You are welcome.
26.12.2009 - 26.12.2009
Thanks to the general flavor of western media coverage, we had some trepidation about visiting a middle eastern country. Ironically, it turned out to be one of the most pleasant. The people are uniformly kind, welcoming and genuinely helpful.
The day we visited the Dead Sea was especially memorable. Having discussed how to get there using public transport the previous night, we headed off with our towels and bathing suits. After a rather long walk through Amman to the bus stop, we found the correct one (an old but serviceable minivan, pretty much the standard transport in most of the countries we've seen) and hopped on. Not long after leaving Amman, the bus gets flagged down at a checkpoint, at which point all the passangers start pulling out their ID cards. All except Nelly and I who have managed to not bring any. Oops. After some explaining, which the passanger to our left helped us with in Arabic, the quards bid us the ubiquitous "Welcome to Jordan!", and we were on our way. This happened two more times, Nelly and I both stressing out considerably, realising we're in the middle of a middle Eastern country, bordering Israel, with no ID, but each time after a short explanation that we're Canadian we were welcomed and sent on our way.
At one point we reached an intersection and the bus driver urged us to hop of and board a different bus that would continue to the Dead Sea. We were apprehensive but we obliged, and were rewarded with a most luxurious red velvet interior, complete with embroidered hearts on the ceiling of this also somewhat dilapidated minivan.
After taking us on some interesdting backroads throughb local villages, we eventually reached a rather large highway and could see the sea. The bus driver once more told us to hop off and trhat we should find a bus heading south since he was going north. Most of this was communicated in Arabic so we were not entirely at ease that we would ever get to this famed tourist beach. However, having little choice we once again hopped off in the middle of approximately nowhere, in searing desert heat, and began walking towards yet another checkpoint. Our luck was holding, though. The guard, after listening to our sory, bade us welcome and reassured us that we were heading in the right direction. He also said that there may indeed be a bus at some point, but by bthis point we had determined that there was some type of holiday, so bus service was intermittent at best. We walked a bit past the checkpoint and then decided to take refuge in some shade while we dabated our options. The guard we had spoken to was checking another car, and immediately after sending it on its way, he waved to me, pointed to the car heading our way and gave the thumbs up sign. The car promptly pulled up and the two young gentlemen inside explained they were employees of the resort near the beach we were going to. They were on their way to work and would be happy to give us a lift. Nelly was a little heasitant, but we hopped in and sure enough they delivered us the few kilometers to the beach in question, smiling and affable the whole way.
After enjoying the buoyancy and black mud of the Dead Sea, we were faced with an interesting problem.
Because it was a holiday, it seemed that there were no buses heading back to Amman. There was a possibility of a taxi, but they were extremely expensive. After a short discussion with a security guard, he assured us we could just go up to the road and a bus would pass by in a few minutes. Dubious, but with little choice, we took up our spot in the still sweltering sun and hoped. Buses came, and buses went, but we had no idea where they were going or if they were interested in passangers. After some time, I started waving them down indiscriminately in hopes of finding one going our way. Sure enough, a man driving a minvan stopped. He was heading to Amman and for a modest fee was willing to take us. I was just glad to get out of the heat, and again against Nelly's better judgment we hopped in. His English was sparse at best, but we had a nice ride and he did manage to communicate to us that he could help us get tickets to Petra, our next destination. Upon arriving in Amman, he took us to the bus station, helped us book our tickets, then took us as close as he could to where our hotel was (the streets were closed for the parade). All in all, a somewhat humorous, somwhat stupid and all around lucky day. Thank you Jordan, and thank you kind Jordanians.
We owe you one.