Blitzed in Petra

After that, Mohammad took us to the Amman Citadel overlooking the city. This was:
“Another Roman ruin,” I explained to Nazy. “I don’t know why the Romans liked building ruins.”
The site, however, provided a great view of Amman, had many old, nifty buildings and featured a museum that displayed fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
We returned to the hotel to regroup and plan for the rest of our stay in Jordan. Darius wanted us to make a quick trip to Jerusalem: “It’s only an hour drive from here. But..”
“But?” I inquired.
“If I get an Israeli stamp in my passport, I’ll be kicked out of Lebanon. You’ll be ejected too, but doesn’t matter for you, you’re leaving anyway. Probably we can get the immigration officials to, eh, not stamp the passport.”
“Probably?” I inquired.
“Almost certainly.” Darius replied.
We eventually decided that it wasn’t worth the risk. While we considered alternatives for te end of the week, we contracted with Mohammad to take us to the Dead Sea the next day.
We had dinner that evening in a great Jordanian restaurant. The food was wonderful, but there was no wine. (Jordan is far more Arabic than Lebanon.)
The Dead Sea, a very salty lake, is located 400 meters below sea level. According to folklore, it is impossible to sink in the Dead Sea because of the high salt content. Darius and I were convinced that the affect of the salinity would be disappointingly minor. Nazy, on the other hand, refused to believe that we would be able to tell any difference whatsoever.
We noticed a lot of desert during the drive. As we entered the seaside resort, Mohammad ushered us straight to the gift shop. After extricating ourselves, we changed and headed for the sea. The weather was warm, but not stifling. As a result of salt concentration four times higher than the ocean, the “water” looked oily. We waded in.
“Are there any animals here?” Nazy asked. “I always get stung by jellyfish.”
“This is the
Dead Sea,” I replied. “We are the only things alive here. Make sure that you don’t let any water get in your eyes – and don’t taste the water either.”
I quickly noticed Darius and Nazy floating
high in the water []. We could see Israel (the ‘West Bank’) on the other side of the Sea. Folklore was accurate: it was impossible to sink.
After enjoying the sun for a few hours, we rinsed off in the fresh water pool. Nazy asked Mohammad to take us to a nearby hot spring spa.
It was a beautiful drive upward (to the 200 meters below sea level sign), but the spa was closing. Mohammad offered to take us to a ‘nearby local site where you can feel the hot water.’ We also watched the sunset [] with a white sun reflecting on the Dead Sea.
Mohammad’s local hot spring would have been nice – if it weren’t for the fact that it was also a public trash disposal site.
On the drive back to the hotel, we discussed our options for the next few days. Mohammad suggested that we drive to Petra where he would arrange a hotel. From there, we could proceed to Wadi Rum before returning to Amman.
“Luckily,” I explained to Nazy and Darius, “I got a good deal on the hotel in Amman, so we can afford to leave our room vacant for the day.”
“Should we let Mohammad arrange a hotel in Petra?” Nazy asked.
“Mohammad,” I whispered, “thought that we’d like the local hot spring. Given your persnickety feelings about hotels, perhaps
I should choose the hotel.”
“Given your track record, Dan,” Nazy replied. “Mohammad may be a better choice.”
(Naturally, I ignored this painful jib.)
Back at Le Vendome, where the internet worked perfectly, I selected the Petra Crowne Plaza, a
+ hotel. (No one bothered to tell Mohammad.) We had dinner at a nearby, but wine-less, Pizza Hut.
Petra, about 4 hours from Amman via the Desert Highway, was featured in the movie: Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade. When we arrived in Petra, Mohammad, disappointed to discover that we had booked our own hotel, began planning his revenge. Our hotel, on the other hand, featured a wonderful view and was met with high praise from Nazy and Darius.
Pliny and other writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans. (“
Finally,” I thought, “ruins not left by the Romans. I wonder who the Nabataeans were.”) The city is carved from the red rocks and featured sophisticated water management systems. The world heritage site is entered through a narrow gorge called a Siq. We began the trek on horseback.
The horseback ride was, according to our ticket, “included in the entry fee”. When we dismounted, it became clear that no one had told the guide.
“Tip is required.” The guide told me.
Unfortunately, I had no small Jordan bills. The guide was disdainful as I offered him Jordanian change. In response, I pulled out a
5 bill from the UK.
“That’s only 5J
OD.” The guide replied. “I can make change for your US$50 bill.” He offered me $20 in change. Luckily, I was holding (tightly) to my wallet and money. I gave him the 5 and walked away to cat-calls.
