Friday, July 31, 2009

30th and 31st July - Jordan

On Wednesday night, Daniel and I went for dinner at this typical Jordanian restaurant where we smoked shisha pipes and I had the most wonderful Shish Tawouk for dinner.... mmmm...

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


We had an early start on Thursday as we were taking the 3 and a half hour trip to Petra. Thursday turned into a bit of a day of adventure and pretty much a day of escaping injury.... read on...

We arranged to meet our driver at 7am to get down to Petra in good time. By 7.45 I was getting pretty frustrated so I told the hotel owner Ali, who sold me the trip, that if the driver wasn't there in 5 mins, we'd cancel the trip and make our own way there...

Miracle of all miracles, the driver turned up in 3 mins.... Ali saw how annoyed we were and had a go at the driver, took the keys and drove us there himself.... Yes, the hotel owner left the hotel and spent the day in Petra with us... Hilarious I thought, until he started driving...

Now on this trip, I've found myself in a few situations where I've been a passenger to maniacal drivers.... and this didn't disappoint... Ali did the 3 and a half hour trip in 2 and a half hours... no joke... He got stopped twice for speeding and got two tickets, he was tearing down the highway at 130kmh, he was weaving in and out of traffic, he was squeezing through gaps between two trucks that seemingly only a bike could get through... it was crazy.. all the while balancing a hot cup of coffee in a cup holder and then drinking it and driving with one hand.... I tried to sleep on the journey down but I think the eyes were shut more out of fear than rest. I decided to listen to my iPod.... first song that came on 'Don't Fear The Reaper' by Blue Oyster Cult... how apt...

We got down to Petra and wow, what a place... the heat was sweltering... Daniel and I were both wearing flip flops and the views were stunning.... I got pictures and videos of so much which I'll share on here but i've never been somewhere where there is just so much to see.

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


The Treasury was beautiful, cut out of the mountain and precisely sculpted....

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


the Roman Theatre was breathtaking...

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


the City Centre vast and pristine...

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


and finally, the Monestry was spectacular....

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan




All in all we walked 24 km in 5 hours up rocky traverses and down cobbled streets.. My feet were sore but my mind was filled with wonder and admiration for what ancient civilisations could create.

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


The return journey to Amman that evening was equally frought with danger... Ali looking to break the land speed record in a Hyundai.... not a good choice of vehicle for such a venture... the windows were rattling, the doors shaking... it was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. We got back in 2 and a half hours, weaving through the city traffic inches away from fatality... Crazy...

That evening we decided to go out for dinner and find a bar. I couldn't believe they had bars in Amman. We went down the street and a restaurant was having an opening night. There were fireworks, a crowd of people and lots of music. We watched from the pavement opposite as things got under way. After a few minutes, a thunderous bang echoed throughout the street and fireworks starting firing out into the crowd.... The fireworks from the roof of the restaurant had all caught light and starting shooting like missiles into the street. It was hectic.... I ran as fast as could to find some form of cover as the street seemed to scatter in panic... a firework went off outside a shop and the noise brought down a couple of lights...

From Jordan


From Jordan


I managed to hide around a corner... I looked out onto the street after a few seconds and a firework appeared... I quickly ducked back just before it exploded not ten metres away from us. After things had settled down, I ventured back out onto the street and caught up with Daniel. He'd hidden somewhere else. I looked up and the roof of the restaurant was on fire.

From Jordan


The story of the fireworks was doing the rounds all night after that it seemed. We found a bar and had a beer and dinner.

From Jordan


Walking along the street afterwards, we asked a couple of guys if they knew a good bar or club. They told us the Latino Bar.... I asked how we could get there and they offered to give us a lift. It was so Jordanian.... such generous people...

We had a drink at Latino Bar and headed back out in search of a club. I asked a taxi driver if he knew of a good nightclub....

"For prosititute...." he said... I couldn't believe it... Prostitutes in Jordan... "NO!" we quickly replied... "Like a disco, music, dancing you know."

"Aah you want arabic disco.." He said. "Yeah sure." we replied thinking it would be a local place and could be fun.

He drove us to this place and after scaling 5 flights of stairs, we found ourselves in a room with a bar and two very interested middle eastern girls in short dresses making their way over to us... Errr... what is this place..... The taxi driver said... "You want for girls to dance with you?" pointing over at the two interested ones.... "No, I think we'll go somewhere else thanks." After a discussion we managed to pursuade him to take us elsewhere to a bar.

