Jordan V – Amman

November 12. 2015

I have a bad cold when I wake up so I just have a can of tea and then search a pharmacy to get flu pills. I rest until noon and then find out that the Amman citadel is just, well not around the corner but up at the hill. My muscles are still sore from the steps in Petra but I don’t care and go up there. The sight is really worth the climbing, some parts of it are older than 8500 years. After a little less than 2 hours I go back to the hotel to take a little nap again and more flu pills.

In the evening I get food again at Hasheems restaurant. On the table next to me are some people from Lebanon who invite me for tea and more food. I am full of Humus and falafel already but don’t want to insult them so I eat some more and have another tea with them. They tell me that Lebanon is even more expensive than Jordan but really beautiful.
In the evening a friend tells me about a terrorist attack in Beirut – two suicide bombers have killed more than 40 and injured over 200 people. So it will be very secure in the week to come I think but probably a lot of annoying checkpoints everywhere. I don’t want to stay in Beirut anyway as it really seems to be incredibly expensive (though very beautiful as many people tell me).

Jordan IV Dead Sea and Amman

November 11. 2015

When I wake up around 7 o clock Allahn is already busy building up his tea stall. We spend about one hour chatting without understanding each other – no problem, we have fun. He shows me how to fix a scarf on my head like Arabs do and suddenly I really look like one of them!

A little later I climb down to the bank of the dead sea which nowadays is a little below 500m below sea level – the lowest point on earth. Even though I feel a cold coming up I have to take a swim of course. The “water” is surprisingly warm and I bounce on it like cork in the water – its real fun! Filling up a bottle I want to take as a souvenir I am surprised by the weight. It feels like twice as heavy as usual freshwater but still is crystal clear!

Before I leave I take Allahn to the village which is about two kilometers away to refill his freshwater. He has no car and I have seen nobody but him at his place – no family, no costumers – I wonder what his story is when finally leaving. I pass the expensive hotels at the edge of the dead sea and then take the first possibility to go left to take a look at the border to Palestine/west bank. I really want to see river Jordan which is probably one of the shortest but still most important rivers in the world – for sure the lowest.

I wonder what expects me there as it is a very sensitive area and I am a little nervous when I stop at the military checkpoint. I try to explain my desire to see the river but they don’t really understand as they speak nearly no English at all. “Wake Major” the guard says smilingly – all seems good even though heavy guarded. After the guard is banging on a metal door for minutes the Major finally wakes up and I get the weakest handshake ever.

He wants to see my passport so I go back to get it with the guards who search my car while I get the passport. They don’t search very motivated then take my passport and bring it to the Major who has already called somebody to ask how to handle me. I try to explain again I want to see the river but I don’t think they understand. He examines my passport very close and asks me several times where I am from and where it is written in the passport. I find out that there is not even one Arabic letter in my passport so he can not read the name of my country. We translate Name, date of issue, date of expire and so on with his cellphone before he takes pictures of every single page in my passport with all the visas.

He again calls his boss and slowly tries to explain – “You are very welcome in Jordan but cannot enter here.” I am a little concerned now, thinking he might not let me go back inside the country – maybe send me to Israel or something with all my stuff in the rental car in Jordan.. He asks me for my religion and then suddenly tells me to go back and take the first to the left. I have seen a sign before showing the way to a Baptist church there so maybe he thinks I just wanted to pray.

However I am happy not to be arrested by now and go back to the car. I hit the road, take the first left and pass the church – a police car appears blocking the way to the border and when I turn around they follow me for half a kilometer. When I accelerate they disappear and I turn to the main road to Amman. That was quite scary all together.

Amman is a huge town with crazy traffic – I am glad to have all the maps downloaded to my GPS. First hotel I stop is way too expensive and far away from the city center, surrounded by shopping malls and living areas. I continue towards city center and the second hotel (New Park Hotel at N31.95607˚ E035.93151˚) I find has a nice price a beautiful receptionist and a clean room with wifi and hot water.

Now there is one thing I have to tell as most people always ask me about girls in muslim countries. I have to admit the girls here could in no way be more sexy and beautiful without hijab. Their smiles and the beauty in their eyes are just incredible – I fall in love several times a day!

The only disadvantage about the hotel is that is in a valley in the city and my muscles are still sore from all the steps I had to take yesterday. I am glad the cute receptionist tells me a way to a great restaurant which is on the same level as the hotel – no steps and amazing cheap food are waiting for me there. After getting amazing Arab food (humus and falafel which I always thought was Israeli) its already dark and I go back to the hotel to fall asleep soon.

Jordan III – Petra

November 10. 2015

Mohamads friend doesn’t appear at the meeting point in the morning so I go to the restaurant where Mohamad is working and wait there for him to open. He doesn’t have a phone number of the guy so there is no other way than buying the full price ticket which costs nearly a weeks salary of a local (well not for local people as Arabs pay only 1 Dinar which is 50 times less than I have to pay). Many people told me I have to see Petra because its so amazing so what to do.

