The penultimate stop on the trip is Jordan. More or less landlocked except for a tidgy bit of the Red Sea at the far South, Jordan is surrounded by countries that are all currently hot beds of war, revolutions and turmoil. At the North is Syria, a country that is massacring its own people and it is pretty much all out civil war. To the North East is Iraq, a country that was such a threat to the Western World due to the WMD’s that were never found we raged all out war and in the process of giving the Iraqis a freedom they never asked for tens of thousands of innocent people have been killed, and we are currently in the process of leaving with our tails between our legs; The needless loss of lives, a country in a state of disrepair, for what?
To the South East is Saudi Arabia, the centre of Islam. For non Muslims it is not a place you want to fortuitously stumble upon, it is near impossible for non believers to gain entry and to be honest with the security risks who would want to chance it.
Egypt is at the far South though not technically joined, cities there are currently under siege and the FCO remains adamant that Egypt should be a no go for British Citizens. That leaves Israel and the Palestine Territories to the West. We will be visiting Israel shortly so I will give the info about there in due course. Needless to say Israel has its problems – Huge problems actually. That’s a story for a different day though.
So the fact Jordan is peaceful and welcoming despite its intimidating neighbours begs the question – For how long. Revolutions are spreading throughout the Middle East like wildfire and so sat here now I believe it is genuinely a question of when, as oppose to if.
The flight left Sharjah airport around 9am and the entire aircraft was full of knob heads. The dick behind me let his kid repeatedly kick my seat prior to take off. I asked him to stop and he was just smiling as though to say “he is only a kid” Personally I don’t give a shit, how about I sit and kick you in the head and let’s see how long it takes for that to piss you off. The guy in front put his seat back before we had even started to taxi to the run way. He was made to put it up, people’s phones were ringing as we were taking off, people were getting up and walking about as we were still in the initial climb. I desperately hoped for some turbulence – that would teach them. Otherwise the flight was uneventful which is just how I like them and we landed into Amman Airport some 3 hours later at 11am. (Time difference of -1hr)
Off the plane we went to get our visa. The ATM scammed me again (of the three times an ATM has scammed me two have been at an airport, before immigration) and so now £80 has left my account and yet another dispute will have to be opened when I return. The Visa was until a few months back 10JD each (about £9) but it was doubled and so about sixty quid later we had some pathetic postage stamps in our passport and a smile from the officer that had just creamed us.
The Visa is for thirty days but if you are staying for that length of time you have to register with the police. We aren’t and so for us it’s irrelevant.
Once in arrivals we got hounded by taxi drivers, their breath stank and I politely declined, looking for the bus stop. Which I knew there was. Every single taxi driver told me there was no bus, I wondered if I had got my info wrong and so went to the official airport information “No, there are no buses, the only way into Amman (35km) is to take a taxi” I asked for prices and was being told 100JD (£90) I just knew I was being scammed and so went outside to think. I saw the bus stop and went over, yes, there were buses running 3JD for adults and 1.5JD for kids. The scamming bastards, even the information office had tried it on. I enquired as to the taxi fare. It turns out it is set by the government at 17JD – not 100JD. (£14 not £90)
Like most Asian cities there are several bus stations. We had been ditched at North station which is about 1.5km from where we needed to be. I knew that no journey within Amman itself will ever cost more than 2JD. Yet I was getting quoted 20JD for the mile long journey (£18) Drivers were getting in my face and laughing telling me no one would take us for less than 20JD, it was 20km etc… They tried to get intimidating but it didn’t work. I saw a young woman waiting for a bus and I told her what was going on and she laughed and told me that Jordanian taxi drivers are scum of the earth. I should report them to the police at the other side of the station. She said the journey should be 1JD. I went back to the drivers and said I would pay 2JD if they took me. Again they stood their ground and refused.
It was forty degrees, we were exhausted and now this. The roads surrounding the station are all dual carriage ways and so impossible to hail a taxi or cross. I phoned Gemma and asked her to help me find a hotel nearby but she fobbed me off saying she was busy. We were, for the first time on the whole trip stuck and I felt completely helpless.
I decided to head over to the police and ask for their help. Expecting them to fob us off they couldn’t have been more help. They were apologising for the drivers and we left our bags at the stand and went with one officer to the drivers. He told them all to leave the station and to not come back. He booted out about six drivers who were by now pleading with him to let them stay. I had the biggest cheesy grin ever and the kids and I waved at them as they drove off.
The police put us in a taxi and sternly told the driver to charge us only 2JD. We were off, the driver asked what was happening and I explained. I told him I was pissed off with Jordan and he held up the back of his hand. He pointed to the creases on his fingers and explained how they were all the same but all at different heights. The point he was trying to get across was that just because something looks the same, it doesn’t mean it is. He apologised for the hassle we had got from other drivers and begged me not to judge all Jordanians by their standards.
The place to be in Amman is downtown, it’s a diminutive area near the Citadel and Roman amphitheatre. The roads are teeming with budget hotels, restaurants and shops. The first hotel we went to wasn’t really what we was looking for and the guy suggested a different place down the road. We headed there and found a perfect little oasis. Prices are higher for accommodation than much of Asia, though cheaper than Dubai. Where we are now has free wifi and satellite TV and is costing 25JD per night which is reasonable, but not cheap by Asian standards.
Jordan is pretty much covered by the Arabian desert and so what you get in Amman is what you would expect from a desert country. The houses are all high, square buildings united in sandy colours. If ever you have watched a James Bond movie where he has gone to the Middle East then it was probably filmed in Amman because it looks exactly the same.
The city is modern, but the buildings, and inside the buildings are well and truly stuck in the 70’s. Tacky chandeliers hang from the ceilings, walls are mirrored and the windows are all nicotine stained.
The men all look like greasy porn stars with white flamboyant shirts unbuttoned down to the naval showing their overtly hairy chests – Skin tight jeans with a cig in their hand. The women are what I have come to expect of Middle Eastern women – Gorgeous, slim and sexy (until they get to about 40 then it is time to trade in for a new model)
The plan for Jordan was to head South to the stunning Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world it draws people from every corner of the earth. But when I sat and worked things out it would have meant spending two days travelling and trekking miles in between. It would have also added around £100 to the trip and for something that would be a chore for Abi, it just didn’t seem fair. The thing is, by the time the kids get to bed in the UK it will be early hours Tuesday morning and they have school that same day. To make the last few days full of travel and hiking in forty plus degree weather I didn’t feel was fair. I am absolutely gutted we won’t now be going but I expect a lot from the kids and have expected more from them on this trip than ever before. They have delivered on every account and have been resilient and adaptive to everything I have thrown in front of them or asked of them.
The least I could do is make the last few days as relaxing as possible. Even if that means I am missing out on a dream.
In spite of the fact we will not now be visiting Petra I do have something special planned for the kids. Something so unique there is nowhere else on earth like it, something so off the beaten path of usual holidaymakers few Western children will have ever experienced it, something they will love, something they will remember for the rest of their lives – Something relaxing 🙂