Watching how the sand bottle artists of Jordan create stunning landscapes with coloured grains of sand will definitely make you get one for yourself
For most travellers, The Nabatean ‘Rose Valley’ of Petra is usually high up on the bucket list. Cameras and selfies store these memories, but Petra is strangely missing replicas of the Treasury or the royal tombs or amphitheatre. For those with a compulsion to carry back physical evidence, there are two major options—the red/black-and-white check pattern keffiyeh or the bottles of sand, with a dizzying array of art within. Jordan’s immense range of craft, today mainly sold as souveniers, had caught me by surprise already by its variety—from superbly detailed mosaic tiles to fabled Arab glassware lamps and tea sets, richly adorned, opulent cutlery, intricately patterned rugs and carpets. What stood out however, were these intricately carved sand bottles in many shapes and sizes. And colours, though this is mainly of sand artificially hued. At Petra, you can get a design of your choice done—this usually ends up being a Jordanscape or your name—done in sand in its original colours—yes, subtle shades of mustard-brown. The skill and speed of the sand bottle artists is amazing to see. Even in the smallest of bottles, they can write a sentence or depict a caravan of camels. Yes, the ones in original sand colours cost more, as do bigger bottles. Also tourists, do remember, this is glass and sand—neither exactly light, and taking a big bottle might eat up your luggage allowance. Couriering them is not a good idea either!