We enter the archeological park early in the morning, soon after it opens. As a solo mother with a preschooler, I choose to take the horse-drawn carriage through the Siq—the astonishing mountain-cut pathway to Petra.
With so few tourists on the path this morning, our driver—noticing Chet’s Cars-themed shirt—says he will give us a “Lightning McQueen ride.” He isn’t joking. We bounce along in the dilapidated chariot, squealing and holding on for dear life. After a particularly vicious jounce, one of Chet’s prized Cars toys is jostled free from his grasp. I prepare for the impending meltdown, stabbing shrieks of profound 3-year-old loss, but as the Siq’s reddish-pink walls open up to al-Khazneh (better known as the Treasury), Chet’s disappointment quickly turns to awe. He is too entranced by the “big castle,” this great ancient playground that he can freely explore, to bother with tears.
When I told people of my plan to travel to Jordan with Chet, I was met with strong reactions. They told me that your average 3-year-old does not revel in ancient history, scenic majesty, or a cameo in an Indiana Jones film—and so will not appreciate such a journey. They said I had no business taking my child to the Middle East, especially when my husband, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was deployed to the slums of Sadr City in neighboring Iraq. An American mother and child would stand out, would be an easy target for mishap or mayhem. The trip was not only pointless, they lectured, but in a post-9/11, global-war-on-terror world, it was dangerous.