By Roxy Maxwell
“Time to wake up so you can eat and explore more of Petra!” Roxy’s mom said.
Roxy and her family had arrived at Petra the day before and had explored some of the city, but not enough to satisfy them. Petra was an ancient trading city just south of the Dead Sea in what is now Jordan. Most of the buildings and houses were carved out of the sandstone walls of a canyon. Some of the carvings are over fifty feet tall! It is easy to see why Petra was recently voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. (The picture shows a hand-carved tomb that is more than 100 feet tall.)
Petra was nicknamed the “rose-red city” because much of the sandstone there appears red. A closer look shows that the mountains are actually filled with all the colors of the rainbow. But from a distance the colors blend together to make rose-red rocks.
After breakfast the Maxwells walked from their hotel over to Petra, which was not far away. It was on Sabbath that Roxy went on this tour. Luckily, since Roxy and her family were in Jordan as part of the Adventist-run archaeological excavation at Tel Jalul, the Maxwell family were considered “royal guests” working for the King of Jordan and were granted free admission into archaeological sites in the nation. One of the archaeology guides on the team had arranged that all they would have to say was “Tel Jalul,” and the authorities at the gate would let them in.
Roxy’s family walked down the Siq (pronounced “seek”), a narrow gorge that led to the ancient city. They began to sit in the man-made caves and take pictures. Roxy probably took more pictures then anyone in her family! One time she had to run to catch up because she had stood in front of a lovely carved scene called the Tomb of the Obelisk just to wait for a horse and buggy to drive up in front of it so she could get a picture of both. (See the picture at left.)
As the Maxwells walked, locals who actually lived in caves at Petra rode up on donkeys. They would say something like this to Roxy’s parents: “Have your children ride my donkey. It’s too far for them to walk all the miles that are in Petra. Also it’s hot here in Petra, and this is an air-conditioned donkey. For you, special price, only five dinar [Jordanian dollars] for both of your children.”
Always Roxy’s daddy would answer, “Sorry, but this is our holy day, and we don’t buy or sell on this holy day.”
“Holy day? This is not Sunday, this is Saturday. Don’t you have a calendar? Did you get mixed up, my friend?” some would reply.
Daddy would answer, “Yes, we do have a calendar, but no, we didn’t get mixed up. We follow the teachings of both our Bible and your Quran.”
“You’re not Jews or Catholics, are you?” they would ask.
“No, we’re Seventh-day Adventists. That is a group that keeps Saturday instead of Sunday.”
Most of the time the people would walk away, disappointment written on their faces. But one time while the family rested in a nice cool cave that Daddy had found, a man named Mohammad and his friend Ibrahim came and offered donkey rides.
But when Daddy said no, Ibrahim didn’t leave. Instead he stayed and played with Roxy and her brother, Nigel. He found a piece of junk and began to dig until he found some naturally colored black sand. With another piece of junk he used this sand to put the first letter of his name on the yellowish-brownish-white sand that you see every day.
He helped Roxy climb into another smaller cave on top of the cave they were in. Roxy loved the beautiful sandstone there! The sandstone’s glorious colors twirled around and around with indescribable beauty. (The picture shows Roxy in the cave with Ibrahim behind her.)
Once Roxy was through admiring the sandstone, Ibrahim showed her another, easier way to get down. Since Nigel was too small to climb up the route Roxy had taken, Roxy showed him how to get in the easier way.
And then Ibrahim offered Roxy something that shocked her: a free ride.
At first Roxy thought he was just joking, that he would have her pay later, maybe after the ride. But after a while she decided to try. So she got on Jack, the donkey (named after singer Michael Jackson). Mohammad, who did not want his friend Ibrahim to seem better than he, let Nigel have a free ride also.
Roxy concluded that donkeys are more like heaters than air-conditioners, because she found that Jack made her hotter instead of cooler. Afterward, Ibrahim took Roxy and Nigel to a restroom, which was also in a cave!
