••• The International Writers Magazine - 21 Years on-line - Jordan
Jordan, February 2020:
Tabytha Towe's pre-Covid travels
This is the final entry to the travels I did at the beginning of the year before Covid 19. I didn’t want the travels to be really over…. I’m not sure when we can journey like this again. So here goes my pretty intense five days in this wondrous Middle Eastern country back in mid-February.
Early in the morning I had flown in from Israel to explore this new, vast territory. I was exceptionally tired and sad to leave as I had fallen in love with Tel Aviv and wanted to spend more time there, but I was also ready for this next venture. However my flight path was a bit messed up…. I booked cheap flights far in advance so I actually had to fly through Sofia to get to Jordan. Ok I admit, it was a full on backtrack.
There were a few hours for a stop over and I had to go through Customs again and pay an extra, extremely expensive airport fee. No doubt I was utterly livid, stupid Kiwi Airlines (!?$#&@%). Well, as such I didn’t get to wander through Sofia but I did get to be interrogated by National Security…. and then was permitted to drink wine at the airport bar. Regardless I should have just taken the excruciating bus down over the border, it would have been cheaper and less hassle after all. I thought flying would have been quicker. When the whole debacle ended I did get a new stamp in my passport at least. I was also able to snap some great pics flying over the Bulgarian mountains through the window which turned out to be very stunning shots. One has to look at the silver linings when you get mad at yourself for poor planning.
By later evening I had at last landed in Aqaba, a seaside town. At customs my Jordan Visa was pre-paid so I got to go through the line fairly fast except for the then new, mandatory COVID questions. I checked into my hotel and to my surprise they had no alcohol on premises. I took to wandering the cold streets and found some market stalls that were still open at 9.30pm so I bought much needed gloves and a scarf.
I went to a falafel place and ordered a beer and a meal plate on this outdoor patio, my waiter was laughing at me sweetly, and not just because I was cold; he laughed because apparently the entire city of Aqaba was dry, no beer around those parts. Finally it dawned on me that I actually saw zero bars there and realized I was that tourist fool.
When my plate came it was massive! It took me 20 mins just to eat a quarter of it, came with fries, salad, veggies, hummus, the works! Why so much food? The begging street cats came meowing under my table and I threw them a few bites, but my waiter scared them off and they hissed at each other for the duration of my slow chewing. I ordered a big bottle of water and re-filled it with boiling water back at the hotel to cool and then take with me the next day for my early am pick up… or so one would have hoped as per the itinerary.
Sticking to the schedule I checked out at 8am, had my complimentary morning coffee and fruit, waited outside at 8.30am on the dot for my driver. When 9am came I didn’t fret, I’ve often found myself in countries where sometimes time isn’t of the essence. But when 9:30 came, then 9:50, I was starting to stir. A cab driver came up and proceeded with grabbing my bag and tried to convince me I was going with him. We did not speak a lick of each other's languages, how would he have even known where to take me if he didn’t understand? He kept motioning with his hands “come, come” with a greasy smile. Two local men walked by and I was kind of laughing at this point but kept shaking my head “no!” and tried to get my stuff, and these ‘heroic’ men took my bags out of my silly con man's taxi, but then tried to get me to follow them into their cab around the corner. What the fuck! So I took my luggage back into the hotel lobby and asked to pay to use their phone. Somehow the tour sites contact phone number was long distance so I gave the concierge 5 Dinar and with relief got through to someone. I had to wait on standby for a driver to call me back, and when he did the concierge was off the counter so I answered the phone worried it would be a hotel guest. Luckily it was my driver but I didn’t speak Arabic so had to call him back with directions when someone was around to give them to him.
By 10:20am my car arrived, but I was super sceptical and was asking for a confirmation number, my booking reference or even just a slip with my name on it, anything. Took some convincing even but he eventually provided me with the tour details. Phew! My anxiety was through the roof as I had also pre-paid for this three days worth of exclusive sightseeing.