Back at the hotel, we asked Ali about the place and whether it was a strip club or something. He said that it wasn't and that these places exist where you pay extortionate prices for drinks for the girls and they talk to you and dance with you... Very strange.... and that was my last night in Jordan.

From Jordan


The next day we went to check out the prayer call at the Hussein Mosque and the Souk which was great fun. We got chatting to a few of the stall holders and I sampled some Jordanian sweets.... Everyone was very friendly and it's definitely worth paying a visit to the Souk on Rainbow Street if you're ever in Amman.

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

28th and 29th July - Jordan

So, I packed up and shipped out to Jordan. The trip started off well at Heathrow Airport as I got to use the BA lounge before my flight... thank you air miles. Nice..

Got to the airport in Jordan and quickly figured out how much of a nightmare it was to sort my visa out... Chaos, absolute chaos. There's a line for this and a line for that and god forbid you go in the wrong line.....

My driver picked me up and we drove through the Amman city streets at 1am... the first thing I noticed was how busy it was for such a time... then my nose filled with the wonderful smell of barbecues all around me.... you can see them on the side of the road and the smell is nothing short of mouth watering... mmmm....

Anyway, I made it to my hostel where the owner continued to try and rob me blind... oh there's this cost for that and this cost for this and so on...

Really, I said, well I guess i'll just have to find another place to stay then... and also put a very honest review of this hostel on hostels.com

Oh no need, no need Mr Andy... you seem very nice man... ok, I do you a deal.. - came back the response

So I got the deal, which is pretty much the same price as was advertised but at least i'm not paying any more....

I finally got to my room.. and wow... what an opulent scene.... Ok, picture this.... think of every film you've seen that involves someone being taken as a hostage.... ok... right, still with me... Good. Now think about the typical room a hostage is held in in these films.... yeah... getting the picture... Good. Right, voila.... you have my room... I like to call it 'Hostage Chic' although for the price i'm paying... it'll do.

Let me out.... pay the ransom....

Anyway, moving on. I woke up this morning after 4 hours sleep in a 28 degree room... Yep folks... it's 35 degrees in the day and a mild 28 degrees at night... brrr..

At least the fan on full blast in the room reaches my toes.... nice.

Breakfast, however, was a bonus... lovely flat bread, warm and crisp with humous and jam to dip it in accompanied by a boiled egg... Paradise people... I assure you.

So, at 10am, we set off for Madaba, Mount Nebo (of which I had a sample of the red wine by the way and a lovely drop for cooking it is too)... and the Dead Sea.

What an experience. Madaba is a very holy place... it's well known as the most Christian place in Jordan and it has a beautiful Greek Orthodox Church at its heart. The mosaics in the church are astounding and one depicts all of the religious sites in Middle East. Just as I type this actually, the familiar call to prayer is playing out in the background. I love the Middle East for just this type of culture and tradition.

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


We got a puncture as we were leaving Madaba and, another classic example of the Middle East culture, the whole city pitched in to help... it was amazing... like a pit stop in a Grand Prix but with a cast of thousands...

We were on our way again, passing through desert, small towns until we reached Mount Nebo... the view allows you take in all of the holy lands and even Jericho on the West Bank on a clear day, which unfortunately, this was not. Still it was a very memorable experience.

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


Our final destination was the Dead Sea. I've been looking forward to this for sometime and it didn't disappoint... You do actually float. It's an amazing feeling. I also noticed where my cuts and grazes were on my body... ouch... the salt stings a little ha ha...

From Jordan


From Jordan


From Jordan


People were covering themselves in mud and then swimming or rather floating around. Also, you can see Israel just 14km away across the sea. I couldn't get enough of the experience of floating and it's something that i'll never forget. I know i'm lucky to go on this trip but it really is occasions like this and experiences like the Dead Sea where I really feel truly privileged. Anyway, joining me on this trip was Daniel from Sweden who is a nice guy and easy to get on with. He's also going to be on the trip to Petra tomorrow which is great because it's better when there's someone else you know there rather than doing it yourself. I know Petra will be equally memorable, if not more so.... watch this space.