It wasn’t easy getting to Jordan; the winds were high, and the ferry delayed. In fact, our ferry from Nuweiba, Egypt, to Aqaba, Jordan, sat out on the Red sea overnight. The only thing worse than waiting, waiting, waiting must have been sitting out on that ship—seasick, seasick, seasick.
We got to the ferry landing about ten o’clock Monday morning and waited all day. The back window of our van exploded (high winds?), and Mollie, Allana, and Leslie treated us to a hilarious sock-puppet show in the empty back window. “Put a sock in it!” “Do they let Red Sox into Jordan?”, “Once again, you’ve put your foot in your mouth!” What joy to travel with young people.
We finally gave up waiting for the ferry at 6 PM and found ourselves rooms at a quaint beachside hotel where they treated us like royalty. After a delicious Egyptian dinner, our host encouraged us to check out the beach (VERY windy), where we discovered a thatched-roof, adobe-walled disco that became our home for the night.
Our waiter spun the tunes and played the lights, while the owner pulled out water pipes. The chef grilled corn and sweet potatoes and brought out spiced nut and bean snacks. We danced off our huge dinner, then laughed ourselves silly at the cross-dresser-belly-dancer. Leslie raved, “I had a crush on him before his act, but now I’m CRAZY about him!” Too funny!
We finally boarded the ferry the next day after waiting in the station for three hours. We waited two more on board as they loaded, took three hours crossing, waited another hour to disembark, and stood yet another at customs—10 hours! Passport distribution in Aqaba was a joke. A guard read off passport names one-by-one as he held them aloft for anyone to grab. ARAUGHHH!!!! One of our travel companions quipped, “They couldn’t make this system less efficient if they tried!” Too true.
On Wednesday morning we finally made our way to Wadi Rum, a desert preserve in southern Jordan. It was BEAUTIFUL! We rode on benches in the bed of a 4-wheel-drive Toyota pickup, soaking in the moonscape terrain. We’d been outfitted in Arab red-and-white scarves, protection from sun, wind, sand, and cold as we raced across the sands.
A Bedouin rode up and offered us rides on his camel. (Mere coincidence?) We took a break to indulge. That was when I learned that our driver, Abu Kamel, had two wives. According to our guide, “He drinks camel milk, which gives him too much ‘energy’ for one wife.” Hmmm…
We explored the steep dunes barefoot, racing down and trudging back up. We drank Bedouin tea and relaxed with a HUGE outdoor lunch of countless dishes, my favorite a grilled eggplant salad. My goodness, it was GOOD! For about ten dollars we ate like kings.
There were two other things I loved in Jordan. The first was Petra, which must be seen to be believed. The most impressive scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed there, and I felt like an ancient explorer stepping into a secret world. Petra is a hidden valley in southwestern Jordan with spectacular classical facades carved right into the valley’s sandstone cliffs (by the Nabateans and the Greeks, for the most part). It’s spectacular, especially after hiking through the Siq, a narrow rock gorge (1.2 K long and 3 to 12 meters wide) that serves as the main entrance to the ancient city. Our guide, Mahmud, pointed out niches and carvings as we strolled down the Siq, but I’ll never forget my amazement as we viewed the impressive 3-story treasury building through the slit of rock ahead. Amazing!
We were awed at the many structures carved from the rock walls of Petra, but the most fascinating part of the day was our guide. Mahmud had grown up a Bedouin shepherd, shoeless and with one set of clothes. He shared many stories of growing up in a Petra cave, moving to the desert for the summer. His father had chosen him, the middle of nine children, to attend school in the winter. Mahmud hadn’t wanted to leave his world of goats and camels, but his father urged him to travel the 15 K to school, each morning saying, “just one more day.” Day after day, Mahmud hiked up the Siq and found a ride to school. Obviously a very bright man, he had been singled out by King Hussein as one of the top students in Jordan. He told of his anxious trip to Amman to meet the king, who paid for his high school education in England and university in Amman. “I was the only one of my siblings able to get an education,” he told us apologetically. “We all still struggle with the cultural shifts. My mother still lives in a tent, though the government has built her a house. When I’m feeling stressed, I visit her and find great peace in the smells of my childhood,” he said. Mahmud now has a wife and three children, and he feels stress about providing for them, just as his parents did.
So many stories, and so little space to share them.
Our last adventure was an afternoon at the Dead Sea. My goodness, if you ever wondered what it’s like to be a cork, go to the Dead Sea. It’s the most dense, most saline water in the world. While most oceans have 3.5% salinity, the Dead Sea has 30%. A jump into the Dead Sea evokes immediate hysterics, let me tell you. I never imagined it could be such a hoot to lie on TOP of the water, rolling like a bobble toy. You can lie in the water with arms and legs up in the air and STILL float! We met a film crew slathering themselves with Dead Sea mud along the shore, so of course we joined them. It was a blast, and Allana agreed to being buried in the heavy black stuff. (Of course, our skin is now beautiful.) People pay thousands of dollars for the same treatment, and we got it for free, including laughter therapy.
Well, all good things must come to and end, and we eventually left the water (and mud), said goodbye to Jordan, and flew back home to Istanbul.
I do love this life!