Editor-In-Chief: Charbel Baini

Nightmare In Egypt, Part 25/ Feras Werr

The trip to Petra was a long one. They had left Amman two hours ago and at least another two rested ahead of them. If it wasn't for Hayel the young guide of twenty five years besides her the hours would have seemed as long as years to her. Hayel had a white complexion, heart shaped face, and black eyes. He was a talkative fellow in his nature and left no room for boredom at all. He began with the history of Amman the capital of Jordan, its beginnings and how it was slowly settled by the surrounding people from other provinces in pursuit of better income. Although having weak English with poor sentence structure, she was able to understand what he was telling her. He also told her of how he traveled to the city to make some money to help support his father whom was under debt and barely able to make things meet even with the revenue of the crops from their small piece of land. He apparently had an elderly uncle that denied his father his rightful inheritance that was verbally agreed upon before their father died. His uncle lived in an extensive house and enjoyed a peaceful life. He even brought a Mercedes Benz to save him traveling on beasts like the rest of the people of the village while not enjoying the initiative to help them out at all. However life progressed and being literate he soon found a job in Amman at a government bureau as a messenger and with his patience and hard work he was promoted to office work in the same department. He happily announced that it was to her luck that she caught him while he had just begun a one month vacation that he was planning to spend with his parents in Kerak. But against the handsome money she paid him as a guide, he was more than happy to help her out and guide her to Petra.
Attempting to secure more man power as his muscular six foot and a half build revealed to her how much he could be of help, she asked, "Can’t you stay with us till we finish the digs? We have tents and food enough for a life time. Besides shuttling to nearby towns will be possible as the vehicles are at our disposable till the excursion ends."
Hayel answered with his broken English, "sorry, I have to walk to town, father mother want me, only have one month vacation." His thin eyebrows and hair contrasted tremendously with his thick mustache as he apologized, "Next time but talk me before,"
She couldn't help giggling as she finally asked, "Where did you learn English?"
"BBC on radio, I hear English lessons,"
"That is good. We are able to communicate."
"You like sheep meat?"
"You mean lamb meat."
"Yes, sorry, lamb meat…I you," he gestured with his hand as he spoke, "go to town…mother cook Mansaf…you know rice…lamb meat and yoghurt."
"Of course I would love to come, maybe next time."
Stacy knew there will never be a next time. If the map was true and the rewards were handsome they would be smuggled out of Jordan and into Egypt through diplomatic contacts in the Egyptian Embassy in Jordan. The general's contacts promised them a good price for the artifacts. If the diggings prove fruitless they would break up and the negative results would be reported back to the local authorities. "A very well planned operation by the best treasure hunters and mafias in the history of mankind;" and she had the chance to play with them a couple of moves. 
Hayel miraculously sat for a couple of minutes silent looking upwards at the skies. Stacy thought that he probably ran out of topics to talk about but when she saw his eyes scan the heavens above she asked, "Hayel, what are you looking at?"
"Summer not winter, up rain clouds"
Stacy caught note of the grey clouds that were completely blocking any sunlight from up above. She stated, "Clouds are normal sometimes."
"No." He waved the pointer of his right hand sideways in disapproval. "Something wrong."
"Oh calm down. All will be alright."
She drove on while he swiftly switched to another topic regarding the ruins of Petra. "Petra, big rock town," he commented gesturing with his hands inwards out.
Stacy heard about Petra before. She knew it was an entire city carved out of the rocks of the mountains. She patiently listened to her guide speak about its wonders in his simple accent as the wheels she was driving brought her closer to it, the convoy behind her following her lead. Her jeep's engine worked the paths ruthlessly as they had to reach there before the afternoon hours. Wadi Rum desert still lied a distance off afterwards, or at least Hayel had informed her so. 
