Jordan

Ejo #10 (Part II) – Our Trip To Jordan (Wadi Rum And The Dead Sea) And Getting a Job As An Air Traffic Controller In Dubai

Last we spoke, David and I had just been to Petra By Night which was simply gorgeous.  We had another full day left in Petra and so we organised a tour of Wadi Rum.  A wadi is basically a desert valley and this one is vast and spectacular.  It is inhabited by the Bedouin and their tents can frequently be seen off in the distance.  We spent several hours cruising around the dunes courtesy of Abdullah, our tour guide and 4WD driver.  When the sun started burning the back of my neck Abdullah was kind enough to show me how to tie my sarong around my head in traditional Arabic style.  I loved this SO much, I didn’t want to take it off, even after the sun went down.  Thanks Abdullah, you’re cool! 

Wadi Rum is where they filmed the ‘Egypt’ scenes in the recent movie Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen (for those of you who noticed the scenery – and I’m not talking about Megan Fox).  It is also where T.E. Lawrence (otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia – you might have heard of him) spent a few years.  Below are a couple of pictures of his ‘house’.  It doesn’t look like much but by desert standards it’s a veritable palace!!

The next day we were off again to check out the Dead Sea.  We splurged on these three days and stayed in the Marriott hotel which seemed happy to ignore Ramadan so for the next three days it was freeflowing booze and food during the day.  We made several trips down to the hotel’s private beach on the Dead Sea.  Now, everyone knows the Dead Sea is salty and that you can’t sink.  That’s like me telling you that tearing the ligaments in your knee hurts.  Of course you ‘know’ that, but until you experience it for yourself you have Absolutely No Idea.  The Dead Sea is AMAZING!!  Probably my all time favourite travel experience ever.  First of all, it is a gorgeous deep blue colour, like the Mediterranean Sea.  Looking at it closely though, it appears to have an oiliness to it, best described as being like a lake of warm baby oil.  And upon entering, that’s exactly what it feels like.  Your skin gets coated in the oiliness (which I suppose is due to the minerals – there are 26 of them floating around the sea apparently).  And when you come out you look like a penguin that got too close to the Exxon-Valdez.  But it feels beautiful and it truly softens your skin.

Another skin softening element of the Dead Sea is the mud.  Yep, mud.  The Sea produces a very fine silt mud which people are wont to spread over their hair and bodies, let dry in the sun and then wash it off in the Sea.  It’s messy but amazing fun.  Yes, the shore did look a bit like an episode of The Twilight Zone with a dozen tourists looking like Creatures From the Black Lagoon but apparently the healing qualities of the Dead Sea are so well recognised that many German health insurance companies offer rebates on stays of two weeks or more.  In a five star resort no less.  You’ve gotta love the Germans.

The other thing we noticed immediately after entering the water is the intense and persistent stinging felt in our feet, courtesy of our Petra blisters.  Oweeeee!!  Now, the Dead Sea is a crazy body of water for many reasons but one of them is that at the northern end (where we were) it’s depth has been measured as 430 metres.  That is friggin’ deep!!  So when we swam out about 5 metres from shore, the depth was already 20 metres.  Which, for me, would normally be very scary.  There were two reasons why I wasn’t frightened at all.  One: you simply cannot sink, so if you just lay on your back there is no danger of drowning.  Two: The reason I usually get scared in deep water is all the freaky creatures that usually live down there.  This is not an issue in the Dead Sea as the water is so saline that absolutely no life can survive in it.  Yay for me!!