We walked through a very narrow gorge that opened into
The Treasury:
The Treasury was the first of an extensive series of buildings carved, from the top down, out of the cliffs. We walked through the remainder of the site arriving at the end about 5 hours later. We had to get back and:
“We could walk,” I sighed. “Or book a ca
Negotiations with the nearby camel provider were tense. Thirty
JOD ($45) each was his opening offer.
JOD.” I replied.
“No one will take you for 10
“Then we will walk.”
“Ten.” I turned away and began walking – while simultaneously ignoring nasty looks from both Darius and Nazy.
The camel salesman conferred with his boss. I kept walking. “Okay, 10
JOD. But don’t tell anyone,” the salesman whispered as he ran up to me. We mounted our camels and returned to the Treasury.
Back at the hotel, Darius and I worked to establish internet connectivity. The first step was to get electricity to my laptop. Jordan uses 240 volt power and British receptacles. Luckily, I had a British plug. Noting that the receptacle was under the desk, I ‘permitted’ Darius to insert the power cord.
Darius crawled under the desk and there was a loud, sizzling crack and a brilliant flash of light. Darius had been blitzed. Three voices sounded immediately and simultaneously:
“Urgh!” Darius shouted.
“Get your finger out of that socket!” I bellowed.
“Why are you trying to kill our son?” Nazy screamed.
After a short break, Darius, massaging the fingers across which a 240 volt lightening strike had passed, was miffed that by my remark. “Did you think I did that on purpose?” Nazy was unconvinced by my explanation that Darius, being ‘more limber’ was best suited to establish the connection. We decided to use laptop battery power.
After things calmed down, we shunned a dinner in town in favor of the hotel restaurant which had a great view [] and was able to serve wine.
The next day we drove to the Wadi Rum, the place where Lawrence of Arabia roamed during World War I. Mohammad, having missed his commission from the Petra Hotel, took no chances at the Wadi Rum. He bypassed the normal park entrance and drove directly to, well, somewhere remote, where he had arranged a local 4-wheel tour with a Bedouin guide.
The Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in South Jordan. Our guide, Rafael, was friendly and we saw a lot of cool stuff. (It would have been nice if Raf had actually been able to speak English.)
We stopped to meet Rafael’s uncle Ishmael. (Rafael was one of 33 children; his Dad had three wives.) We listened to Bedouin folk songs and visited the family village. After the tour, we returned to the base camp where Mohammad had arranged a (over-priced) lunch that we couldn’t avoid. (Mohammad was a value-added driver.)
Back in Amman for our last night, we planned to visit the famous souks (shops) in the center of Amman. Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum were all beautiful. Jordan was more organized than Beirut, but also much more Arabian. Our early experience with the taxi drivers was positive. However, the driver that took us to the souks tried sleight of hand (swiftly switching a 20
JOD note for a 1 JOD note) a maneuver that made us skeptical.
Another taxi driver, a “Jordanian Palestinian” told us that his sister lived in Los Angeles. Nazy asked if he had visited her.
“I tried to get a visa three times…” he began.
Being Palestinian is probably a disadvantage,” I thought.
“… but they know that I’ll
never come back here.” He continued.
“How does your sister like California?” Nazy asked.
“She likes it. She likes it because people follow the rules.”
Don’t let her visit Beirut,” I thought.
Mohammad’s taxi broke down on the way to the airport, but the flight was trouble-free. We had time for a great dinner before our (conveniently scheduled) 3:45AM departure. We changed planes in Istanbul and while we were wandering through Duty Free, Nazy spotted:
“Look at that guy!” Nazy exclaimed. “He must weigh 300 pounds.”
Three hundred pounds was an underestimate. He was wearing gym shorts, as well as a wet and sweaty tee shirt with sleeves cut out (the circumference of his upper arm was about twice the size of my thigh).
“I pity whoever has to sit next to him.” Nazy continued.
“Luckily,” I replied, “there are 20 flights leaving in the next hour. We don’t have to worry.”
Actually, we did have to worry. We had middle and window seats and were settling in when the guy rumbled down the aisle. The airplane tilted as he sat down in our row and our aisle. Nazy was not amused.
must move.” She noted while the guy, oozing over the seat like a Bose-Einstein condensate, settled in next to, eh around, me. (I had wisely given the window seat to Nazy.)
“The flight is sold out, Nazy.” I whispered.
“You should have gotten an aisle and window seat, Dan,” Nazy continued. Loudly.
Then we would both be uncomfortable,” I thought.
“You did it on purpose, Dan.”
Fortunately, the flight, while uncomfortable, was also of finite duration.

Photos from the Trip available here