The rich fertile red sands with their planted crops, the fruitful tree groves and sporadically located cattle herds slowly disappeared; yellowish desert like sands began appearing along the way. The dry colors of the grim earth were furthermore dimmed by the darkness of the grayish clouds aloft in the heavens above. They passed a sign bearing information in Arabic and English. It read Kerak 50 KM ahead. Stacy smiled as for sure there would be a traveler's rest house nearby as she needed a break from the roads. The drivers for sure were also worked out and surely could use a quick meal and some rest.
Hayel began as expected commenting on Kerak and how it hosted a castle that was built by the early crusades to be used as a soldier fortress. Tariffs were imposed on the caravans that passed besides it. One of its main objectives was a military one and also to strengthen the dominance of Europe on Jerusalem. However through the course of the wars the entire area fell to Salah El-Deen's influence as the tides wasn't in the favor of the European soldiers. 
"If you have time I will show you the fortress," Hayel hospitably offered as Stacy parked the jeep at Kerak's Quick Meal House. 
"Perhaps another time, I've got a very tight schedule Hayel," the other vehicles slowly parked besides each other and the drivers descended joining Stacy. The quick trips to the restrooms soon finished and soon all were gathered in a circle besides their cars eating and chatting. The drivers Zuhair, Mutlak, Hamed, Mashhoor, Nimir and Hayel with the other five men accompanying them in their vehicles mercilessly munched their sandwiches that were cooked with fresh bread and fresh but pasteurized goat cheese. Agreeing that the roads ahead didn't need more than exactly two more hours of driving, all hopped into their vehicles back and sped off towards their destination. 
*****
The military truck entered into Wadi Musa, a very hilly district heavily populated with nomads and clans. The barren wilderness soon changed into neighborhoods full of life. Small markets were available selling various utensils and foodstuff for the people while sporadic clusters of the locals gathered here and there around private merchants that had their goods spread on the ground for sale. The powerful diesel engine of the truck roared at the steep ups and downs of the roads as it heaved its burdens that lied in its cargo compartment. In a while it arrived to the small valley leading to the narrow gorge called by the people of Wadi Musa “The Sikh.” 
The general looked at his watch and reasoned, "I believe in an hour or so they should arrive."
David suggested, "Well, we might as well relax in the truck,"
"Or perhaps lose some time by taking a walk down that gorge. It's been a long time since I've seen this miraculous piece of architecture." He looked at the petite fellow that sat obediently behind the wheel and announced in a hospitably manner, "Mahmood my friend," "I need you to stay here for a while till we came back. Its' note wise to keep the goods unattended."
"Yes sir. I'm here at your service."
Both David and the General descended the truck and looked around studying the spectacular wide rocky gorge they were standing in the middle of; hilly chains resting to their right and left with caves randomly located at their sides.  
"Do you know David? This is the smartest military defense system that you can have ever. Forcing your enemies down a long queue-like line weakens the element of surprise and the power of quantity that were so necessary in the ancient wars. Why even in today's infantry these tactics can still be applied in certain situations."
The general continued as they walked down the rough path towards the Sikh, "Those caves could have been used as surprise attack cells or for preliminary military lookout posts as well. They could have been carved by man or natural born elements, a free bonus from nature to the inhabitants of this civilization."
"Then those people were invincible, right?" David naively asked on purpose. David heard about Petra from friends that have visited these areas for archeological reasons in the past. But the general mustn't feel his wealth of knowledge ever.     
"No my friend; soon the rise of Palmyra in Damascus eclipsed the stature of its society. After a flourishing civilization the ruthless Romans attacked with full force as well and captured it. But till now people marvel at the Nabatean's power of achievement when they carved their cities into the rocks of the red mountains."
"Oh I see."  David exclaimed continuing his surprised act. 
The narrow Sikh with its tall mountainous walls soon dwarfed and engulfed them as they continued walking towards the ruins and chatting the hours away. David guessed that the length of the naturally formed corridor between the walls was not more than nine feet wide. The sounds of their voices and boots left soft echoes between the walls as they were the only people to walk in the strong heat that prevailed despite the grayish clouds that were still screening the sunlight away. 
