2010.02 – jordan

What: trip to Jordan organized by polish travel company – itaka. It took place at the end of February 2010.

4.5h flight from warsaw to Sharm El Sheik in Egypt. No surprised on the way.

Wedensday
Wake up at early morning, breakfast outside at 7.oo – already at full sunshine. We take painfully slow transit from Egypt via Israel [ Eilat ] to Jordania. Border checks were more thorough than in the airports – Israelis went through all luggages, asking all the time – ‘is it yours?’, ‘are you going to leave this item in Israel?’ and so on. We drove maybe 300km which took over 6h – all due to all that hierocracy. We were going from Sharm El Sheik almost all the time along the red[?] sea coast – via Sinai mountains, and then north/inwards via Jordan. After crossing Jordanian border we got a dedicated cop who will travel with us for next few days.
We drive desert highway – across what seems to be a real desert, lot of sharp hills around – allegedly limestone on the outside [hence sharp/cracking all the time] + granite underneath. In the middle of it we get kicked into 4-wheel-drive jeeps and get ~ 2h ride across the desert dunes. Few stops on the way with shopping for those impatiently waiting to blow up some bucks or climbing on whatever is around and taking dozens of pics for me. At each stop – there is a herd [flock?] of camels – some with one leg bended 180degrees and bound with a rope – probably so they do not run away.

During the jeep ride it gets dark very quickly. After 30 minutes it’s pitch-black. You look around and there is nothing, no lights besides those of few cars. Dissonance of some sort – you are literally in the middle of no-where, yet mobile just gets another sms telling that you logged on to this or that GSM network.
Highways there are funny thing – desert road is better than most polish roads. It’s covered with asphalt, has two lanes in one direction, two lanes in the other – looks more like a landing strip. Locals don’t seem to bother with 110 km/h limit; it was the case in Egypt too – people drive like crazy, beeping all the time.
In Jordan there are allegedly plenty of immigrants from Asia – and we already see it, in the desert – besides the Bedouins – we meet people that I’d tell come from angladesh/Pakistan/India. In the hotel –Chinese/Vietnamese/Philippines faces.

Both in Egypt and Jordan there are road blocks from time to time – at some of them we get checked, other – we pass without any questions. Lots of guns, some on the top of armored vehicles.

We arrive to Petra in the evening. I get slightly scared by the stories of stomach problems Europeans get – mostly caused by different bacteria in the water. I had to visit toilet more often than usual, but fortunately nothing wrong happened.

Thursday. There is some mosque around – so we go ‘wake up’ call at 5:00 from muezzin.
People in Jordan seem much friendlier and less mercantile. And they not only speak English [ which was the case in Egypt ] but also understand very well [ which was not that obvious in Sharm el Sheik ]. During evening walk across the town there was plenty of hellos, how are yous from ‘random’ people who did not wanted to sell us anything.

If that’s not obvious towns are mess – both in Egypt and Jordan. Lots of garbage outside. Building seem like [those where people actually live, not hotels] hacked together over night rather than built.
We stay in Petra for a whole day and sleep here 2nd night too. We went to old town literally sculptured in the rocks [google petra to get the idea]. First it’s a way over valley that narrows down. At some places its 4-5 m wide with rock walls going 30-50 m up. It’s limestone – quite ‘soft’ thing – so it’s easy to sculpture but also erodes quickly – so it has naturally softened shapes. You can see many layers of the rock in different shades of reddish-yellow [copper probably]. First we pass thumbs – smaller and bigger caves with entrances of different sorts – some with columns similar to Greek stuff I remember from primary school. Some are at ground level, some high up. There is huge tomb-temple on the way – [nice reminder of the Tomb Raider] – with maybe 10m high columns. After a while we split from our tour and wonder around going high up on the rocks, visiting tombs high above the valley, crossing few mini-mountain chains. On the way there we see plenty of improvised shops where one can buy usual souvenirs. Those who want – can get camel/donkey/horse ride. While crossing the mountains we meet people with ships and donkeys. Girl that overlooks donkeys starts talking to us in very good English, asks for exchange from euro to dollars or dinars [which we do.. they don’t like euros and have problem exchanging it back, but accept in the worst case them as method of payment]. She’s got jeans skirt, traditional scarf on her head and… listens to music from her mobile phone, while overlooking the donkeys…

Weather is mixed – morning was great and sunny, but on the way we got some showers; afternoon gets rainy – downpour-ish even. We are already back in town – roads become torrents bursting with mud and water.

