Landed from the second flight ever operated by QA from Doha to Yerevan, Armenia, where I decided to return for holidays.
Back home early morning, packed for the Jordanian new adventure, changed Qatari ryals into Jordanian dinars, slept a bit and off to the airport. The story of my life – flight after flight. What I love about my driver is that he shuts up. He does not ask or nod or look. He just drives. And that he only sees me in my worse days and looks and never asks me if I’m tired.
It’s funny where life takes you and how your beliefs of today might be shattered tomorrow for the good.
From province town to Bucharest, studying and working hard (and soft) law, to seeing beyond the limitations that ONLY us establish, swapping a lawyer career to a world traveler – or “citizen of the world” as a taxi driver somewhere around the world once called me, seeing world capitals upon desire and not just on fancy Bucharest neighborhood street plates, from Far East to downtown Milan and Manhattan, thinking traveling is my fulfillment and this is all I want to do, growing to see the bigger picture – indeed through traveling – learning, evolving, struggling, transforming, exploring…myself.
Truly, madly, deeply, to extents I never even knew existed, a world of colors and marvels, a new universe of myself that’s not always bright, but leads to light.
From last month’s initiatic – by all means – Cambodian adventure, from the ancient temples of Angkor Wat – where I found only Petra is similar in greatness and beauty, to the deserts and valleys of Jordan.
Because I came to realize nothing is by chance, not even the succession of my trips, the way they happen, not even the turnarounds are by chance – I’ve had the opportunity of getting the most astonishing insights of…life during no layover journeys. This new passion of mine aka job is not just about “look at me how fancy I am traveling around the world”. It’s about learning and becoming…
May 17th 2016, Day 1, Amman, Jordan, around 8 PM
Welcome to Amman, Jordan, we have landed in Queen Alia International Airport where the local time is 8 PM.
Do I need a visa for Jordan? Yes, but it’s mostly on “40JD!” (50E) basis, so on arrival, except for some nationalities.
How do I move around? By bus or taxi. Bus is cheap, but taxi is very convenient time wise.
So, I arrived in Amman around 8 PM and went straight to the hotel.
I booked it close to the bus station (Jett 7th circle) which is at the outskirts of the city – 1st circle is downtown – but still by taxi it’s around 20 min and around 5JD.
“Welcome Rotarians” – on a huge panel by the highway.
A lot of flags in the light wind of a hot Jordanian night.
Everyone’s smoking and I love it, yet I’m not a smoker. It reminds me of
A guy in a Trabant throws his cigarette butt and we’re driving with more than 100 km/hr in an underground tunnel on. I see I’m on Zahran Street.
I was born for this area of the world.
At the recommendation of my Jordanian colleague I went to Rainbow Street. Still in the taxi (5JD from 7th Circle) and already the men in the other cars spot me, wave at me, welcome me to Jordan, hawk, put their hands in their heads, raise their coffees in a cheers gesture. I just smile and smile. Maybe over 50 men said hi in some form tonight. Nobody was intrusive, just friendly.
Arabic coffee made in front of me on the street, lemon mint juice with a garden of fresh real mint, haloumi pie, the intense smell of coffee and mint and now a fresh strawberry banana smoothie.
It feel like Cambodia, but it’s impossible to compare. Arabic music, riding cars with windows down smoking and loud music Arabic style, the oriental scents, the Arabic beards…
On Rainbow Street at Duide – Art Gallery Cafe. Wanted to sit at Q, where upstairs there’s an awesome bar, but it’s full and I’m a bit tired. Still on my veg/healthy diet and I think I’m in the right place to continue it.
Rainbow Street is lovely, not to crowded, not too crazy, not too wide, not too fancy, not too many restaurants and bars. Some very good ones.
Do I need to mention? I am among few women and, as always, the only one riding alone. People are confused, both men and women, even children stare at me.
I’m mainly covered in a modern Arabic outfit – Long pants, matching light trench, I just don’t wear the hijab. It’s obvious I’m not local.
