On the Road Again

This time it's for a holiday trip. I needed to get out. To escape if you will. I decided to consult my list and see what I could afford. Lo and Behold! A gem! The Dead Sea and Petra. HHHMMMMMM I mused. The theme music to Indiana Jones still fresh in my mind as the tele here has played Temple of Doom like every week for a month. LOL A sign if ever I had one. So I perused around websites and consulted useless travel agents and decided on Air Arabia flying out of Sharjah. Just two days. Go in. Dead Sea. Petra. Back. Easy Peasy. Got directions to airport. Hopped in my Chevy and off I went. 0530 am stupid o'clock. LOL Sharjah airport is easy to find. Long Term parking easy to find. Check in. Easy. Wow. That was easy! LOL Flight time is 2 1/2 hours so I slept all the way there. I had planned on exiting the airport, heading to the hotel, dropping off my backpack and then strait to the Dead Sea. Even bought a new swimsuit for the occasion. (OK. So the old one was rendered a moldy mess after I forgot all about it in the ziplock back several weeks back when I left the water park). Any way - as the old saying goes... "the best laid plans of mice and men"... Leaving the airport, no problems as I had booked a car thru the hostel. Arrival in Amman city proper... Stunning and spectacular! We rode thru the outskirts of town. Nice buildings. Normal looking. Nothing to write home about. (rolls eyes). Then KABOOM!!!! we crest a hill and all of Amman is laid out before you! A swelling, rolling city. Gobsmackingly amazing. Then the taxi goes down the hill. Or rather 12% + grade! LOL It's like Lombard Street in San Francisco - but all the streets are like this! Amman is set on seven hills. Very steep hills. LOL The houses and shoppes are carved into the rocks. The further down into the town you go, the closer to the city center, the older it gets, the dirtier it gets. The cars still have catalytic converters on them, so the buildings are covered with a black soot much like New York City of the 70s and 80s and Paris about the same time. Dirty and Dingy and totally cool! The city is lived in. The city beats. It has a pulse.

The noise! OMG the noise. Cars honking and beeping and wotnots. Such a cacophany! It took a few hours to determine that that's how drivers talk to each other. The honking and beeping is a language - a wierdo car horn syntax of speech. Amman is all about communication! By car horn or by human mouth. People are quite friendly! Every one is willing to chat with you. You can see it in their eyes. They just want to talk and be friendly and it's the most natural thing in the world to do so. Granted - as I'm on the short cute side (wink.wink.nudge.nudge.) most of the chatting was done by men. LOL Did my ego wonders. But it's not like being chatted up by wankers. None of the men have any intention of doing or going beyond paying compliments and smiling. It's all in good natured fun! All they expect back is a smile. It's effusive good will. Pretty shocking and needed considering where I currently reside (uae). Every where I went I was paid a compliment. Every where I went I was told that ".. I have a cousin/brother/friend in New York. I like America!"... "You are very beautiful." LOL Such genuine interest. I didn't come across not one person that had a mal intent or bad bone in their body.

I spent my first day just walking around Amman. I had booked a car to take me to the Dead Sea. Unfortunately, the person I booked it with didn't forward the message to the worker in the hostel. So no car. So off I went. In search of....... what ever I could find. I made a mental note of where the hotel was and just took off. I walked this way and that - following the traffic. Following the buildings. Following the cool Roman ruins dotted throughout the downtown area. Following my nose. Up one street (up one hill) down another (hill) and around a bend (to find another hill). Yes, I had my knee braces on. No way to do the walking without them. I've come to the conclusion that Jordanians - specifically those residing in Amman invented cardio!!!!! I'd pop into shoppes and point to what looked good for food. Everything ended up tasting quite delicious. I have no idea what I was eating. I did however, inadvertently, eat vegies on this trip. They were hidden inside a beautiful golden brown pastry. Mibs!!!! I travel around the world and who do I run into? A mother and sun from Surray Quays. Yep - a woman who shoppes at the same Tesco as I do. How funny is that?! Standing at the coliseum, a Roman venue of spectacle, I parlay with someone from South East London! LOL Spent the next hour exploring the coliseum with them. I climbed halfway up to the top. Unlike the Prudential Center where my UFC seats were quite nosebleed (the Pru center has railings and a set rise and run to the steps) this venue had no railings or anything to prevent me from taking a tumble. The steps aren't even and are quite steep. I did good to get as high as I did! But then realized I"d have to climb down. I came down like a backwards Spiderman! Scambling feet first, but on concrete, hands steadying me from behind. I was being overtaken by multitudes of little kids hopping, skipping, and jumping with absolutely no fear! Oh to be young again! I meandered my way back to the hostel close to 6pm. It was quite dark. I was sitting on the sofa enjoying a cup of tea when a very tall man walking by wearing a Spurs scarf. I'm like OMG!! Are you kidding me???!! Amman Jordan and I run into a Spurs supporter. He says he's popping off for food then returning to shower and then head out to a pub to watch the Barcelona game. I asked if I could tag along - in hopes the Chelsea game is aired before hand. So about an hour later here I am trekking up hills (yes, up. always up) to the downtown "posh" area of Amman to a pub called AMIGO's. (not kidding) to eat chips (french fries) and watch Chelsea skunk Arsenal with a Spurs supporter who is actually from Norhtern Sweden!

