Goodbye to Jordan

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August 11th 2011
Published: August 11th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

It is quite hard to write this post. Tomorrow Tad and I will depart for Egypt, and this is the end of my time in Jordan on this trip. It has been quite a time, and I have enjoyed it immensely. If Tad comes back to Jordan in the future I will be sure to pay him a visit.

Tad and I have done quite a lot, from climbing waterfalls in Wadi Weida, to an ex-pat party in Amman, to spending time swatting flies and killing ants in al-Mazra. There have been many quiet periods, which has been nice, and many adventures as well.

Most of all it has been great to spend time with Tad. Watching him teach English in Arabic and being so patient with his students is a great inspiration to me. We have cooked together, slept in the same bed together, and shared books and hours of conversation. And many games of Canasta, which sadly Tad has dominated.

Climate wise, Jordan has been quite varied for me. Everywhere has been absolutely dry with not a single drop of rain in three weeks (it hasn’t rained anywhere in Jordan since May). Certainly makes planning for the weather straightforward - hot and dry. The temperature has varied quite a lot though from pleasantly cool in Mukawir to blistering heat in Aqaba and Ghor al-Mazra. In the Ghor we have done everything possible to spend the hottest hours of the day inside with air conditioning. I have learned that that I would not enjoy living in a place like Ghor al-Mazra without air conditioning.

The drivers in Jordan are insane. It has been a while since I have been in India, but from my recollections, I think Jordanian drivers are more in control than the Indian drivers, but there have been innumerable close calls that have left me with a bit of a racing pulse. At the least, the drivers in Jordan are far less likely to be pissed drunk. In Amman, there are traffic signals that people obey, but the concept of lanes is one that doesn’t exist yet in Jordan.

One random factoid – due to the English influence, there are often bagpipes in the music played in Jordan. Distinctly Jordanian traditional music with bagpipes. Quite odd.

And food. I have added a few foods to my list of culinary staples, from tomatoes and labneh to gelayat bandor. I have been quite happy with the food in Jordan. Oh and all the delicious falafel sandwiches (with fries in the sandwich). Jordanian food does not use the same oils as Moroccan food which I wasn’t a big fan of. So far (knock on wood), I have not had any major digestive tract problems with the exception of one day with some serious gas after pizza in Petra.

Due to our connections in Jordan, I feel I have interacted with quite a good cross-section of Jordanian society, from living with some of the most disadvantaged people in the Ghor to hanging with ex-pats, study abroad students and Peace Corps volunteers in Amman.

One thing that I still haven't entirely come to grips with is the ever-presence of dudes with weapons. Coming from the USA that is a bit of a shock, and nowhere else that I have traveled to prior to Jordan had such a pervasive military presence. I suppose every other country that I have visited (excepting Morocco), has been democratic and pretty stable. Though that said, I suppose you could make the case that India and/or Bangladesh are not completely stable.

Overall, I have been surprised with overall how developed and affluent Jordan feels. Even though the GDP per capita is only about $6,000 (according to our wandering encyclopedia), you wouldn’t know it when you drive around Amman. There are uncountable luxury cars (Mercedes, BMW, you name it). Very few American cars, but the Koreans (Kia and Hyundai) seem to have obtained a rather serious lock on the market in Jordan with something approaching a majority (at least a plurality) of the personal car market. The 200% import tax on all cars makes them even more expensive in Jordan, and gas is nearly as expensive as in the USA at $3.30/gallon equivalent.

As a cooling engineer, I expected to see swamp coolers everywhere since the climate is so dry, but I have only seen a few, mostly in Aqaba, but a handful in al-Mazra. I have a feeling that two things are driving the small numbers of swamp coolers. For one, Jordan is one of the most water-poor nations in the world, and water is quite strictly rationed. For our house we get water on one day, and if the water runs out, that’s it until the next week. Having the water tank on the roof also means that the temperature of the water gets hotter and hotter over the course of the week, so there is no such thing as cold water at the end of the water week. The second factor is that while this time of the year is quite dry, there is a rainy season when it rains quite a bit and the humidity comes up quite a bit, making evaporative cooling much less effective. Or maybe it is water treatment problems? It’s hard to say.

On the topic of water, it is so great! Living all my life in the USA, I have never really had any problems with getting access to water, but being here I see how close to the margins of dehydration I have been the whole time I have been here. Another day without water in the Ghor and I would be in a bad way. We have to drink so much water to stay hydrated – at least 1.5 liters of water per day per person. Luckily water is quite cheap here – on the order of 0.30JD, or about $0.42 for 1.5 liters of bottled water. Much of which is Coca-Cola or Pepsi branded water.

Oh and fasting during Ramadan is not a lot of fun – but that’s a topic for another post after Eid-al-Fitr.

Now on to Egypt!


11th August 2011

Awesome, informative post Ian. It seems your trip is off to an auspicious start. It's fun traveling along with you. Keep posting!
12th August 2011

Great !
Ian, your blogs are terrific ! I have learned so much about the Middle East from your writings. They are informative, funny and insightful. Thanks so much ! Keep them coming ! Mom

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