Greetings from Jordan! We have been anxiously anticipating our summer trip since beginning to consider this destination in late 2015. There has always been an interest in the Middle East, and Jordan especially, but the fires were stoked back in late 2014 while watching the Netflix favorite An Idiot Abroad. And then shortly after, another of our favorite series, Departures (season 1, episode 2), featured it… and after that, we knew our hearts were set on it and our minds and wallets just needed to catch up.
Our current itinerary is as follows: Amman (Jordan), Feynan (Jordan), Petra (Jordan), Aqaba (Jordan), Jerusalem (Israel), Cappadocia (Turkey). For those with any concerns as to Cappadocia, please know it is very safe and far away from the trouble in the capital. To get an idea, imagine there’s trouble in Baltimore, but you live in Cincinnati. You’d watch the news for a few minutes, shake your head, but almost immediately go back to watching your favorite animal videos. (I can never decide: is it this one? or this one? or this one? And this isn’t even an animal video, but I would be remiss not adding it.)
Anyway, with great anticipation we hopped on our flight from JFK to Kiev, Ukraine on Ukraine Air. Ukraine Air? Yes, that’s how we responded initially, but they were great. Several hot meals during the flight, lovely flight attendants with several costume changes, and one of the Rocky movies on the big screen. Dubbed in Ukrainian. Subtitled in Chinese. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
As we walked to our seats we discovered we had emergency exit row seats! Our reaction began as Yes! Leg Room! but quickly went to No! Nonexistent storage! Why? They were asking John to store his backpack with his laptop in the overhead bin since there was no under seat storage in front of us. For the ordinary person this isn’t an issue. But this touched upon John’s obsession with his computer.
The rules of computer use are finite and detailed. They are as follows: no eating or drinking near the computer. No animals or children near the computer. No glasses or beverages on any kind on the same plane as the computer. During use, the computer must be on a flat and level surface, but you must be near the computer at all times to determine if there is any overheating taking place. Their request to place in the overhead bin violated the last rule and subsequently John began to enter negotiations with the air hostess with the seriousness of a NATO world summit. His pleadings fell on deaf ears and he had to relent against the iron will of the safety professional. He reluctantly placed his backpack next to my purse, and she slammed shut the overhead bin so loud, I imagined it was heard from the next gate over. And any further customer anarchy was stifled once and for all. Stalin would be proud, I thought.
As we took off, I relaxed into my seat but saw John was still nervously looking at the overhead bin. John, be serious, what could actually happen? I rhetorically asked. We could hit turbulence! The bin could open! The computer could fall out! He neurotically replied. I shook my head and leaned back in my chair. Well wouldn’t you believe it: we hit turbulence, the bin DID open and it did fall out. It meaning my purse, not his backpack. The flight attendant felt so bad, I could tell. But even with John shifting back and forth and reciting Psalms 23, order was restored when the seat belt lights came off and he could collect his precious computer from the opened overhead bin. Crisis averted!
After a few 2 euro Ukrainian Lvivske beers, and donning our sleep masks and ear plugs, it was time for a peaceful 7 hour flight. We arrived into Kiev with plenty of time to kill before our flight to Amman, Jordan. Right outside our gate was a cute little cafe serving comfort food. John got the potato pancakes with onions with a Ukrainian beer, and I got the smoked salmon and cream cheese on a squid ink roll. (It was the weirdest thing on the menu, so I couldn’t resist.)
After paying the bill, we loaded onto a smaller plane and landed in Amman, Jordan in under 3 hours. Passport control, collecting our luggage, finding our driver, all simply accomplished and we sped off with our driver.
We saw some unusual sights as we drove into the city center: people picnicking on the side of the highway at 11PM at night and restaurants full of people even though it was close to 1AM. The reason? We arrived in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast during daylight hours. After nightfall and especially on weekends (this was a Friday), they would celebrate with a feast to break the fast. They found delight in picnics – even if they were in a car with their family on the side of a highway. I suppose when you’re hungry, you’re hungry! We arrived to our lodging, Hawa Guest House, and almost immediately fell asleep.
Yes, I knew I was in a Muslim country. I understood how that would affect how we dressed and what basic things we could expect. I didn’t expect the very normal call to prayer from the local mosque at 3:30 AM. I initially panicked, sat up in bed for a few moments, but then realized this must be a thing (yes, it’s a thing) and went back to sleep. (The prayers come from loud speakers from the local mosque several times a day and after a day, you hardly even hear it anymore.)
After waking and a lovely breakfast of yogurt, cheese, fruit, dates, omelettes and cappuccinos, we walked the grounds of the lodge and visited the goats, bunnies, and chickens.
Our host recommended we go to Jerash, Roman ruins from the first century – actually, the second largest existing Roman ruins after Rome. A Rome away from Rome, if you will.
We took a cab to the North bus station (a very affordable 2 Jordanian Dinars) and hopped onto a local bus. And local it was, we were the only tourists surrounded by jilbabs, hijabs, and lots of fringe decorating the inside of the bus. After paying the 1JD fare, we waited for the bus to fill up and we took off. The ride to Jerash was about 1 hour and then a 5 minute walk to the gates. The cost of admission was included in our pre-purchased Jordan pass (which we highly recommend). It was a very hot day (95+) so we knew our visit would be relatively short and would never be able to cover the vast area.
But we did the best we could, and couldn’t resist the souvenir shop!
One would think you could pick up the bus where it dropped you off. But the local transportation in Jordan is still coming around, so we had to take a 20JD taxi back to Amman.
A quick rest, and a stroll out for a simple, tasty falafel… Or so we thought!
Details to follow in our next post!