The car was impeccable. I was driven for nearly two hours in luxury through mystical dunes, past herds of alarmingly skinny cows and camels, past police patrols and seeing the rare, lone man walking by. The driver at some point stopped at the side of a highway and took my bags out. Weird!? Big tour buses went by, I figured it out that this must be a transfer spot. The location was barren. One, distraught mirage of a sign meters away that I could barely make out from the distance, I soon found it revealed an arrow and letters in English that resembled once a W, a D and an RU. I put together I was near my destination, Wadi Rum. Soon enough a dirty Jeep pulled up and another man with a bright red ‘keffiyeh’ (a males head scarf) emerged with a European couple who booked the same tour. I stuffed my bag onto his Jeep and hopped in. It smelled of cigarettes and was full of sand. The four of us went off into the desert and we finally embraced our campsite in the middle of nowhere basically. It was like a blurred mirror without self-reflection; all orange sand dunes with a contrast of near turquoise skies and some planted trees with a splash of green, perfectly still. Very pretty, abandoned though. We were the only guests for the entire camp. Maybe it was the off-season due to how the temperature drops at night.
The activities we wanted to do were cancelled and I had already had my hot air balloon ride in Israel cancelled due to harsh winds; the one in Africa was too pricey so I opted out. Thus two opportunities on this trip missed. I absolutely contemplated this ride that was at 4.30am to see the sunrise as my last chance, but I didn’t want to decide yet till I saw what the weather was like.
|My humble little hut had two small beds so I took all the blankets off of one and married them on to the other. I tried to nap in a blanket fort just to keep warm. The wifi, lights and hot water were not yet turned on so I couldn’t read, charge my camera, nor shower. Napping was not a success I just bundled up, and when it was time for our first journey out in the desert I got up and wandered to the main tent to buy hot coffee. Because you cannot go anywhere else it was 4x the price of Aqaba. I should have been better prepared for that. Lucky I had refilled my giant water bottle already.
We introduced ourselves more then headed out towards Wadi Rum where we were driven in silence. We ended up at a spot where we saw camels kneeling in the sand and a tent was anticipating us. Arabic tea was boiling over a fire and the local men were smoking. In my mind, the poor camels outside were on such a tight harness I thought they were being hurt and it gave me anxiety. It’s not for me to decide the way cultures live so I kept my mouth shut, but I definitely refused to ride one and went out to pet them instead; I even started to talk to them in a soothing voice, as if they were precious and would understand me. They really are awkward, sweet, beautiful and silly creatures, they work hard on those knobby legs and I find them adorable and loveable.
|We had tea then drove off to where Star Wars was filmed and walked around the desert where shadows hid valleys then sunlight streamed in through crevices. I am a nerd of films so I could see the scenes in my imagination from Laurence of Arabia, the aforementioned Star Wars - many of them shot at this location - to me it was super cool to be there. We drove to the infamous Mushroom Rock which is exactly as it sounds, a natural formation resembling that of a portobello cap, sure makes for a great photo with the landscape. We drove back to the campsite and I went to my cold hut to bundle up in layers then got my book to sit in the main room and read by the fire drinking an overly-priced beer. At least I could get one there.
Then came an astronomical rain storm, but I live for it. Storms are thrilling! Once we settled into the main tent and total darkness enveloped us, there was a last call for the hot air balloon ride for the 4.30am sunrise. It cost a lot and was still windy, but after missing the opportunity in both Johannesburg and Tel Aviv previously on this year's adventures, I thought I had to do it. I was about to sign when they said the price would go up even more since they needed more people. At that point I threw my hands up in the air in defeat. Perhaps another day I’ll get to go on one. If I had known it would be my last chance in a foreign country over looking stunning panoramic views before international travel lock down, I would have just paid the extra. Will kick myself for a while to come. Darn traveller’s frugality!
Myself, the European couple and a German man with his very frail but tough elderly mother all had dinner served to us in the tent with many desperate cats begging at our tables. I did love the aesthetic of the cushions upon the sand, and I’d have to say the lack of activities was compensated for in an elaborate dinner. The wind from the storm rattled the tent and left behind an array of sand swept grounds and glimpses of stars trying to peek through the dark clouds.
The next morning for breakfast at 8am (that was all complimentary except for the overpriced coffee,) the German gentleman came back from his sunrise, hot air balloon ride and rubbed it in my face with his glorious photos from the Birdseye view. Our Wadi Rum adventure was already done so there was not much else to do but roam around the property and wait for our driver to take us on our much anticipated tour of Petra, the main reason for my coming to Jordan. My life goal is to do all the Seven Wonders of the World, all 14…. as you see there are 7 man-made and 7 natural. Petra was going to be my 8th of 14, leaving me with 6 left in the world. I still aim to do them all, ending one day with the hardest one, Mount Everest as my last destination *don’t worry I’ll just hike the base, I am not a professional climber; still counts!
||Itinerary for day two was spent sitting for many hours on a bus, but it was a devastatingly stunning landscape. The light shone, it was still utterly freezing, do not be fooled by the sun. Shadows chased us through the winding valleys and I got motion sick as expected, though the drive through the mountains of Al-Sharjah were magnificent. These vast peaks share the border with The UAE, so they stretch far across many lands, but when we were at Wadi Musa the landscapes changed from beige and blue into a meld of green and white; there was actual snow on them!
