27 June 2007

Epilogue

I'm home now, and it was a magical journey. Jordan is a land filled with the history of the world and populated by the most hospitable and friendliest people on earth. Everyone you will meet in this place will bid you "Welcome to Jordan!" and will do everything in his power to ensure you feel welcome. This applies not only to shopkeepers and tour guides, but to everyman on the street. Anyone you might meet is compelled by his culture to welcome you and offer his hospitality.

One of the things that attracts me to this part of the world is the history. Amman, formerly known as Philadelphia was part of the Roman Decapolis. Ten cities across the Middle East made up this historically significant era. Art and architecture were at their peak. The magnificent ruins are testament to that fact. The remote desert castles, the many ampitheatres and the ruined cities of Jerash and others remind us that we are not the first ones here. Walking the streets and paths formerly used by such personages as Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and countless other historical figures makes one feel humbled and insignificant. It also produces a feeling of awe, and if you stop for a bit and listen closely, you can almost hear the ancient voices speaking to you over the millenia.

For me, the trip was even more important because I was able to spend fourteen days with Zeek. He made sure that every second was special. For two weeks I was treated as a King and wanted for nothing. Leaving him behind, for the fourth time, was one of the most difficult moments of my life. I miss him terribly. Still, we refuse to give up our dreams and hopes for immigration. Given the current political climate, the battle may become even more difficult, but it won't end until we have achieved it.

I hope you enjoyed our little blog. We had immense fun creating it, deciding what to tell you and which pictures to share with you. Please feel free to make any comments you like on any or all of the posts. We will appreciate reading them; and we will look forward to doing this again!

Zeek & Jim

A Few More Pics






23 June 2007

More Red Sea Pictures






Aqaba and Red Sea





On Wednesday we went down to Aqaba. Believe me, it was hot as
hell down there and the humidity was unbelievable! But, after
dropping our bags we ran down to Red Sea and stepped in the
water. How can that water be so damned cold in such a hot place?
Since weekend had not yet begun, it wasn't so crowded on the
beaches or in the pools.


We wandered around the city. I think we looked into almost every
shop there. We found a nuts place and bought half a kilogram of
roasted mixed nuts (pistachios, almonds and cashews) and then
went to a cocktail shop that is a favorite of Zeek's. There we
drank a concoction he invented...orange juice mixed with carrot
juice. Suprisingly, it was very tasty and refreshing. The sea
breezes kept us somewhat cooler, since the sun had set by this
time.


Next morning, we got up very early and ran down to the beach and
dived into the sea. God, that water was so cold it would take
your breath away!!! But, it was also so refreshing! Zeek actually
got out (waaay out) into the water with me and we just enjoyed
the sun and water so much.


Later in the day, more shopping then back to the beach and swam a
bit more and enjoyed a couple of beers as we watched the sunset
behind the mountains of Palestine.


Next day we enjoyed a nice breakfast (?) at Burger King and
decided to run over to the bus depot and reserve our seats for
the return to Amman. A stroke of luck led us past a bus that was
getting ready in that moment to leave, so we jumped inside,
bought tickets, got inside the bus and rolled off toward Amman. I
say it was good luck because the bus was bigger, more comfortable
and the air conditioner worked better. It was also way less
crowded than the bus we rode down to Aqaba in. Here are a few
interesting pictures we made whilst we were there.

19 June 2007

More Dead Sea Pictures





Dead Sea






We have just arrived from our trip to Dead Sea and it was a really great trip! Sadly, we are both sun burnt a bit, but we will survive that. As soon as we arrived, we dropped our bags, changed our clothes, grabbed our cameras, and dashed down to the shore. After enjoying the view for a few minutes we dropped our shirts on a chaise and went down and jumped into the sea. I will tell you again that it is a truly strange sensation to lie down in that water and not to sink!

