Note: This post was originally published in April 2018

His hair was tangled and wild, his eyes piercing. “Get in”, he gestured to a bright pink Land Rover. I threw my pack in the back and climbed in, my friends followed suit. Ghassab, our Couchsurfing host, got in next to me. He turned to look at me with cool eyes, he seemed to be assessing me.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

“I want to meet your goats.” 

It was the right answer, he smiled at me, gunned the engine and we jolted along the potholed road. We passed through the small town clinging to the outside of Petra’s National Park and headed into the desert.

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Ghassab’s very pink Land Rover.

We crossed a dry river bed, bumped past towering rock formations and followed an ever fainter track into the horizon. We must have been driving for nearly an hour before Ghassab suddenly made a sharp right and left the trail altogether. We stopped in front of a huge pinnacle of rock, I could see a small tent nearby and something glinting, perhaps a pan, in the sun. We hopped down from the Land Rover and Ghassab walked over to me, beaming. He seemed excited.

“I am very happy you have come, welcome to my cave”.

He stepped back and pointed with an outstretched hand. Fifty meters away from us was a large lump of rock, it was perhaps ten meters by eight meters. I could make out stairs, an entrance and nearby, a small enclosure made off stacked stones.

“There is no time to lose, we must gather firewood”. 

We dumped our packs by the door of Ghassab’s stone home and headed into the mountains armed with a sledgehammer and a piece of iron to help split the wood. We spent the next two hours clambering over rocks, hiking through gullies of red sandstone and scrambling up loose piles of scree. We found some huge dry logs and as a team managed to haul them to the cliff’s edge, we hurled them over and watched them smash to pieces below. Later, we climbed down and dragged the wood to Ghassab’s fire pit.

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My buddy Ed splitting wood with Ghassab.

Darkness came and we settled around Ghassab’s fire whilst he cooked tender skewers of meat. He passed me a joint and told me he considered himself to be a Rastafarian Bedouin. Inside his starkly furnished cave, a poster of Bob Marley looked down at me as I admired Ghassab’s collection of trinkets, presents from his past Couchsurfers.

I dragged a mattress up the stairs hacked into the outside of the cave and lay on top of the roof, the stars above me twinkled brightly. The entire valley had turned a deep red as the sun had set and now I could just make out the looming rock faces and twisted formations in the starlight. Surfing with Ghassab, sleeping atop his cave and exploring the ruins of Petra was to be one of the most unforgettable Couchsurfing experiences I ever had…

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Ghassab’s cave at night.

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