Wadi Musa with snow
We stopped at a huge souvenir shop and I was in complete awe of the art work and gifts, I could have spent all my money there. I got some sea salts however and the strongest Arabian coffee ever so I was buzzing hard for the rest of the antsy bus ride. By the time we finally arrived in the town known as the Capital of Nabataeans, I felt weird from the motion sickness mixed with the caffeine and all my excitement. So when they said this was our only chance for lunch I was upset I had no appetite yet, especially as it was an assorted buffet from salads to lamb to cheeses. After I filled my plate with bright hummus and beets with one falafel, it seems my appetite came back and I felt better.
We checked in to our new digs which was actually not too shabby, my hotel room was big and clean. Back in the lobby we got from Wadi Rum got our little Petra passports that were valid for two days worth of hikes. The first day was only four hours with a guided tour, the next day was for as long as you wanted. The second day is necessary cause you miss a lot the first day and can go further.
Out in the scorching sun but freezing air, you immediately get accosted by men in keffiyehs with horses and donkeys trying to sell you a ride. I just ignored them as they came up to me “Hello, you want?” as they pointed the reins in my face. It was hard to turn down as it was so invasive and you know they are poor, but I’d rather support in other ways not using animals. Oh boy, Jordan is not known for their kindness to animals.
|We passed by the Bab Al Siq which means ‘gateway’. I really had no idea what we were in for. We kept this up for about 15 mins until we reached the overhead formations of the main ‘Siq’ which is a 1.2km passageway in to the mountainous channels. I had already taken my sweater off and put it back on about three times, and had anticipatedly already taken 40 odd photos which seemed premature once I looked up. Seeing how large these natural, ancient structures were is just awesome, encapsulates you. This dramatic gorge split centuries ago and created an arch to the later paved road and baetyls, the sacred stones. The Rose Red City (due to the colour of the rocks,) prospered in the 1st Century as the Capital of the Nabatean Empire with its trade routes in spices and frankincense and so forth.
|| Later on Petra was annexed to the Roman Empire and still thrived for a while until a huge earthquake destroyed most of it by the 4th century. It was abandoned except to some local Bedouin around the area. Seemingly lost to the ages, it wasn’t till 1812 a Swiss explorer disguised himself as Arab in search of the lost city. Total Indiana Jones vibes and especially where the “Last Crusade” was in fact filmed. After this Swiss guy re-discovered Petra it became an international fascination, people from out west started to come and see it. Today this geo-archaeological site is still widely visited every year by thousands around the world and I can now say I’ve ticked off another 7th Wonder on my list.
*I was going to be ambitious and try for a good percentage of the UNESCO World Heritage sites list as well, but you gotta be rich and start very young to aim for those too. I think there’s more than I think there are, though I’ve managed a few thus far.
Our guide was a bit irritating, so I lost interest and detached away from the group to check it out for myself, though never losing sight of them. Means I missed the explanations but I was thoroughly enjoying myself taking it in, taking a million photos. You can really see how they lived here before. The rocks were soft enough to dictate and carve through, the arches created overhead protection, the sand soft to sleep on, the paved road echoed through the canyon sequenced rocks so you could hear intruders coming ahead of time and then hide in caves as there are plenty of little hovels to crawl into. We saw some rugs, plates and an abandoned fire pit showing us the living space in one of the spots. It was just as if you had a secret tent, except it was dark with outside flooring but sheltered like a cavern. I’d sleep there for sure, but you’d need many blankets since it gets astonishingly chilly at night. I reckon that the open skies under the rocks must be utterly astonishing. Beguiling.
|I side tracked past the Al Khazna ‘The Treasury’. Awaiting my turn to snap a clear pic of the epic facade, I looked around and saw some man-made steps and climbed up the rock steps to a narrow cliff where a Bedouin man in a colourful robe was pouring tea. There was a spectators view point and I could see the whole Khazna from above and peered down at its glory. Of course I had to give the man some Dinar as thanks, but it was worth it. When I climbed down I saw that a few camels were displayed lavishly out front. Men on their cell phones yelled at them to sit down. I felt a knot in my stomach when I saw a very heavy set British couple approach. These poor camels have such skinny legs and I could tell that the rest of this trail was not going to be on even ground.
