The Al Deir Brat

My wife and I had just finished scaling the mountain up to Al Deir. The last monument to be seen in Petra. Despite the fact that we had ridden donkeys up the mountain, it was still extremely hot and we had to climb up the last third of the way. I panted heavily with the full load of my camera gear on my back

When I reached the top of the mountain, my wife and I parted.   I decided to seek refuge from the heat inside a cave over looking the temple. I snapped a couple of pictures when all of sudden through another small hole in the upper part of the cave, a head popped out of a 9 year old boy. He promptly asked, “You have gum?” I said no, to which he eagerly wormed through the hole, extending his small hand and with a slight bow introduced himself to me. “My name is Salmet.”

Location: Petra, Jordan
Sensor: Sony A7R
Glass: Canon TSE 24 3.5Lii

I was hesitant to reach out, but he was so insistent and positioned himself purposely in the way of my camera shot that he finally managed to weasel a limp handshake from me.

He then says, “You are in my cave and that is my temple over there” pointing to Al Deir. “You no take picture. You give me one dinar.” I politely said no, and he countered with half a dinar which is roughly $.75 USD.   I still said no out of principal at which point he starts grabbing at my expensive camera.

But his hands were so wiry and tiny that the only thing he could get a firm grasp on was a cleaning cloth. “You give me this then.” Honestly, he didn’t even know what it was. However, that cloth was securely attached by rope to my camera. “

Still I told him no and still he wouldn’t let go, saying that this was his cave and temple and he strengthened his grasp. This went back of forth for a while at which point he starts yelling out for his brother to help him out.

At this point I’m thinking, “Geez, I hope his brother doesn’t pull out a rusty nail on me or something.” But then I’m also thinking “Hell I’m getting bullied by a 9 year old kid!”   But what am I going to do? I’m all alone with this boy in a cave, no one can see us, I can’t “physically persuade” this kid, and furthermore I have a lot more to lose. Now of course a $3 cloth wasn’t going to break my bank account, but this kid was getting on my nerves and I didn’t want to set a bad example that other tourists would have to endure later on. (It didn’t help either, that I had just got a lecture from my wife for getting fleeced by a vendor earlier in the day)

So I decided to make this event a little more interesting and I started talking to the kid. My first tactic was to distract him so that he would let go of my camera. I said “Which room in the temple is yours?” It doesn’t work – he kept on babbling and demanded that I give him something. So I tried another tactic.

“Why do you want to take from me,” I asked?   Ah, that was the ticket I could literally look down into his eyes this sudden realization of what this implied. From all the blabber pouring from him, he had to gather himself for 5 seconds to force him to rethink.   He then responded in a much softer voice, “No take, you give me.” I said “No, you are trying to take from me” The confusion in this kid’s eyes was hilarious.” But unfortunately he still wouldn’t let go.

I didn’t want to waste any more time with him, nor did I want to be hassled any further. I decided to go easy on him and myself. I recalled a scene from “Dancing with Wolves” when Kevin Costner is trying to get his hat back from the Native American Sioux who picked it up after he dropped it in a hunt. Refusing to give it back, the Native American decides to give him something in exchange for it, even though Kevin Costner’s character doesn’t have any use for it.

Location: Petra, Jordan
Sensor: Sony A7R
Glass: Sigma ART 50 f1.4

I thought to myself, what does this kid have that I want?   So I said, “Fine I will trade you for it. Give me the shirt you are wearing..”   He was incredulous. “You want my shirt?” I don’t think he had ever heard anything like this before. I said, “I will give you this lens cloth for your shirt.” I’m really hoping he says no and let’s go, but he says, okay and he starts removing this raggedy t-shirt that, to put it politely, had a lot of character baked into it. Hell, I should’ve asked for his pants too. No that would be crossing the line wouldn’t it? But he crossed it first.

“Fine I say, here is the item that you wanted from me, and you can keep your shirt.” At least I could declare a partial moral victory here even if I still am losing out material here. My wife told me later that day, I should have either pinched the kid or tickled him and not given him anything. As started to exit the cave and away from the kid despite him telling me “You can use my cave now, You sit with me now.”

As I walked out the cave, I spotted him and his brother looking down at me perched on a ledge. Salmet yells down to me a few times, the first few which I ignore. However when I look up again he reaches for the lens cloth that I gave him and proceeds to drop it on to the ground and starts stomping on it. As I turn away, I hear he and his older brother laughing.

Pinching for sure….

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