"However Petra was a civilization too good to survive for longer than it really did. That is why its end was eminent."
David looked at the general inquisitively, a knot tying in his forehead from the wrinkles that formed with his astonishment, "What do you mean exactly?"
The general replied with a confident tone of voice, "It was a society of equality and philanthropy; a mere idealistic world secluded by huge mountains maintaining its privacy and independence. Slavery never existed in it. Nothing idealistic survives in our world that is built on money, economy, and power; there is no place for the weak or good."
David looked onto his face and eyes that were glowing with a strong but fiendish look of determination. Perhaps being a general in the armed forces with his past in the wars was responsible for his harsh views and ideas. Nevertheless the eerie nature of his views left their discomfort all over him. Aside from his crimes something was deeply wrong with his character. 
"General does this mean their army was weak and couldn't have defended them properly. I mean if they were that peaceful, that means they probably didn't maintain a strong army."
The general stopped and closed his eyes as he replied, "Yes my friend. If you listen carefully you will still be able to listen to them, the voices of their soldiers screaming for mercy as the merciless Roman infantry sliced them up with their swords, their blood splashing on the grounds and walls around us that are eons in age." David looked around at the miraculous continuous blocks of solid wall to his right and left, towering straight up high with their rigid structures and surfaces, as his imagination rocked with the descriptive words of the general; "Travelers to these places in the nights couldn't bear to stand still here for one minute. Some of them said that they sometimes heard the pained screams echo between these deserted walls."
David's spine shivered from the general's words as they picked up their trek towards the ruins, "What do you think happened to all the people's souls that died in history before the Church was present? They are still roaming earth living in the deserts or desolated places at total unrest." 
As David patiently listened to the thrilling words it gradually came into view, standing with utmost majesty, the famous tomb of The Treasure of Pharaoh called in Arabic "The Khazna". A big spacious open lot of sandy grounds rested in front of it surrounded by mountainous walls to the left and right. A path to the right led to the rest of the city's ruins. David gasped as he saw it, "It is beautiful! The only structure in the history of man kind to be carved into solid rock!"
"The Treasure of Pharaoh it is called. In reality David it is a tomb."
"Why then is it called the Treasure of Pharaoh?"
"Listen my friend. The Bedouins and nomads of this area here still speak of why this name was chosen. It is believed that towards the end of the Saitic period in Egyptian history, when the Nabatean's were still building their cities, an insignificant pharaoh named Pepi of the twenty sixth dynasty was fleeing with a small legion of what was left of his soldiers, and after a vicious clash with the Persian army that resulted in the fall of what was left of the Egyptian empire. Seeing Petra in his path he marched into the city and asked for shelter there from a Queen named Su'udah that ruled the lands. Wisely measuring the risks involved she refused in fear that this will outrage the powerful Persian armies and result in her cities ruin. Disappointed by her refusal he turned away to leave. But at the last moment he stopped and knelt down in front of her thrown humbly begging her to not reject one final request. The queen hurried towards him in her royal court and sympathetically helped him up promising him that she will grant him what ever he asked for if it lied within her capabilities. He placed his extensive riches that included his personal crown, breathtaking golden wear and rare gems at her throne, asking her if she was able to keep the valuables for him. His reasons were that he swore that the crown of Egypt will never surrender into the hands of Egypt's enemies. If he ever was successful in recapturing his rightful rule over Egypt he would return for his riches. The queen accepted and watched him leave afterwards in total despair of the young man's plight. Su'udah, having given her word as a queen ordered that they be heavily guarded in her palace for fear of their owner's return. However Pepi never returned. He was found by his seeking enemies and slaughtered by them just a short distance off of Petra. Nevertheless Petra never heard about this and as the days rolled by Queen Su'udah lost hope of Pepi returning. Being a rightful queen she knew she had no rightful control of what wasn't hers and ordered that that the Urn be carved upon her burial and the treasures be inserted inside it." The general gestured with his hand towards the cylinder like short pillar just above the entrance of the rocky tomb in front of them. "There lies the last of the wealth of Egypt."
