The Pirates (and Dolls) of Petra


I’ll never tire of visiting Petra. It’s such an amazing place chock full of history, scenery, handicrafts, and Johnny Depp look-a-like pirates. I wish I could post pictures to back up the pirate claim, but you’ll just have to take my word for it. Petra’s swash-buckling pirates wield neither swords nor ill will, but they swagger about in skinny jeans, line their eyes in black kohl, and sport dreadlocks and Lawrence of Arabia style head scarves, all adding to the allure these rakish young men. They proffer rides on horses, camels, and donkeys to tourists with sales pitches that include, “Your wife will love you more” or “Free air conditioning.” Raj never seems too interested in getting me to love him any more than I already do and on this day it was just too cold to justify air conditioning. We walked.

One of the many 'shops' in Petra

Since I’ve already posted not one, but TWO detailed accounts of Petra, I’ll spare you the details and cut to the chase. This post is not about the beauty of Petra or the pirates that inhabit it; it’s about the purchases. Similar to a swap meet, once you make it to the second row of vendors, you’ve pretty much seen everything for sale. Petra is no different. You’ll find knives, jewelry (from silver to camel bone to plastic), ‘antiques,’ (reproduction Roman coins, etc) and more. It’s ALL the same. However, this time I saw something truly unique, handmade AND adorable–a first in Petra. The object of my affection was a handmade doll made by an older Bedouin woman selling her wares on the side of the road laid out on a cloth. She had the usual plastic necklaces along with four of the cutest, handmade dolls dressed in velvet and silk and with faces that had been drawn on by hand. I thought of my sister immediately and knew I had to buy one for her. (Notice that my first inclination was to be generous towards Nicole, my sister). I asked Raj to intervene (bargain) on my behalf (keep in mind that he’s still reeling about getting ripped off in Egypt over saffron). The woman told him the doll cost $5 JDs. I thought, “What a bargain! I’ll take ALL four of them!” Raj thought, “Too much.” He got her down to $2 JDs for one–all the change we had left (other than a ten dinar bill) and felt vindicated. I felt sad.

We walked away triumphantly until my selfish side got the better of me. While we walked, I admired the workmanship of the doll and decided I’d keep it. I couldn’t part with it and it was much too cute to give away. I mentioned this to Raj and he said, “That’s bad karma!” Whatever. Luckily for me (karmically speaking and for my sister) on the walk back, the three remaining dolls remained untouched. (Am I the only tourist to admire a real, hand-made handicraft? Apparently.) I picked up the doll and Raj handed the woman our ten dinar bill and asked for change ($8 in change for the $2 doll). Obviously she didn’t have change. No big deal I thought, “We’ll just buy the remaining three for $10 and walk away.” Nope! Raj wanted change and we only needed ONE doll. She left her make-shift shop and took off down the path for change. While we were waiting, Raj joked, “I bet she comes back with two fives.” That’s exactly what she did! She gave him the two fives. He handed her back one of the fives and asked for change again. Who cares, “She can keep the change,” I said. Nope. Raj wanted his three dinars back. She pulled out an old and worn chip bag (the kind you eat) that held her change and handed him his $3. I felt sad and cheap, but what could I do? I was happy that I had TWO dolls–one to keep and one to give to Nicole. Raj felt no such guilt, just pride in his bargaining skills.

Which is the cuter of the two? That's the one I'll keep!
A 'shop' similar to the one where I bought the dolls.
Jen and the Bargain Hunter


38 thoughts on “The Pirates (and Dolls) of Petra

  1. Jen,
    I love your writing, it makes me feel like I’m there. I’m not much of a traveler so I appreciate being able to live vicariously through you. Personally, I like the doll on the left in the second picture.

  2. I’m very upset that Raj didn’t let you get all 4 dolls because that would have meant ALL Catholic club members could have had one in addition to your sister. I think they’re a little creepy looking but the one on the left is the cuter of the two. I’m very impressed with Raj’s bargaining skills but I would have felt bad when she puled out the chip bag/coin purse. Maybe you can set up shop next to this lady with the skulls you made??

    1. Maggie, Remember the mantra, “We’re saving for a house.” Therefore we can’t waste ANY money. It’s really sad that I couldn’t have ALL of them to give away. Maybe the CC could sew the woman a change purse? I think the skulls would get even less attention than the dolls there. I’ll have to save them to sell in Old Town, next to your Salsa and my cookies.

