Thursday, September 24, 2009

Travel gnome’s first journey: Jordan…

Eid Mubarak! With a week off work to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, I decided to take Annie’s Adventures in Doha on the road to Jordan. As the two new comers Justin and I decided to travel together. Joining us was the gnome Sarah and Mike gave me to bring me luck on my journeys.

Like good travelers we arrived 2 hours early for out flight – more than enough time.

The first wonderful moment of the trip occurred on the plane when the Jordan promotional video was playing on every seat’s screen. The images showed for about 10 seconds each and were of random aspects of Jordan. My favorite was when for 10 seconds they showed a girl of about 10 swimming alone in a pool picking here weggie. I do not think anyone actually watched the clips before airing this thing. Other than that the fight was great and we arrived safely in Jordan.

Upon arrival we were introduced to out guide for the week, Wasim. This is how I will sum up Wasim – nice, smokes way too much, talks a lot about what he is “going to do” and he is always on his cell phone. By the middle of the trip I realized I was allergic to smoke.

After checking into the hotel, the Imperial Palace, Justin and I though we would find something fun to do for the night. I went down to the front desk to ask and found the lobby full on retired Swiss people. I asked the woman and the only suggestion she had was to go to the mall (the answer is NO), at that I decided to go back to the room. The line for the elevator was ridiculous as the lobby was still full of Swiss waiting to go up. I decided to take the stairs from the ground floor to the third floor – easy option, right? Upon reaching the 1st floor I realized this option was a failure. The stairwell was blocked by a large industrial vacuum (I prayed for no fire) and a tray of old food with bugs covering it. On top of that, there was a cat stuck in the lower level stairwell making a lot of noise. I took this as a sign to get out of the stairwell and cram my way into the next elevator. Justin and I ended up spending our first night exploring the part of the city and had out pictures taken with the King (a poster of the King, which are on almost every building). We walked up and down a main street and saw just about every embassy in Jordan.

The next day we visited Jerash and Ajlun. Jerash is an ancient Roman city that is amazing. Our guide was explaining to us that when he was growing up you could only see the tops of columns and it was a site used by kids to camp and play games. Since then it has been excavated and now is one of the best-preserved Roman cities. I found it really interesting that different countries were excavating different parts of the city. Another exciting thing is that most of the city is still underground! While most cannot be dug up, because people live on top of it, some of the city could still be uncovered.

After Jerash we visited Ajlun a crusaders castle. Just going off of the name I thought it was a castle built by crusaders; however, it was really built by the Muslim community to protect their cities and important cites. The castle was really interesting and a lot of fun to explore. We then went to lunch at a Lebanese restaurant, where Wasim informed us Lebanese food is the same as Jordanian food, but the Lebanese are better advertisers. The food was good, but the atmosphere was better.

That night Justin and I decided we didn’t want to just sit around in the room again. We went on line and found out that there was an Irish bar that was supposed to be fun, and it was walking distance. We walked there and met a Jordanian solider guarding the Egyptian embassy. He was very friendly and talked to us for a long time. During our conversation his machine gun was pointed at Justin (not intentionally). While talking to him an Irish guy came up to ask if the bar would be opening. Since it was the last night of Ramadan, the solider did not know if it would open. We kept talking and our luck turned. The owner of the bar and opened it just for the three of us (it was about 9pm and it was not supposed to open until 1am). Justin, Brian (the Irish guy) and I followed the owner the to entrance. He went inside and turned on the lights and we came inside. At this point Justin told me to watch where I stepped because I had just stepped on a roach. I quickly found a stool to sit on and get my feet off the floor. There were many, many roaches around the place – this bar would not pass any health standards in the US. The only thing Irish about the bar was the one leprechaun hanging from a rafter, hand cut construction paper shamrocks and one Irish flag. After staying for a drink (one for both Justin and I, and three for the Irish guy) we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel.

The next day we visited a few places. We started at Mount Nebo where it is believed Moses is buried. The site was beautiful and had a great view across the Jordan River to the West Bank. We then visited Madaba a Byzantine Church with an amazing mosaic map of he world from the 3rd century AD (I think). Our last big stop for the day was Kerak Castle. This was another crusader’s castle, but much larger than Ajlun. It was a lot of fun to explore the site.

