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Published: March 15th 2011
Our trip to Jordan was even better than expected. The openness and friendliness of the Jordanians was undoubtedly the highlight of the journey. Everyone just wanted to tell us…. Welcome to Jordan. If I got a Dinar/Euro for every time we were welcomed, the trip would have been for free, such was the hospitality of the Jordanians. We were never conned or felt that we were being ripped off and it took us a while to realise that tourism is slightly different here in Jordan. It is like there has been a collective decision by the people to recognise the importance of tourism to their economy and everyone has consciously decided to take part. Lesson No.1 for English class in schools must surely be the word Welcome. I had read somewhere that Jordan had decided to try and double its tourism between 2005-2010. I’m not sure whether they have succeeded in that, but they sure are trying.
When we told people we were going to Jordan they asked, why? To be honest, a few months ago I would probably have asked the same question. My answer though was a TV show called An Idiot Abroad and a certain man called
Karl Pilkington. He has being called a modern day philosopher but I would rather think of him as an intelligent comedian. They are not three words you normally put together though. Idiot, Philosopher & Comedian. Pilkington kind of is though. His show was based on sending a supposedly typical British man in to difficult and uncomfortable situations. The outcome was in my opinion comedy genius. Pilkington squirmed his way around the seven new wonders of the world. Petra, Jordan being one. After watching the show it was set in the back of my mind to go there and very quickly it was brought to the front. This is our journey…….
We finished up work on Friday evening and took the 8:30pm train to Dublin. Here we stayed overnight in Isaacs hotel across from the central bus station (Busaras). We didn’t arrive until after 11:30pm and feeling a bit peckish we set out in search of something to eat. The first place we found was a kebab house so we decided to set the ball in motion as regards middle eastern food. The reason I mention this place is that everything in here was €7.86. What a weird random price.
You wouldn’t mind if it was called 786 or the building was at no. 786 but how do you come up with a price for absolutely everything of €7.86? Weird. The two guys behind the hotel reception were none the wiser as regard the timetable for the buses to Dublin airport, that ran from outside their front door. They even sold half price tickets for the bus, but still couldn’t tell what times they left in the morning. I was happy to be leaving Ireland.
When you travel, as in moving from A to B, it gives you plenty of time to think. As we got the 5am bus to the airport (tired and unable to rest my head anywhere to sleep) I wondered why man cant sleep standing up. We have evolved so much you would think we could. As I said, to much time to think. We arrived at the airport and the nice lady at the BMI counter changed our seats so that we could sit together, as when we had booked in online we were down to sit separately the whole way from Dublin to London to Amman. Ryanair would surely have charged us an
inconvenience fee or something of the sort. Sitting in Heathrow waiting for our second flight I got to think some more. Which came first, the Tea Towel, or man wearing Tea Towel. Kind of like the chicken and egg story. Now before someone blasts me for my comments it is kind of common knowledge that western man doesn’t understand the reason for Tea Towel wearing, so I have taken it upon myself to explain why. For starters its not a Tea Towel (obviously), it’s actually called a Keffiyeh and it’s a traditional Arab headdress that is made from a square scarf and normally made of cotton. Folded in a triangle it is placed over the head and held in place by piece of rope called an Agal. It is used to protect from the direct sun, or to stop sand or dust blowing into the face. Different patterns have different meanings, like the Palestinian black and white one that Michelle bought. The red and white check scarf is strongly linked to Jordan. I would later discover the advantages of this scarf on our trip through Wadi Rum desert.
Our flight was good but as usual a few things went
wrong for me. My TV screen wouldn’t work and while all else were sitting around laughing at the latest comedy movie on their headset, I was involved in a war with my screen and remote control. Then the headrest broke completely off my chair while I was slipping into a nice comfortable sleep only to be told there was nothing they could do to fix it and I’d just have to put up with it. So I laboured on with a dodgy TV screen and a metal plate with a hole in the middle of it as my head rest. The joys of flying cattle class.
It was kind of cool to arrive out to the arrivals hall to a guy holding up a sign with “Mr. Darren Hoare”. Everyone knows what I’m talking about. How many times have you arrived through immigration to be met by a horde of taxi and limo drivers, only to wish your name was on one of the sheets they were holding up. This time it was my turn! Our hotel had arranged a taxi for us and our first experience of a Jordanian welcome had happened. Our driver pointed out a big
white car, perhaps a 4 or 5 litre engine and then rolled his eyes while proclaiming “Saudi’s”. The Jordanian humour we had read about being evident already. Having checked into our hotel we were about to leave our room when the bedroom phone rang. One of the weirdest things began to unfold. Me: Hello
Mystery Man: Is this Mr. Darren Hoare.
Me: Yes it is
Mystery Man: Mr. Darren. You have booking with Black Iris hotel. Why you stay at Mariam hotel?
Me: I don’t have a booking.
MM: Yes you do. I send driver to airport. I now charge you three nights and taxi driver.
It started to dawn on me that I had booked and also cancelled a hotel on the same day sometime back in January. Me: No, Sorry, I cancelled that booking.
MM: No you didn’t.
Me: Yes I did.
MM: You come to my hotel and show me email cancellation.
Me: No I wont. Anyway, how do you know I’m here?
MM: We are all cousins around here
Me: (in my head - What the ****?!)
MM: I send driver for you now
Me: (in my head - Jesus, am I messing
with some sort of mafia?!) Don’t send a driver, I’m not coming and don’t charge my card.
MM: I charge you three nights and taxi driver
Me: Ok, I’ll find the email cancellation.
We went down to the reception and located the cancellation in my hotmail account. MM rings again to reception. I tell him we have the email. “Ok, I send driver for you now”
. Ah Jesus, he’s sending one of his heavies. We waited in the reception area until what I can describe as the biggest mafia looking, leather jacket wearing, man pushed through the door. There was I would say a noticeable lump in my throat. He walked over and I handed him the print out of the email cancellation. I stayed seated. He took one look at it, nodded and turned his back and walked out the door. For a second I even thought the nod meant follow me outside, until I had realised he was actually gone. Myself and Michelle looked at each other and burst out laughing, still unsure if what had happened, had actually happened. For the rest of the evening we relaxed and had a fine three course meal for €8 each. Any time a phone rang we waited in anticipation for Mystery Man from Black Iris hotel and his burly henchmen to call us to our fate. It never happened.
In a bit. DH
Quote of the Blog: “ We are all cousins round here”
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