There are a lot of books around in cafes, on the streets and it thrills me, although Ghaith (rain in Arabic) tells me there is not a reading culture in Jordan, something he wants to raise awareness of through his and his brother’s project – #booksontheroad.
Actually, I stopped at Al Fatatri because of the old Mercedes covered with books they have there. I bought an old collectible Arabic book and took some pictures. I like the chic scene of Amman. And there’s some good graffiti also. Locals say there’s too many cars in the area. Burgers, shaormas, tacos, hot dogs and a bookshop all together on a side street. Sufra’s interior fountain is lovely. I go to see La Calle, but it’s too noisy for me tonight. An Art Gallery is what I need and where I stop.
This escapade is supposed to heal the storm of thoughts during the last month. Let the waves settle down.
Tomorrow I’m heading to Wadi Rum. Again new, unknown, maybe dangerous, for sure unexpected…desert. As much as you can see with the eyes and imagine with the mind.
Wild, God run only desert.
I think in places like these you realize how small you are as a human. And again I go back to my Art History high school teacher, who always used to tell us this is the purpose of art. True art.
A shop called Mllabas sells cool stuff, I walk for a couple of minutes and I get picked by a taxi. I ask how much. He says ok. I smile and hop in. He gives me a night tour of the city, Jabal Amman, some cute streets, the presentation of all the 7 Circles, calls my hotel and drops me off.
We pass by Cicero Pub, Cube, some embassies. Talks a lot about embassies and I just listen.
Today I saw things when I closed my eyes. First an eye, then stairs, then a bird then a saint in covered in white cotton, like Mother Theresa.
May 18th 2016, Day 2, Amman, Jordan to Aqaba, Jordan, 7AM
Good morning. It’s a wonderful day in Amman. I woke up around 6 AM and walked 1 min to Jett Station.
I did not make a reservation and I was on the waiting list, but made it in the bus.
People are nice and helpful and I feel very safe. Easygoing people, relaxed people, smoking people.
The ride should be 4 hours and then another hour by taxi.
By the road there’s quite some plastics and rubbish and because of the road, the bus started shaking.
Oh, desert, here I come.
Many greenhouses along the arid way. There’s not much vegetation f any. Just some goats trying to find it in the rock scenery.
Of what I’ve seen Jordanian people take great pride of their king and royal family. If I think about it even I adore Queen Rania.
The King is everywhere and the most I like when he’s depicted as military leader. How could it be different? I was raised halfway in a military commandment and if I’d believe some rumors, I used to be a great warrior some time ago.
The hills with small flocks of grass look like a painting of hills with green dots. Shepherds in traditional dress with goats.
Coffee is 0.50 Jordanian Dinar which is around less than $1. I bought a small bag with a cheese croissant, two big size amaretto and one nuts heart shape sweet for 1JD only.
I’m in a good mood, a little tired, but that’s nothing new. Looking out the window from seat 33. You know, if God is with you, each place is safe. I’m telling you, next job is war correspondent.
I keep my years open for any Arabic word I hear.
There’s a bus ride attendant. Oh, my flight to Amman, I would have some comments about the crew and the service.
I read too slowly in Arabic, but that’s going to change. And I know not by chance I am here, in an Arabic speaking country and not somewhere else.
I love on the NOW, but can’t help my thoughts flying to what’s next. I’ve always been like that.
Romanian song ringtone and the taxi driver yesterday played some Romanian songs and one of them used to be a party favorite of mine…more than 10 years ago.
Now I start seeing alone women. Covered, indeed. I feel so proud of them. Go girls! You can do anything.
Indicators to Saudi. Ok, maybe I’ll walk home.
There used to be this funny thing asl age sex location before on a program called mirc. One thing I realized is it does not matter in the greater picture.
Always practice forgiveness.
I am the living proof that things happen the way they have to if It’s God’s will and I hope there will be a time when I’ll be able to tell the stories of my incredible impossible things that became reality.
