Deb in Amman 9
What a day!
First, I tried to get money from my checking account from the ATM right next to the hotel (from which I had previously obtained money) and it would not let the transaction go through.
When Omar, my driver, showed up, we went to six different ATMs and four of them were not in service and the one that was would not accept my transaction.
I was thinking that I would have to cancel my trip to the Dead Sea, because my understanding was that I was going to need at least 200 JD (and I only had 150 JD) However, Omar saved the day. He told me about a beach that cost only 16 JD to enter (instead of the 60 JD that the Marriott would charge). Then I paid 1.5 JD each for a locker and a towel. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was simply a deposit that I received back when I returned the locker key and towel.
On the way, which took less than an hour, Omar told me about his children: twin 4 year olds, a 2.5 year old and a 1.5 year old, with another one on the way. He explained that Arabs like large families- and like to have the children one after the other.
That makes Mohammad, my driver from the airport, that much more unique in his concern that his wife not have more than 3 children.
Omar was born in Salt and is a Bedouin, so he has a swarthy complexion. He explained that when he was ready to have a wife, his mother and sister arranged for him to visit with the father and brother of the woman they had in mind for him. Omar only saw this woman for 2 minutes when she came in to bring coffee for the men and then left without speaking. Her father immediately asked Omar whether she was acceptable, and Omar said yes.
He was then able to visit with her in her father’s house, but nowhere else. No dating, no going for coffee or to a movie.
I asked him if the woman was able to say “no” and apparently she has no say in the matter, it is simply between the father and the potential husband.
On the way, we saw a large herd of goats with curled horns right in the city of Amman as well as outside the city. There were trucks piled high with tomatoes and lots of small farm stands. One enterprising farmer had parked his truck so you would see the side of the truck as you came down the road. He had arranged some kind of large lettuce all along the top of the truck. It looked very festive. And the fruits and vegetables available in the Jordan valley are lush.
We also saw Bedouins on camels! And on the way back, I saw a herd (is it called a herd?) of camels. Very exciting for me!
While we drove, Omar pointed out where we could see Palestine, gave me the name of mountains (I didn’t get that one down), pointed out the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley, and showed me when we went below sea level. The gradient on the road is very steep, so you can actually feel your ears close up as you’re driving!
Once at the beach, Omar knew everyone and shepherded me through paying for my ticket (he checked to make sure I got the correct change), and getting a towel and a key for a locker. Then he advised me not to buy anything at the shops there because he knew of a place where the items were less than half price, plus he got a 20% discount because he knew them there. He pointed me toward the changing room and off I went.
I only took the towel, water and my glasses down to the beach. Going down meant walking on a long flight of very uneven stone stairs. By the way, although it had been 16 C (I don’t know what that is off hand) in Amman, here at the Dead Sea it was 33 C- very hot!
The water is beautiful and it is absolutely true that you can lie down and it holds you up. It is also very cold! It is very very difficult to swim or even to right yourself after floating because of the salt content. At the water’s edge there are large blocks of salt.
When I got out of the water, I noticed people smeared with black mud. Cassie had told me that this was what one was supposed to do. I kept looking around to see where people got the mud and finally asked a young Chinese man (who was covered from head to toe!). He pointed out a place where they sell the mud for 3 JD per person.
So I had to go back up the long flight of stairs to go get my bag with my money. Then back down to mud up. The Chinese fellow happened by and helped me mud my back. Then an American couple came over to put mud on their faces (1 JD per person) and the woman offered to take a photo of me.
Then I baked in the sun for a while and when the mud was cracking (not a good look, as if wet mud is any better!) I went into the water and tried to wash off. You can’t hunker down in the water because it keeps popping you up again- but I managed. Without a mirror, I’m not sure it all came off.
I trucked back up the hill to an outside shower, where a man had a hose and hosed me down. I was taken aback when he squatted down, increased the pressure of the water and aimed in right at my crotch- for several minutes. He also pointed the hose down the front of my bathing suit and the back. This was a very awkward situation for me. I really didn’t know if he was making sure that my tender parts were not covered with salt- and/or he was getting his kicks with the ancient American lady.
