Blame it on the weather, or the lack of oxygen, or maybe just the fact that I'm 50 years old and these kinds of opportunities don't come around every day.
It was nearly five o'clock in the afternoon when Kirk and I walked into our hotel room and plopped down on our beds.
We had just returned from a full day of hiking the red dirt trails of Petra. Dinner was still several hours away. And the thing I wanted more than anything was a warm shower! The hotel wasn't scheduled to turn the hot water on until 6:30pm. By then all the students would be back and we would all want the shower. As I thought about the logistics of it all, my hopes began to fade. We were on the third floor (the top floor). Water pressure was already piddly at best. And by shower time, I was guessing that we'd be lucky to see even a trickle of water, and the "warm" part?... extremely doubtful.
Jokingly I turned to Kirk and said, "hey let's go to the Turkish bath." The Turkish bath experience had been recommended by several local "experts". 20JD's (about $25) gets you a bath and a massage. And even though I had no idea what the Turkish bath was all about, the idea started to sound more and more inviting. As I reached up and felt the knots in my neck and looked down and saw red dirt on my ankles, I repeated the idea to Kirk. He was more than willing after running ten miles that morning before we even started hiking. Part of the Petra hike is climbing about 300 steep steps up to the High Place. He was moaning as he tried to reach down and touch his shins. He looked my way out of the corner of his eye knowing that going to a public bathhouse was not even on my list possibilities, and couldn't imagine I was serious. I wasn't. I sat on the edge of the bed shivering, dirty, fighting a headache, when suddenly I heard myself calling my own bluff! In a flash we were standing at the consierge desk in the lobby as he called for a car to pick us up and take us to the bath. I informed him that I only wanted to go look at the place. "No problem" he assured me as a taxi pulled up, loaded us in, and drove us to a small, hidden, stone building with a cold rock stairway that led to the Bathhouse.
The place was empty. No one else was there! The manager gave us a “tour” at the very same time as he was handing us our bath clothes. Cotton shorts for Kirk, and a lava-lava thing for me. He said we could go together, "no problem". Everything looked nice. It was clean, and there was no tub! See, I was afraid it would be this huge communal bathtub everyone would climb in. Naked. Silly me. We were covered, and no one else was there. The first room was this awesome steam room with mysterious red lighting glowing through the fog. It was like heaven. Kirk and I sat in this warm, very steamy room and started to relax. This was going to be amazing! The man said he would come and get us after ten minutes. After about twenty minutes we were too warm, inhaling too much steam, so Kirk went looking for the guy. "Okay, no problem. I take you to the next room". (I have never been in a country where they have so few problems. Except maybe Egypt, Morocco, or Israel.)
The next room was the Hot Stone room. The same ethereal mist hung all around and we were instructed to sit on the marble stone. He handed us each a large pitcher with warm water in it, and pointed to the tap right next to us. Warm water miraculously, endlessly poured out of the spigot. We were to lay down on the hot, wet stone and let the heat penetrate our back, legs, and arms. Seriously, I could have stayed in there all night. Every other minute I was filling my pitcher with warm water and pouring it over my head. We were in there about twenty minutes as well.
He next led us into the Sauna room. Not my favorite. Breathing that hot, dry air has never appealed much to me. But I had to laugh, as we sat in that room breathing in the hot air I was reminded of a scene from Everybody Loves Raymond. The men in that sauna room suddenly didn't seem so far fetched.
Kirk sportin' his shorts, and me still clinging to the wet lava-lava thing, found ourselves being escorted into two different, private rooms. I sat there on this long marble table and waited. For what I had no idea. In fact as I sat there and started to get cold again, I started wondering what in the world I was doing, and quickly started mapping out a foolproof escape plan. I became more and more anxious and wasn't sure if I was shivering out of fear, or the cold. Where was Kirk? What were they doing to him? Who was going to come in this room? What was I thinking? This was a bad idea. I needed to get out of here. Where do I go? Where are my clothes? Just as I was about to open the door and holler out that I was so done with this, an Arab woman veiled and covered from head to toe came in the room. In her gentle, soft-spoken voice she told me to lay back down on the table. She began dumping more of that warm water on me as I lay there clinging to the sheet. She proceeded to scrub, exfoliate and pour warm water from that magic tap. I said her voice was soft and gentle, but I have never been exfoliated with such vim and vigor before. Who am I kidding? I've never been exfoliated before. The massage with those essential oils from the Dead Sea, was a very good thing for my aching back.
After all of that she showed me to the shower, I washed my hair, found my clothes and even found Kirk.
We returned to the hotel just in time for dinner with a pact between the two of us that we wouldn't tell a soul where we had been. But as soon as I saw my good, good friend I immediately leaned over and quietly exclaimed to her that we'd just returned from the Turkish Bath! "You're kidding!" "Hey you guys, guess what? Kirk and Linn went to the Turkish Bath!" "No way! You guys really did?" The word spread quickly and one of the couples at our dinner table left for the bath before they’d even finished eating.
I wasn't going to write about this experience, but the strangest thing happened yesterday. I've been a little nervous here venturing out on my own, but I was going stir crazy yesterday and decided I didn't care any more. I was going to the chocolate shop no matter what. I have this theory that if you keep your eyes either down or straight ahead, walk briskly with a purpose, confidently knowing where you are going (I don't know how many times I have confidently walked up and back and around in circles trying to find my way somewhere), then you won't be harassed. I blew that theory all to heck yesterday as I marched toward the candy shop. No grinning, no eye contact, just focused on that dark chocolate in the corner store. Imagine my surprise as I'm studying the assorted chocolates, when this burly, dark Arab man taps me on the shoulder and invites me to the Turkish Bath!