  3. First of all……….your husband sounds exactly like mine! He would stand in a snow storm waiting on 2 cents change from the paperboy! I think the doll on the left is cuter. She has more well-defined features. However, I DO like the clothes of the doll on the right better. So, can you change out the clothes?!? That would be mean to your sister and she’s probably reading this, but hey: I’m an only child, what do I know? 🙂

    Great post. I really enjoyed the tour of Petra.

  4. This story about Raj’s “bargaining” skills sounds *really* familiar….. If only he could teach me in his ways!!!!!!

    Hope both of you are doing well!

    1. Hey Mark, It’s so nice to hear from you! I hope you’re doing well. Please do not let Raj teach you his ways! Saving a penny or two at the expense of a poor woman does not a nice man make.

  5. I loved the dolls but I would have bargained for all four. That being said, I would not wait for 2 cents in a snow storm but I do love bargains and when one can land a gift that is worth giving for such a small price,, that is perfection. Raj, I love you and keep bargins flowing.. Dad

  6. Ah, I can’t believe you didn’t get all 4 dolls1 How sad for the lady, I wouldn’t do well in places like that. I can remember going to Mexico and your father barganing and almost got one of the men so angry I thought he was going to punch him out. Very special dolls, even more so because you met the lady. Petra is such an unusual place. I’d still rather have you home, though.

    It’s your poser mom

  7. Dear Jen And Raj,
    You are too funny!!! had to get a kleenex I laughed so hard!!! I think you should have taken all the dolls, I would have paid $5.00 for one!!!at least!!! The pics are fantastic, but wish we could zoom in on you and Raj.
    Thanks so much for the tours…you have a way of transporting our minds to your location and it is terrific!!!
    Thanks again,
    Dick and Mary

    1. Hey Dick and Mary,
      Raj respectfully says that you’d be an even shrewder bargainer than he is. You probably could have gotten her to go in to the doll making business with you.
      You can click on the pics and they get bigger.
      Take care,
      Jen and Raj

  8. I’m horrible at bargaining (I want to say that it “Petra-fies” me, but that is such a bad joke, right?). I would prefer to overpay! Wonderful story that illustrates so many things, different cultures, personalities and of course an amazing site.

  9. Ah, your travels are going to make envious, Jen . . . Though, like Beth, I glean a certain vicarious joy by looking at your pictures and reading the descriptions you give in avid detail. You bring your journey to life for those of us state-bound, something for which I am very thankful for! Beautiful post.


  10. Okay, I am using the free wifi at Squaw Valley. How nice of you to get me a doll but how mean of you to not let the lady with the old chip bag as a coin purse keep the change. That is not nice to haggle with poor people. Consider it a donation to better provide for her family. Tobie I’m so sad and she wants to give me the least attractive doll. Maybe if I get the cuter doll you will get some Lake Tahoe honey that has very attractive packaging.

    1. Tobie, my sister is so rude she didn’t reply to me. Oh right maybe she is out of town but it’s suspicious because she seems to reply to everyone else but me. I am chugging the honey as we speak.

      1. Tobie, my sister doesn’t understand that I was traveling and didn’t have access to free wifi at the dump of a hotel that we stayed at in Israel. Maybe I’ll just keep the Yemenese honey that’s worth SO much more to myself as well!

  11. Jen, go for the honey, honey.. Especially after your sister has really bargained hard for the overpriced Lake Tahoe prepackaged but cute honey. Buddy sends his regards to all the folks that left him sooooo alone. He keeps looking at me and I think his eyes are going to bug out.. I agree with you about Dick, he would have set up shop right there, got on line and started calling all the old buyers with such a hot deal they could not turn it down.. Let me see, Dick would first try selling the dolls for $100.00 a dozen and he would have moved in with the doll lady, no funny stuff , just keeping an eye on his production line…

    1. We’ll see if I ever get the honey. She’ll probably try to pawn off the shipping into one of the packages you send to me too. Say hi to Buddy for me. Shanti sends his best with his one good paw. He’s limping again.

  12. great story, great dolls! Anytime a family member travels, I beg them to bring home a rag doll for our collection! Sometimes in some countries it’s impossible to find even one. Those are both so cute and a super addition to any collection 😉 (I also understand the pain and excitement of haggling, heh heh!) Someday I would love to see Petra, it looks awesome!

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