Standing in front of the magnificent facade that’s 40 metres high really makes one imagine how they built it all the way back in the 100’s BC; no technology, just hand made tools and the power of numbers - how many enslaved people it took to make the impossible canals for Venice, the Great Wall of China and so forth. Much to my dismay we could no longer go inside and embrace The Treasury’s mystique artifacts, but as legend has it a specific, special urn holds the Pharoahs treasure, I guess hence the name. Shame we can’t explore inside it anymore.
We made it as far that first day the route went to the ‘Theatre’. It sits under the ‘High Place of Sacrifice’ where you can figure what they did there. I assume blood ran down and it was a major spectacle way back then. This theatre was carved out of the rock with rows said to seat up to 4000 guests in the audience. This auditorium was for entertainment and got rebuilt by the Romans. Would be cool to have a wedding or concert there, I pictured to myself. You can see the passageways and stairs that were meticulously sculpted out of the mountain side; crazy and spectacular!
There are so many stalls along the way selling trinkets, souvenirs, jewelry and more donkey rides. Boys come up to you in near dirty rags trying to get you to go on, but it was unethical treatment and it broke my heart to see unhealthy animals forced to carry so much weight up and down the harsh trek. I wanted to save them all!
We only walked a few miles that day. I was keen for the evening as myself and the Euro couple had planned to go back into town after supper to the infamous, ancient cave bar inside an even fancier hotel than ours. We had to call a taxi which was, you guessed it, pretty pricey for the short trip but it meant if we walked it would be freezing and returning would be all up a steep hill and my broken toe was already sore and blue from what we had done that day * back in January in Africa, I had busted my poor toe and continued to walk with it in constant pain throughout my travels. It sucked, but I had to see what I came for and most of it was by foot only. I’m stupidly obstinate.
We entered the acclaimed restaurant/bar and it certainly was marvellous and felt medieval. Was too cold to sit on the terrace but indoors was the gem as you could sit inside the cave, even in the nooks and crannies! I ordered a wine that wasn’t bad, wasn’t the greatest, and like true foreigners we ordered nachos. I enjoyed being in a crevasse from the old days; in fact it is the oldest bar in the world!! 2000 years ago it was chiselled out like a tomb amongst textured stonewalls. I loved the atmosphere of the glowing lanterns, especially as my new acquaintances and I had missed the Sunday night candle ceremony at Petra the previous night. We arrived that Monday and were upset when we heard the news because it sounded so cool. Hundreds of candles light the pathways up to Al Khazna and then someone flashes a beam quickly-powered by a generator no less- for a mere few seconds for one to witness it under the distant stars, then you sit in awe and silence and have tea on the holy grounds surrounded by the fairy tale lit ambience. Sounds like a dream. However our server later informed us that the candle ceremony had been canceled last night due to rain, so we felt better after some drinks and having not actually missed it.
Had a wonderful tea and sufficient breakfast in the early am hours. The Euro couple and I had to check our luggage at the front desk then make arrangements to go elsewhere afterwards, we only had the hotel for one night. I don’t remember where they went on to but I was planning on doing only a 3 hour trek (without realizing how big it actually was) then book a late afternoon bus to Amman an extra four hours away. Our concierge was nice and offered to give us a ride personally to the Petra gateway. I gave him a tip that he obviously appreciated very much, so he offered to pick us up in 3 hours at the second gate at the end of the line. How kind, we reckoned it was plenty of time since we were to walk back through the part we did the day prior all over again, except as we saw it already we could therefore walk swiftly past it and onto new trails this time. Nope!
