It’s rare to find children in my travel photos* – not because I don’t adore them.
It’s because I do. And I don’t want to reduce them to the simple subject of a stranger’s photo, devoid of their own personalities and stories.
Children are not tourist attractions. They deserve privacy and respect.
Sooooo how did this sweet gal get here?
One morning in Petra, fellow traveler friend Alper Ertübey and I were scrambling up the stairs near The Royal Tombs, in a bit of a rush to reach the Treasury viewpoint before the sufferable morning sun transformed into a midday scorcher. When we passed by The Corinthian Tomb, a nook** carved into the base caught my eye. The smooth sandstone – still swathed in shadows – summoned me.
“Come. Rest here.”
I asked Alper if we could take a quick break and maybe a photo. Petra – with its towering cliffs, other-worldly architectural feats, and labyrinthine layout – has a way of making one feel minuscule. And I wanted to capture that.
“It kind of looks like a womb,” he commented as I crawled into the circular-shaped shelter.
Not yet soaked in sunshine, the sandstone surface was still cool to the touch. I swung my legs up into the alcove, leaned into it’s arc, laid my head back and closed my eyes in silent surrender – for a moment forgetting my morning mission to reach the Treasury viewpoint.
“Did you get a photo?” I shouted down to Alper, eyes still closed and half hoping he hadn’t yet, so I could stay put in this tomb womb a few minutes more.
He laughed. And I reluctantly opened my eyes to see what was so amusing.
That’s the moment I met Lulu.
While I had been resting in this sandstone sanctuary, she had crawled up beside me. Her big, round eyes were now inches away from mine.
She was peering down at me, peering up at her. We both giggled.
A woman nearby called to Lulu, gesturing for her to come down off the rocks and out of the photo frame so Alper and I could create the image we were initially aiming for.
But I was no longer concerned with that. And, it turns out, Alper had already captured a candid moment much more endearing than any we could have envisioned.
Lulu would not simply be the subject of a stranger’s photo; this curious kid was a co-creator who had a plan of her own. Without instructions or hesitation, she climbed onto my lap, still laughing. Her joy seemed to jump out of her – unbridled, palpable, and contagious.
We walked her back to her caretaker, asked her name, and offered to take an instant photo that she could keep for herself. She beamed.
We watched and waited together while the photo developed. I asked if it was ok for me to take some digital photos of Lulu holding her instant portrait so I could carry the joy of this girl – and this moment – with me too. Like a lot of little ones, she struggled to sit still for long, so I tried to snap quickly before she scurried off to their tent.
When Lulu returned, she was holding two souvenir magnets from their shop. She offered them to me. Her caretaker told me to take them as a token of appreciation for the instant photo and asked if we’d like to come inside for some tea. The giggle-filled exchange was already gift enough; I certainly didn’t expect anything additional!
I was humbled by their hospitality and generosity.
And I was reminded that no matter the size or form of gifts we give, when we give from a genuine place with no expectation, the love is free to flow back to us. And whether it returns to us years later or in an instant, love and joy are always multiplied when shared.
*All photos in the #TAKETWO series are mine, unless otherwise stated.
** I have had trouble finding out what purpose the nook originally served. I’ve heard it may have been a water basin, but I am not sure that’s quite right. If anyone has any info on it, please let me know!
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A heartfelt شكرا to little Lulu for the pure joy and giggles. And to Alper Ertübey for once again sneakily snapping some photos of a memorable moment in Jordan! This story – and my experience in Petra – would not exist without you two.