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The beauty of ice

8 December 2013

snowkingswayI was blind. Alone.

Before I started I knew it might be bad. People were saying the buses weren’t running. When the bus drivers can’t make it, it’s bad.

Petra is high. But every road out of Petra is up. To the north and to the east, you have to climb to the crest of the mountain ridge before you can drop down onto the great plateau that slopes east out of Jordan to the Euphrates. To the west is only a sawtooth wall, poetic and impenetrable, its back warmed by the Wadi Araba sands, a thousand metres below.

I had an appointment on the beach, south, in Jordan’s corner of Arabia. At the door of this hotel, on my right, down the hill and behind Petra’s invisible valley, Aaron’s Mountain hid behind swirls. On my left, the uppermost end of town disappeared into the same clouds. I was safe enough here, beneath a grey-grim umbrella. But I had to go.

The verges turned white at the last petrol station. Within five minutes I was down to walking pace, inching over resistant snow with hazards flashing. Drivers were churning past me up the hill, flashing. Drivers were whomping towards me down the hill, flashing.

I could see a snow bank on my left. I could see white nothingness on my right. How cold was it really, in such a blizzard? Instantly I cracked the window, everything in the car yelled at me to close it again and focus.

Then I was blind. What was road? What was verge? Was that the snow bank, or was it the cliff edge? I sat for a while and thought about possible futures. Then I inched a nine-point turn, the gale nosing at my wheels like a labrador, and went back to huddle with humans in the foot-stamping town down the hill.

I took no photos that day.

The following day on the same road, after the blizzard had eased and the gritters had got through, I took some pictures on the climb out of Petra, around Taybeh village:





Then I stopped somewhere past Rajif village at the highest point of the ridge, where I knew, without seeing, that the land yawned away to the south and west, completely exposed to the weather.


As I sat in the silence, the gale rocked the car to and fro on its springs.


When I stepped outside, my first thought was for my own mortality. Out here, as the wind literally howled in my ears and every sliver of exposed skin shrieked, my life felt fragile. I wondered, if lost, how I might not die. The corners of my eyes cracked with horizontal wind-blown tears. I dare not venture more than a few metres from the car. I dare not let the car cool down too much. I dare not let myself get really cold, in case, when I sat back inside and turned the key, there were only illuminated orange symbols of apology.

Then I saw beauty.



If you doubt the power of the winter wind in Jordan, see what it did to ice here.




I wanted to spend more time looking. I didn’t want to spend more time looking.

I left a thank you.


And within ten minutes, I was down the steep slopes of Ras An Naqab and rolling along a desert road under powder-blue skies, warmed by the huggable sun, my head full of the ice on the heights above.






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23 Comments leave one →
  1. 9 December 2013 8.51am

    Beautifully written, Matthew! I just had to share it with my readers over at Ol’ Big Jim (

  2. 9 December 2013 8.55am

    Thanks so much, Jim, I really appreciate it. So pleased you like it.

  3. 10 December 2013 11.14am

    great article and nice to read this article. thanks for sharing this one.

  4. 10 December 2013 8.09pm

    Matthew as always, exquisitely written. I was literally holding my breath in that nine point turn, hoping you weren’t going to write that a car came and smacked you in the blindness. (Exhale, you made it…)

    The reward in the ice photos is beautiful. I am so glad you have an eye for the details as well as a gift for the words.

  5. Tony permalink
    11 December 2013 5.21am

    Hi mathew, good story but can’t get photos here in NE India. All going really well here. Great place, opening new treks & featuring in a film in manas Nat Park & Tiger Reserve on India-Bhutan border. Not been eaten by a tiger yet but have a nice purple leech bite! May be off-line again from tomorrow, can’t write more at moment, Best, T & D

  6. 27 December 2013 12.07am

    Beautiful story, I felt as though I were there with you! The photos of the ice after are breath-taking. Your experience is similar to some winter driving here in Wyoming, I understood much of what you said because I’ve been there…just in another place. I’m so happy to have found your blog, I look forward to looking at your posts of the past and those of the future!

  7. 5 January 2014 9.51am

    Ice road truckers? No a beautifully written account of a serendipitous moment

  8. 7 January 2014 3.42pm

    Breathtaking photos and a great post. Thanks for sharing.

  9. 10 January 2014 7.39pm

    Your blog with all the photos just brings it alive. I too had a similar experience in aspen.

  10. 12 January 2014 1.13am

    I am glad I found this blog!! Thank you for sharing.

  11. 20 January 2014 6.56am

    The pictures are looking amazing.

  12. 21 January 2014 8.46am

    Really awesome images and nice to see this kind of blogs. thanks for sharing this one..

  13. 23 January 2014 12.27pm

    Wow… the first word that I “felt” after reading this post.. what do I praise more…the words or the snaps? Even I want to leave a “thank you” here only to come back for your future posts. Well done!

  14. 28 January 2014 2.49pm

    Brilliant article! I really enjoyed reading it, the pictures really added depth – I felt like I was there. :-)

  15. 29 January 2014 10.18am

    Thanks so much, Clarissa! And thank you all for lovely comments. I’m so pleased this chimed with so many people.

  16. 4 February 2014 8.23am

    Great pictures and really useful information. it’s always happy to see this kind of blog.keep it up

  17. 10 February 2014 8.38am

    The beauty in those pictures is unpararrelled. Its only too bad that you had to get out fast out of there to tell the story. I didnt know petra can get ice. amazing

  18. 15 March 2014 1.32pm

    I’m really enjoying reading your blog, Matthew. I’ve always wanted to go to the Middle East, and reading your experiences has cemented this desire. Thank you so much.

  19. 26 March 2014 8.27am

    Thank YOU, Lucy. Very kind of you.

  20. 4 April 2014 11.59am

    That looks fantastic. How beautifully the snow are spread in equal pattern. I must definitely appreciate the wonderful photography!

  21. 21 May 2014 2.11pm

    Great photography and nice collection of snow images. That’s look awesome to see.

  22. 10 November 2014 4.02pm

    Nice photos. Some of them look like desserts. Probably because I am hungry. Best to you.


  1. Matthew Teller sees beauty in the ice | olbigjim

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