Steve Watson


      Information: Travels: Jordan: Diary







I'm in AQABA


I'm currently flopped down on a roof in a hotel in Aqaba, having just arrived via ferry from Nuweiba in Sinai. All other hotel beds are occupied. There is a part on in Jordan - everywhere- for King Hussein's birthday and people are tooling about tooting their horns and waving flags and such like. After securing this spot I had dinner at the Hani Ali. Very nice. I took the piles of bread with me for snacks. Now I'm desperately tired and need to sleep.


Rooftop Accommodation in Aqaba

From here I could not see the guns, which apparently point at the sea.


Celebrating King Hussein's Birthday







I must first remark that I find Jordan infinitely better than Egypt. It's a whole step up the evolutionary scale. It was noticeable as soon as we stepped off the ferry. (Actually, we went to a customs building by a cattle truck type of arrangement, but at least there was plenty of room - unlike the Egyptian side where the two Brits in front of me were almost buried under their own gear.) In the waiting room the floors were clean and it all just felt easier. They took our passports and called us out one by one which was a little difficult since they also had music blaring away at the same time - I suppose this was more celebratory music for King Hussein so perhaps they don't do that all the time. I got a welcome card, a sweet, and no customs inspection despite my scruffy state - also thanks to the King.


The city looked okay, but it's just a port city and I don't suppose it's terribly flash. I certainly looked pretty enough from the rooftop. I had a surprisingly sound sleep and didn't wake up until I'd had my full 8 hours ... plus a few. I discovered, much to my horror, that the shower was cold (again! - I should be getting used to this) but I just had to grit my teeth and do it. Again the water wouldn't bring up a lather so it didn't feel quite right. There was no socket so I couldn't shave either. Most annoying and hairifying. Scoffed some bread and water, brushed my teeth (aah, bliss,) then 'got out amongst it' as Barry would say.


Found the bus to Petra - 3 dinars (I think actually using dinars is pretty neat. Very 'Arabian Nights.') Left at 8am (rather than (8:30) and took about 2 hours to get to Wadi Moussa, a little town which runs into Petra. So here I am




Got off the taxi and grabbed a roomin the Moussa Gate Hotel right at the start of the town. This looks really clean and pleasant. I went immediately to get a shave and it took me about 10 minutes, but now I'm clean again.


Jumped into another taxi and off to Petra (the scenic destination) fighting off the advances of the money-changer in the front seat. Changed some money at the Visitors' Centre, bought a one day ticket for J$20 (about NZ$50) and headed on down.


Petra and the Siq

 The map is from an Italian guide, which adds a little extra exoticism, don't you think?


Magnificent scenery!  And the rock-cut buildings present a truly impressive facade. It has to be said, however, that contrary to the impression one might have gotten from 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade', they don't extend very far back into the hill. They are rarely more than one room deep, never more than two. Took heaps of photos (for me, that is; not for a normal person.) I took a picture for a young Jordanian (?) couple and they took one for me. Later, on Jebel Harun, I took another one for an older English lady touring with friends who thought that the climb through Petra was pretty tough. They're going on to St. Catherine's so I warned them that this was comparatively very easy. Of course, I couldn't tell her whether I thought that climb was worth it, but our conversation never got that far anyway. 


Through the Siq to the Treasury


The Treasury


Weathered Temple


Tombs and Me


More Tombs


The Monastery


A View to the Holy Land across Jordan

The view from Jebel Harun


 After sitting on Jebel Harun for a while I headed back. This was mostly downhill, but I'm sure glad I brought a bottle of water. When I got out I found that there was a free! taxi waiting for me and some others. I was glad of that because I realised on the road back that there was no way I wanted to walk this far.


Tuned in to VoA 590-600 to try to get some sort of news. I'm surprised that the reception is so bad and also that I've never been able to get the BBC. Went down for a meal: and all you can eat buffet for 3D. I had a heaped plate, then another half, then a felafel. I now feel ... replete. In the evening the hotel showed the second half of 'Lawrence of Arabia' (the first tape was broken) which was ok. I was more pleased to see a few minutes of English language news before it. 


I'm actually a bit cold now. It looks like Winter is coming to the desert, and I guess Israel's going to be pretty cool by the time I get there.







Another mostly fascinating day. I got up bright and early to catch the claimed 7 am or 7:30 am buses to Amman. I watched both the 6 and the 6:30 stop outside the hotel at exactly their scheduled times but the 7 didn't come until 7:20 and it went straight past without stopping. The 7:30 I don't think ever eventuated. Certainly, by 8:10 I had given it up. I took a service taxi, I thought, for 3D, but he couldn't get the other fares so he dropped me at the Wadi Moussa main pickup point and a guy from another hotel (the owner) who was going to Ma'an said I could come with him and get a bus from there. So off we went (1D.)  At Ma'an I got another service with 7! other people and the driver (2D) and had an extremely uncomfortable 250 km drive. 


