Jun 17, 2007
I arrive in Amman by bus and take a taxi to the street where my hotel is located. I walk directly past my hotel, miss it by 20 feet, and then walk in circles with my pack for 90 minutes before I finally find it. Even experienced travelers like me still completely screw things up sometimes.
Amman is nice and safe, but I'm in the middle of all of the messes. I'm less than an hour from the West Bank, which just broke out into a full-fledged civil war. The other way, 6-hours by bus through the desert is the Iraqi border. Iraq is worse than ever. The Sunnis just blew up two minarets of the ancient and holy Al-Askari Shi'ite mosque; reprisals are expected. I read the newspaper in my hostel. Jordan is quiet, with the King calling for maturity and restraint on all sides.
In Jordan, people seem much more friendly, and willing to idly chat with foreigners than the Egyptians were. Over an afternoon coffee in a shisha house, the man sitting next to me introduces himself, then begins idle chatter in very bad English. He looks at my book, and asks where the vowels are (though not quite so directly). In Arabic, the vowels are clearly shown above and below the letters; in English they are not nearly so clearly differentiated. Then he asked me "Why do you like black?" I'm puzzled. Black people? Black coffee? Our Western fascination with tanning to a dark color? Then I realize that he's dressed nothing in white; white shirt, white shoes, white hat, white tie, etc. He's exactly like the sort of odd character you'd meet in San Francisco.
At lunch, the restaurant was full, so I share a table with two Jordanians. They are particularly chatty as one of them is trying to get a visa to go to America to get treatment for cataracts. They are curious if I have any suggestions on how they can get a visa, if there are Non Governmental Organizations in America to help people with no money, and what the anti-Islam feelings in America are like. I give them what help I can, which isn't much.
They also confirm my feelings about not loving the Egyptian people. When I tell them I had been living in Egypt for a while, they tell me, "Egyptians are assholes." I do take that with a grain of salt though, it seems that in almost every country in the world, everyone thinks that their neighbors are dirty, lying, cheating thieves.
I'm having a fine time here in Jordan, but I wonder if it's different for women. Two French women that I know had a miserable time here, despite dressing modestly and speaking Arabic. The guidebook warns women not only to double-check their rooms for peepholes, but also to barricade their doors with a chair.
Overall Amman is all right. There is great schwarma here. But sadly things close very early. At 10pm, everyone is already closing their doors and locking up. I miss the 24-hour bustle of Cairo.
Leave a comment! I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading.
I noticed that the guy in this photo is wearing a red & white checkered scarf that is very similar (if not the same) as the traditional scarf worn in Cambodia.
Is this a traditional scarf in Jordan as well?
Do you know anything about this similar tradition across continents?