visit Jordan, with one to Unesco and one to her Majesty Queen Rania to follow [they seem unwilling to ‘talk’, unfortunately].
Tourists -travellers don’t do it- should not encourage these practices and should go to the top by the help of their own two feet. Moreover, I know that Bedouins take care of their animals, because their existence depends on that. The people of Petra were simply scams and had been making use of the ‘Bedouin’ title for the sake of profit. If you ask me, I would evict all of them and release the donkeys into the wild – they would stand a much better chance to being happy!  

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