16 hours in Amman

Trip Start Oct 30, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The cheapest one way ticket from Bangkok to Tel Aviv was with Royal Jordanian Airlines. Two flight options were available, one with a five hours layover, and another with 16 hours layover. Intrigued by the idea of seeing Amman, even for only a few hours, I chose the second option.
Turns out that when you transit through Amman, even with a short layover, you automatically get to stay in the Golden Tulip hotel near the airport. Although somewhat dilapidated, it was certainly nice to have a place to take a hot shower. The complementary breakfast there was delicious, making the $600 airfare even a better deal. Leaving the hotel to go to visit Amman, however, turned out to be a challenging task. It seems that the hotel was actually a holding tank for passengers, where no one is allowed to leave.
To leave the airport compound, which is guarded like a military base, one needs a visa. I asked for one earlier in the airport, but what I got turned out to be a transit stamp. In order to return to the airport to get that desired visa, you need the approval of the Jordanian government official that is usually stationed in the hotel. Today, I was told, he went to the hospital. Hemorrhoids. "His replacement would be here in an hour", I was told.
Two hours later the replacement shows up and approves my leaving the hotel to return to the airport. The friendly travel agent at the hotel arranges a car for me to go to the airport and the driver turns out to be priceless in getting the desired $15 visa, which I doubt I could have gotten without him. Bureaucracy is an interesting game of having many people stationed in one place and no one knows what they are doing there and why. Luckily, my driver was able to tell them what to do.
Within the six hours car trip the driver shows me around Amman, Mount Nevo (where Moses saw the promised land before dying- an impossible task during most of the year due to the thick haze) and Madbara, home of some "famous" ruins and mosaics. Lovely, but not that interesting to me.
It was a nice preview of Jordan. Not nice enough, however, to want to come back. Amman is a hot desert city without trees. After five months at the edge of the jungle, living in such a place seems very odd to me. The few people I met there were lovely and hospitable, though.
At the flight to Israel I shared the entire airplane with only one other passenger, a lovely American high-ranking military officer who was in Amman on an official visit. There were also six other "technicians" on the plane, which the American passenger guessed to be security people.
Apparently, the Obama administration is serious about bringing peace to the Middle East, and the U.S. Military delegation my travel companion came with is here to help facilitate it. Even if it is not true, it was nice to think that the military can be used for peace.
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