Dying to get to the Dead Sea and Tara's holiday

Trip Start Dec 04, 2006
Trip End Aug 05, 2007

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Sunday, May 6, 2007

Tara here: Well as luck would have it the cheapest tickets we could find from Nepal to Amman were business class with Gulf Air (thanks to our fabulous travel agent in Ottawa, Frida). So, considering they were cheaper than anything else we had priced on the internet, we decided to cease our search for cheaper airfares. That's right, in the spirit of "don't kick a gift horse in the mouth," off we flew to the Middle East, in style. I'm not going to lie. The flights were nice. Good food, good service, etc. etc.

The only mishap was on the first leg when someone from the back of the plane snuck through to the front washroom and plugged up the toilet with paper towels (??). The flight attendants were pissed and even the captain apologized on his way through to use the loo at the rear. Within an hour all the bathrooms were filthy and quite disgusting. After a few trips himself, Nathan warned me that I should plan to just "hold it" until Bahrain. A little funny... but not so much after a few free drinks. In Bahrain we had about an hour in the first class lounge where I got my first fill of Middle Eastern food. They had a "make your own tabouleh bar" and fresh hummus and pita. Yum yum. A fabulous change from rice.

So we arrived in Jordan safe and sound. Since our tour did not start until the next day and it was fairly late in the afternoon we decided to take a quick walk around the town, pick up some dinner and run a few errands. I would say this is when our "Middle East" experience truly began.

Needing a few supplies we popped into a nice looking small pharmacy across the road from our hotel. A friendly man behind the counter asked us what we needed and I asked politely for some toilet paper. He brought us four rolls and I said "thank you, we just need one." At this point Nathan said, "why don't we get two," to which I replied, "I think we'd be ok with just one roll." Nathan shrugged and neither one of us gave it another thought. I went to look at something else in the store and the jovial man leaned over to Nathan and informed him that he should buy two rolls of toilet paper. Now this was not a poor man running a small shop trying to make a sale. This was a Jordanian man trying to make a point. Yes, he told Nathan that he should take two rolls because it was his decision. "Ha ha" says Nathan, thinking he was joking, that's not really the way it works in Canada" and the man, who had appeared jolly to me, said "every ship needs a captain." With two rolls in our bag, Nathan tells me the story and I am floored - insulted even and definitely surprised. Well, we're off to a good start I thought - this is going to be a long three weeks. It turns out after speaking to some people that visit the area regularly that this man was perhaps pushier than most, but point taken. The culture here is just different. The man is the boss, period.

Nathan here: Must admit that I was caught off guard by the whole incident. At first I thought he was just being funny, but then it occurred to me that he was trying to make a statement. Oh well. Can't begin to imagine what things might be like in Egypt as we understand that Jordan is more.... progressive for lack of a better word.

Tara again. After some further thought, and in the spirit of looking on the bright side, I figured the situation may not be as bleak as it seems. When couples travel, they tend to fall into different roles. Nathan carries the money (not 'cause he's the man but 'cause I lose stuff) and takes the pictures and I tend to do more of the coordinating, planning and speaking to people to make arrangements for food and hotels, etc. etc. But, things are different here. And quite frankly, Nathan is just going to have to do more than his normal share. With this new "power" he has as the man comes responsibility. He is going to have to hail the taxis, talk to the shopkeepers and make the arrangements. So, rather than be upset by this (there is, after all, nothing I can do about it), I am treating it as a holiday from my holiday. That's right, I'm on holiday. He can do all the work. Really, this might not be so bad after all :) It takes some getting used to but I practiced doing nothing all day today and it was pretty fun.

Anyhow, back to the sights. Having the morning to ourselves we decided to sneak in a quick trip to the Dead Sea. The sea is meant to be interesting, because you can hardly swim because you are so buoyant. The mud is meant to be good for your skin too. Also, interestingly, it is the lowest point on earth. For biblical scholars, it is also where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

Nathan here: so we were told that a trip to the Dead sea in a taxi should take no more than one hour so we had enough time to go, swim and return before meeting our tour leader at Noon. Well, we thought we had enough time. Turns out we picked the only taxi driver in Jordan who couldn't find the Dead sea if he fell into it. Honestly, what should have taken an hour, nearly took two. He had absolutely no idea where to go as he was constantly stopping to ask for directions. The minutes and hours ticked by so that when we caught sight of the sea in the distance, we had to pull over, snap a picture and then turn around to get back in time. Sadly, he found the correct route back to Amman and the return trip was much much faster. Frustrating but what can you do when you don't speak the language. While I knew at least a half dozen inappropriate Arabic words (courtesy of Omar), I thought better of using them. Note: Omar has taught me some appropriate words as well. Thanks Ha!

We met our tour leader and the other 10 members of the group and everyone seems great. We're all about the same age and we're getting along really well.

Tara here: We spent the afternoon exploring the ruins of Jerash about an hour from Amman. Jerash is known for the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa. Jerash is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the Near East. Recent excavations show that Jerash was inhabited during the Bronze Age and Iron Age (3200 BC - 1200 BC). We really enjoyed visiting the ruins. A highlight was seeing a traditionally dressed Arab man playing the bagpipes. Apparently there is some discussion as to where the instrument was first developed. The pipes sure sounded great in the Roman theatre though.

On a final note, we are enjoying the food and hospitality both of which Jordan is famous for. They are especially friendly when they find out we're from Canada. Our country has a great reputation here among the people. We're off to see Petra tomorrow so stay tuned for more updates.
T&N - oops, I mean N&T.
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