The world is indeed small!! For Day Two of my amazing adventure I set my alarm for 0730am. More fool me! Apparently Jordan is a Muslim country. The first call to prayer is at 0450 am. That right. Stupid o'clock. four - fifty aye em! It is quite loud would be an understatement. I do honestly believe a little man with a bull horn hovered the three floors up outside my window and with a cheeky grin started his incessant caterwauling thru said bull horn right into my window. Woke me up out of a dead sleep! I"m like WTF!!!! Eyes wide. Ready to karate chop something or someone. LOL This went on for about a half hour with the height of his screeching at 0525. Not fun. Not fun. Needless to say when the alarm did go off, I promptly hit the snooze button. I made it out the hotel closer to 8am. My mission - Petra! I headed for the Roman Coliseum type thingie because I figured I could find someone who could direct me to the South Station bus depot and a bus to Petra. Sure enough. Friendly. Helpful. Jordanian. COPS!!!!! Don't scoff. I've found a place where cops smile. I've found a place where cops are helpful and friendly. Amman! Senior cop directs junior cop to take me to the visitors center to get me sorted. Visiter center officer writes down in English and Arabic where I need to go and what I need to do. Junior cop hails a taxi for me and directs the taxi driver. All I had to do is smile and be gobsmacked at the efficiency and good will.

Groovy taxi dude found me a bus to Petra. And at the whopping cost of 5 jordanian dollars (about $7) I was on my way for a ... three hour tour... a three hour tour! LOL Three hours thru the Jordanian desert. Not sure what it's called. But I was on a bus that held about 20 people. Totally full. Sitting next to a dude I'd swear was from the Lower East Side (ok, so he was really from Turkey but I swear, he sounded like a frigging New Yorker! I think he said he studied in NYC for a bit - but he oozed New York City! LOL with a splash of el Lay! Rodeo Drive!) Any ways - we became fast friends. Nothing to it. We were squished together for 3 hours. We arrive at the Petra bus station. New Petra. As there is a "modern" town called Petra. It even has a Crown Plaza hotel and a Marriot! The bus station is just a strip of concrete with a shelter and occasionally a bus! Meet a taxi driver who will drive us to Petra for 10 Jordanian Dinars. (deenarz not die-ners) Any ways - my new buddy and a group of women hop into a van to get to their hostel. No one had booked anything, it was just the hostel sends a van to the bus station and hopes someone needs a room. Good Business. I schlep off with them as me and my seat mate, Ali, decide to do Petra (Old Petra) together. We get to the hostel and it has an amazing view of New Petra and the mountains hiding Old Petra. Drink more tea (this place makes England look lacking in the tea department). The hostel dude says he'll drive the lot of us to Petra (Old Petra) for 3 JD. yeah.... six people in a van to old petra for 3JD TOTAL!!! How is that for service?! We pile into the van and off we go!

