Jordan Crossing the Jordan to Jordan
A historic moment. And that tiny green creek is the river. I know :(
*Found camera cord, so we're off!
Tuesday before last, Mar and I left for five days in Jordan. 45 minutes after leaving Jerusalem, Jordan was crossing the Jordan to go to Jordan. It was a cosmic alignment... even if the Jordan itself was hardly cosmic in scale or impact (it looks more like a tiny green creek than any proper river).
We took a shared taxi-van to the border station (in the Jordan Valley near Jericho), and then got out and walked through the customs and passport desks. That took almost an hour, since one of the two border guards up and left mysteriously and never came back. On the other side of passport control, we got on the "Foreigners" bus and crawled over the valley floor to the Jordanian side. Once crossed, the Jordanian police climbed aboard the bus and began checking and taking our passports. Mine was their favourite: having double- and triple-checked that my name was, in fact, "Jordan", the officers burst into huge grins and repeatedly bellowed "Hellooooooooo Jordan! Welcome, Jooordan! How are youuuu, Jordan?" everytime they passed my seat. It was a lovely, if silly, welcome.
After retrieving our passports in the terminal
On the campus of the University of Jordan, right outside our hostel window.
("Helloooo Jordan!") we grabbed another shared taxi for the half-hour ride into Amman. We stayed at the wonderful "Zain Hostel", a private hotel for female students, where Mar had stayed for the two months she was in Amman last summer. Her roommate from that time, Raphaelle, was also there, as she was taking a vacation from her nine-month stay in Cairo. The family who runs the hotel (mother Samira, her daughters Zain and Nancy, and their friends) were thrilled to see Mar and Raph back again, and took us out for dinner in this lovely, opulent restaurant in the Amman suburbs. Every night that we were in Amman, we spent time with the family, laughing and talking and smoking nargilla/shisha (flavoured compacted tobacco in a cool water pipe - EVERYONE'S favourite social pastime). It was one of the nicest parts of the trip.
In Amman, Mar and I visited the MMEP centres in the Sweileh and Al-Ashrafiyeh neighbourhoods and took pictures and interviewed staff and volunteers. It was fantastic to see them in action, and all the interesting services, programs, and assistance they offer to the community. However, delays in seeing the Ashrafiyeh centre meant that we changed our
itinerary at the last second and left for coastal Aqaba in the south early on Thursday. The four-hour bus ride was, at first, a whole lot of nothing punctuated by the Arabic slapstick movie playing at 110% volume the whole time. Then, suddenly, rock formations appeared on the horizon. More and more spires and mesas of pinkish-grey rock piled themselves by the side of the road, and then we were passing the turn off for Wadi Rum
(which unfortunately there wasn't time to visit on this trip). After that, the rock piles turned into stark, dramatic desert mountains that continued until Aqaba, which is on their far side.
Aqaba itself is, I think, the hottest place I've ever been. We got there around 4:30pm and the temperature was still 44 degrees. There was also a fast, HOT wind that blew constantly and was hotter than the still air, and so provided the opposite of relief - altogether it felt like over 50 degrees! The wind also meant that the temperature in the shade was just as bad as in the sun, so it was with huge relief that we jumped in the little pool at our hotel. The hotel was
in a great location right on the coast of the Red Sea, along a narrow portion of it called the Gulf of Aqaba
. In this little bit of sea there are ports belonging to Egypt (Taba), Israel (Eilat), Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. From our beach, we could see Taba and Eilat, and the desert mountains at their back, and were only 11km from the Saudi border. After swimming in the pool, making friends with some Jordanian kids (trying and failing to teach them 'Marco Polo'), and watching the sun set over the Egyptian west side of the Sea (AMAZING), Mar and I grabbed a fresh dinner and played with the two litters of kittens who really own the hotel. Then we sat on the roof deck and watched the stars come out over the sea, talking and eating ice cream, and watching the male staff and guests get wrapped up watching a wrestling match below us.
The next morning we went down to the beach again, intending to sunbathe, but the wind was out in full force, flinging the sand and our own belongings back in our faces. In desperation, we tied our clothes and shoes up in a little sack made
Weird thing in restaurante
with Mar's scarf, and made a break for the sea, attacking by flying sand at every step. The water itself was WONDERFUL: the most amazing shades of blue and green, soft white sand and gentle waves, and the "Japanese Garden" coaral reef only 100m out. If we'd had more time and the wind wasn't so ridiculous, even I might have been tempted to go snorkling. As it was, Mar and I got overjoyed when we thought we saw a gorgeous, irridescent angel fish swimming around our legs... which turned out to be a gorgeous, irridescent, tin foil chip bag drifting around under the surface instead. We almost choked on the waves laughing.
Finally we dragged ourselves out and spent a little while drying off and reading by the pool, before calling a cab to take us to the bus station. Although it was Friday (a seriously weekend day in the Middle East), we were optimistic that we could grab a convenient bus to Petra, explore for a few hours, and then catch the 5pm bus back to Amman, leaving us free to go back to Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon. The front desk had a few doubts, but we were
confident and self-assured.
... Can you see where this is going?
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