David was enchanted by the story. Never in his life did he imagine that Jordan could be buried with mesmerizing mysteries and secrets. Both crossed the sandy grounds and walked up the brief steps that led to the entrance of the grand tomb. A small lobby was in the center with three entrances dispersed around it, one exactly ahead with one to their left and one to their right. David shrewdly proposed, "General this area is deserted. It will only take us a minute if we just get some equipment and check to see if the legend truly exists."
"It is said my friend that the treasure was cursed as it was placed in the Urn. Nobody dared to come near it ever since its existence. It is believed that many secret entrances from the city lead towards it but we don't have time to try them out. Our party should be here shortly."
"General when we finish from Wadi Rum we could return here for it. Can't we?"
"Perhaps in a while but not right now. Come my friend we have to go."
They departed the rocky tomb and headed back towards the long one kilometer Sikh. As they approached it David stopped. The general walked beyond him a couple of steps then stopped and turned around saying, "Why did you stop?"
"I feel something is wrong."
The general's face suddenly gave a frown then slowly ordered David, “Don't look behind. On the count of three we shall attempt to run through the Sikh."
"General what is behind us?"
"Its best you don't know…one."
David's body began to shudder with fear as he heard the general continue counting, "Two…Three…"
David gave a loud terrorized yell and ran with the general as fast as his feet could carry him. The sounds of metal crashing into the rock behind him made him yell again hysterically as he dashed with the general through the rocky passages. Soon the sounds of consecutive gigantic thumps began dwarfing the sounds of their footsteps making their souls ravage with panic. David screamed out loud at the general whom was a head of him in a short distance, "General it's closing up on us, I can feel its foul breat!"
"What ever you do don't look back."
Soon it flew over them, its big shadow casting darkness on them, then disappeared. They dashed through what was left of the Sikh and into the wider gorge panting uncontrollably. "What was it general?! What was after us?!" David asked as both stood breathing heavily.
"I never saw what it was!"
"What the hell was going on then?!" He retorted hysterically.
"I only saw its big gigantic footsteps on the ground! They resembled paw marks on the sands in front of The Treasure of Pharaoh as it approached us!"
  David gulped hard as his eyes bounced back between the Sikh and the general. "Well thank God it didn't hurt us."
The general answered still out of breath, "It could have but it didn't want to!"
Soon shuffling caught their attention at the entrance of the wide gorge they were in as the Convoy with Stacy Hamilton arrived. Within short moments the general and Stacy were shaking hands warmly, "You are excellent in meeting schedules."
"It’s the anticipation of our new venture general, nothing more. I had a good friend that helped me a lot." She gestured at the car towards Hayel who had just departed towards the main roads again. "But he has to leave to go back to his village."
"Stacy this is David my right hand in this operation." David and Stacy shook hands as the general continued, "No more Rembrandts lurking by here or there."
David's eyes studied the sexy lady closely as the words seeped into his mind. 
"As soon as we finish our job here Anthony and I have something in mind."
"Well my connections in Egypt are all waiting for you and your new treasure. As a matter of fact they wait in full anticipation of what our shovels might dig up in Wadi Rum." 
*****
--:--, --/--/--
In an hour's time the awesome bulky chains of Wadi Rum desert took form in the horizons as the convoy followed the road ahead of them. Within due time proud colossal bulks of red rock sporadically filled the area as they entered the domains of the vast red deserts. The windy skies above were still manipulated by the bundles of grayish clouds while sunlight sporadically appeared between their patches at times. Mini tumblers of dust surrounded the convoy as it stopped. Stacy, the general and David stepped out of the vehicles and studied the map at their disposal while the crew waited patiently in the vehicles. 