I was so concerned with the timing and booking my later bus that I left my Petra passport at the hotel. Our concierge chaperone had left by then. I didn’t want to make the couple wait so I walked out to the parking lot in hopes to find a taxi and this sweet, kooky local man smoking a rolled ciggy apparently recognized me getting out of his friends car, so he said he would call him and get him to turn around for me. How kind again. I felt horrible, meant he’d have to turn back from almost reaching the hotel. He came soon enough that his kooky friend had shared his prunes with me, had time to roll and smoke another cig. As for my dear driver to boomerang back for me, once I reached my luggage and got what I required, I figured that since he made a nice gesture to drive three of us down before, I had expected to call a taxi and then have to run through the first Siq as fast as possible to compensate for my lost time. However when I retrieved my passport to allow my entry, he offered me a ride once more. Couldn’t believe it. I was nervous my walking companions had gone so far by now, so I must have appeared flustered cause I’d have to try and catch up with them. Again a few minutes later was back at the gateway and I had handed him more Dinar as a generous tip but he refused, so I threw it on the car seat and shut the door quickly and ran into his aforementioned friend who gave me a wink and a wave as I rushed into the gate all hyper. Much to my sweet surprise, my new acquaintances showed patience rather than ditch me, though if it was 5 minutes more they would have trucked on, but I’m glad we didn’t waste time looking for each other.
||Again the horsemen at the start of the hike were pushing their saddles in our faces, but we walked so fast they moved on to the next potential riders. By the time we made it to the Treasury there was a toilet and café stall so we stopped a moment to relish in the glorious relic and grab coffees, release bladders. The men with their camels were there and I saw a boy no more than 11 years old yelling at his poor donkey. It still upsets me so much. This young, angry boy then continued to kick the mule against the wall and I just lost it and screamed at him to stop! It’s so devastating to see how animals are treated in third world countries, especially when I know it has been going on for centuries and will not get better and that is their way of life to make money by any means, and there is no compassion for their profits
Then, as if the kid just turned into a sociopath he smiled and responded to me in English “mind your business lady!” He then proceeded to mercilessly yell more at his product of profit and rode off laughing. I was fueling with rage. It gets worse…. As we continued walking down I saw the same boy turning around and coming towards me. He waited for me to lock eyes then when he was close enough he hit the donkey in the face and as he rode on, it screeched! I had just worked with these beloved creatures the month before at a volunteer conservation to help in a sanctuary, now this shit head is tormenting one in front of me to torment me.
It worked. I cried, but I knew this game was not over. It would give him power to see me upset or react again. I could even be arrested in another country for my behaviour, at least what I wanted to showcase which was punching that kid in the stupid face! He continued to circle me then lost interest. I was heart broken for all the working animals alike. Further down I saw a skinny donkey tied up that looked so dehydrated. I rubbed his face and wished I had a bucket of water, food, could release it and save him from being bullied and overworked. A local Bedouin man approached me and asked if I was interested in a ride. I was honest and said I do not believe in their terrible treatment and that I refuse to ride any of them. He said this one was older. I told him I hated how the boy beat one in front of me. He shook his head. He told me that the younger generation feel like they have to show bravado in front of their peers, that they do it all wrong. I could tell he cared for his donkey, but couldn’t afford to feed it better. Not my place to judge other cultures, I have been privileged. I walked silently for about an hour then finally told the couple why I was so distraught.
We made it past the new found Nyphaeum (fountain) under the 450 year-old pistachio tree. I looked up and saw more tombs and a church, but time wouldn’t allow us to climb up there and make the gate in the less-than-2-hours we had remaining before our hero driver came to pick us up again, (me for the second time.) I really enjoyed this other side, once you turn left past the initial, more touristy side. Of course there was a restaurant and little market area to come, but this middle part I could absolutely picture a life style and an era there, full of life. Through sand sculpted steps I watched an old woman wrapped in her beautifully embroidered shawl selling voodoo dolls, or so they seemed. A gypsy girl in her headscarf was making a fire. People huddled on the sand boiling tea over charcoal pits. Little kids running around. I doubt many are allowed to live in the Rose City these days, probably get charged rent. But it seems as if they live close and are allowed to come in and sell their things on table displays, or even just socialize with their friends.
After that part we went through a passageway or arch that was protected by two Roman guards. The actors encourage tourists to take a photo with them in their shimmering, fake gold armour and spears, but for a price of course. Past that more camels were found and less donkeys, which I later understood. It became more treacherous through the crevices uphill, needing their longer legs to get through. A large woman sat upon a suffering camel and exasperation left her mouth saying “oh this isn’t as easy as it looks” as the mule had to precariously carry her full weight down harsh trodden, narrow steps. My toe was swollen and I was limping at that point and I still wouldn’t take a poor camel down, I also had the urge to punch that ignorant woman or yell “get off your fat ass and walk!” Also you see more walking yourself. That dumb comment just angered me as you can see.