Jordanians seem to be very nice people [not in mercantile way… eg. at the desert friends took a lot of pictures with camels and wanted to pay for it, while Bedouin did not wanted to take any money, so they ended up buying a tea from him]. At the same time Jordanians seem to be stricter in following Qr-an rules. So far we have not seen any shop with alcohol – only 0% beer. Guide says it is served at some hotels for foreigners. In Egypt – %-drinks were sold in almost every shop.
Friday. ‘wake up call’ from mosque at 5:00am, wake up phone-call at 6:00am [why the heck do they give us 1h for ‘startup’ before the breakfast, 15 minutes to dress up, brush the teeth and pack all the stuff before breakfast is just fine]. It got ugly outside – there was a thunderstorm outside. Temperature dropped to ~10C. On the way to Amman – fog and rains, in the mountains some leftovers of snow. We pass place where Moses allegedly got some water out of the stones [allegedly since there is quite a few places that claim was right there …]. We go north, desert ends, more and more green fields along the way. At castle called K-something we get beaten up with hale, than some hill [Mibo?] with look at Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Jericho at the same time.

Amman is a city as we know – fully finished buildings, plenty of adverts, usual McDonalds and other KFCs. Saturday. It rains – so we see it mostly from the bus. Everyone loves the king here, but yet there are two walls and plenty of armed guards protecting his place. Jeresh – plenty of Greek/Roman leftovers including two stadiums, marketplace, temple… just like in history books but live and in color. On the way we see few rivers carrying much more water and mud than usual. Weather got better but it’s still ~10C and some showers. And by the way – there is Catholic church in Amman – and mass in English. Bad luck I was slightly late but still managed to get there. http://www.wfu.edu/~horton/amman/index.html . Taxi ride in the city for ~20 minutes costs next to nothing – 2$.

Sunday. We leave Amman. There is quite a lot of traffic on the streets – it’s normal working day here. We go down towards the dead sea – green all around, banana plantations, from time to time some sheep, donkeys, goats and camels. We take a swim in the dead sea [float would be better term]. Water is far from clear – looks more like a soup; it’s also warmer than the air. Funny feeling – indeed you float regardless of position you take – on the back or belly; this way or another you get pushed up. Saying “it’s salty” is understatement – it’s more like an acid – up to the point that you don’t feel the taste of salt if you try to lick it. I got it few times to my eyes – not a pleasant thing but there are showers on the beach. Just after putting hands in the water I get funny oil-like feeling on the fingers – probably top-most layer of skin just got burned out.

Monday: Aqaba [jo] – Eilat [il] – Taba [eg]– Sharm El Sheik [eg]. Again long border checks including detailed luggage control.

There is a huge difference between Arab countries and Israel. I’m not so found of aggressive ‘foreign policy’ of later one, but I don’t like being labeled antisemitic [which at times is automatic as soon as people learn that I’m Polish]. Israeli part is tidy, clean and professional. Check both times was longest and most thorough yet guards [and guardines[?]] were almost apologetic for the lost time it took to search all the bags. At the same time Egyptian/Jordanian checkpoints are messy, look more like ‘made in Soviet Russia A.D. 1980’ – especially the x-ray scanners. Egyptian checkpoints inside the country are built of anything – old bended partially corroded barrels on the road, randomly shaped blocks of concrete. Guards wear anything – from uniforms to informal dirty clothes. And the cheap plastic chairs – they are everywhere in Jordan / Egypt – soldiers sit on them at the checkpoints, shop owners – outside their stores.

Conclusion – was good; was worth it; food was amazing. Pictures at http://fot.kudzia.eu

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