Jordan’s side of the Gulf of Aqaba was the starting point to visit Petra — one of the Seven Wonders of the World. LINK: http://visitpetra.jo/#slide-1
Decision made, tour booked, preparation began: studying related history and logistics. The latter included verifying the security of cars parked in the border’s lot. While no one wants their belongings and vehicle damaged or stolen anywhere, consider the headache of paperwork in a language you cannot understand and unpredictable procedures above and beyond the obvious inconveniences. ugh.
“Hope to see you in two days,” I said to the ugly orange, gutless-wonder Hyundai — who would want it? — and my small carryon of core essentials, upon which I rely during these days of transience. The tinier bag that came with me to Jordan included minimal overnight essentials plus quick-dry summer weight pants and a shirt for days into the mid-80’s, plus warm, fitted “sweatpants” and waterproof jacket to address the promised cccold desert nights.
On our side of the border, the greeter from the Israeli tour company collected four of us — a woman from Miami traveling alone and a couple from Nova Scotia. We would spend the next 27 hours together, beginning with the multifaceted border crossing processes, through which my Israeli passport led the way.
Israeli citizens with multiple passports are advised to use their Israeli document when leaving and entering the tiny nation. I suppose it’s about knowing who’s where when terror occurs. as it has for the past 70 years. Olympics, hijackings, kidnappings…
Traveling Light… Living Light
In June 2016, I left my bed and canceled my rented apartment in Jerusalem to travel Israel in structured homelessness, to learn the regions’ people and culture — where is the good music, open-hearted souls, best cappuccino, art. “Six months at most,” I thought, filling two large suitcases for my first few reservations — a week here, another there.
However, in the 21 months of 64 different beds since, I have reduced my burden to a carryon-and-a-half, proving vanity is trumped by the pointlessness of schlepping one thing more than is crucial.
back to Jordan…
Crossing the border from Israel into an Arab nation — peace agreements notwithstanding — was a first, and almost lost to polite courtesy. But not quite.
In a moment of brashness, I interrupted the fellow traveler who was chattering happily, “We’re not in Israel or Jordan right now and I can’t recall ever before being ‘nowhere’. Can I hear the rest of your story later?” She was gracious and allowed me space to have the moment.
Have years of traveling alone ruined me in some ways for partnership? Or might I be a better partner these days?
Setting my bag on the scanner conveyer, I watched the handsome Jordanian security guards as one thumbed through my Israeli passport. Habit rendered my initial greeting in Hebrew, which was obviously understood by them, but they did not respond in Hebrew; their questions to me were in English — What did I think about Trump, where was I from in the U.S., and (by the way) where would I be visiting in Jordan… Whether they were different with me, offering an Israeli passport, as compared to those with Canadian and U.S. passports was unclear.
The four of us squeezed into our Jordanian Bedouin tour guide’s tiny compact and drove through industrial areas and villages en route to Aqaba, Jordan’s seventh largest and only seaside city. The majority of southern Jordanians are Bedouin, most living increasingly modern lives. Our guide was the first of three we would have from a Jordanian travel agency, which has partnered for decades with the Israeli agency that arranged the tour and coached us about the border crossing process. The employees never crossing the borders themselves, I wondered whether they had ever met.
Along the way, he pointed out a hospital complex and boasted stellar medical care, and then told how sophisticated earthquake-safe building techniques endured a 7.3 quake in 1995 without damage.
7.3?!? Really?! Online, later, I found the only reported damage was a man’s fatal heart attack, and thankfully I had no opportunity to experience their healthcare, so am happy to take his word for it being stellar.
Anyone can make a mistake, and I seldom cross-check data from tour guides, but earthquake numbers mean something to me. My teenaged-self was bounced out of bed onto the floor in the 1971 Los Angeles basin 6.5 quake, and as deeply embedded in the self-absorption of adolescence as I was, I still remember the photos of destruction. With gentler quakes, I’ve watched water in a swimming pool slosh and splash out, awakened in a sleeping bag on the ground feeling the earth ripple like a waterbed and watching thick trunks of trees around me waving like palm branches in a breeze, and I’ve seen countless glasses on tables clatter and dance. Living in Jerusalem through many months of terror attacks found me gratefully without a first-hand story to tell, and thus far I’ve missed out on tornados and hurricanes.
Tell me your stories in an email or leave a comment on this site.
Can you catch the patrol boat in this video?
Our patriotic guide pointed out the flagpole at Aqaba’s boardwalk center. Did he really say it was the tallest in the world? This time, the internet indicated otherwise, and whether translation or language confusion prevailed, this pole is the 6th tallest. LINK: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqaba_Flagpole
These musicians, sitting at the base of the extremely tall and noteworthy flagpole were happy to give a performance-lite for you:
Our first night was at 4-star City Tower in Aqaba, a “high rise” of six floors, comparable in all aspects except at a fraction of the prices it would have cost in the U.S. and Israel. LINK: http://citytoweraqaba.com/
After checking in, I took advantage of the last hour of light and walked the boardwalk. Sweethearts, families, teens, music, smokers, eaters, bicycles, all predictably “boardwalk,” although the costumes ranged from chic to skinny jeans with hijab to traditional robes and veils. Samsung, Avis, hawking vendors and honking traffic made it feel like everywhere, and the sun’s last reflections on the water is a universal cause for celebration of life.
