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Published: June 12th 2017
Geo: 31.7195, 35.7941
After capitulating on the car rental situation, we loaded into our rather decrepit Peugeot 206. I had purchased a GPS mapset for Jordan, so we hooked it up, punched in our hotel in the town of Madaba -- about 10 miles from the airport -- and off we went. It was now after 1:00am. We literally had not gone more than 100 feet when a police car rolled up behind us. He honked his horn several times, but I was navigating a series of traffic cones to get properly oriented toward the exit. K asked me if I needed to get over, but as soon as I was clear of the cones, he veered sharply around and passed me. This incident, and the following few minutes, were all it took for my "old driving habits" to return, and for me to recall Jordanian traffic "etiquette." While nowhere near the scale of Egypt, Jordanians use their horn as an intricate part of the driving ritual. They do not, however, honk in frustration. Rather, they use the horn to announce they are there. While most roads have traffic lines, they are universally ignored, so people will use their horns routinely when
passing, to let you know that they're there -- on both the right or left side. They also do it when they decide to drive against traffic in your lane -- this happens a bit too often. This incident with the police was just the first of many, but I will admit to having some initial trepidation.
We were staying the majority-Christian town of Madaba, which is actually closer to Queen Alia Airport than the city of Amman. The GPS routed us cross country, which I'm sure was a little disconcerting to Anna and K, as we were driving down pitch-black roads in the apparent middle of nowhere. Here, too, I quickly remembered how Jordan places very high speed bumps on their roads -- even on their highways. They are not, however, painted a different color, and the vast majority do not have signs announcing that they are approaching. As such, this first drive to Madaba was a bit stop-and-go, with us repeatedly coming up on speedbumps in the dark and then hoping we wouldn't bottom out while crossing them.
Once we entered Madaba, the city was completely still. The GPS led us down a narrow one-way alley to our hotel, which is a brand-new establishment, directly across the the Church of St. John the Baptist. We parked right in front of the hotel and were pleased to find a very friendly Egyptian man inside -- who wasted no time in telling me he was Coptic Christian -- who was waiting for us. He had been watching Lord of the Rings on the television, and was very eager to talk to us about the movie. Before going inside, we had attempted to open the trunk and get our luggage. While the key would go into the lock, and I could turn it, we could not get the actual trunk lid to open. We fumbled around the dark looking for a release lever somewhere in the car, but finally gave up. We explained the problem to the man at the desk, and he promptly came outside with us and spent a good five minutes repeating everything we had already tried. In the end, he and I managed to fold down the backseat and extract our luggage via the back doors.
The hotel was brand new and very welcoming after the very long trip. He got us settled, and even turned on the TV and set it up so Anna could watch the end of Lord of the Rings -- as if we had ANYTHING on our mind other than sleep. It was nearly 2:00am, and we all collapsed in bed. Any thoughts of showering were quickly dispensed.
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