So there we were bobbing about and having a fun time when we decided to see if we could dive underneath the water and get completely submerged.  David did it first and, to credit to his swimming prowess, managed to go completely under the water before quickly being thrown back up like a cork.  Of course as soon as he opened his eyes, the salty water started stinging them and the ‘ow-ow-ow’s’ started.  Which goes no way towards explaining why two minutes later (after I’d got my laughter under control) I decided to dive down as well.  So down I go.  Or rather, down I TRY to go.  It’s actually really hard.  I think I got my head and upper body about two feet under water before being spat back out.  I, however, had the presence of mind to not open my eyes straight away.  I kept them closed for about two minutes and right about the time David’s ‘ow-ow-ow’s’ subsided, I thought that it would be safe to look.  So I opened my eyes and basically took up the ‘ow-ow-ow’s’ where he left off.  My eyes are watering just thinking about it now.  It didn’t really hurt as such, but it does sting a lot and for a long time.  Now you may ask, out of curiosity, why I went under knowing that it would sting after seeing David’s discomfort.  The answer is that even though I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant I still wanted to experience it for myself.  Good reason, huh?  I highly recommend it.  I’d even go so far as to say go to Petra first, get the damn blisters and then cannonball into the Dead Sea.  It’s the only way to go.

After our Jordan trip we only had 8 days back home before we jetted off to the Spanish island of Ibiza for three weeks.  A lot of people associate Ibiza with raves and Brits getting off their heads but honestly that is such a small element of the island and if you are not seeking it out you can remain blissfully unaware of it.  It’s a gorgeous Mediterranean paradise with spectacular beaches, yummy tapas, refreshing Sangria and friendly locals.  Oh, and if you’re expecting an Ibiza ejo, you’ll be disappointed.  What happens on Ibiza, stays on Ibiza (wink wink).

Unfortunately for us, we are now desperately in debt from all the global gallivanting we’ve been doing and have to stay put for a while.  So expect more Dubai based ejo’s in the future.

That’s all for now.  I hope you are all well.  I am particularly well because I heard about fifteen minutes ago that the interview I had last week for a job at Al Maktoum International Airport (due to open June next year) was successful.  So I will once again be a working Air Traffic Controller.  I’ve had an awesome year off, focussing on my writing and honing my skills of sloth, but now it’s time to get back to work.  The simulator training starts in a month.  Crack open the black market Champagne and wish me luck!!

Ejo #10 (Part I) – Our Trip To Jordan (Amman And Petra)

So we went to Jordan. The first day, we arrived at our hotel in Amman and realised that what we would ‘normally’ do is walk around, find a nice cafe and have a drink and a bite to eat. Obviously this was not on the agenda (it’s Ramadan remember?), so what did we do for the next three days? Let’s just say that we sat in our room and ploughed through our 4 litres of duty free alcohol from the airport fairly quickly. In retrospect we should have rationed it out, but oh well, it was nice while it lasted. We didn’t stay in the hotel room the whole time. We did go out for dinner to break our ‘fast’ and had some wonderful meals. We also went out for a few walks, just to feel the vibe of the city but it really was almost shut down during the day, so not much vibing going on. 

During one of these walks we came across a little convenience store where we stopped to get some naughty non-Ramadan sanctioned snacks and drinks and while shopping we noticed some Efes beers in the fridge (for those of you who have read Ejo#8, you’ll remember that Efes is the national beer of Turkey). We were super shocked that a store would be selling beer in the middle of the day during Ramadan as it’s illegal in Jordan but we certainly weren’t going to complain. We picked up a six pack and trudged back to our room for some decidedly non-Ramadan eating and drinking. Popping open the bottles, the excitement was rife. We cheered, had a little celebratory kiss, and gulped away ready to be transported to beer heaven… only to stop drinking, make a face and say, ‘It tastes funny.”. Further inspection revealed… well, let’s just say that I will always double check the label from now on (to make sure I never again subject myself to the horror of non-alcoholic beer). To say we were disappointed would be making a gross understatement.

By the time we got to Petra we were feeling like we weren’t really giving Jordan the attention it deserved and decided to act like real tourists(for once) and see all the sites in the area. This turned out to be a brilliant idea as Petra is one of the most incredible places on earth. I’d go so far as to agree with the dude that said everyone should go and see it once before they die. It is essentially an entire (ancient) city which has been carved into the mountain rock. Yes, INTO the mountain rock. It is bizarre, awe-inspiring, magnificent and simply astonishing.

