A Travellerspoint blog

Jordan day 1

Why Allah is great

I was very happy that I had chosen to have a driver meet me at the border. I had no idea how one gets to Amman from the border crossing and we were able to stop in the city of Jerash on the way so it saved a lot of time. His English was excellent and I think he felt it was his duty to educate me on all things Muslim, Jordanian and political. After waxing on about several old testament stories which had taken place in Jordan and explaining to me who Jacob and his 12 sons were, I debated telling him that I was Jewish and had studied all of this for a number of years. However, given his repeated referencing of: "the occupation", his being from Palestine, the evil treatment of Israel against the Palestinans and how this would eventually come back to destroy their childrens' lives, and his concern that the peace agreements between Jordan and Israel did nothing for the Jordanian citizens, I decided keeping quiet might be best.

I did learn a bit about Jordan and he gave me some excellent tips for my further travel. Oh and did I mention the air conditioning? I don't think he was trying to proselytize me (unlike the man in the shared taxi from the airport in Israel who kept asking why I didn't just move to Israel as this was the only place Jews could be happy) But we did spend some solid time discussing Islam. I was informed that he did not eat pork, drink alcohol or kiss his wife on Ramadan because that makes Allah very angry. And then he sends you to hell. And that's bad. (I summarized for you but it was a tad more verbose)

We made our way to the town of Jerash - it has wonderfully preserved Roman ruins and the tour guide was excellent. It really is interesting to see the juxtaposition of ancient theatres, columns and temples right next to a thriving, modern city. Even though I had left on the first bus out of Israel, the earliest we could arrive at Jerash was 12 pm. It was not cold. It was not cool. It was HOT. As it turns out, ruins do not have air conditioning. So while I wouldn't recommend them as a mid day touring highlight, they were pretty cool. I was also dressed quite modestly (ie way too much of my body was covered up) because I had heard about what a conservative country Jordan is and I didn't want to offend. righht....I don't think that applies to tourists. There were many tourists in Jerash far more naked than I. I think I saw some short shorts that would have been provocative even in America.

But I digress - next stop - Amman hotel. I write hotel because it is called the Palace Hotel. But I wonder if having no running water in the sink and only cold water in the shower causes you to lose the designation, "hotel." I feel like it should. This was Lonely Planet's number one budget hotel recommendation. I really hate to see what the places they give a thumbs down look like. The room literally was falling apart, the shower head was above the toilet seat and sink and my key was literally from the 1800's. I think it may have opened a dungeon in a castle a long long time ago. I dropped my stuff off and headed out for a brief exploration of downtown Amman. I keep reading about how crossing the street in Cairo is going to be quite the experience. Amman was no party either. I don't think I saw any traffic lights or maybe it's just cuz no one was using them. I would find a local and just run next to them. Also - it was interesting that I was in my same modest dress (I know, time to shower) and I still felt totally leered at and given some odd looks. Which was especially weird given that there were some Jordanian women walking the street who were let's just say - not wearing traditional garb. I've never felt uncomfortable traveling alone, but I definitely felt very out of place and not so much into walking the streets. Given my early wake up I didn't have too many waking hours left so I headed back to the "hotel" for some onward trip planning.

I spoke with some other travelers in the lounge and they convinced me that I had to spend the night sleeping in the desert in Wadi Rum (southernDSCF0072.jpgruins in Jerash

ruins in Jerash

Jordan). This was not exactly on my itinerary given that it involved A) elongated periods in the desert B) sleeping in a tent C) the need to find transportation to Wadi Rum since it's not exactly frequented by public transportation. They also convinced me that I had to go to Aswan, Egypt in order to take the 4am trip out to see temples in Abu Simel. I had been toying with this, but of course being the travel whore I am, I was easily sold. I decided to head down to Petra first thing next morning and hopefully figure out transportation from there. I also decided to book airline tickets to Egypt since I was not up for a gazillion ferry and bus crossings and because I needed to save time (and sanity). All that was left was buying online from Egypt Air. WAY more easily said than done. Their online purchasing services give JAT and Aerolineas Argentinas airlines a serious run for their money, but at least I was in America when I was fighting with them. I needed to get it done because I was flying in a few days and leaving wicked early in the morning for Petra where I didn't think there would be travel agencies. Thank goodness for travel forums and someone's suggestion to buy the tickets on orbitz.com. In theory I now possess tickets from Amman to Aswan and Luxor to Cairo, but given everything I've read online about the fabulousness of Egypt Air, I will be skeptical until I am actually on a plane. After of course paying my exit tax for the privilege of leaving Jordan.

Posted by NYCgirl 10:35 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

Crossing the border - Israel to Jordan

Heading to the Arab world...

