Jordan: Four Days Just Isn't Enough.Author: lynncarol (More Trip Reviews by lynncarol)
Date of Trip: November 2007
Although it was cold outside, our hotel room was roasting. Since no cool air would come out of the vents, we called the front desk to complain. They immediately sent someone up who explained there was no air conditioning in the hotel and if we wished to cool off, just open a window. (How embarrassing)! We joined Vince and my sister-in-law, Pam, for cocktails in their room before going downstairs to dinner. After walking all day, everyone was ready for an early bedtime.
With a 9:00 check-out, we could enjoy the latest departure in quite a while. Today's "official" itinerary called for a return to Amman via the King's Highway with an evening flight back to Cairo. Abdulla explained there was still time to view one more attraction (for additional money) if we wished. The four of us had a hurried conference and elected to see Karak Castle, which had been erected in 1161 by the Crusaders. With its commanding hill-top position almost 1000 meters above the Dead Sea Valley and proximity to Jerusalem (only 35 km. away), Karak Castle was one of a great line of fortresses stretching from Aqaba to Turkey. In 1187, however, it was captured by the Muslims and ultimately portions of the fortress served as a mosque and a castle. The ancient fortress was amazingly intact and we had quite an extensive tour. Abdulla even prevailed upon one of the guards to open an underground section of the structure which contained the best preserved rooms. As an added bonus, a movie was being filmed while we were there. Fierce-looking Arabs brandishing scimitars were swarming about the site. At one point, our little group was approached by four of the costumed actors who scowled, raised their weapons and then confiscated Abdulla's water bottle! (Its return was accompanied by much laughter). We perused a small museum on the premises that contained skeletons, pottery and artifacts from the Neolithic to late Islamic periods and enjoyed great views of the surrounding countryside. Lunch was at a nearby restaurant where we finally got some really good baklava.
During our time together, we had learned Abdulla was a strict Muslim of Beduoin heritage. (His wife even wore a burka). As we drove north along the King's Highway, Pam prevailed upon Abdulla to tell us how he met his wife, which gave us a fascinating insight into his traditions. As the oldest of 17 children, his "courtship" was preceded by delicate negotiations between the families and, once betrothed, the couple had spent only a few, well-chaperoned, moments together before their marriage. With so many relatives, over 1000 guests (not counting children) attended the wedding festivities which lasted for days. Married now for eight years and with three children, it was obvious that he still adored her.
This narration was interrupted by a cell phone call from his wife. Abdulla sheepishly explained that she was always apprehensive whenever he accompanied foreign women about the country. When I jokingly responded, "I hope you tell her we are all old and ugly" he replied, "Of course! I am no fool."
Suddenly, the flat desert landscape underwent a dramatic metamorphosis: We had arrived at Wadi Mujib, an Arab version of our Grand Canyon. The road began a 1000 meter descent, through a series of hair-pin curves, down to the river. (It reminded me of a similar drive down Black Gunnison Canyon in Colorado). Now we understood why Abdulla had commented, "Nobody, who doesn't have to, ever takes the King's Highway". Stopping at an overlook, everyone got out to admire the view, which included a large, recently-constructed dam. There was only one other car at the pull-off and the occupant stood alone, gazing forlornly into the base of the canyon.
While we were preoccupied with snapping photos, Abdulla engaged in an extended conversation with the stranger. Back in the van, we learned the man was also a Bedouin and as a child his family often camped along the river. Now with the dam, the shaded riverbanks he had loved were gone. It was a very sobering thought: What brings progress to some may create despair in others. The road crossed the Wadi (gully) and began to ascend. We passed several nomad encampments before stopping at a final overlook. A vender was selling local crystals and colorful rocks and after seeing one that contained fossils, I couldn't resist. We had a 7:00 p.m. flight out of Amman and en route to the airport, Abdulla had the driver stop while he ran into a shop, ostensibly to pick up something his wife had requested. To our surprise, he returned with a parting gift of beautifully wrapped Arab pastries for us. I realized again how broadening travel can be. With Abdulla, I felt we had somehow made a connection that transcended our vastly different cultures. Onboard our plane, all four of us expressed the same thought: Jordan was far more than just Petra and our time spent there had been nowhere near long enough.
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