Unfortunately, like a true eejit I decided to turn myself over and swim as I would in sweet water. Let me tell you, that WILL NOT work!!! Immediately, my eyes and mouth were filled with that salty water and my eyes burnt like fire! Try wiping the water away with your hands and you will only worsen the situation. So, I backed myself up toward the shore so I could sit and just wait for the sun to dry the water from my eyes. Remember, at this point, it was still impossible to even open them, so I’m doing this blindly. Zeek managed to make his way over to help me get closer to the shore. All this thrashing about was observed by a man on the beach. He came over and yelled for me to come toward his voice and dry my eyes with his t-shirt. After all was settled he introduced himself as the new Chef there at the Marriott. He is from New York City and had just arrived there himself. He and his fiancĂ© are moving to Dead Sea.

After we came out of the water we gave ourselves a mud bath. Cute picture, isn’t it? We wandered round the shoreline for a while, until the mud dried and then showered it off and lay on the chaise lounges to have a couple of beers and relax.

The rest of our time there was spent lounging round the pool smoking nargilla and drinking beer. After we checked out of the hotel, we were sitting in reception waiting for our bus to arrive and who should we see but our old friend Danny who now works in that hotel. He was a bit upset because he didn’t know we were there because he would have arranged some special meals and discounts for us. Sadly, it was too late for any of that, but you can sure believe we will remember he is there next visit!

Madaba and Mount Nebo





Madaba and Mt Nebo

Sunday, 17th June we hired a bus to Madaba and Mt Nebo. We were met by our friend Faisal, who was our guide at Petra. His explanations and descriptions of the sites we were to see were perfect.

At St George’s Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba exists the remains of a mosaic map created in the early 9th century. The church was destroyed by fire and about ⅔ of the map was lost; however the part that remains is in great condition and is a wonderful example of ancient artistry and skill. We also visited an ancient hermit’s cave, an ancient church, the mosaic school and the Memorial to Moses.

The church at the Memorial to Moses was destroyed by earthquake in the latter part of the 19th century, and is now maintained by Franciscan Friars who have been there since 1933 when it was restored. To this time they live and work there. Masses and other special events such as weddings and baptisms are still held in the church. In 2000 the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II made a visit to the site. A huge statue was erected in commemoration of that event on the road leading to the church.

Many will tell you that Moses died here and that is the reason for the memorial. However, no one knows where Moses died, but it is known that he lived for some time in this area. This fact is known from several ancient inscriptions found during the restoration, as well as the fact that this area was inhabited by Ammonites. Moses took his wife from the Ammonite people. This particular site was selected because of the view to Palestine. As most of you know, the legend says that Moses was taken to the top of a mountain where he could see the “promised land”, but was not allowed to set foot in it. Thereafter, he died and was buried by Yahweh. From the site of this church you can easily see Palestine and Dead Sea in a panorama that is breathtaking.

It was a gorgeous, sunny and breezy day. Sadly, the long-distance pictures of the countryside didn’t turn out so well because of the haze.

15 June 2007

Petra!!!




We made it down to Petra today. The weather, really, was very nice but to a soft one, ancient of days like me it was hot as hell! The trip was so nice, though. We decided to go with a guide this time, so that was a good thing and a bad thing. The bad part was we had to endure the constant chatter of a couple of guys from Malaysia and a mad Englishman… Enough said about that.

We walked, so we were told by the guide, about 7 kilometers. For those of you who don’t know how many miles that equals…look it up. You won’t imagine how many people were there today!! It was crowded as hell.

In order to reach the city of Petra one must walk through the mountain in a channel cut by water over several millennia called Siq. This is the only way to enter the city. The walk through the Siq (about 1 mile) was so nice. As usual there was a nice cool breeze blowing through it, making it a comfortable walk. We stopped at several spots along the way for the guide to explain significant figures.

When we neared the end of Siq you can just begin to see Khazneh (The Treasury) as your first view of Petra. The sight will take your breath away, especially if it is your first trip. Even if it isn’t, it is still an awe inspiring view!

We (Zeek and I) decided to take a horse drawn carriage back out of the city to the top of the mountain. That was the roughest ride I have ever experienced. I am so sure that both Zeek and I left parts of our guts along the Siq!!

You will see some of the pictures posted here, and I will tell more tales when I am home.

