Crossing Jordan: the Bitter Tears Of Petra

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Ruins at Petra, Jordan

December 2009

…try to travel again next day… loose stools… don’t worry much if nothing in there… haven’t eaten much this week… wonder what I weigh now?  …get a taxi far out to the edge of Damascus… just to catch another taxi, “service taxi,” long-distance collective ones, to neighboring countries… easier waiting for a taxi to fill than a bus or even a van, as in Africa.

At least drivers here not absolute maniacs as in Egypt… nice to see some old-fashioned excitement at the presence of a foreigner… Arabs can be loud and belligerent, but also very sweet and helpful… but I’m a man.  It could be very different if you’re a woman, especially if you’re traveling alone… after an hour or so, taxis start filling up and we’re on our way to Jordan. 

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Fashion statement, Damascus 2009

…trip’s a breeze, just some minor delays for border formalities, but not much… when taxi drops me off on the edge of downtown Amman with instructions to “get a cab,” it turns out I’m only five minute’s walk from the hotel I’ve booked… can’t beat that… hotel itself is a mess from renovation, but Wi-Fi signal is good… catch up on ‘Net stuff, including flights to the Persian Gulf from Yemen, since I cancelled those same destinations from here in Jordan…

How fortunate that Arabia has cultivated some budget airlines of its own in time for my trip!  …only problem is that my bank thinks my remote localities are suspicious, so shuts off my credit card.  I pass their little ID quiz, but it doesn’t unlock immediately.  I’ll get it back, but that doesn’t always help when you’re standing in the airport with a worthless piece of plastic in one hand and your dick in the other… I’ll call if I have to…

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Crossing Jordan 2009

…soon ready to move on from Amman… not boring, but cold, and Friday Sabbath is ghostly… book a bus for Petra next day… have a solid stool, reddish brown, so I should be good… Amman is a 50’s-style city, 1950’s, nitty gritty down and dirty.  I like it… probably nice in the summertime, but too cold now, even in the heat of the day…

Sabbath is flea-market day like anywhere else, so that’s the only saving grace today, amazing Grace… hope it’s nice at Petra, the Indiana Jones archeological site.  Hopefully I’ll make my ungodly-early morning bus… I do, but not until almost being arrested for photographing military facilities in the distance… collateral damage… I’m expendable, I guess…

…ride from Amman to Petra is desert deserted, and only gets worse… finally get close to Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses) and Petra, scenery more interesting… Petra itself spectacular, both in natural scenery and artistic endeavor…. town of Wadi Musa flakey, though, hotel too, run by a couple of Seinfeld rejects, I think… refuse to honor my reservation or the price I booked, charge a price 50% higher… I cut my stay to one day…

…got Internet in my room, which I was NOT expecting… make calls for a half hour to find the password.  Can I be the first person who’s ever asked?  I’ll take the ferry to Egypt, tomorrow if I can… conceptually this trip’s just about a done deal… just connect some dots… Petra ruins are spectacular, columns carved in to rock for artistic, if not architectural, effect… sorry, Greece; columns come from elsewhere…

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Got a camel? Petra, Jordan 2009

…manage to dodge the Hajj, get an early bus from Petra down to Aqaba and immediately hop a taxi out to the ferry port… ferry running late, so I get on, no problem, not even crowded, pre-boarding procedures not so “shambolic”… even a small handful of travelers like me, come in handy when it comes to finding onward transportation from Nuweiba: a dump, as Godforsaken as any place I’ve ever seen.  Sal si puedes. 

…go on down to Dahab with all the other travelers, apparently famous hippie hangout, surfing and diving and God knows what…  If I’d done my homework I might’ve hung around… but I get off at the bus station and keep going.  Lonely Planet says if you go to Dahab, you might end up canceling the rest of your itinerary… guess I’ll never know… just not a beach person, I guess.

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Mideast is a picnic, 2009

…ride the bus all night trying my best to sleep, finally get in to Cairo at 4:30am.  …kill time and buy onward ticket to Luxor before heading down to the hotel strip, this time with a balcony overlooking the very busy Talaat Harb Street… fall asleep while studying Arabic, works every time.

Next day is for killing… late train to Luxor…. means finding a suitable place to sit and wait, not easy in crowded and congested Cairo… meander down a street that just so happens to be the musical instrument street in town… ouds, dumbeks, and all the rest… twinkling bells of business lure me like a siren in the night.  Why does it keep following me around like this?  Who’d have thought that Cairo would even have traditional crafts districts like this in the 21st century?  Apparently they do.  Business is a disease.

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