The map had an X in the middle of the area marking the deserts. A jagged edged rectangular figure lied next to it. The general said explaining, "The most obvious thing to do is to follow the assumption that the X means the treasure is buried in the middle of the desert exactly and resting besides it is a big rocky hill. We are situated at the tips of the desert northward. Traveling for one hundred miles will bring us exactly inside a good area of the heart of the desert."
Stacy eyed the map and commented, "The problem is there could be scores of rocky hills in that area. In the worst scenarios if the X was carelessly written there will be truly a wide area to cover…"
"I've thought about that. But that just means we will have to spend more time digging around the core of the desert."
David suddenly realizing something stated, "Do you know something. It's true this is a desolate desert but who would march all the way from Egypt towards the tip of the Egyptian Empire and bury treasure here but a hardened legion of troops. This map could have been drawn by the military and their calculations are accurate."
"You know David I came upon the same assumption earlier. That is what made me determined to follow the obvious and just go straight towards the center as marked."
Stacy happily announced, "Let's hit the road gentlemen before it gets dark around here."
The air filled with the engine roars of the vehicles as they cut through the dusty gusts of winds towards the center of the desert. Stacy thought as her arms and feet ached from the long hours of driving, "Still two hours of agonizing driving lied ahead in a desolate area of the desert that probably no man has ever set foot in for ages."
David's guts boiled with anticipation at the fact that he was successfully gaining the trust of the general and probably a potential valuables' thief that was only a few yards away in her car.
The general deep inside filled with content as his long weeks of waiting were coming to an end. He was approaching the treasures he was so dearly yearning for.
All three with their own inner passions had one thing in common; seeking an anonymous treasure thousands of years old hidden under mounds of red sand. However they were unaware that it was buried by a pharaoh who suffered from what it brought when it was between the hands of his people.
The desert storm peaked wildly after an hour's time of driving, diminishing visibility, and making the vehicles shake from the powerful gusts of winds. The general's truck being at the head of the convoy stopped making the rest of the vehicles halt their advance with him. He stepped down, barely making his path through the choking dust and asked the rest of the jeeps to check their tanks for refueling. Soon the crew workers took out their fuel containers, battling with the gustiness around them, and fully fueled their vehicle tanks. Stacy, whom was barely able to breathe from the weather patiently waited till the crew members finished. Soon the general gave the drivers’ orders to slowly follow his lead lest they should loose each others' sight from the storm. Shortly afterwards the general gave his orders to Mahmood to drive via the directions of the compass he had. Instantly the convoy was on its way towards the center of Wadi Rum desert.
The dustiness cleared up as the moments passed by making their paths more navigable once again. In half an hour's time the general looked at the mileage counter of the speedometer on his truck. Noting that they have achieved the necessary distance that agreed with his calculations he suddenly ordered, "Mahmood Stop. We shall camp here." The general smiled with pleasure as he eyed the rocky hills that lied a few yards to their right hand side.
The convoy halted again. The general, David and Mahmood descended and approached Stacy whom was waiting for them besides her jeep.
"This is where our target is my dear."
"Sunset is only minutes away, its best we get the tents mounted soon."
David looked around. They were in a vast sandy ground about the area of a football stadium. Two titanic rocky hills laid to their right opposing an uneven chain of bulky hills at their left that extended till the far horizons. 
The general ordered David, "Check our supply David. Petra is about a three hour drive from here. If we need anything you will have to travel there to buy what we need."
"Yes general."
Seeing David depart he said to stacy, " I have a small favor I need of you."
"Anything for you general."
"David is a new comer to my group. I employed his services after I lost my first right hand to a sorrowful accident. I need you to be a bit close to him. Try giving him a little bit more attention…you know, try using some of your magnificent charm on him."
Stacy smiled and asked, "Don't you trust him general?"