After that, I went back down the hill and sat in my towel (I had no cover up or hat) and read and took photos of people reading a paper while floating (!) and many different men and women. The very religious women did walk into the water, getting the hems of their dresses wet.
There were oodles of beautiful young Chinese women who had a ball getting mudded and floating. Omar told me later that this is the time when there are a lot of tourists from China, Malaysia and I think he said Pakistan. I mentioned that some folks nearby were speaking French and he said a few French and other Europeans come now.
It was lovely to sit near the water and listen to the gently lapping waves (very small waves). I could have sat there for the rest of the day, but I did get worried about how much sun I was getting.
So, back up the hill. There I saw that there were few people in this very large pool, so I put all of my stuff into my locker so I would be unencumbered and could go for a swim.
There were two little boys waiting to use the ladder, on which a non-Jordanian man was standing while he chatted with his friends.
When I got there, he moved off the ladder and I waved the little boys to go ahead. The older boy (maybe 7 or 8) nodded no and gestured for me to go first. In the meantime, the littler one (maybe 4) had started down the ladder. The older boy berated the younger boy, pulled him off the ladder so I could go down first.
The water in the pool was very cold and clear. I swam for 10 minutes or so and then I was done. I went into the changing room and saw only one shower open, which didn’t have a curtain. I used it anyway, and then went to put my clothing on. It was difficult to find anywhere to put anything down, because there were maybe 6-8 Chinese girls there with their bags, etc. spread out everywhere. I got dressed and was thankful that the towel had been packaged in a large plastic bag, because I was able to put my wet swimsuit in it.
(If you are thinking that I was incredibly unprepared for this trip- and should have had a cover up, sunscreen, a hat, and a bag for my wet suit- you’re absolutely right. Working in the office until 6 p.m. every day seriously lessens the likelihood of daylight by the time I get to the hotel. And I’m not going to walk to a store in the dark.
I did have sunscreen when I was in Nigeria, but I packed it in the bag to go back with Tricia. I thought it was going to be winter here.
I have to admit that I almost dozed in the car on the way back, I was so relaxed. Then we stopped at the store Omar had recommended. It was fantastic. Upon entering, a man gave me some wonderful cream for my hands. Then there were all sorts of things to see.
Omar had them try to work with the card that I use to take money out of my checking account, but of course that didn’t work. (I had left my credit cards back at the hotel). When I told them their items were lovely, but I was going to have to come back when I had money, they assured me there was no problem.
The plan was that Omar would take me back to the hotel, where I could get the money for them. At that point, I was very concerned that the ATM would still not be in operation and that I wouldn’t be able to give them the money. They solved that problem by deciding that one of them would ride back to the city with us to swipe my charge card in the hotel!
I probably spent much too much in the store, but they kept giving me huge discounts. There were lots of buy 2, get the third one “free,” and I purchased enough that they threw in some of my items for free. I now have some spectacular gifts, predominantly made by Bedouins. And for those of you who know my shopping habits, you may be surprised to learn that there is neither jewelry or clothing among my purchases!
Now I’m back at the hotel, sunburnt and fed. I ordered room service as soon as I got here, because I never had any lunch. I just took some buns and fruit to the Dead Sea and decided not to eat at the restaurant there because, at that time, I wasn’t hungry.
On the drive, Omar told me about different places to visit and gave me a book on Jordan that was so lovely I purchased one for myself when we got to the store. The plan for next weekend (I think) is to leave Thursday night (we’ll see if I have the energy to do this after conducting training for five days for 30 people!!). We would drive to Wadi Rum, which is more than half way to Petra. There, I will have Bedouin food, watch them dance and also watch a simulated wedding. Omar told me that the sunset and the sunrise there are very beautiful.
In the morning (not too long after sunrise, I imagine) we’ll drive to Petra and stay the night. On Saturday, we would drive back to Amman- with enough time so I’ll be able to set up for the second round of training that begins on Sunday.
The following weekend, we spoke about going to Aqaba, where I will be able to snorkel in the Red Sea, within sight of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. “The Red Sea is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, offering some of the most colorful sea life anywhere.” (I’m quoting from the book).
So, that’s my news!