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Published: September 6th 2010
This country seems to have it all. History, des(s)erts, seas and an extremely close proximity to other middle eastern nations. Most memorable seems to be their sense of ingrained hospitality and honesty that runs true to the Middle Eastern and Bedouin traditions of the Jordanian people.
However, the Jordanian market sellers and touts are extremely creative with their advertisements. To our amusement, donkey rides in the 40 degree heat of Petra were advertised as "taxi rides", "Ferraris" or "air conditioned Ferraris".
Some Jordanians also use flattery in their attempts to convince. One middle-aged postcard seller in Jerash was particularly enamoured with me. Our conversation went something like this:
Seller: Where are you from? Korea? China? Japan?
Me: No, no and no.
Seller: Australia? United States?
Me: How about Canada.
Seller: Canada is beautiful. I want to go.
Me: You should Go.
Seller: I want to but I have visa problems. You married?
Seller: You marry me and bring me to Canada.
Me: Uh... no, and here is your 1 JD for the postcards.
I stop to ponder on this marriage proposal. In Jordanian fashion, I would expect that he would offer a dowry for me. How much am I exactly worth? Unlike the Indian tradition, the man's family would be expected to provide a dowry for me. I'm not sure what my parents would do with camels in Alberta. Am I worth 5 or 500 camels? If he offered 5, could he use the same 5 camels to get a lame third wife?
I've never had a tan so fast in my life after I applied the famous dead sea mud and went from pale to dark in minutes. My skin felt silky smooth after applying this luxurious (and readily available) garden variety mud but seemingly proficient in vitamins, minerals and curing all possible (and imagined) ailments. Some go as far to claim that this miracle product can even cure impotence.
Although food services are not readily available during sunlight hours of Ramadan, the night time feasts are extraordinary. We were treated to a mansaf dinner complete with tender lamb cooked in yogurt and spices. The food runneth over (and then some).
Jordanians are mad about their soap operas and in particular their Bedouin dramas. We also became equally as addicted and looked forward to these operas at our hotel room after a long day of sightseeing. Our lack of Arabic did not stop us from making up our own dialogue and plots regarding handsome Bedouin fighters and their attractive veiled haram. The fighters were particularly alluring with their dark eyes rimmed with eyeliner. I wonder what they would have had to trade in order to get their hands on quality kohl to make them resemble Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.
To return back to proximity, our travels led us to the free zone of Aqaba. The city is a short ferry ride away from Egypt, within kilometres of the Saudi Arabia border, and most importantly close enough to do a quick afternoon visit to Eliat, Israel. Our conversation with our guide went as follows:
Us: How close is Eliat to Aqaba?
Guide: Sure. Its only a short taxi ride away (2km).
Us: Can we go for the afternoon instead of snorkelling?
Guide: Yes... No, no......, no..... . If you go, you will get stuck and be forced to go north to Bethlehem in order to cross the Border back to Jordan. You can't.... No, I don't recommend it.
We feared for our guide's mental health and respectfully shelved our dreams to get yet another stamp in our passports. This trip will have to wait until another afternoon.
Despite our guide's sense of Jordanian pride and hospitality (and concern for our well-being), this did not prevent him uttering the mantra that "This tour is over!". While this would have made sense on the last day, this became a stock phrase on Day 2 of the tour and was repeatedly daily.
Although I was raised Christian, my failure to retain important Biblical facts and dates brought shame upon me during this trip. Lee, my Hindu friend, was able to successfully remember the name of Abraham's second wife (Hagar) and Lot's seductive daughters whereas I was only able to recall that Hagar was unfortunately a slave from Israel. However, one lesson learned from this trip was that all roads lead to Jericho and all the cities of the Decapolis contained a cardo maximus main street. This trip also reminded me and our fellow travellers how direction-less we really were. It became a daily test to quiz us on which direction we were oriented. Inevitably, hands would shoot up pointing in all different directions. The obvious direction of the setting sun did not assist us in this test.
And on that note... I can say that this trip to Jordan has taught that no matter what direction we are headed, all roads lead to Jericho.
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