13 June 2007

Wednesday, 13th June 2007

It was another gorgeous day in Amman. The temperatures were nice and low and the breeze was so refreshing! We spent most of the forepart of the day just doing very little and went out in the afternoon. We had a great supper of Persian Rice prepared with saffron and other spices topped with half a chicken. It was accompanied by lentil soup that was some of the best I've had and salad of cucumbers, mint and parsley in yogurt. As a topper for the chicken and rice was a spicy sauce that can best be described as similar to Mexican salsa. After supper we enjoyed smoking and Turkish coffee.

After supper we were off to shop! There is a huge European discount store called Carrefour. It's like a Super Walmart. Everything was there! And the prices were absolutely unbelievable! I bought around $100 worth of spices for less than $2 and they are as fresh as tomorrow's news! We bought a few other items and then wandered round the attached mall for a bit before getting a taxi back to the hotel.

Our trip to Petra tomorrow was cancelled. Overbooked, I think. So we will take a half day tour of Madaba and Mount Nebo. Most of you probably remember seeing some pictures from there on the last trip I made here. Mt Nebo is the Memorial to Moses and in Madaba is a Greek Orthodox church with a tile mosaic on the floor that is the oldest known map of the world in existence. I am sure we missed some things doing it on our own last year, so this time we are taking a guided tour.

Petra will be on Friday. More later.

12 June 2007

Transit

The flight from Birmingham to Cincinnati was mostly comfortable. About half an hour into the flight I developed a very sharp pain in my upper back. I think it was caused from carrying that heavy bag with the laptop and other assorted goodies I thought I would need during the flight. Audra told me I would be wishing for a rolling bag... she was soright!! After arriving in Cincinnati I tried to make sure I moved it from shoulder to shoulder to eliminate the strain. Looks like that worked, because it's fine now. The bigger chairs in the next plane helped a lot too.

The transatlantic flight was great too. I got lucky enough to have as a seatmate a young Dutch boy who was so quiet and I slept most of the way over the ocean. The queen who was our flight attendant had a hard time waking me for supper and I went back to sleep almost immediately after eating the tiny meal. I had ordered a diabetic meal, but he told me, apologetically, that the caterers failed to bring it aboard. I absolved him and said I will eat whatever the other passengers were eating.

When I got out of the plane in Amsterdam, the weather was so nice; 68F and the rain had just stopped. However, it stayed foggy for the duration of my seven hour stay.

The airport has been remodeled; completely it seems. Rather than the tiny, cramped smoking rooms I had used in the past, they now have huge comfortable smoking ares with nice seats, chairs and tables as well as a couple of bars and other shops nearby.

I did a bit of shopping at the duty free shop and bought a very nice bottle of Black Bush Irish whiskey along with three boxes of tobacco and some post cards and stamps. I wrote on the cards and posted them from Amsterdam. I hope I won't beat them home as I have in the past.

It's just over two hours till my Amman flight. I want to check in early to hopefully get a good seat. As I remember, Royal Jordanian has comfortable aeroplanes and a very courteous and helpful staff. More when I arrive in Amman.

09 June 2007

Getting Ready

It's Saturday, 9th June and I'm almost ready to fly. My flight leaves tomorrow at 4 pm and it's going to be a long one! I am nervous and excited at the same time. But I always get this way before going to Jordan. There is so much to do, so many things to see and God knows, not enough time to do them all.

Most exciting, though, I get to be with Zeek again after a year! Our plan is he will go over to Marriott and get into the room, make sure the AC is working and open a bottle of wine. He will collect me at the airport and we should be in the room having a late supper by midnight.

I hope to add to this blog on a daily basis, but don't hold me to that at all... I'll post pictures and give a description of what we did during the day and evenings. I hope this will allow you to live the experience with me, as well as preserve my memories of the trip. I'll tell a tiny secret... I am hoping to write a travelogue article for sale to one of the travel magazines when I am back. That will be a nice return, as I understand most of them pay rather well.

Save this web address to your favorites and keep checking back. Who can say? You might see something you enjoy!