The journey from Beirut was on a particuarly small plane and as a result, the in flight entertainment wasn't Chronicles of Narnia, but the worst turbulence ive ever experienced. I wasn't concerned about crashing as we jolted violently back and forth, dropped suddenly and enjoyed the sweet sound of engine lag because I was quite sure I was going to shit myself lifeless, like a stepped on toothpaste tube, before we got anywhere near the ground.
The guy next to me chatted cheerily about the pilots lack of flying skills and introduced himself as Wafsi. He was the first Jordanian id met on the trip and as soon as id landed, been picked up by a basketball contact id never met called Fadi, taken to his house to meet his whole family, fed, taken to a basketball game, fed again and dropped off at my hostel, I began to think of them as pretty hospitable people. Both had offered to help me in ridiculous ways (from a Glaswegian perspective anyway) and as I continued to meet taxi drivers, shop and hostel workers, it appears this is the norm.
|Abbasi Palace Hotel: As misleading a name as you'll find|
The two roommates at the Abbasi Palace hotel were an American who had just spent 3 months living in a palestinian refugee camp and a scrawny english guy who declared Petra "a disappointment"(and was just about to leave to head across the border to Syria). As I wandered around the rest of the place, I also met a guy who looked a haunted Russell Brand as drawn in crayon by a four year old. Apparently he had been following the revolutions as they had been going from country to country like some kind of disturbed groupie. He was also keen to let everyone know how "off the grid" he was, so much so that when another guy in the communal area asked if he could turn the telly up, the homeless prick piped up dramatically, "I dont care for television!", despite having been staring at it for 45 minutes.
I headed down to Petra in the hostel bus with Dave, an English guy and Brinony and Drew, two Australians who were testament to both the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and the dangers of breeding race horses with the cast of Baywatch. Sharing a room with Dave to save some cash, the four of us headed down to the Petra gate where we browsed the Indiana Jones gift shop before paying £50 odd quid to get in.
|Drew, Brioney and Dave|
As you walk the path down, either side you can already see once beautiful decorated caves and tombs now worn away from thousands of years of being blasted by the elements. All of us ran around like kids, investigating caves and discovering that every one, without exception, stank like piss.
After a half hour of walking you reach the beginning of the canyon (of the crescent moon, if you remember the film). This is 1000 metres of a dramatic twisting crevice that is 100 ft on either side that keeps you guessing when the Treasury was going to reveal itself. When it does, its breathtaking. It peeks out from a distance between the rocks and almost seems designed to be presented this way.
We all spent ages just staring at it before begrudgingly pressing on to the rest of the city. I wasn't aware of the scale of the place and the amount of exploring you need to in order to get the most out of it. Pictures don't do it justice, there is so much detail for your eyeballs to gorge on and if you clamber up to any of the vast cliff tombs and look across the valley, its as beyond belief movie-like as anything you're ever going to see. I routinely cursed my shitty camera for not portaying digitally what I was looking at.
After several pints that night, we decided to all get up at 6am and get to the site when the crowds are at thier lowest. Me and Dave staggered home and as there was a barber open next to our hostel, i got my head shaved. Although i was drunk, i was sick of having to continually invent new hairstyles every morning to cover the rapid gallop of scalp to the back of my head. Your move, life.
You get a better sense of the isolation at 6am and can appreciate the whole thing much more. Our plan was to make a break for the door too (for whatever reason, they have stopped letting people inside) as we figured there would be no security. This was niave and unrealistic.
At the other end of Petra is the monastry that sits nonchalantly at the top of 800 steps. Again, incredible.
|800 steps to get to this little bitch|
Aqaba is used by mainly western tourists to go diving. It had some decent scenery but it was hard to appreciate when its backdrop was a power station and industrial port. Not great. After three quiet days chilling on the beach and sneaking in a five star resort to use their facilities, i returned to Amman to stay at the Jordan Tower hotel till the 28th April. Its a nice enough place and I ended up joining a gym for a bit and watched alot of football with Cowel, the son of the hostel owner. He's friends with Saddam Hussein's grand daughter and reckons the guy is misunderstood.
Jordan turned out to be better than I expected in a variety of ways. Its beautiful, cheap if you know where to look and extremely friendly. Oh, and thanks to every a mosque being point blank range at every place i stayed in I can now recite the entire prayer call flawlessly and am subsequently available for hire.
You know, for kids birthday parties and shit.