The brave and courageous delighted in the morning’s breakfast-of-champions buffet of eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, goat cheese and yogurt, hummus and fava beans, as well as dips of assorted pastels and unknown ingredients. The faint of heart ate white bread, hard-boiled eggs, seasoned potatoes, fruit, and questionable meat (all meat is questionable to this vegetarian).
Advertising strategies reveal interesting facets of a society.
What do you suppose is the message?
We collected others and totaled around 25 for the hour+ drive into Jordan’s mountains to tour the ancient city of Petra with our 2nd Bedouin guide, who we later learned was born in a tent, as were his 13 siblings — including 3 sets of twins — from one mother, still living! They are the first generation living in homes and with smaller families. His comments validated and were validated by the autobiography I’d read in preparation, “Married to a Bedouin.” The story of Marguerite van Geldermalsen, a Kiwi tourist who married a Bedouin in the ’70’s and made their home in his cave, tells of learning the language, culture, raising children, and all.
I had the opportunity to meet her at her booth in Petra selling silver jewelry, art and of course, her book. No photo, because she preferred none, and there was no way for her to autograph my Kindle Reader.
Petra was built by the Nabateans, a pagan polytheistic people, as a holy city (think Mecca for Muslims) around the third or fourth century BCE. The pre-Roman civilization evidenced sophisticated wealth, water management, and construction techniques.
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” was a great boon for tourism.
The earth has music for those who listen” Reginald Vincent Holmes
The site is adorned with Bedouin merchant’s tables filled with postcards, refrigerator magnets, silver jewelry, head scarves, and such. Donkey and horse rides and horse-drawn carriages for hire accommodate visitors struggling with the 8+ kilometers (5 miles) of walking paths; most paths are retraced to return, to double it.
A very challenging hour climb rewarded us with the massive structure named “Monastery” that rivals the “Treasury” in grandeur, also a misnomer, as it was likely originally a temple, later perhaps used as a monastery. Those not up to the challenge of the steep grade paid to ride one of many donkeys available for rent from any number of hawking 10-year-old boys.
(That hour up and down combined with miles of walking that day warranted icing and gentling a decades-old ACL repair from Breckenridge ski slopes. Hopefully not indicative of future limitations.)
The goofy signs in the next video launched an eager search, but…
alas, the spectacular view was not to be found and I abandoned the quest, lest I miss our group’s bus meeting time. Who ever wants to be the person holding up the schedule, or worse: is left behind?!
Dinner was a lovely array of vegetable salads sans lettuce (cucumbers tomatoes, mint, arugula, cabbage, beans, onions) and cheeses and warm dishes of more veggies with something chicken; nothing simple, AKA boring, for Food Fradies.
What, no photos of food? Be patient.
Weary, happily showered, and fed, our group mixed with others from Kenya and the Netherlands and Germany and Japan and who-knows-where-else to enjoy local music in the huge communal tent.
It was lined with cushion seating surrounding a cast iron stove generating too much heat, and was filled with aroma of apple tobacco being smoked in what I only know to call a “bong.” If you know about such things being used these days by smokers on beaches and in cafes, please clue me in via email or leave a comment.
When asked whether they smoke marijuana, they said it was very difficult to get and, oh yeah, illegal.
The concert was an informal jam, with a folk guitar, hand-held drums, hand clapping and singing, and the musicians took frequent cigarette breaks and swapped instruments – a “gotta experience it yourself” kinda thing.
Hardly camping, the bed was a good mattress on a sturdy base in my very own tent-cabin with FIVE, count them, 5 serious blankets, and for good reason in the cold desert mountains. There was no heater. The facilities were in a building of dorm-like rows of toilets and a few showers. Prior tent experiences suggested the morning sun would be like a rooster, so I was delighted to discover the heavy goat hair fabric rendered morning as deliciously dark as was the night.
After a simple breakfast of raw vegetables, hummus, pita and olives, we piled into the new Mitsubishi SUV of our 3rd Bedouin guide for a day in the desert. LINK: http://wadirum.jo/
SUPRISE! Food. And our guide who prepared it from a cooler of groceries, the chicken and produce fresh from his garden-farm. Delicious.
What about honeymoons, you ask? Mine? Yes, but no, not that. While there have been no recent applicants, a honeymoon is both in the making and is already all sorts of fun!
I’m writing a fiction series!
Best described as contemporary fiction/ travel fiction/ coming of age, this project began as an unshaped idea, in this case, a character in a situation. The embryo has grown with my embrace and attention, and lots and lots of time. Two characters I’ve recently introduced will hopefully be enjoying a honeymoon to Petra and Egypt’s pyramids in the near future. I saw much of the Jordan trip with them in mind.
What is the gestation for such a thing? Next year? I don’t know yet. It’s difficult to be patient for the process, although I love the work of discovering and crafting the stories.
Mostly I’m eager to introduce you to my peeps, and hope you’ll love them as much as do I.
I cherish your comments and emails!
Please consider yourself invited to share the blog link. A website is in my future, although the technical process of that is not a sweet thought.
hOW DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?
A friend wrote about plans for her mother’s funeral:
We’ll play Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.” Mom really loved that song, and since Dad didn’t like to dance, she would do swing dancing replete with high kicks every time that song came on the radio over the refrigerator. Her partner…the handle of said refrigerator.”
I’d love to have known her mama.
Finally, a tune of new beginnings… A few nights ago, music called to me from a tiny bar in the center of town. It was their second night open for business. Karaoke in Jerusalem, anyone?