I stayed at a place in Amman called the Arab Tower Hotel. They did a great job of organizing tours. And by tours it was just a mostly just matter of hopping in ta guy’s car, with or without a small group, and heading out. It was really efficient and even cost-effective.
The highlight was the Roman ruins at Jerash. It’s pretty spectacular. And even better was that it was all but deserted when I was there. It was a Jordanian holiday but for some reason it was just really quiet. Having not been to Italy I was very impressed with what is some outstandingly well preserved Roman ruins.
I spent about three hours in the site. On the ride up I’d came with a couple from France & Argentina. They had apparently taken far less than three hours and had already done lunch and were now pacing the baking hot parking lot. I took that as a sign to get a frozen Snickers bar for the trip home and call it lunch (even though they were really kind and offered to wait even longer for me to find an over-priced burger shack.)
On the way to Jerash we stopped at Aljun Castle. It was interesting and again deserted. I met a Canadian family from Prince Rupert which fits with my three living stints along Highway 16.
Day two was the famous Petra. I had forgot about the Indiana Jones connection – after seeing a lot of Harrison Ford I just thought they were big Indy fans. Or perhaps they liked that style of hat.
I had heard that the Petra is arguably a more interesting and unique wonder than the Egyptian pyramids. Having had to cancelled the latter due to the unrest, I fortunate to have Petra on the agenda. It is amazing.
I managed to sleep in on Petra day and miss breakfast. It’s a long trip from Amman – 300 km each way – so it makes a day trip a challenge. I raced through the site to the end as quickly as possible and skipped the questionable looking food joints in the vicinity. I did land a pack of crackers for the ride back. I was back in Amman for about 7pm and raced out to get dinner. This sparked a slew (well, only three) of restaurant rejections. I thought it was my beard or perhaps my dreadful Tiger shirt. Or general state of travel filthiness. I totally forgot it was Ramadan fast breaking just after sundown – everything ad everywhere was packed with people eating socially. I found some Wi-Fi and googled McDonalds Amman. No luck – nothing in the area. I ended roaming discontentedly before getting a 9 pm reservation at a seafood place.
When I got there they plunked down a 1.5L jug of water. Evidently it’s a family-themed place and the drill stays the same for when individuals come in. Moderation gets thrown into the wind if someone plunks a huge jug of water in from of me in the easiest of times, let along hungry in the desert. The waiter seemed quite surprised by prodigious water-drinking abilities. The aqua burro drained that family-sized jug in no time.
It might have been the lack of food during the day or the questionable seafood that night, but something did not sit well with the Petra site. I’m sending off the following multi-stage complaint. I was not sure what the general reaction was but it seems most people are fairly pleased with their trip there. I found a petition online to sign about animal care but it was quite spare. The standards people ought to expect unfortunately depend on the price point. If this was a free drop-in sort of thing, fair enough, anything goes (not that it should, of course.) But this is a UNESCO heritage site that is taking in 700,000 visitors annually (a rough average from the 2008 to 2011 stats) at $50 a head. That $35 Million US a year is not huge but it’s enough to give me certain expectations on how it ought to be managed.
In the letter I also take a run at Pepsi. What an irresponsible firm – they are using pull tabs in Jordan. These are the tabs that must be physically removed to open the can. I’m sure it’s because people like it but what does that matter: it’s a stupid idea. It was bad at the Petra in terms of tabs scattered about the place, but it was worse for my third day at the Dead Sea. This trip had me walking carefully as with the salinity I knew it would not be fun to step on a discarded and jagged remnants of a Pepsi can that littered the beach. The image is actually (horrors of horrors) a can I bought. It’s where I established who the culprit was as I’d seen regular Coke cans before and this. Pepsi is getting a letter, too.
The Dead Sea was very cool. The buoyancy is surreal.
Interestingly too there is a lot of pay-per-use infrastructure. I was at a place that had a pool like a standard all-inclusive but was $15 to get in for the afternoon. The concept of unbundling what’s found in an all-inclusive is interesting. There are even smarter ways of doing this it seems though – later in Tanzania I met an English group who didn’t really do much else in Dar Es Salaam expect swim in posh pools at places like the Sheraton. I guess they just paid out low level bribes to the staff and off they went – it even included towels.
A prior stop was Bethany, where Jesus was said to be baptized. It’s right on the Jordan-Israel border. It was interesting people-watching there. This is looking at Israel from Jordan and seeing the wide range of folks who visit.
Unrelated to anything was an odd kiosk right at the steps of my hotel. It was selling basically everything that you would not want to try and get through airport security. Knives, clubs, brass knuckles and some sort of saw. Oh my.
I obviously wasn’t too sad to avoid buying this gear. But where I would have been thwarted by airport metal detectors was in the traffic cop’s crazy helmets. That is something I’d take home with me. Only for formal occasions though.