"Not very much; I have already achieved my purpose with him but I will never let him walk away if I'm not sure he will remain quiet. Anyway it's been three weeks since he has been at the company of a woman."
"Mission accomplished general. Not to worry."
Stacy turned around and gestured her ten workers that were gathered around the vehicles to come close to her. A quick briefing with them sent them out unloading the tents from the vehicles. A worksite was soon established besides the rocky hills as they fastened the wooden poles to the grounds and began erecting eight tents on them. Mahmood and David began unloading the diesel generator. They took it off a distance to the right of the camp as another worker began surrounding the camp with five mini light projectors on poles. As sunset reached its final phases the electrical wiring of the projectors was completed. A quick winding with the crank and the generator supplied the necessary electricity making the camp, that was erected in a big circular shape, glow like a jewel within the dense darkness of the desert. 
A blaze was on fire quickly in the middle of the camp and salted lamb meat was soon roasting over it. An attendant circled two big rotisseries full of meat while the rest of the workers gathered around the fire laughing and chatting the warm summer moments away. Delicious aromas saturated with the smell of cooking filled the air around them. 
Stacy was bathing in a wooden cubicle erected for showering at a far side of the camp besides the hill while David and the general sat a small distance away from the workers pontificating on the next days' plans. 
The general proposed, "I am deeply in favor of digging in the areas exactly besides the two hilly chains since the map is proving to be true."
David replied assuring, "I have a feeling general that it will be all over soon. I don't know its' just an instinct."
"I couldn't expect things to be easier myself. Do you think we might be in need of those heavy jack hammers in our truck?"
"Well the grounds are solid rock around here. Any rocky barriers could be overcome with some patience using such equipment. But where should we start?"
"I'm thinking of picking any random spot. Sooner or later we will run into it. We need also to be aware of one thing. After a period of digging, wooden barriers will have to be erected inside the digging sights to prevent any cave inns. We don't want any accidents in fear of the police interfering."
"I believe I saw a couple of wooden flats in Stacy's truck that could be of use for this purpose. But they aren't very lengthy."
"We will be as wise as possible, won't we?"
"It’s a risk we will have to take general. Nobody just remembered to tackle this issue. I could possibly take a trip to Petra quickly tomorrow and buy some if we have to dig very deep. The digging will pause for only several hours till I come back."
"Well if we have to wait, we will have to David."
"But who will want to bury ancient Egyptian treasure all the way in Jordan."
"Anybody who wanted something very valuable hidden away." Stacy commented as she came close and sat down besides David. The smell of wonderful fresh perfume beamed from her as she shuffled her hair spreading it across her shoulders. "Maybe perhaps he wanted to return later and dig it up so he drew a map as to not forget where he put it."
David looked at her breathtaking beauty. She was wearing blue denims and a red shirt. Four of her top shirt buttons were flirtatiously open revealing a big portion of her cleavage and the middle of her red braw that she was wearing underneath. "A hot woman in season." David thought. He replied, "I believe you might have a point Mrs. Hamilton."
"Call me Stacy David, and its Miss. I'm not married." She gave him a warm smile as he continued, "Or we could be on to something that has been already dug up. It takes only a couple of light storms to cover up any digs that took place here."
"The old papyrus which is still in my study back in New York was dated by professionals to be at least three thousand years old."
Stacy replied, "But this doesn't have to mean anything." Suddenly a wild scream broke out that made them stand up startled. David called out, "What is going on."
Zuhair replied quickly in weak English, "Nothing Mr. David. We were just telling each other some ghost stories and I did something that startled Hamed."
The general laughed and calmly ordered, "Gentlemen, Its' OK just calm down."
Stacy asked, "This guy will be our translator with the rest of the workers. He has some good English as he worked in digs up in the Northern part of the Kingdom, as he told me of course. Do you know something? David lets join the jolly group. I'm in mood for some spooky tales." David looked at the general and answered, "After what happened in Petra I'm not in the mood for anything."

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