Jordan 1/2 – Fish in the desert

Hey pieces of ham and vegetarians sausages. Two month and a half only after we left Jordan, it is with outrecuidance and oronymie that we offer you the first part of our Jordanian adventures. We decided to change a little our writing style and to juggle with the personal pronouns, mixing our points of view into one character.

Until I’m dropped at the Israeli-Jordanian border, everything was fine. From there it became a huge party of mistakes, of offices and queues, of border policemen slightly stupid that stamp my passport despite that I asked forty times to have the stamp on a separate paper. At the exit it is the fair of taxis all over the place, the famous “border effect”. I manage to find a truck going slowly through the small villages until Amman. BOUF, it’s a shock! Turkey surprised me on quite a few aspects but remained in comparison very European, we were far from this pile of donkeys and mess, some roads having a bigger proportion of holes than asphalt. On each side people spread their sun-bleached plastic gadgets, their shiny chocolate bars and their dusty but magnificent vegetables. After being used, each package is neatly put in order to occupy all the public space, the road edges being of course a place of choice for the crisps and cigarettes packages.

In Amman I spot the young guy who walks the coolest way. Marie, who I was supposed to meet does not give any sign of living, so after having imagined all possible scenarios of what could have happened to her, I just start following this dude and his friends who take out the Arak while watching the lights of Amman on the hilltops, and I end up in this apartment full of shisha smoke and young males. Marie shows up the following day, not realizing I waited for her all night asking myself where she was. We simply made the appointment with one day difference.

Second night in Jordan for me and we do the Arak session again, together this time. Our host and guide is lost between two cultures, between Pink Floyd which he mimics one by one all instruments, his facial expressions following the music’s intensity, and between the Ramadan that starts soon, a masculine and religious society, somehow archaic in which his dreams do not make much sense.

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The main axis in front of the apartment open the road to adventure for us while we quickly reach the first village hitchihiking. The hardware store offers us the bread. Further on a small road that zigzag through a park, a family forces us to come and to eat barbecue with them, cozily installed on their carpets. Five minutes after having left the tribe it is whiskey and beer that fall upon us with two young engineers. Probably finding that time passes slowly when mummy is preparing dinner, they make a 20km detour to grab a beer for each of us, while relaxed by the first one, while a chill wind is blowing, we watch the sunset carving out Ajlun castle on the other side of the mountain. Under the stars around a fire, I listen to the coyotes howling while asking myself if they would dare to attack me. If Jordan continues this way, I don’t see the point of buying food.

Taking advantage of my naiveness one of our driver manages to put me aside for some minutes, and taking the hand of Marie, wants to bring her further down the forest. He understands quickly that she doesn’t want and ashamed to death he sped away while I was running to the car. It’s sad, but it is probably better for a girl not to stay alone.

The police-hitchhiking day starts. I actually think that in Jordan, half of the people are either policemen or military related, and I cannot figure out if it is appeasing or not. Before crossing the desert to Azraq, impossible to get bread or water without being offered some watermelon. Policeman or military we had one chance out of two, so it is a military who offers to host us. We take seat under the big tent in the garden in front of three glasses of Coke and the entire family extended to the neighbour kids. I am nailed by the twenty-four eyes. Follows an intense communication face-to-face, really taking off when we start to use paper and pen to help our young military’s English, and when we learn how to write our names in Arabic. The patriarch rolls a cigarette and goes in the garden next to the water hose which overflows his plants. He stands up, puts the hose on another tree, sits down and rolls an new cigarette. We go to imitate the scream of the donkeys and camels parked behind the house, and when we come back the dad has changed the hose’s position and has rolled another little one again. On the menu tonight, French fries-fish. Fish in the desert. I wonder if it something usual when receiving guests, some luxury sign. In the mean time, old man is smoking one or two more. Everybody sleeps outside, men under the tent, women and children next to the house.

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This desert is quite unwelcoming and I am not displeased to leave it behind. On the road the desert castles are coming one after the other. I imagine, drowsing, the merchant caravans going through the desert and taking a break in the castles. I think again about the refugees camp we saw the day before, huge, as far as the eye can see, surrounded by fences. With the Palestinians and the Syrians, it’s one third of the Jordan residents who have the statue of refugee.

The crazy one who takes us after is a bit frightening… He overtakes everybody, brakes at the police controls doing big friendly signs and then triples his speed 500 meters further. He gives me three times the phone so that his cousin, who speaks English, can repeat me twelve times that her uncle is an awesome guy. Once arrived in Madaba, the Christian reference in Jordan, we play the differences game with Muslim towns. In fact, not much compared to the other cities except the big church that has the upper hand on the mosque and the little fish stickers on the back of the cars. Tomorrow, Ramadan is starting. We refuse the hosting offer of our next driver and we go to squat four walls and a terrace in between the well-rounded hills that open themselves in front of our eyes just enough so we can see the Dead Sea. The great food managers that we are did not take enough water and food, which is actually good, because we decided to do the Ramadan. We unclimb our terrace and from there the descent into hell starts. The throat is dry and every step is hard under the weight of our backpacks, and the car ridging down to the -427 meters of the Dead Sea drop us in an area empty of life. Empty of all energy I take a look at the sun disappearing on the Israeli side, where we were only few weeks ago. The releasing call of the muezzin rings while we are passing next to security guards waving at us, who will not need to convince us to come in order to empty their water and chicken with rice.

