Country Archives: Jordan

Amman – Bremen

I spent the day in the hotel, freezing. The weather is crap and I’m tired and moody.

Had a great time meeting Huda again in the evening for a nice chat over tea and some late/short sightseeing.

I’m ready to fly home tonight.

How do I best summarize this trip?
The short version: I prefer cycling.

The long version: The countries I’ve seen are very interesting. Especially Israel and Palestine have fascinated me. The conflict there is very sad and has become weird, grotesque and ridiculous at some places, and is humiliating for both Palestinians and Israelis alike. Egypt is unlike any other Arab or Middle Eastern country I’ve been to. Egyptians exercise the art of making money in a special way. They’ll rip you off with a smile and you have to be careful not to give a tip on top because ‘I give you very good price’. :)
I haven’t seen as much of Jordan as I wanted to. To be exact I haven’t seen anything. I’ll be back.
My modes of transport were certainly convenient and efficient as far as crunching kilometers is concerned. But the real beauty of the countryside in between stops doesn’t reveal itself to me when I travel by car or bus. I prefer cycling.

PS: At the airport, a Jordanian officer completely ripped the ID page off my passport. His comment: “Just tape it.” On arrival in Paris the French officer didn’t care at all about the two-piece passport I handed him and let me through after short glances at the photo page and me.

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Aqaba – Amman

Had a tea for breakfast with Wladimir and Nicolas, then we all went our separate ways.
I hopped on a bus to Amman where I arrived around 3.30pm.

There is snow in the hills and in Amman itself it’s raining and freezing cold. People say the rain is normal at this time of the year while the temperatures are not.

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Dahab – Aqaba

I left Dahab at 10am to go to Nuweiba, from where the ferry to Aqaba, Jordan, leaves.

With me in the van were an American girl on leave from her volunteering in the Peace Corps in Kenya, and Laura and Rens, a Dutch couple, who were on a side-trip to Petra in Jordan and also wanted to catch the ferry.

Only minutes before we passed through, an accident had happened at a long down-hill curve, with two trucks crashing into each other head-on. One of the drivers was still stuck in the wreck of his truck and people tried to get him out. Didn’t look good at all. Apparently the right equipment to cut him out was missing. There was nothing we could have done.

In Nuweiba, Laura, Rens and me hurried to the ticket office, only to see it being shut right in front of us. It was time for prayer and lunch. We were told to come back in one hour’s time, at 12.30pm. We had a little snack and were back after exactly one hour. And waited one more hour before the window opened again. Meanwhile we had learned from a friendly police officer that the ferry would leave between 1pm and 2pm. We held the tickets in our hands at quarter to 2pm.

While waiting I had a chat with a Jordanian truck driver. He told me that he paid USD 485 for a ticket for his truck to Jordan, and USD 400 for the trip from there back to Egypt. We paid USD 75 per person for the 3 hours (approx. 80km) of net sailing. He said he’d have to wait for about 3 days because his truck was number 120 in the queue, and the ferry’s capacity is limited to 40 to 45 trucks at a time (and of course it sails only once a day, weather permitting). Unfortunately I didn’t ask what prevented him from transiting through Israel. He also correctly predicted that the ticket seller would return about an hour later than announced. Last but not least he mentioned that Egypt was dangerous currently. I thought he was talking about dangers for tourists, but he said that nobody here would touch a tourist as tourism is too important for the country, especially now during the revolution where you could count foreigners almost on one hand. No, he said that Arabs were targeted by robbers.

Well, the ferry left at 5pm.

On the boat we met Vladimir from Russia, who had brought his bike to cycle around Jordan on his first-ever bike trip before flying to Ukraine, and Nicolas from Argentina.

They both wanted to stay the night in Aqaba as well and we shared a room in a simple hotel downtown. At check-in the guy at the reception bent my passport in an unhealthy way and it broke almost completely. The ID page is is now held by a tiny piece of plastic and will fall out with the next incautious touching. I hope they’ll accept it at the airport and let me leave the country.

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Amman – Jerusalem Haifa Nazareth Tiberias Nazareth

Charlotte stayed with Huda last night and I stayed in a hotel not far away. We met again in the morning and called a cab to bring us to the Israeli border. The crossing is called King Hussein Bridge and is located approx. half-way between Amman and Jerusalem. It’s Friday today and thus the beginning of Sabbath, and the crossing is said to close at 1pm. We arrived at quarter to 12 but were told that everything was closed already. If we wanted to cross anyway we’d have to book the VIP service, for US$ 96 per person.

We said good-bye to reaching Jerusalem today and decided to take another cab to the northerly border crossing, called the Jordan Valley crossing, north of the Westbank and a bit south of the Sea of Galilee. That crossing was working longer hours.

The Jordanian border guards wished me luck trying to enter Israel with the Iranian stamp in my passport. On the Israeli side that stamp and the Iraqi one did indeed cause some raised eyebrows and a couple of questions, though it wasn’t serious at all. At the end I was even asked if I wanted my entry stamp in my passport or on a separate piece of paper, thus avoiding any future problems should I travel to any countries on that passport that deny entry to people with evidence in their passports of having visited Israel before. I opted for the stamp in my passport.
So, after 2 hours we were welcomed to the Holy Land. And it greeted us with rain.

Haifa, at the Mediterranean coast, was our destination of choice now. We just didn’t know how to get there. Hitch-hiking was pretty much impossible due to rain and no traffic. Public transport didn’t exist. Taxis were prohibitively expensive. We chose the cheaper option of hiring a taxi to bring us to Nazareth. Half-way there we thought it better to go to Tiberias instead, located at the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. But the driver’s new quote made us decide otherwise again. So Nazareth it was.

With the help of the friendly girl at the local tourist information we found an affordable hostel.

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I met up with my cousin after breakfast in her hotel. We then met a friend of hers, Huda, who she’d met during her time in Lund.

Huda then showed us around Amman until late. An incredibly nice girl, she told us loads about country and Jordanian and Arab culture, introduced us to typical Jordanian fares, made numerous phone calls to find out what was the best way for us to get to Israel, and also insisted on paying all the bills, from taxi to food. That’s gorgeous Middle Eastern hospitality at its best again! Shukran!

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Bremen – Amman

I’m going into the lion’s den, as they say. Though via a safe bubble. The lion’s den is the Middle East, the safe bubble is Jordan. It is one of the few Arab countries that haven’t seen any violent uprisings during the Arab Spring. At this time last year I had just safely returned from Tunisia, the country that had started it all.

I will meet my cousin Charlotte in Amman and we will go to Israel for a few days. She’ll fly home from there and I will return to Jordan for a few more days before I fly out again from Amman. No bicycles involved.

Easy flight to Amman, via Paris, today.
On the bus from the airport to Amman proper I met Omar, a Libyan. He’s buying cars in Jordan and exporting them to Libya. He proudly showed me dozens of pictures of his homeland, including many photos of himself and his friends (“this guy died, that guy died”) fighting against Gaddafi.

For the first night I had booked a room in the same hotel my cousin and her group were staying in. On check-in I was told that even though they had received my reservation they were fully booked. Though they said they had organized a room for me in another hotel and they’d cover the price difference. So I got relocated to a 4-star hotel. Not too bad, ey?

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