The rolling gait of the camel across Jordan's landscape combines with the heat to hypnotize me into a stupor. I wrap the kouffieh tighter about my head and pull one side down to cover my face. I wear the red and white checked summer tablecloth pattern, the Bedouin head wrap that I saw most often in Jordan. It proves to be an indispensable tool against the cruel Jordan sun and the blowing sand and dust of the springtime khamseen (“50-days wind”).
As we ride on in silence I’m struck by the realization that the Jordan's desert is characterized by an absence of smell. I brush against a tiny sage plant and its potent scent casts the world into sudden colour, reawakening my olfactory antennae and startling me with its vividness.
I’d been so attuned to the background that I’d forgotten we were travelling through a monochrome world.
In a similar sense I will discover that my photos of Jordan look faked. The whites and greens of my clothing contrast so dramatically with the earth-tone world through which we move that I seem cut and pasted from another image entirely. It isn’t that the desert lacks colour or variety. The rocks are veined with streaks of clay and ebony. They’re swathed in soft pinks, corals, scarlets and oranges—colours that the sun bleaches to a washed-out red and white at noon and that the waning of the day fills with shadows and contrasts.
There’s ample variety to delight the eye. It’s just that the manufactured, vibrant hues of the outside world don’t belong there. Neither, truly, do we.