Smoking break after exactly 2 hours.
Everyone told me I will boil in these May Jordanian temperatures, but I’m actually cold and wear a trench all the time.
Oh I love buses. Even 5 hours without scenery makes you more knowledgeable. At least you know how it is.
Amazing scenery starts forming as we approach Aqaba like nowhere else.
May 18th 2016, Day 2, 12:00, Aqaba, Jordan
Aqaba is a beautiful, neat, clean city by the sea, close to the Israeli border. Movenpick Hotel looks cool.
Talib is picking me up at the station and we go together towards The Moon – Wadi Rum is translate as the Valley of the Moon.
I would drive maybe for my mom, but other than that I love being driven around.
Talib, sent by Salem, my guide in the desert (Wadi Rum), picks me up to take me to Wadi Rum village. Salem lives here with his family and around 1000 members of his tribe.
Of course I had some doubts about how it is going to be, where will I sleep in the desert, is it going to be just me or a group etc. I went with an opened heart, as I do in all my travels and good comes to me.
Jordanian people are very helpful and kind. Yes, men will look at you, whistle, hawk, ask you things, welcome you to Jordan, their city etc., invite you for shai (tea), coffee, dinner, lunch, pizza etc., but they are just friendly.
While I still had some doubts – of my own only, Salem took me to his home for a “hospitality tea” together with his mother and father. For me, that says everything.
What a lovely opportunity to see how other people live and open their own home for you.
In fact, this is what this trip was about. Having Salem with me was so helpful to understand more their culture and also to add up a little bit to my Arabic skills.
Here I changed from my black clothes to an all-white outfit, even a white turban and a white scarf/hijab.
Now jumping to other…lives: I was waiting for this love to transform me and it came and it transformed me, but…
By now I’m conquered by the desert and ready for adventure in the right seat of Salem’s jeep.
I really recommend this experience, but be careful what you wish for, what your expectations are. If you’re not ready for the unpredictable, for sand all over you and in your mouth, food and shoes, for bumpy rides and sometimes getting stuck in the soft, yet powerful sand, for jeeps that have their ignition by joining two wires and you know yourself as a sensitive and fancy one, then just stay by the pool in some hotel.
The mountainous sand is splendid.
Huge, yet friendly. Wild, yet welcoming.
Our first stop was at Lawrence’s Spring.
Freedom scent, reddish sand, camel color, cream, cappuccino, a sort of natural Gaudi, a wonder of the modern world – literally, declared by UNESCO. Sun and shadow. Oxygen, some breeze.
Erosion, thousand years’ erosion. The same way I want to evolve and transform myself, little by little, with the patience of the Chinese drop and the artistic touch of the desert wind.
At Wadi Rum sand dunes I leave my shoes and rush up. Oh, this is tiring. Juggling between wanting to stop and take a breath and wanting to rush as the sand is literally burning. I’m wondering now if I have burns on the feet. Of course not, but that’s how it feels.
From the dunes I climb on a rocky structure and I feel I am on top of the world. I am for sure on top of MY world. The wind is strong making me feel the power of the desert of the nature and ultimately of God.
How some of us are too naive to think they have any power in front of nature. I felt the same thing in Argentina at the Iguazu Falls. True force.
From here the jeep down looks so small and the trails left by it in circular shapes so big.
I find the steepest part of this rocky desert curvy mountain and sit there feeling the adrenaline pumping, the wind blowing strong enough to make you lose balance, charging my inner being with the strength, the verticality and rules of the desert.
At the end of the canyon a small natural pool were rain water is collected.
Oh, it’s not very hot outside – true for someone coming from Qatar, but inside the small canyon it is very cool and pleasant ad if you sit on the rock it feels amazing, together with the breeze.
The sand in Wadi Rum has two colors: red and white.
In some places you can see it mix, like in this cave-canyon Salem took me to see. It’s amazing and there are carvings in Arabic letters and wall drawing dating since more than 2 millenia.