Roxy had learned that some people in Jordan have remarkable skill in making pictures by pouring different-colored sand into a bottle. She went into the cave-stores that sold sand bottles and watched them pour the sand into the bottles. I wish I could pay for one and ask the sand bottle maker to put my name into it, she thought. But alas! it was still Sabbath, and as her daddy had said, she couldn’t buy or sell on Sabbath. At sundown I could buy a sand bottle, she thought. But what if by sundown all of the stores are closed?
She looked at her watch. It was time for the Maxwell family to eat, and they were still at Petra, and it wasn’t sundown. They walked the last few miles out of Petra and back to the hotel to eat supper. In the morning they would have to pack and get on the bus at noon.
The next morning Roxy got up very early and asked, “Can we make a sand bottle this morning before the bus comes to pick us up?”
“If you get all ready to go quickly, eat your breakfast and everything,” Mommy answered.
Roxy finished eating in record time, and they went to the suq (market). “Will you make me a sand bottle and put my name in it?” Roxy asked the man who owned the suq. She watched while he put some glue on the bottle in letters that spelled out her name. Then he poured black sand into the bottle to color the glue. He used a tool that looked like a funnel with a long tube at the end of it to pour the variously colored sand into the bottle. He also used a rodlike tool to shape the sand into different parts of the picture.
When the sand bottle was almost finished, the bus arrived. The head count showed that the Maxwell family was absent.
“Maxwell family, please come to the bus,” someone shouted.
“We’re coming!” Daddy shouted back. “This bottle is almost finished.”
Roxy paid for the bottle and ran inside the hotel to get the luggage and hop into the bus.
“Why don’t you put that bottle into one of your bags so you don’t forget it?” Daddy suggested.
“Don’t worry,” Roxy answered. “I’ll think about that bottle all the time and be sure that I have it in my hand when I leave the bus.” With that she placed the bag with the precious sand bottle in the overhead compartment above her seat.
But when Roxy got back to her home in Michigan, she couldn’t find that particular sand bottle. She had bought three sand bottles in Jordan, but she found only two of them in the luggage. Her mom had packed all the sand bottles very carefully. She had put them in their shoes! But even though Roxy looked in all the shoes, she couldn’t find her sand bottle from Petra. That bottle had cost three dinars!
“Maybe you did forget that sand bottle in the bus,” Daddy said. “I told you to put it in one of your bags.”
“I know I didn’t leave it in the bus,” Roxy answered. “I thought about it all the time. Every second.”
“Maybe you left it in the hotel,” Mommy said.
“I’m don’t know about that one,” Roxy said. “I gave it to your charge to pack it safely, Mommy.”
That night Roxy told Jesus about it and asked Him if He could somehow give her back her sand bottle. She told Him that she was sure she didn’t leave it in the bus and she was still wondering whether it had been left in the hotel.
A few days later while Roxy and Nigel were playing outside on their swing set, Mommy called Roxy to come in. The first time Roxy couldn’t hear her and kept on swinging. Then Mommy called again.
“What?” Roxy asked.
“It’s time to come in.”
Slowly Roxy dragged her feet and went inside.
Mommy pulled Roxy aside and said, “Roxy, close your eyes and hold out your hands.”
“But why?” Roxy asked.
“Never mind,” Mommy answered. “Just do what I asked you to.”
When Roxy’s eyes were closed and her hands were out, Mommy put something in her hand. It was the missing sand bottle!
“Where did you find it?” Roxy exclaimed joyfully.
“I had carefully packed it with all the broken pieces of potsherds you and Nigel collected over the summer.”
“Thank you, Mommy!”
While Roxy was putting the sand bottle away with her other ones, she muttered a quick prayer of thanks to Jesus for giving her back her favorite sand bottle.
Here are a couple bonus pictures from Petra: Roxy and Nigel riding donkeys (Roxy is in front), and broken pillars from the Great Temple in Petra.