||Finally we made it through the Colonnaded Street, past Qasr al-Bint and all the way up amongst the sand swept rocks passing by Bedouin gypsies and families, past the Jordanian flag at the top and past 2 rams fighting, we arrived at the Ad Deir Monastery. It was just as magnificent as seeing the Treasury, but it was bigger. It was dated from the 2nd century AD for religious associations by King Rabel the second. We had wanted to stay but were getting anxious as we were getting near our time lilit of 3 hours to meet our driver/concierge at the exit gate, still a walk away. He was to bring our luggage from the hotel, the others were catching a cab elsewhere afterwards, and myself dropped at the bus stop. Well, we had to get trucking cause it was much farther than we knew and it suddenly seemed to get hotter, the mountain climb higher, and my toe sorer. We were nervous we’d miss him cause we were definitely going to be late.
Another local boy was yelling at his work donkey, but he was running after it since it that escaped. Us 3 were elated in the excitement of the moment and the prospect of its freedom… but deep down we knew it was going to get punished when caught. The poor mule. At least he got a wild streak. The animal ran off so far we never even caught up with it, and the porky, exasperated pre-teen boy was frustrated and giving up. I kept looking for it hoping it was far away.
We continued through Little Petra which is the older, smaller version of the Rose city with tiny dug out tombs and hardly no Bedouin’s around, no market, no tourists. I enjoyed that a lot. However we were on a mission and a time crunch, but unfortunately the only way up to the exit gate was all the way up a steep hill that took 22 mins to be briskly brave and in a rush. I was suffering, my lungs were collapsing almost, drenched in sweat, then that little punk donkey boy and his friends from earlier were riding their donkeys up to us, trying to chase or intimidate us. I mean 2 adult women and a German lad could take on 7 adolescents, right? They hollered and put some fists in the air, laughed, but I think they got bored or lazy or their mules were too tired to run all the way up to us on the hill as it was extremely steep, so they eventually turned around. We got to the top finally and looked back down from where we came, seemed so distant and so long ago strangely. We couldn’t see our guy yet. We kept going through the town then started to get more antsy as none of our phones worked up there. It was dingier in those parts where no attractions were. We thought he came and left, felt utterly defeated, abandoned. We tried one last time and returned to the Little Petras exit gate, and sure enough he was around the corner like a saviour. Our stuff was in the trunk and I had but 18 mins to get to the bus station for a four hour journey into the night to Amman City, the Capitol.
In a hurry and with a quick ‘nice to meet you, safe travels’ to the European couple who hopped out, our mutual driver friend (so called) decided to stop and park. I was like, ummm, this isn’t where we are supposed to be. Aren’t we in a rush to catch my bus? In a polite fashion he wanted to propose that I didn’t have to bus after all. Said he could get us a deal on a hotel room and he will drive us to Amman after his shift. “Us?” Excuse me!? Being a solo traveller that is female (ok albeit with bright, blond hair and tattoos,) does not make me a desperate, wanna be wife nor a target!? Unfortunately it’s very misogynistic there, and I guess I seem pretty wild, but let me tell you I’ve let my natural black hair grow out since, well partly to do with quarantine time on my hands also, but I suppose I won’t travel alone as a blond in a country where I stick out too much next time.
To be fair he was kind, but didn’t understand that I didn’t want to go with him, be with him. I’ve known him all but 6 minutes the whole day and now I’m his girlfriend? I was actually bummed about it, it concerned me as I thought I met a nice local. He had my email in the log and still writes to me. He looked sad when I got out of his car for the last time. I only responded back once ‘cause I didn’t know who it was or thought perhaps I had left something somewhere on my journeys.
In Amman at 10pm it got a little stressful knowing where to get off in a foreign language and without wifi to check maps. I had an Air bnb booked in a busy neighborhood. I figured it out but had to catch a taxi and explain the weird address that was off grid, not really by the busy streets. As soon as the bus door opens vigorously shouting, potential cab drivers have their hands on you persuading you to take theirs. I hate aggressive salesmanship so I walked away from the station on to the road where I waited till I found a more chill hire.
There was a circle sector at my destination and the streets turned into different names so it was even confusing for my taxi driver. He called my Air Bnb host and eventually we got there. I was exhausted and cold and hungry. I wanted to eat and warm up but it was probably too late. The room was charming but it is extremely cold in Jordan at night, I know I’m repeating that but you have no idea. I was still in my sweaty clothes from earlier that were damp cause the stupid AC was on during the bus. I shivered for hours and did not want to get sick. The host said I could shower but there was scarcely hot water so it was a quick, warm rinse, not quite what I had wanted but was grateful. She said I might be able to get a snack still, so by 11.30pm in a new city I went out alone.