After the entrance there are guys with horses waiting for me “Horseride is included in the ticket, its 2 km to the canyon” they say first. When I stop it changes a little to “little Bakshish pay, we have to pay tax for the horse inside” – wtf? I negotiate 2 Dinar for the 2km horse ride and after less than 500m we are at the beginning of the canyon. What a fucking scam… I offer to pay one Dinar but the guy refuses to take it twice so I put it back in my pocket and walk off. Suddenly he changes his mind and says “Ok, ok 1 Dinar” but I ignore him. Until I reach the other side of the canyon the scammers have pissed me of enough to spoil my whole morning. I hardly ever experienced this in a Muslim country so I start asking the scammers “What you pray? Dinar hu akbar?” which seems to be insulting enough to make them turn away immediately.

At the treasury I drink a surprisingly “cheap” tea for “only” one Dinar (two days later I get salad, falafel, humus, bread and two tea for 3 Dinar in Amman). I calm down a little and remember my scammer tactics – I switch the language talking hindi from now and everybody who calls me friend gets a long and “intimidating” hug. Most people are scared off by this and many tourists who seem to be as pissed off as I am have a good laughter about it.

I continue my way and after a few hundred meters I turn left and climb the mountain to the high place of sacrifice where it seems to be quieter. As soon as I reach the top I get invited for tea and people become very friendly again. It seems very strange until I ask a girl who offers me tea what this is about. She tells me that she is Beduin and the people down are Locals from Wadi Musa. Now it makes sense that the hotel manager told me yesterday that the people in the Bedu village are “bad people”. Quite the opposite seems to be the case. I continue my way in between friendly Beduines, greedy locals and laughing (about my tactics) tourists. Some people have told me that I should take a 2 day ticket which costs only 10% more as Petra is impossible to see in one day. This reminded me of Angkor Wat where somebody could easily spend a week so I do the walk of around 10 – 15 kilometers including at least 2000 steps well before sunset. Less than 7 hours to see everything easily and after I got the feeling that unlike Angkor, Hampi, Taj Mahal or Northern lights Petra is totally overrated and overpriced. You’d better look at my pictures and enjoy a day somewhere else in Jordan with honest Muslim people than coming here to be scammed. After climbing up to the monastery I am totally exhausted. On the way back I hire a camel from a Beduin to take me most of the way for 6 Dinar which seems to be kind of ok compared to the 25 he asked at the beginning.

In the evening I get food at Mohamads place. He seems to be pretty sorry about my experience and tells me that he is experiencing pretty much the same as he is refugee from Syria. Wadi Musa people are lazy and greedy he tells me laughing and serves me the best lemon mint juice I ever had. When I leave later he refuses to take any money for what I consumed – only one Euro he takes as a good luck charm for his way to Europe. I get in the car and hit the road towards dead sea. The cloud base is around 1200m above sea level so I drive through really bad fog slowing me down to 40 km/h as the first half of the way is up to 1500m and freezing cold outside. Three hours later I arrive 400m below sea level and it is warm again. Its late already and I planned to sleep somewhere at the dead sea in the car. At the last village before dead sea (south of it) I pick up a hitchhiker – good chance to maybe get a private place to sleep for tonight I think. But there comes no village! We pass all dead sea until at the other side we approach the hotel area at the northern edge. He gets out at a 5* hotel and I turn around to go to a little tea stall by the road I had noticed a few kilometers earlier. Allahn, the owner is happy to welcome me and tries hard to teach me some more Arabic before both of us go to sleep around midnight. He sleeps inside the tea stall and I sleep like planned in the car.

Jordan II – journey to Petra

November 9. 2015

This night I sleep in a Beduin tent in Salems garden and I have to admit I haven’t slept so well for years. I had amazing lucid dreams a wake up full of power in the morning. We all have breakfast together and soon I hit the road towards the ancient town of Petra.

Soon I climb up a mountain to reach the cloud base at 1800 above sealevel while still on the road. Seems like no flying today again as the clouds grow higher and higher making enormous towers. Never mind, I pass the fog and soon reach the very touristic town of Petra. It feels like most of the people who come to Jordan only come to go to Petra. I find a Bank and a place to get coffee (the one with free wifi next door is still closed because it is too early. A hotel is quickly found and after the check in I make a little walk through town. Even though there is wifi in the hotel I stop again at the same restaurant which was closed in the morning. Looking back I think it took only seconds to make friends with Mohamad, a 25 year old computer engineer from Syria who is working as a waiter here. He wants to come to Europe next year so I discuss his plans with him and try to help him to figure out a better way than the Balkan route which I believe is the worst way he can possibly take.

Next the hotel manager takes me to a place where “all the French people fly” but the clouds are over developing again and I am a little concerned about the strong thermals I expect up there. As I prefer being a living coward instead of a dead hero I don’t even unpack my gear. The mountains are great here and it would be amazing to fly – but I am no Chrigel Maurer so we go back to the hotel.