This city was created about 2100 years ago by a nomadic Arabic tribe called the Nabataeans, who liked the place so much they stopped their wandering ways and set up shop for a while and they created some spectacular architecture. I promise you the pictures do not do this place justice. It’s breathtaking. You get to the site itself by walking through a canyon called The Siq which is basically a meandering path surrounded by a rock face on either side reaching up to heights of more than 200 feet. It twists and winds for 1.2km before opening up to the most famous Petra ‘building’ known as The Treasury (no-one seems to know why it’s called this, it just is). The full site is absolutely enormous (of course, being the remains of an entire city), so if you are feeling lazy you can jump on a horse, camel or donkey and see it that way. And the entire time we were there, we were harangued non-stop by offers of a ‘cheap’ ride on one of these animals. You’ll be pleased (and perhaps not a little surprised) to hear that we decided to walk it. Oh yes, when I decide to be a tourist, I do it right!! So we walked.

For some inexplicable reason I had made the choice to forego socks on putting on my sneakers that morning. Let’s say right out in the open that this turned out to be a monstrously bad decision. Foolish even. I especially thought so after climbing the 862 rocky steps up a friggin’ mountain in 40C heat to see “The Monastery”, another carved building. This upward journey took about an hour and when we got to the top my legs felt like jelly and my feet were on fire. Fun times! But you know what? We WALKED!! On our way down, nearly everyone we saw on their way to the top was riding on donkeys. Poor little donkeys. Anyway, the way down is when the blisters started to hurt. Which is when I remembered that we’d packed my socks in our daypack. Lucky because by that stage I could barely take a step without all seven (yes seven) of my blisters causing me great grief and a fairly healthy dose of agony. The socks helped.

Throughout our time at the site we were approached by several young children selling stuff like beaded necklaces and bracelets. Some were extremely young. I swear one girl was about three years old. I swear!! She grabbed my hand and tried to kiss it which I didn’t let her do (call me mean-spirited but when I saw the crusty, dirty spit gathered at the corners of her mouth I snatched my hand away – I have a rule, I don’t touch stray dogs, cats and now children). Anyway, all the kids there have memorised this spiel which goes like this: 

“Hello” 

“Why, hello there” 

“Where you from?” 

“We’re from Australia” 

“Welcome!! You buy my ……. (insert beaded product)” 

“No, but thank you anyway, bye now”. 

Towards the end of our day it went a little more like this. 

“Hello” 

“Hi” 

“Where you from?” 

“The Moon” 

“Welcome!! You buy my ……. (insert beaded product)” 

“NO!!”

One absolutely beautiful girl of about 12 gave me some colourful rocks and didn’t seem to be selling anything. She followed us around for a while and after a few minutes of chatting to her, she told us she loved us. Awww, of course she did, who wouldn’t? Anyway, we loved her too. We gave her 1 Dinar to let us take her picture. Her name is Rania (the same name as the Queen of Jordan – worlds apart but just as beautiful, if not more so). All the children we encountered seemed like street kids and we realised they were Bedouins – nomadic Arabic gypsies that tend to live in tents in the desert. I guess they’ve adapted their survival skills to include sucking up to tourists for cash. A little later on, another young girl, on a black donkey called Michael (a good Islamic name), tried to give me a similar rock but when I politely declined she threw it at me. Charming!!. Suffice to say I didn’t buy anything from her. 

After a long day walking around the Petra site in the soaring heat (able to only occasionally steal furtive sips of water, away from the eyes of thirsty, fasting Muslims) we were exhausted. We should have gone back to the hotel, put our aching feet up and stayed there but we’d already bought tickets to an event called “Petra By Night” so we went back after darkness fell to once again walk the 1200 metres through the Siq, which this time was illuminated with over 1000 candles. Though we were tired, it was worth it. It really was beautiful and serene. At the end of the Siq, the Treasury was also lit up with hundreds of candles (no pics as I forgot to take my camera – I was tired alright!!). We were treated to two musical performances on Arabic instruments and also a lovely cup of mint tea. Most civilised. We slept deeply that night.