If you’re wondering, that’s my "This clearly isn’t really happening" face.
Made the flight out of Aswan, spent the night in Cairo, missed my flight to Amman, Jordan the following day.
Turned out my taxi driver didn’t have a license, so he had to bribe the guards at the airport to get past. He wasn’t too happy about that. He dropped me at the wrong terminal. It being Cairo, I had to take three separate buses to reach the right one. Once there, I had to run the length and back with all my bags, getting useless directions from every guard along the way.
I reached the check-in counter as the flight was closing. Threw a tantrum, but it did no good. They put me on the night flight. Business class, so there was that, but I had ten hours to kill.
The airport in Amman has an interesting visa policy. It costs 10 Dinars to get one, and you can only pay in Jordanian currency. There are money exchange desks, but if all you’re carrying is a bank card, this is a problem, because the bank machine is on the other side of immigration.
When I presented my problem to a guard, a number of them huddled together to discuss it. There was passionate yelling and long, ponderous head-scratching. It was as if, with flights landing every hour, I was the first person to run into this dilemma.
Still bitter over the Cairo debacle, I had little patience left. I marched past the guards to go get some damn money out. This threw them into a panic.
"No no no! You cannot do that!"
"You must have visa."
"Yeah. We covered this. I don’t have money for a visa. I need to go get some."
Looks of anguish and worry, as if their jobs were at stake.
After several more minutes of deliberation, at last a ranking security officer escorted me to the ATM. Problem solved.
On returning, he asked the burning question. "Excuse me, sir. You are American?"
"How did you guess?"
He gave an awkard laugh and I got some insight into what their long discussions had been about.
I recently got an email from an American named John who is living in Jordan. He said if I ever planned to visit, I should let him know. I wrote back with "How about next Sunday?"
I get emails like this from time to time and rarely take people up on their offers, mostly to avoid…ya know…hole drilled into head, acid poured in the brain, chained in basement as zombie sex slave.
But the timing was close enough and the region intimidating enough that I decided to take a chance.
Fortunately, John isn’t into that kind of thing.
Having missed my flight, we weren’t able to meet up when we were supposed to. I got in super-late and found a hotel in the downtown area. In Jordan, "downtown" is a euphamism for "hive of scum and villainy," but I didn’t know any better.
There are no street addresses in Jordan, so the directions I gave John to my hotel were useless. We finally met up later in the morning and rushed straight out of the city for Petra.
John had taken the day off work and stocked the car with drinks and snacks. Thoughtful guy.
It was great being around an American again. For as much as I criticize my countrymen, there is a certain way of seeing things that is uniquely ours. He had much to say on Muslim culture — stuff that’d been bothering me for the last week, he’d been dealing with for over a year.
The endless deliberation I endured at the airport; it’s a thing. Nothing is done without a long period of negotiation. As an American, I’m very action-oriented. And for all the places I’ve visited where the pace is slower, I still have trouble down-shifting.
For some reason I had it in my head that John worked at the US Embassy. Turns out he’s an instructor at the Iraqi Police Training Facility.
That Iraqi Police Training Facility? The one the White House is always going on about? The one they’re betting the farm on? The linchpin in their effort to get us the hell out of there?
Yes. That one.
"When are you leaving again?"
"My flight is tomorrow."
"Too bad. If you were staying an extra day I could take you to work with me."
"Did I say tomorrow?"
So we got to Petra. Neat place. I neglected to do any reading on it beforehand…and you know what? I still haven’t bothered.
No history lesson for today, folks. Just some pictures.
That’s John on the right.
You may recognize this image from…come on, you know it…
Here’s a hint: "We named the dog Indiana."
That’s right. This is where the Knights Templar hid the Grail of Christ, and where an aging Indiana Jones removed it.
Turns out there’s no Grail inside — no nifty decapitating buzzsaws either. It’s pretty much just a facade.
They call it the Treasury, but I find it hard to believe anyone would go to all that trouble decorating a treasury.
There’s only one reason people make stuff like that: to show everybody how nauseatingly much they love God.
John’s guess seems accurate; that it was built as some kind of temple, then the Romans came in, took it, and used it to store all their cash. Sounds about right, huh?
We tried doing a dancing clip in front of it, but it was a little bland.
I found this framing a lot more mysterious and compelling.
It took a while to get it right, so I was lucky to have someone with the patience to hold the camera through multiple attempts.
Here’s an amphitheater of some sort.
I don’t have anything interesting to say about it.
We didn’t stick around very long once we got the shot. Lot of Japanese. Lot of guys trying to sell camel rides. Some difficult hikes, but not too much to look at.
[This post is unfinished. I’ll polish it off later.]