Salem shows me everything and he’s so enthusiastic about it. He’s lived here all his life and knows each corner of the desert. Even by night he says.
What I admire most about him is the enthusiasm, his thoughtfulness and his hospitality skills.
He does this for 12 years. Having been to school for 1 year (and then “halas” – finish in Arabic; widely used) his English is really good and he also knows other languages that he says he learn from his clients.
The way he carries himself and takes his small tourist industry seriously recommends him so much more than a lot of very educated people I know.
Close by, a Bedouin tent with some truly local souvenirs, handmade abayas with colorful Bedouin motifs and Bedouin pillows.
Locals are so friendly and they don’t mind if you don’t buy anything.
Three camels make their way in the huge desert.
Salem tells me there are women coming in the desert for a month and that others – European, American, Australian – end up staying for good, marrying Bedouins.
On our long rides in the desert and under the stars of Wadi Rum – a 700 sq km desert – Salem tells me about their nights in the desert, how they sing around the fire, how they speak all night drinking tea, how they cook a whole goat, how sometimes they make it in a hole. He calls it “the simple life”.
After so many hours of going up and down the dunes, back and forth the wide plateaus of the Valley of the Moon we finally arrived at the camp, composed of lovely black and white tents, looking like small cubes in the skyline of the desert and sand eroded mountainous structures.
All camps are the same, some having VIP tents also. My tent has two single beds, one light bulb and a power socket, two windows that you can open from outside and extra blankets. In a nutshell, everything you need.
Saw the sunset on a dune, by myself. Walking up and down, continuously, tireless, restless, barefoot in the soft and now warm but not burning like at noon sand, between tiny enchanting white flowers, so small that you cannot see if you don’t sit. I sat down on the red sand with my all snow white modern Arabic outfit – white leggings and white asymmetric dress with short sleeves on top.
By the way, in Jordan you can wear whatever you want, but remember – and this is applicable everywhere around the world – people judge you first by your appearance.
Oh…I just remembered, so proud of my handmade stone hard purse in Ancient design red, blue, green and gold bought right from Petra, next to the Royal Tombs and of the Bedouin motifs black dress I found at 10 PM on the streets of Madaba.
Got an interesting message – not on my phone – that even now I’m trying to decrypt and then went to the camp where the fire was lit up already and some other desert lovers, together with the Bedouin hosts were gather on the square arranged mattresses around the fire. Parallel to the mattresses, on two sides, there are two long tents, one serving as a dining space for the dinner and breakfast open buffet and one as a rest area. Everything is covered with Bedouin motifs rugs and all is in harmony with the surroundings, including the tents and camp itself.
Under the stars of Wadi Rum Salem and I talk about many things and although he says the Bedouin custom is that women do not work together with men, he seems an advocate for women rights and I don’t he sees them inferior. He tells me he does not agree with the neighbors Saudis who do not let women drive (the only country in the world, for example in Yemen there are fighter captains and special forces soldiers who are women). He told me of many stories when the family went in the desert, the man got bit by a snake and died because the woman could not drive him back.
I emphasize on the price there is to pay for any injustice. I’m in these movies now, about getting what you deserve, either positive or not so appealing.
He says Koran did not ask woman to cover so much as some do – even the face – and that man and women are the same. It’s a pleasure listening to him on these desert mountains that serve as pillows and in the light of the moon. I look at it and then follow some stars, especially the biggest and brightest one.
May 19th 2016, Day 3, Wadi Rum to Petra, Jordan, morning
I left around 9:30 the camp in Wadi Rum, after opened buffet breakfast under the sky in the desert. Salem took me to our last stop together, a spring water cave on one of the mountains where it’s so cool and peaceful. The day is so clear and the colors under the shining sun are bright and amazing. I’m wearing a long dress and a cream T-shirt with Bedouin applied wood motifs. I pick one tree and Salem says it’s mine.
