If you are fortunate enough to travel in the arctic, you may see a mysterious stone figure known as an Inukshuk. These figures, made of unworked stone, were used by the Inuit as navigation aids and to mark an important place, such as a food cache. They effectively say “someone was here” or “you are on the right path”. Inukshuk are found throughout the arctic, but they have come to be associated with Canada – at least in the minds of many Canadians. The logo for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics was based on an Inukshuk.
Inukshuk come in all sizes. A chipmunk was using the one in my garden as a dinner table, providing a convenient sense of scale.
On the other hand, this one in Vancouver’s English Bay is a little larger. Well, actually, a lot larger. This is NOT an optical illusion.
Given the popularity of Inukshuk in Canada, it isn’t surprising that Canadians abroad are tempted to leave their mark by building an Inukshuk. I am told that this was the very first, and for a long time the only, Inukshuk in Jordan. He stands in Wadi Araba, guiding wandering Canadians from the Dead Sea to Petra.
On my visit, we noticed that some thoughtful visitor had given him eyes. We were admiring the effect until we realized that our Inukshuk had been graced with four eyes, rather than the more customary two. We had images of a budding “Dali” perfecting his technique by wandering the desert in search of unsuspecting Inukshuk. But slowly the rather more mundane truth dawned on us. This was probably the best perch for miles in every direction, and it appears it was gaining popularity with the local birds. Still, it was surprisingly realistic. Except for there being four eyes, of course.
Later, on our visit to Petra, we decided to continue the tradition, and were on the lookout for stones that were the right shape for making the second Inukshuk in Jordan.
It was all innocent fun, and in a lot of ways an appropriate place to put a marker. After all, it was near the “end of the world” just above the Monastery in Petra. But we still wondered if someone might be offended and knock it down. We needn’t have worried. On our way back down into Petra we stopped to admire our handiwork. In the 15 minutes we had been gone, someone had already given our Inukshuk a hat to shield him from the hot Jordanian sun. In many ways it was a fitting reminder of the hospitality we had been shown by everyone we met.