14 June 2007

One Lap Around Jordan

This week I went on a driving tour of Jordan. Not that we quite meant to, but…

J was heading to Wadi Musa to take supplies to M and her crew there who are excavating a Nabatian cemetery. S and F asked if they could tag along, as I had also done and J graciously obliged. As J and I were waiting to take off we overheard C, an American who just arrived in Jordan a few days ago, asking about directions to the town of Mu’ta. C has had a sucky couple of days. She arrived in Jordan, but her luggage is still in Detroit. Then, the person who was supposed to pick her up never did. Having thoroughly explored the airport, she found her way to Amman. The woman who failed to send someone to fetch her at the airport then told her to take a bus to Mu’ta, somewhere in the middle of Jordan. Mu’ta is south of Amman, so it’s sorta on the way to Wadi Rum. We offered her a ride, and picked up the boys at the Safeway.

Off and running we wound our way through Wadi Mujib and up to the Karak plateau. We stopped in Karak for lunch where C called the dig director. This woman had her phone switched off! By luck C reached a person who was working at the excavation where C was headed and this person informed the director that C would need to be picked up. Now, we were in Karak still, and had a while before reaching Mu’ta.

Mu’ta is a very small town in Jordan. It didn’t take us long to explore Mu’ta, which was a shame since we waited there for about 90 minutes for the dig director to show up. This didn’t just suck because Mu’ta is a drag. It sucked because I’ve never been to Wadi Rum, and I reckoned this would be my only time and I wanted to see the sun set. By the time the director showed up it was about 4:30, and we were still quite far from Wadi Rum. We delivered C to the director, and wished her luck. Mu’ta was not so bad, though. Many Mu’tanians (?) came to visit with us while we sat on the steps of a sweet shop. I take it they don’t see too many tourists there. I purchased 3 liters of water, and two ice creams for half a dinar! It was nice to be somewhere that didn’t drain my money.

Moving on to Wadi Rum. We arrived with enough time to see the sun set there. However, we were smote again. Wadi Rum is set up such that tourists cannot drive into the park. There is a gate with dudes who tell people this. We had a truck full of archaeological equipment and a letter from the Department of Antiquities stating that we had the right to pass and drop off our stuff. In other words, they were instructed in this letter to allow us to 1) drive in, 2) without paying for a ticket. Ha! J was driving and when the 7 men working there saw us they asked us where we’re from. She told them and then they said they needed one of us to come in and fill out paperwork and one of us would buy a ticket. She said No way! They jerked us around for a good 30 minutes. We called M, the lady waiting for her truck of supplies. She lives in the Village there, and we got her out of the shower to drive up to the gate. The entire time the men were telling J that she needed to go inside and fill out paperwork and the whole time she refused. Gosh, boredom is bad for men. Once they saw an angry-looking M emerge from her truck they changed their tune and told her that J was causing problems and they didn’t know why since there was no problem. I missed Wadi Rum at sunset! M graciously bought us dinner from the local restaurant while S, F and I sat and drank their Pepsi’s. While they were away some of the neighbors came over and told us that they needed some sort of paperwork from M indicating how many people would be staying in the house and for how long. Not that they need to know, it’s not their house. I pretended not to understand them. I told them in English that they needed to speak English because I didn’t understand. Very effective.

Exhausted by the Rum-treatment, we ate dinner and departed, stopping at the gate to let the men there know that we were not staying and didn’t not enjoy anything there. By this time the truck was as tired as us, and all the dash lights kept coming on. The 4 of us decided this was all for nothing and drove down to Aqaba, about 40 minutes away. It was HOT my friends. We got a hotel room at about midnight with a sub-par A/C. At 03:30 J called downstairs and asked them to send up a magician who could make it work. It never did, but we slept anyway because we were so ‘effin tired. We had a lovely breakfast the next morning and then picked up the boys at the McDonalds. We wanted to leave Aqaba before it was too late in the day because of the heat. Our truck was sans A/C.

We drove up the Desert Highway to Ma’an. I have wanted to see the train station there for sometime. There is an Ottoman train station that is part of the Hijaz railway, and I’ve heard that the Kingdom is going to restore the station. It is adjacent to a small university surrounded by olive trees. It was really quite beautiful. The station was closed off, so I only got to see it through a fence. It took us quite a while to find the place. It’s at the eastern-most edge of the town and we stopped 2 times (or once?) to ask for directions. We decided to send S to ask figuring that he was the most expendable of the group. Ma’an has a bit of a turbulent history, you see, and I was a tad nervous. But it turns out they like Canadians there! People were quite friendly. Two men walking around the train station stopped us and chatted very briefly. People seemed curious about our presence, but everything was great.

So, on to Shawbak! Another place I’ve never been. Finding it was a bit tricky because there are signs indicating that we should go straight toward Wadi Musa, and then the signs stop. Turns out someone forgot to put up the very important Turn-Right-Here sign. Again we stopped and asked for directions. Shawbak is beautiful, and free to visit! We wandered around for quite a while. S and F went pretty far down into one of the stair cases that leads underground to the water supply. It’s absolutely dark down there, so I chickened out quite early.

We headed north back to Amman and dropped the boys off near 7th circle. From there we were on the road to Abdoun and J and I continued on to Java U for good coffee, sandwiches, and a nice, shaded patio. We returned exhausted. It was really fun, though! (Even though I didn’t get to see Wadi Rum in the daylight.)


Blogger onzlo said...

Please do send a letter to the Ministry of Tourism or the JTB or whoever is in charge of the people at the 'gate' at Wadi Rum, because they need to know what a pain their overzealous tax collectors are. I had a similar experience around 2 years ago when I was surprised by people trying to stop us to make us pay 5 jd's so we can take our car in! After 15 minutes of heated discussion we just got into our car and drove in because dealing with them was so frustrating.
It is really a shame that you didnt get to enjoy Wadi Rum properly as it is really one of the most beautiful places in Jordan, but i feel over the past couple of years they have been trying too hard to make it into some sort of tourist experience instead of keeping it in its natural state.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Weeping Sore said...

Your Ma'an link doesn't work. More of the mysterious history of the place? Not sure if I'm more disturbed that you got close to Iraq or to Saudi Arabia. With the news coming out of your region these days, you're pretty much in the middle of everything.

12:07 AM  

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