By 11:45 we are in Petra. I don’t have much time, but I manage to see all I want to see in around 2 hours in which I walk continuously, turning down the tens of offers for donkey and horse and carriage rides.
I did take the horse included in the price of the ticket (50JD=$70) and tipped the keepers. I like to tip the people I interact with in my travels. I like to leave money in the countries where I go to, especially to the ones who live off it. You never know who’s medicine or food pays for.
May 19th 2016, Day 3, Petra to Dead Sea, Jordan, 2 PM
It’s a long trip from Petra to the Dead Sea, but I’ll do it just to feel the sensation of the what I heard it would be an oily salty water pushing you up.
All I see is just the opened road.
After two hour nap and one hour trying to wake up, finally here. From up above, from the road by the Sea I see the white salt in the water, the wide sea and the other land, Israel.
The water is great and I’m floating, without moving, just like an air balloon. If I try to swim, I get tossed around. If I want t stand, I get thrown horizontal, so I need to paddle continuously with my legs, like on a bicycle. I hope this salt will take all the negative energies, the thoughts, the sores, the giving up on other people, projects and myself, the rejection. Heal through pain, safest way. Only way.
On the way to Madaba I see: Have a safe trip back to reality.
On Nebo Mountain seeing an astonishing sun set at around 8PM. Still salty even with the two showers I took.
Talib who charged for the whole day trip 130JD, arranged for me to spend the night at Madaba Hotel, for 25JD per night, where I got a triple room just for myself. Here I found two Pilipino, two Jordanian and one chocolate skin curly hair Swedish and one blonde young guy. The latter were here for 2 months as volunteers, right after one year in Indonesia. One of the Pilipino is here for 10 years. The locals cooked a traditional Jordanian dish called sabanekh (meaning spinach) and I could feel the strong delicious garlic smell when I was climbing the stairs to reach last floor where a social area is offered for the convenience of guests – living room, fully equipped kitchen and terrace. I sit on the couch when the invite me to join, which was one of the nicest things to do for the night. Another Australian guest joined and I found out from her over breakfast next morning that she traveled alone all Central America. So, I can do it, too. Soon.
May 20th 2016, Day 4, from Madaba to Amman, Jordan
I’m in Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan, Amman, were I arrived at 10:00 just to find out my flight will leave at best at 4:40. Oh, should I mention I’m leaving tonight to Miami and my company has a a 15 hour rest before each flight policy which I will breach already. As I’m thinking what to do, a baggage handler passes in front of me with a fluorescent green vest no. 11. All is going to be fine, there will be a way.
Now I’m in the airport, by the gate, however, I know that whatever happens, happens. And it’s with a reason. Hohoho, right now it’s 11:11.
Delay, time to reflect. Mercury Retrograde yet, at it’s best.
I know the real reason, but oh, well. I have an argument for everything.
From Amman with love. Cause every step, every bite, each though and look, each sun shade and hotel room or wide open sky star that we sleep under is part of our journey.
I use the time wisely, writing on my blog about Petra and Jordan and studying some Arabic. It’s been 4 hours since I’m here and departure is in almost 3 others.
5 hours and a half and counting.
In the cafe to get a coffee. One pax transiting through Amman on this way to God knows where via Doha wants a drink. That’s it! Of course complicated procedures make it difficult for pax to claim their free meal. So he leaves. I buy it for him and that’s it, it’s still money from QR.
What did I learn in Jordan?
The main lesson was sharing and giving followed by trust in people and your own instincts.
Is Jordan safe?
The places I’ve walked, the things I’ve done, the dark streets I walked alone at midnight not even knowing where I’m going in the city of Madaba (just an example) – that I had no clue it exists until I reached it to spend the night in the most welcoming and friendly environment ever, the night I spent in the desert, the days I spent either in the desert or on the vast roads of Jordan, far away from any means of communication or any people – with foreign men, the help I got at each step is the mere proof that Jordan is a very safe country, even for a solo female traveler like me.