Arrived in AMMAN


Dropped at the Abdali bus station and was accompanied into another service by another friendly Jordanian who was a medical student in Irbid, stopping at the downtown markets on his way back there. cost only 13p! After this the guy showed me downtown until I started recognising some landmarks (Roman Amphitheatre) and street names. I left him with many thanks at the Visitors' Centre, where I sat for a while and got oriented. Managed to find my way fairly easily to the Cliff Hotel, although I did overshoot the alley at first and discovered the Venicia Hotel, which apparently has email facilities. It occurred to me that it was high time that I got connected; but first find the Hotel. I have a double room for 6D which is really quite acceptable, though the steps up are fairly scungy.


On the recommendation of the manager and the guidebook, I went across the road to the Al Hashemi restaurant for some humus fuul, oil, bread, chili dip, and tea. Well worth the approx. 500 fils. Delicious.


Sketch Map of Central Amman


Went off for a bit of an explore of the downtown area. First I went back to the Roman amphitheatre which was pretty impressive, and fascinating to see it in casual use by the ordinary citizens of Amman. Pleasant, too, to stroll through the colonnadedpathways with trees (scruffy by NZ standars, but very welcome greenery nonetheless.)


The Amphitheatre

Atop the hill in the background is the Citadel


From there I moseyed on up the hill opposite to the Old Citadel, which had remains of Byzantine or Hellenistic, I think, buildings. (They looked to me like 2nd-3rd C. temples - but what would I know?) Behind the Museum there were Omayyad buildings, including a restoration in progress of the Omayyad reception hall. The restoration is being done by a Spanish organization who call the building an alcazar - which, this context makes clear, is an al qasr. I also visited the Jordan Archaeological Museum that is situated in the middle of all this. It was supposed to be 2D, but I snuck in without paying. An excellent set of exhibits. The highlights for me were the Nabataean sculptures and the replica of the Mesha' stele (the Moabite Stone) and some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They had the Copper Scroll there, which was pretty neat. Unfortunately, we (a French guided tour group and myself) were being hurried through because the staff wanted to close at 4. Strange, I thought, because the advertised hours are till 5pm. Still, I was hardly in a position to complain.


After this I wandered back down and picked up a yummy chocolate cake slice from a sweet shop. Took a break to write this and to rest a bit. Went to Venicia and did email stuff. I found that my mail previusly had failed because of a faulty address, so I sent that off immediately and wrote a second one just quickly talking about Dahab. I said I'd do another one from Jerusalem, but if I'm still here in a couple of days I may have to do it from here.


Soccer on the Citadel


Went back to the hotel and queried whether any groups would be going to the desert castles, and if so when. It does not seem that there are any trips planned soon, but the guy will keep an eye out for possible companions. It looks as if I may have to do Jerash tomorrow instead. That's be a real bummer. Had a meal at Abu Saleh just down the road a bit. Rather large and not really all that tasty. Once again, no mensaff. I'm beginning to believe this is a mythical dish which never actually appears.







Awake early. Paid my extra half dinar for a hot shower (bloody cheek) and went out to sort out a trip to Azraq and the Desert Castles. This turned out not to be possible. I went to the Visitors' Centre and it was closed until 9am. So then I checked all the hotels on the way back to the Venicia, which I saw last night was organizing tours. Most of them didn't know what I was talking about, but one put me in touch with the tourism board or some such bureaucracy. They said (I do mean 'they', I must have gone to 3 or 4 people) that I had to rent a car. Well, that's not right. By this time it was about 9, so I went back to the VC who told me that there were no tours to the Desert Castles. JETT don't do them, contradicting what the guidebook says. This was starting to piss me off a bit so I sat and had a bit of a think and a breakfast at the Tourist Restaurant. I think only tourists could afford to eat there: it cost 2D for an omelette with no more than 20 french fries and a chopped tomato, pita, and a (dirty!) can of coke. Anyway, I decided that I couldn't spend any more time in Jordan and I would go to Jerusalem now. I made that decision about 10 - 10:30 and I was in Jerusalem by about 2.


Went back to the hotel - which is not so great as the guide would have it, distinctly unhelpful, actually - packed up and buzzed off down to the service centre by the Tourist Restaurant. They directed me me back to near my hotel for a service to Abdali, but I waved one down just across the street and it took me out there for half a dinar.. From there I was pointed towards another service going to Sheik Hussein Bridge, 1 1/2 D. And from there there were absolutely no directions given to border crossers. I eventually found someone to look at my passport and give me a piece of paper a a departure ticket. Then he took 4D as a 'departure tax' - which is just more governement looting, which even NZ does because it can get away with it. Then I was put onto a bus and given a ticket, which they eventually wanted 1 1/2 D for. Bloody rip off bastards. That was half a D more than I had so I had to give over US$3 (2D.) After that the bus crept across the Bridge (I presume, since I missed it.) Outside there were hordes of soldiers and numerous checkpoints. It felt like a very unfriendly border.