Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Feb 19 2013

Middle East trip, part 2

It was misty and grey outside in Amman when we got up this morning; the headlights of the cars on the road downstairs reflected in the wet roads, though there was no rain. A guard was huddled in his hut across the way from the hotel’s entrance. Apparently we’re right next door to the Prime Minister’s something or other. Chenbl and I walked down to one of the many roundabouts, where thousands of accidents almost happen every day, to try and get an unobstructed view of the city, but to no avail. We walked up the block a bit and even infiltrated an unfinished luxury building, but the door to the roof was locked. Traffic police laughed as we skipped through traffic 15 times for each of the lanes leading to and from the traffic circle on the way back to enjoy the hotel breakfast, which was sparsely attended (all the more for us).

Mohammed and Fahed showed up with another fellow, Nabil, who was driving a van for us to Aljoun, up north in greener hill country more similar to that of Southern European climes. A cold wind whipped and snapped at us as we climbed the steps of the ancient castle ruins above the town. The place was ingeniously constructed, with fascinating architectural features a guide probably could have told us had we had one. We did note the rainwater collection system and lighting via windows.

Our next stop was the ancient Roman ruins of Jerash, which are vast to say the least. We entered through the usual barrage of booths selling trinkets, through a large gate and past a large horse track, into the actual city, or what’s left of it, even after an impressive restoration effort. I turned a corner just past the track to find Chenbl drinking ginger-flavored coffee with a picnicking Jordanian family. I had a cup or two as well.

We climbed up to the temple of Zeus, and then around to the amphitheater, where apparently the acoustics are so good the whole audience can hear anyone on stage speaking in a normal voice. Of course, this was rather difficult to discern as a man in traditional costume was belting out kindergarten hits with his bagpipes. From the ear-popping heights of the theater we could see herds of goats roaming over the green hills and ruins of the rest of the city. It must have been impressive in its day, with grand avenues and running water. A young Jordanian man with a real talent for languages showed us the secret to making one of the massive pillars of the temple of Aphrodite wobble (Hint: You have to lean on it and push).

We had lunch at another roadside restaurant, and although we always seem to be eating in empty restaurants where the staff are all busy putting things away, I have to say that I really like the food in Jordan so far. Even the spicy dishes, which I usually avoid, appeal to me.

After returning to the hotel for a bit, we headed out to a trendy shopping district, where we walked around a bit. “Pay whatever you want,” the cabbie said, though his meter, conveniently hidden, said a dollar and change. We had just entered a trendy mall and were looking down at the various levels when a couple of security guards rushed past. A moment later I heard a huge crash, and when I looked over, the glass door of the Bally store had disintegrated.

Upstairs, we looked at things and had some drinks and wi-fi. Then it was late, and time to go back to the hotel. “Five dollars,” the cabbie said. We paid it; his meter was blank.

posted by Poagao at 5:59 am  

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