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Published: November 27th 2012
That's something you dont see every day in Cronulla
The driver was sorry. We were sorry. Everybody was sorry.
Khalid was deeply apologetic because;
"You are guests. You shouldn't have to see these things. This is bad for our country".
We were apologetic because Khalid's new car was heavily pockmarked down one side.
The previous evening, Jordan's government had made the snap decision to bump prices for all forms of energy by a third. Gas, oil, the works. Going by the aftermath it's just as well they didn't jack up the price of beer as well.
Blissfully unaware of the parliament's mandate and the public backlash unfolding, we hopped into Khalid's car for a tour out of Amman through a few of Jordan's holy sites.
A human barricade blocking an exit out of the city was the first hint that something was amiss but it wasn't until approaching Mt Nebo (where Moses The Man first set eyes on The Promised Land) that trouble materialised.
Marching along the side of the road were groups of youths in the 10 - 16 year age bracket. With many teachers now refusing to attend school, the lads (all boys) had decided, or more likely had been coerced,
Get a grip on some Roman ruins.
to bare arms. Those arms were any rock they could get their hands on (no shortage in this arid landscape). They had formed possees, a lynch mob mentality a natural progression as they had taken it upon themselves to act as judge, jury and executioner. The creaky wheels of justice Middle East style.
Initially, partially because tourists are a "No Go Zone", we cruised slowly through untouched. But once the first rock was launched it exploded like a sneeze that had been held in for too long. How the windows survived is a testament to whoever makes car windows these days.
Apparently this type of episode was transpiring nation wide. Most significantly, the shooting of two police officers and the killing of one of the protesters. Fortunately all had simmered down that evening as the powers that be had agreed to "review" their decision.The most distressing element of that is this violent knee jerk reaction worked. What's going to happen next time a section of the people don't see eye to eye with parliamentary policy? Same damn thing I imagine.
Sure, protest. Everyone should have the right to voice a grievance but physical aggression, or worse, encouraging
kids to wield arms when they have zero concept of the "cause" is draconian. For the youth this was about a fun way to spend a day free from class, all with dad's consent.
Hey guys! There are other avenues to pour cold water on unpopular charters that don't involve shitting in the nests of innocents.
Khalid was candidly trite in his appraisal;
"We Arabs are stupid. Jordan is a zoo".
A bit harsh there Khalid. On the contrary to Khalid's summation, we have found Jordanians the polar opposite, if you can ignore the above scenario. This is our second visit here and the people have been nothing but polite, warm and inviting. The society is conservative and patriarchal, no doubt, but you will see women out socialising in groups and enjoying the dubious pleasure of sheesha (octopus bongs in our vernacular). The vast majority of ladies cover up but it appears a choice rather than an obligation. Respectful to their religion but not a hostage to it. Tolerance and rationality reign supreme.
Which is precisely why that violent outburst on our first day was so puzzling. If a few Jordanians can pull this genre
of Jeckyll and Hyde act, then maybe that's a snapshot of why the Middle East in general is such a powder keg. Am I drawing a long bow here?
Anyway, that was one part of one day on the questionable side of the ledger. On the other page is the travelogue and Jordan was just as engrossing this time as last. Penny, fill the readers in on Red Sea, Dead Sea and the desert please.
From the highest point to the lowest.
We are back in Jordan to tick off a few highlights we missed the last visit. It feels familiar and comfortable, with warm days and cool nights and the downtown area is pretty much the same except a few more middle eastern fast food shops have opened and there are less sweets/ baclava shops.
We headed to the dead sea, 415 metres below sea level, surrounded by desert and looking across to Israel. It kind of doesn't make sense that you can swim below sea level, you actually float. The concentration of salt and chemicals enables even the worse swimmers (moi) to float and bob up and down. It's not
the type of water you splash around in, and any cuts or grazes sting. Fortunately Gary hadn't yet cut his legs open, that was later.
The Dead Sea is also where we met...Mohammed and his work colleague Mohammed, an Egyptian businessman working short term in Jordan and a Jordanian showing his friend the sites. Mohammed 1, the Jordanian took great delight in filling us in on some of the significant history of the area and their muslim customs. He is now a devout Muslim praying 5 times a day and not able to touch a women outside his immediate family (wife, mother and sisters). His strong belief came a s a result of a "major" problem he faced some years back and he discovered 'Allah" and all was resolved and he is forever indebted to the great one. I couldn't help but wonder what the major problem was, he said he could never say, it was too shameful. That of course got my imagination going.
We headed to the Red Sea, the southern most beach in Jordan bordering Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt. Not a white sand beach but a red dusty beach, but nonetheless somewhere where the
locals can cool off. It would have to be a first going to the beach with camels walking along the waters edge and water sellers and fairy floss makers parading up and down. A very different day at the beach.
And finally Gary's finale, cutting his leg open on the one and only shrub in the desert. We headed for two nights in the Wadi Rum, to check out the desert and live with the Bedouins. Our first night and Gary in true form, so excited to get out amongst it went looking for a sunset shot. He came across a dog howling as the sun was setting and tumbled over the only shrub anywhere to be seen in the desert. He managed to cut both legs and come away with quite a few grazes and no medical supplies within coooeee. A few bandaids later he was fine and we managed to climb the tallest mountain in Jordan the next day at 1800metres. The Adaami Mountain sits squarely on the boarder of Saudi boarder.A great week in Jordan, I have enjoyed the freedom and in particular seeing the local women out socialising at cafes and restaurants together, something we
didn't observe last time.Tomorrow will be quite different, head scarf packed we are off to Iran..
ps, we didnt anticipate the blocks on various sites in Iran, so the blog is a little late.
More images at: www.colvinyeates.zenfolio.com
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