"Squat d'un bâtiment dans les collines au dessus de la mer Morte." "Squat of a building in the hills above the Dead Sea."

We walk five minutes to find the less horrible place of the surrounding. I tinker a shelter against the sun for the next day. The water coming from the pipe probably had something fishy. We all get sick under a sun that doesn’t allow us any kind of movement. We still go floating with a heavy heart, the head blown up and the stomach messed up. The place is so unhealthy that we cannot stay, and this despite our state. So we take the hard way of the South to go back to the heights and leave this basin of death. I dreamt a lot about it since the beginning of Jordan and it happened: we got a ride from a woman in a Muslim country. Two students who, because it’s Ramadan, have to find an occupation. A classic one is to take the car and take a ride with no aim.

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My all body is upside down, but I am really happy when I get to see our destination, the castle of Karak, and when in the city the three fruit shopkeepers offer us a crate to sit down and to share the Iftar, the fasting breaking. The Ramadan is definitely over for us since yesterday, but we proudly managed to do it one entire day. The good news to sheer us up is that the traveller is exempted of Ramadan, like women during period, the old people and the young ones, or the ill. The bad news is that in the coming year we are supposed to make up all the days we missed. The others do like they want, personally I will make up my days maybe the year after. Or the next one.

The next day, still feeling bad, we meet two policemen clever as policemen, who decide that today’s mission for them is to bring us to the swimming pool. It’s just an outside swimming pool, quite basic with nice green reflections offered by its algae. Marie of course cannot show any piece of skin (it would be indecent) so she swims fully dressed among the cowboys doing many tricks and jumps into the water to impress the only feminine attendance. The policemen want to host us, but we find a trick so they let us go. It’s in the next village that we discover the magical technique. When I go out of the toilets of the mosque, I realize that the others have disappeared, and before I can even panic, a guy takes me to a house two streets further where I found them seating around a tea. If you are hungry or in need of an accommodation, you just need to hang around the mosque at the time of Iftar. After the meal we are invited from house to house. It’s really the first time that I meet a polygamous, and it’s quite normal here, an old grandpa surrounded by his whole family and indeed has two wives. But we are told that it is very rare among the new generations. Third day of Ramadan, third time we are invited to eat.

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Back on the road the day after and quickly a policeman stops. Is there any other profession in this country? Until Al-Tafile the scenery is incredible. I lay my head against the window of the small car and I dream looking at those mountains passing by. They are beige, empty and dry, with from time to time a Bedouin tent overlooking the valley. I get out of my daydreaming when we arrive in the city and we find easily cars to get to the small village of Dana. The big valley stretches in a straight line up to the desert far away which we can catch a glimpse of, and at the start of this valley a small village with stone houses sits on a hill next to the cliff. The inhabitants abandoned the houses which slowly became ruins. Only some of them were rehabilitated and transformed into hotels. The spring not far transforms into a small river giving water to the village, the water is good.

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Quickly I decide that I like this place. After two seconds of intense negotiation, we find a hotel for one dinar each, or one Euro twenty, acceptable even for our budget. I like our time spent on the terrace basking under the sun, preparing coffee being the most important mission. Mohammed the hotel guy makes me smile, I like him as well, he spends his days cleaning the terrace and watering the few plants he’s growing, and he is not hot-blooded like the other men in the country. I like a little bit less Bilal the “manager” who shows off too much and try to flirt with Marie explaining her how he’s young and successful in life, and that women could never do in a lifetime what he already did. We stay a few days here resting in this beautifully calm place. Everyday I ask Mohammed if the Internet connection he promised us is finally working, and every day he answers that it’s coming. I think he decided to build Internet himself, it should take some time. The second group of tourist in the village consists of a Saudi Arabian man who brings us apricots every morning and discusses with us with interest about religion, culture, sex, and his viewpoints are close and open minded in a strange mix. These talks divert me a lot. For Rémi’s birthday celebration we go to the hotel’s restaurant, youhou! Not a drop of wine, no cake, it’s a first, but it’s like this and everything is alright.

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It’s all for now and the second part is under construction. Tchuss!

One thought on “Jordan 1/2 – Fish in the desert

  1. Super récit … ca me donne envie de retourner en Jordanie rapidement! J’etais restée surtout en famille a Amman durant ces 6 semaines (aussi pendant le ramadan!) et j’ai hate de decouvrir toutes ces vallées et le désert!
    Vous en etes ou la ??

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