The entrance ticket to Petra is more than 60 Euro for one day and I already think about leaving without seeing it but fortunately Mohamad has a friend who can help me to get in way cheaper. Coming back to the hotel I hear the Imam doing the prayer and it is the most beautiful one I have ever heard. I decide to go to the Mosque tomorrow morning to pray there with the locals and hear him singing. Am I slowly becoming a muslim?

In the afternoon it starts to rain in the desert – and people tell me how lucky I am to experience this. Why am I so lucky every time I come to the desert? First desert I ever visited was death valley and it rained – in Esfahan I even had snow, Rain in the Sahara and of course I’ve seen shitloads of rain in Rajasthan.

In the evening I get dinner at Mohamads place and guess what – he makes the best lemon mint juice I ever had. Asking him for the bill he tells me to pay as I like still giving me discount on my selfmade price….

Wadi Rum

Jordan – another love story

Wadi Rum

November 7. 2015

After a very nice overnight flight (Good food, great service and never ending space for my legs in the second, older plane of turkish airlines) via Istanbul I arrive in Aqaba at the red sea at 3 in the morning. After spending the last year in south east asia I am incredibly surprised by the very relaxed all time smiling border police officers in Aqaba. Formalities are a question of a few minutes and when the last officer is checking my passport if I got all the stamps he is a little surprised by the load of visas in my passport and gives it back to me smiling before he has even found the stamp I just got.

A little before 4 o clock I stand in the front of an empty airport (totally empty – obviously our flight was the only one between midnight and 6.30 in the morning) thinking about what I will do the next two hours until the car rental opens. Suddenly a car comes around the corner and a guy jumps out asking if I am I. He tells me he had thought already that I will come on this plane and didn’t want me to wait for two more hours. Actually I ordered the car for 6 because I didn’t want him to stand up in the middle of the night only to give me the car….

Seems like I have to get used to Muslim hospitality once again. Half an hour later I have the car and the guy even changed some money for me. First I drive direction Saudi Arabian border to stop only a few kilometers before the border post to take a swim at the red sea. After putting my hands in the water I decide I will have the shower later and only wash my hands here. Its not really cold but the air is an hour before sunrise. I turn around, cancel sim card, money changer and barber and go directly to Wadi Rum which is less than an hour drive. The car rental guy told me it will not be possible to get anything out there and that I should be careful with the touts at the visitor center of Wadi Rum. He wanted to sell me the Wadi Rum tour very expensive (= official price) but I want to do it myself. The desert around Aqaba is stunning and just a little before Aqaba the sun rises. In a landscape of which beauty is impossible to describe.

At the visitor center a guy stops me to make me do a tour with him. Actually I need a coffee and more important a little rest as I didn’t sleep all night. I tell him I will go to the village first to get coffee and think about his offer. He goes to the village too and so we meet again at the entrance where he (Salem) invites me to his home. He seems to be a very nice guy and of course I accept. Little later I get to know his family and then take a great nap at his home. When I arrived there was no wind to fly at all so I drive a circle around the tiny village after waking up. Its only 10.30 and there are already dust devils in the desert – and its incredibly hot in the sun.

A little later Salem is back and we start our desert trip in his Nissan Pick up. The place here is of such an incredible beauty that pictures cant do it any justice. I believe my mouth is open all day and once again I have troubles holding back my tears of happiness when sitting next to Salem. He tries hard to find a place for me to fly but just as I unpack my wing on an amazing dune the wind gets stronger. An invisible dust devil takes my wing and fills it a little with sand before I put it together again. We have tea beneath a rock where we meet a friend of my guide. While I put together my wing trying to get out the sand he shoots a bird – the shot echoes I think more than a minute and two minutes later there are more friends of them coming just when we leave.

I already start thinking it was a mistake to take the paraglider with me. It’s the absolute perfect paradise here for rock climbing. Neverending rocks between boulders and up to several hundred meters high difficulty from very low up to over 10. Several shady and cool canyons making climbing enjoyable even in the heat of the day. This is honestly one of the best climbing areas I have ever seen and the most beautiful one too. And the best – its even less than an hour from the airport and the red sea. I already think about coming back – maybe just for a few days of climbing….

We visit some more amazing sights and then go to another village to get some food and the barber I was desperately asking for. The barber is amazing and when I ask him how much it costs he first says its for free for me… He did really a good job so I insist on paying being careful not to insult him. Next we get real local food: humus and falafel with kindofchapati – I love it. Having been a little careful in the morning I really start liking Salem when he drives through the desert like a rally pilot – our driving style is pretty similar and he takes me to an amazing place for sunset. Back in Wadi Rum we visit his brother Mohamed. I really enjoy the evening discussing and telling stories like old friends and even praying together. Their children are georgeous, and there tents/houses are supercosy and cool at day as well as warm in the night. I am invited to sleep at Salems place and I feel really sad that I will have to leave tomorrow morning.

I could write for hours now describing how much I fell in love with the place and the people here but I really suggest you to come here and experience this yourself. You can contact Salem any time and he will be very happy to show you the most beautiful places, climbing spots as well as best barbers and food. If you ever come here, and I hope you will, you’d better call Salem Domayan: 00962776445651