Old Petra is an archaeological site. National Heritage some would point out. It's 21 JD for a one day visitor pass. 26 for a 2 day. Trust me when I say you will need more than one day to see this. You walk down a gravel road surrounded by boulders and notice interesting caves and caverns. This is only eye candy. At the bottom you decent a steeper path that leads between two massively large rocks/boulders/mountains. LOL It's the main road into Old Petra. Wide enough for a chariot. Tall enough for a freaking giant! It would be like walking between the Twin Towers had they been ten city blocks long instead on single buildings. Just massive. Along the way you have alcoves - like pit stops or sign posts. Things carved in the rock that look like where lanterns would sit to light the way. After about 20 minutes you see it. Peeking thru the slit between the mountain. Your eyes get wide because you recognize it. Standing before you at 43 meters high. There it is!!!! The Treasury from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade! Gobsmacking eye candy!! It's huge. It's immense. It's totally gorgeous!!! Breathtaking!!! You just stand there mesmerized by this building. It's carved into the face of a mountain. You can't go inside it, but you can peek in to see the three chambers on the ground floor. You do have to step over the recent excavation. They found a substructure to it a few years back. You can look down the grating onto another door and entrance that is currently underground. The rocks and mountains all have this beautiful reddy, orangey, golden colour. It's like Peter Max went in with his paints and colours and just went to town! I tore myself away from the initial vision and proceeded down to the right of the Treasury. I wandered aimlessly thru the olden city of Petra for three hours. It's big. Really big. Quite big. yeah. I'm thinking at it's height, the town supported like thousands of people big. LOL Every where you look there is a building carved into a mountainside. Not just one building here or there, but obvious city planning. The guide says that the buildings are tombs or temples or the like. Supposition really. I've no doubt that Petra had temples and tombs for dignitaries. But the town was a major trading force. The people who carved this place over 2200 years ago ruled a wide swath of properties. LOL These dudes were the dudes in charge! (much to Rome's ire). They made money hand over fist in the trading industry and Petra was on the trade route. Nothing got bought or sold if it didn't go thru Petra first. LOL I did find yet another Roman style outdoor theatre. They are every where! LOL Found what they call the Colonaid - like a promonade. Cobblestone streets. Wide enough for two chariots! LOL By this time the sun was setting. Now that's a sight. Being cognizant of the sun setting while you are scampering around two thousand year old buildings. Watching as you cast a shadow across a wall or pillar that's had this same scene repeated hundreds of times thousands of years ago.

Every thing took on a reddish hue as the sun bounced off the surrounding mountains. It was surreal. Your place in the universe is but a small alcove on the unfashionable western spiral end. It's quite humbling. Then reality smacks you in the head like a fish when you realize you now have to walk all the way back and the sun is setting and you really really hope you can make it thru the canyon before the sun is completely gone as you neglected to bring a torch. . . No worries. I made it out of old petra back into new petra with a good fifteen minutes of daylight left. I caught a taxi and made for the bus station. My taxi driver asked me why I was going to the bus station. To catch a bus of course. Back to Amman. Silly muppet. Well, he didn't actually call me a silly muppet. I don't think they have a Jordanian saying for that. But basically, he told me the bus station is empty as no more busses leave for Amman. It's only half four! Last bus out was well over an hour ago. But if I wanted to wait a bit, he could drive me to Amman for 50 JD. My eyes got pretty big and I stuck out my bottom lip... But I want to go back now. He said he's swing by and pick up his brother - and we'd go back now. So we swing by his place to pick up his brother. He gets out of the car, brother gets in the car, swings around to look at me... Hey, he says. I know you! From the bus station. You said ten minutes! LOL OMG - same cabbie from earlier! He was now dressed to the nines. His plan for the evening had involved going to Amman with his cousin and wife for a night of partying. But as his brother could not drive outside the city at night and he could, his plans were slightly scuttled. I'm like, dude - if you and your cousin and his wife are headed to Amman and I am headed to Amman, why don't we just all go together. He's like, really?! I'm like yeah. He phones up his cousin and tells him the trip is back on. He has a really nice passenger. So we swing by his place, the cabbies, not the cousins, to wait for the cousin to get off work. Now, we sit outside his place for a bit while he calls the wife. Now, I don't know Arabic but I think loosely translated the conversation went like this.... "Honey, don't freak out. I'm bringing home a very nice American lady. I told her I'd drive her back to Amman. .... And as I'm going with Bob (no not his cousin's real name. never did catch the cousin's real name) and Steph I figured I'd bring her by for a cup of tea before we head out. Is this ok? .... Yes, she is beautiful, but you know I love you. We're coming in, put the kettle on." LOL She met us at the door. Cute little slip of a woman who makes great tea! Ten minutes later, the cousin and his wife show up (with their 18 month old baby) and we pile into the taxi for the three hour drive back to Amman. Mind you, it's only 5pm and it's pitch dark outside. I doze most of the way back. Make it back to the hotel by 8pm. In bed by 9pm. Up again at 0450 by the evil little man with the bullhorn outside my window screeching nonstop for almost a half hour. Doze lightly. Up for alarm. Taxi to airport. Flight. Land in Sharjah. Back to the assbackwardness, unfriendly, dour, pissy, welfare mama place that is the UAE. *sigh*

I'm already missing Amman.


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