Crossing into Jordan

Trip Start Sep 12, 2005
Trip End Dec 12, 2005

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Thirty-six hours without food so I was ready for breakfast! Martin usually fasts for a day when he gets sick and it usually works, so I'm hoping it will be the cure for me, too!

There are two modes of public transport between Syria and Jordan, the bus which you have to book a day in advance and a shared taxi. Basically the taxi leaves town when they driver has five passengers. We were number one and two and had to wait about an hour for three more to materialize. There were great deliberations as to who was going to sit where, but once we figured it out we were on the road! The only thing about riding in a car versus a bus is that you're closer to the ground and thus you breathe in more exhaust. The air was thick and heavy as we left Damascus.

It didn't take us long to get through Syrian and Jordanian customs even though we had to purchase a visa for Jordan and there was a search of the taxi and our luggage on the Jordan side. (Every vehicle had to pull over a pit where the undercarriage was checked.) Within an hour we were through the border. On entering Jordan, the landscape seemed much the same as Syria: dusty and arid with little vegetation. Maybe less garbage along the roadsides. Jordan has extreme water problems and over 80% of the country is dessert. Many of the oases are shrinking; as a result, more and more species of animals and birds species are being lost each year. It is less than 500 km from the most northerly point to the most southerly point in the country.

Stuffed in the front seat with the driver were a man and woman; Martin and I shared the back with a woman from Amman. Though her English was limited (and our Arabic is non-existent) we were able to ascertain that she was a writer who had been in Damascus on business. Her name was Neyla. She showed us a full-page article on her as an author and her books from a Sudanese newspaper. She was very sweet, shared her candy with us, showed us photos of her two children and the talking doll that she bought her eight year old daughter. (It sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and she was quite tickled about that.) Neyla had travelled quite widely, showing us her visa for the US (she had been to LA and New York) and had also been to Paris. I shook her hand when we parted ways in a crush of people in Amman and she pulled me close for a kiss on either cheek. Then she melted into the crowd and was gone.

Before we could even think of where we were going in Amman and how we were going to get there, some big, dirty lout of a guy had our packs and was hauling it over to his car. He looked like he'd been on an all-night bender. When he suggested that he could tour us around Amman and area, we quickly declined. We also shooed him away when he tried to follow us into our hotel as our guidebook warned us that taxi drivers do that here in hopes of getting a commission, which will be added to your bill, of course.

Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected government. Following the death of King Hussein in 1999, his son, King Abdullah I came into power. Like Syria, there are photos of the current ruler and his predecessor all over the place. You also see many pictures of King Abdullah and his Palestinian wife, Queen Rania. We arrived on November 14 on which King Hussein's birthday is celebrated. We saw cars as well as windows decorated with photos of the monarchy.

The population of Jordan is about 5.3 million; more than 92% of the population are Sunni Muslims. Like Syria, Arabic is the official language; 98% of the population is Arab.
Amman (population 1.8 million) is the capital of Jordan. Although there is little to see in Amman, tourists flock there and use it as a base to visit other parts of Jordan. You would never know that there had been a bombing last week - everything and everyone one seems very calm.

The currency in Jordan is the dinar. Even from our first day here, I've noticed that Jordan is going to be significantly more expensive than Syria was.

The evening we spent in Amman confirmed that the food traditionally eaten here is much the same as Syria. Chicken or lamb, rice, falafel, pita bread, hummus. There is little else on the menu - there is seldom beef or fish (you'll find the odd place that sells hamburgers), no turkey and certainly no pork! One of the first things I'm going to have when I get home is a ham sandwich.

There are two English newspapers published in Jordan - it's nice to read a newspaper again! We've been relying on BBC World whenever we manage to get a room with satellite TV.

The main reason we came to Amman was to book a flight to Casablanca, Morocco, where we'll be meeting Martin's brother and his wife (Jon and Shannon) and sister, Arlene, for our two-week Imaginative Traveller tour. We've left it pretty late, but, cost-wise, it made no sense to book anywhere but in Jordan. We did find a fairly reasonable fare, an overnighter through Qatar (completely the opposite direction) and two days earlier than we really wanted. Oh well, we'll have Casablanca all sussed-out by the time the others get there . . . .
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