As a general life rule I think I'd recommend flying over land border crossings just about always...

I was up at 2 am this morning - still suffering the effects of seriously the worst jet lag in my life. I didn't really know what the border crossing would be like and I kind of just headed north of Jerusalem to the Sheikh Hussein Bridge and figured it would all work out. After two hours on a bus (during which I got into my first argument with a local while traveling - in the native language. He yelled at me for pulling down my window shade which was nowhere near him and I told him to mind his own business while searching for some good curse words in Hebrew - sadly, nothing came to mind. He looked a little taken aback but I figured there were 5-6 men on the bus with guns so he couldn't get TOO violent) we arrived in Bait She'an which according to my travel book was 6 km away from the border and would have taxis available. Not so much. My self and one Israeli Arab woman (interesting how sensitive we are to racial profiling in the US and here it's de riguer - when officers came on to our bus - she was the only one whose ID they asked for) were the only ones headed to the border and were waiting on the driver of apparently the only taxi in Bait She'an to finish his breakfast.

We headed to the border and began the costly process of getting to Jordan. To begin, can someone please explain to me why countries require exit taxes? I understand paying to get in, but why should I have to pay to get out?? After paying my 100 shekel and passing through the duty free shop I walked to a bus stop where of course you have to wait 20 minutes for the privilege of paying a bus driver to take you 2 km to the Jordanian side. Everything was so vague about where to go and what to do. The "passport control" offices had big signs everywhere - no luggage allowed inside. Given that A) it really wasn't clear where we were supposed to put our suitcase. B) No one else seemed to be following that rule and C) I've already had one bag blown up by the Israeli police years ago (don't ask) I decided not to comply with said sign. I purchased my visa, had my passport stamped, was fingerprinted at passport control for the first time ever (note to self, do not commit any crimes in Jordan), went through "customs" and was finally in Jordan.

I had someone meeting me on the other side and I had no idea where he would be. I was told he's be at the main gate which I assumed would be straight past customs. Of course this had me lugging my suitcase down some dirt road until I was informed that I would have to take a taxi to my taxi. Seriously. I Jordanian Dinar (JD) to get to the "main gate." Happily there was Zaib with a Mrs. Rachel Dulitz sign, cold water and air conditioning. It was love at first sight....

Posted by NYCgirl 10:37 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

Israel

Time for the first blog entry...

sunny 35 °C

Having decided to make a last minute trip to the Middle East, I figured starting in Israel would be wise. I speak the language, have traveled here before, have friends here, and who doesn't need a good falafel (or four?) I booked a flight and ended up on Air France flying through Paris. I couldn't book a seat on the Paris to Israel leg until I got to the airprt for "security reasons." This rigorous process involves asking you some questions at check in. After flying El Al for so many years, I found this most amusing. The woman asked me did you pack your own bag and has it been with you the whole time? I said yes. Then she said there's two more questions I'm supposed to ask you and I can't remember what they are, but it's ok. I'm sure the Israeli govt would have been thrilled! I wanted to say you probably should ask me if anyone gave me anything to take with me - perhaps a letter or a gift - but I just accepted my boarding passes and moved on.

The flight was great - for the first leg I sat next to Princeton's mens' tennis team. They actually make them wear ties and jackets while flying. When it was time to put on the headphones - which required snapping them in to place, it took me a good 10 minutes to figure out how to do it and I kept hoping none of them would look over and think...wow - how could someone be that stupid???

It took me a good 25 hours from leaving my house until arriving in Israel and jet lag has led me to sleeping only 3 or 4 hours a night. So I've been slightly zombie like but having a great time. It's been a long time since I've been back and these streets hold a lot of memories. I've traveled all over the world, but Israel is the only place where buildings, streets signs and landmarks are all embued with spirituality. I spent my first day here walking around the shuk - the marketplace - and attempting to find helpful travel agencies to assist in my forward travel. I kept getting the same response - Israelis don't travel to Jordan and Egypt, all we have is one day trips to Petra. No one seemed to have any info on lengthier trips through Jordan. Spent a very relaxing Shabbat with some friends and decided on Sat night that I should get my at together with planning my onward trip. They were most helpful in putting together all the ferries and buses required to get from Jordan to Egypt overland and sea. Still debating flying though...probbaly should decide soon.

Tried doing some research online and read my lonely planet cover to cover and at this point I'm just heading up to the Israel/Jordan border tomorrow morning and hoping for the best. Figure if worse comes to worse, I can always turn around and head back across the border! The one thing I can guarentee is that this blog is about to get A LOT more interesting...chilling with tzvi

chilling with tzvi

The Shuk

The Shuk

Eating my way thru Israel

Eating my way thru Israel

Posted by NYCgirl 19:03 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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