I remembered the circle where her place was as it was bedside the school, I’m always great with landmarks as my guide points. She gave me directions which were pretty straight forward. The restaurants had all shut so I missed dinner, but I could still get a drink. I walked around a few cool spots with local men (never the women out and socializing at bars or late at night) and found a bizarre place upstairs to smoke a hookah and drink really bad, Jordanian wine - no offence, but it’s obviously not their forte. I just wanted to warm up from within. I had to walk back up a hill again and saw many street cats eating the rubbish out of bins, but it was fairly quiet in the streets otherwise.
The next day I went back to that neighborhood and realized during the daylight it was indeed very cool. Bright, colourful, so many smells of incense and cuisine, it was bustling with people of all ages. I ate a gyro plate at another hookah place but the live football match was on, it was fun to watch with the crowd. Again all local men. I went antique shopping without being able to afford anything, but was mesmerized by the jewelry and scarves once more. Rainbow Street is a hip strip, I even thought there may be a queer friendly spot but I wasn’t so sure and also did not want to assume. Would recommend in the city for sure. I had a good, strong coffee in the morning so I had a great wander through that particular part of town and even made it to dinner on time. I had something with beets I remember and afterwards decided to turn in early as the next day was only a half-day and I still had to repack my bags for an early evening flight. My last day in Amman was to go to Madaba and explore a few important places to Jordanian people and culture. I had seen mosques, ruins and other beautiful sights along this journey, so I opted to skip the Citadel and went to see where my Guide said were “a must see.”
I called the same hired taxi as the one who grabbed me from the bus station. We made a deal prior that for a set price he’d take me to a few locations then drop me at the airport. It was not cheap, but efficient. I went to a mosaic museum where women make all the crafts, there are extremely difficult pieces to assemble and require a lot of patience and diligence, something I probably could not exercise with such grace. I was happy to see females at work and they are beautiful.
|He then took me to Mount Nebu where Pope John Paul the second planted the seeds to an olive tree by the Byzantine Chapel. It also has many historical mosaics and scriptures there and the famous Brazen Serpentine Cross which was really cool, the prophecy goes that God sent snakes down upon his people to punish those who showed no faith, and then something about a cure of once bitten represented Salvation. Well this is an extremely religious place that in the Hebrew Bible was described as where Moses saw the view for The Promised Land. I did a rapid loop around the grounds, saw the Dead Sea below, then hopped in the taxi for the next location before take off.
Later we drove to the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George. It was built in the 6th century I think, but a little old church wouldn’t impress me much after Petra, but I appreciated it. The ancient map of Madaba is held and protected by its holy walls.
After that we rushed to the airport where I was headed to Amsterdam again for a long layover, enough to go out and meet a friend at least. And then that was it, my trip was complete, 5 countries in 2 months, accomplished a lot in a short time. I was rushing my journeys for I wanted to go home and work untill June and then make the move to Berlin for a while. Unfortunately that dream is distant and on hold due to this ongoing pandemic still 10 months later. I realize however I was lucky I headed back to Toronto right before our full, first lock down happened. If I had left later I would either have been trapped in Jordan, as in perhaps not allowed to fly into Canada for a while yet, or quarantined for 14 days which we all did anyways so it wouldn’t have been so bad.
May the world get better soon so we may discover each other in it once more. I hope there is a vaccine or a cure and international travel can allow for us to explore and learn more about this hectic and enticing world we live in. One day again… in the meantime take care, be kind, stay safe everyone, and may 2021 be better for everyone. Shoukran ktir Jordan!
© Tabytha Towe December 2020
Tabytha is now back in Vancouver and making plans for her future.
Tabytha’s Africa journeys
Part 1 - Cape Town 2020
I caught up on one of my favourite things to do, especially in that part of the world, hitting up some wineries!
Living On the Reserve
Tabytha in Africa - Part Two
Conservation week with Lions and other precious creatures
Israel - 2020 - Life in a time before the virus
If ever there was a top 5 for places to travel, Israel was always high on that list. And man, am I grateful I made it at the beginning of this year before the Covid-19 lockdown
More travel pages