That night we stayed at Taybet Zaman. The hotel was an old 19th century Bedouin village that was converted into a hotel. It was amazing! If you are considering going to Petra, look to see if you can stay at this hotel. We stayed her for 2 nights. The first night I went to check out the pool but found two rather rowdy boys playing in it. I started playing solitaire instead and was joined latter by Justin. When it looked like it might be clear to swim without being attached by kids a European guy in a really bad Speedo started swimming and two French families with 8 kids arrived, one of the young girls did not have a top – I think it is a little too young to promote nude swimming – but they are French. At that point I gave up on the pool and we walked back to the room. We ended up watching an amazing sunset from the walkway right outside our door.

Our next day was Petra! If you do not have Petra on your list of places to visit – add it now. The site was amazing, but the trip was mixed with feeling sick, insults and awkwardness. Upon arrival to Petra we took a short horse ride further into the site (I would recommend taking the horse ride out of Petra not into the city). My “horse boy” (really a man in his thirties) was incredibly rude, and by the end of the very short journey I was fighting to keep by self esteem high. The horse boy told me I was too big for the horse (bull shit), he then said I would need to tip him more because he has to work hard to get the horse to carry me because I was so big (at that point I decided to tip him less). After getting off the horse we were met again by our tour guide. He asked up where we were from and we said the US. He asked us if we were from Utah, we said no, Ohio. He then asked us if Ohio is near Utah – we said no. He then said he really likes Utah because he loves polygamy and there is a lot of love in Utah. Yeah-awkward statement of the day. Later as Justin was taking pictures, insult number 2 came my way. Our guide asked me how old I was and I said 25. He then asked if I was married, I said no. He then made a sad face and wished me luck in life. Clearly I am too old to be good to anyone. The rest of the awkward comments came at the end of the day. I was walking back to the main gate alone and stopped in a shop to buy something. The salesman helped me find the item I was looking for then invited me back to his place for tea --- no. Right after leaving the shop a “horse boy” approached me to see if I wanted a ride back to the main gate. Through the course of trying to tell him I really did not want a ride he invited me to drinks later and said he really liked me and knew I was special. As I kept walking he rode up to me on his horse to ask me for drinks again. I realize I am a green card option; but seriously, if I say no, don’t ride up to me on a horse to ask again.

By the next morning I was feeling really sick and not looking forward to the Dead Sea. Anyone who knows me well knows I am afraid of water for two main reasons. First, I don’t like water that has anything living in it (fish primarily) – why would you want to go in water that is something else’s toilet? Also, I don’t like when water comes up to your chest and it gets harder to breath. For these two reasons, I avoid all natural water, and deep ends of pools. With this in mind, it was a huge accomplishment when I went into the Dead Sea. My rational was that it was the Dead Sea and nothing can live in it. Also, you float so you really can’t cover your chest. The water was warm and salty to the point where it was almost oily – I know that sounds weird, but it is what it is. After spending a few hours at the Dead Sea we drove back into Amman and the Imperial Palace.

By this point in the trip I was really sick. At first I thought it was allergies to smoke since I had been around more smoke on the trip than ever in my life, but as the trip went on I was feeling nauseous, had a headache, soar throat and was really congested. I felt bad for Justin because he had to share a room with me and I was up most of the night coughing. I did not make it through dinner that night, and then next day opted out of breakfast and the tour of Amman. I stayed in the hotel and when I had to check out, I sat in the lobby (for a long time with annoying children all around). The flight home was long with lots of kids – but I was glad to be heading home to my own bed!

The trip was amazing!

A fun last note: many many people wished us Merry Christmas. At first I was not sure how to take it, I thought the man might be insulting us, but after a while our guide explained it to us. Everyone knows the phrase Merry Christmas, but they don’t know the meaning. The people wishing us Merry Christmas thought they were translating Eid Mubarak. After that when people wished us Merry Christmas I responded with Eid Mubarak.


  1. Wow! Looks like a really cool trip! You look great, and very happy once again to see that you are doing so well. We need to connect some time on Skype! It has been much too long! Keep smiling and stay safe!

  2. You should have had the horse kick the insult man. What a butthead! Still sounds like an amazing trip, though!