Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Day 45: Back in Amman!

April 14: The Jordan Trail was done, but my flight wouldn't leave Jordan for another couple of days and Karolina would have to leave for the airport late tonight (around midnight) so we both had the whole day to explore the capital city of Amman. And since it's not a hiking day.... Karolina provided today's guest blog post! =)


Finishing the trail wasn’t fun. Not at all.

Early in the morning, I woke up in the hotel room in Amman feeling nauseous. For a moment, I was hoping that I can fight this sensation, but no, I started feeling a wave of vomit coming from my stomach. I jumped out of bed with a speed of a rocket (not too bad for an ill person) and ran to the bathroom. So much for last night’s pizza.

I searched my luggage for a bag of electrolytes and prepared a drink to make up for the minerals and water lost into the toilet. After that I returned to bed for some more sleep. It must have been around 4 or 5 am, because I could hear singing from a nearby mosque.

I woke up again a few hours later, feeling weak but not nauseous. I didn’t feel like getting up – I could spend the entire day lying in bed and resting. I knew, however, that Ryan and the Canadians – Ernie, Jen and Margaret – were planning to go to the Old Town in Amman and do some sightseeing. I was tempted to ignore my poor condition and join them – after all, when will be next time I visit Amman? That’s what I did in the end. Got up, got dressed, drank some sweet tea for breakfast (I couldn’t really eat anything) and ventured into the capital of Jordan.

To get to the Old Town, we had the guy at the hotel’s reception desk call an Uber for us. All five of us crammed into one car – we were squeezed like sardines in a can!

The Uber took us to the Citadel. We agreed with our little group that everyone would walk around the premises at their own pace and we would meet at the entrance in an hour. I decided to not sightsee alone and join Ryan instead – I felt too weak to think and make decisions and told him that today he needed to do that for me.

The Citadel offered a beautiful view on the city of Amman. Lots and lots of brown buildings, streets bustled with traffic and a lot of dust in the air. In spite of all the dust, far in the distance we could see a giant flag of Jordan waving in the wind. On an information board placed at one of the viewpoints we read that in the year it was constructed (2003), it was the tallest free-standing flagpole in the world at 126.8 meters (416 feet) tall and could carry flags with a size of up to 80 square meters (861 square feet). Even if it wasn’t the tallest anymore, it surely was very impressive!

From the other side of the Citadel we could see a well-preserved Roman theatre – the next stop on our sightseeing route for today. To reach the theatre we had to cross a very busy street – Ernie’s guidebook advised to cross it ‘gingerly’ – a new English word for me, the meaning of which I could immediately test in practice! ;-)

The Roman theater in Amman seats 6000 people and was built
in the 2nd century when Amman was called Philadelphia.
The Roman theatre in Amman was larger than the one we visited in Jerash. We sat on the benches for a while, admiring thousands years of history. We also visited a small museum which displayed traditional Jordanian and Bedouin dresses and jewelry.

Margaret wanted to visit Books@Cafe - a bookstore-café recommended to her by Faiza, a Jordan Trail hiker from Amman, so once we were done with the Roman theatre, Ernie and Ryan pulled out their smartphones and checked Google Maps directions to get there. It turned out we once again had to cross the busy street, which none of us was too enthusiastic about.

On our way to the café, we passed many interesting-looking stores with herbs, spices, clothing, shoes and miscellaneous items. I requested a quick stop at a herbal store where I got myself a bag of sage and a bag of hibiscus. I also bought an iPhone charger from one of the street vendors – I needed a replacement for my charger that broke down a few days before.

The books at Books@Cafe weren’t particularly good or interesting, but the café part was very nice. We sat down on a cozy terrace with a mosaic wall, a fountain, many flowers and views towards the streets of Amman. Ryan and the Canadians ordered hamburgers and nachos. I was jealous – my taste buds would love to take a bite of those things but stomach wasn’t ready to do that yet. Instead, I ordered a vitamin cocktail.

As we were sitting and resting, I felt visibly better. Less nausea, more energy. As soon as we left the café, unpleasant symptoms resumed. I couldn’t walk too fast and felt generally weak and ill.

The last two places we wanted to visit before returning to our hotel were the natural medicine shops and the local market. In his guidebook, Ernie read that some of those natural medicine shops still sell items such as powdered lizards. He joked we should buy some and test on me to see whether it would help with the nausea. Fortunately, for me we didn’t find any powdered lizard, only herbs, spices, nuts, seeds natural soaps, oils and sponges. All very interesting!

The market was busy and noisy – like the rest of Amman. It was full of colorful fruits and vegetables. Lots of Jordanian sweets, too – the Canadians bought some as gifts for their family, friends and co-workers. Due to my nausea, I was a little disturbed by all the smells – and even the sight of sweets that normally I’d find quite attractive. The most interesting thing I spotted at the market were giant cinnamon sticks – I have never seen them so big!

Giant cinnamon sticks!
I was feeling worse and worse, and everyone else was getting tired as well so we decided to go back to the hotel. Ernie tried to flag down a taxi, but they either wouldn’t stop or the drivers would refuse to take us to our destination saying it was too far away in a rarely-frequented part of the city. What the heck?! Usually taxis would honk at us every few minutes offering rides when we didn’t need them and that one time we actually needed a ride it was difficult to get one! I don’t get it….

After a number of unsuccessful trials with taxis, Ernie decided to walk into a nearby Western Union office and ask the employee to call an Uber for us. The Uber that picked us up was smaller than the one which tool us to the Old Town and we squeezed inside even more tightly. It was a Toyota Prius and I couldn’t help noticing that this type of car seemed to be a very popular car in Jordan. I swear I saw many Priuses - and even more Toyotas - everywhere in Jordan. Even our Jordan Trail support truck was a Toyota!

Our Uber driver spoke English, so we chatted with him during the ride. He was a 24 year old university graduate who couldn’t find a job and became an Uber driver. He lived in Madaba with his parents and worked 7 days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day to make his living. Three-quarters of the money passengers paid for each ride went into his pocket, the remainder were fees and taxes. The car he bought with a bank loan. After paying taxes, loan installments and costs of living, a mere 100 JOD (ca. $140) is left. All of this didn’t sound like an easy or enjoyable life. It made me sad to be reminded that the world is often an unfair place full of inequalities - so many people struggle to make ends meet while others live a luxurious life only because they happened to be born in a richer part of the world.

Colorful markets of Amman
Back at the hotel,  I checked into the room I reserved earlier and moved out of Margaret’s room. She probably enjoyed the extra space, but I’m sure she missed me. (Maybe not the vomiting, though!) Then I went straight to bed where I planned to spend the rest of the afternoon and the evening. Around midnight I would need to leave for the airport – my flight back to Amsterdam would leave around 4 am. I wasn’t going to get much sleep the next night, so I wanted to rest as much as possible beforehand.

In the evening, Ryan and the Canadians went out for dinner to an Iraqi restaurant. They said the food was delicious. I was a little jealous but felt too sick to join.

At midnight, I went down to the lobby and the men behind the reception desk called a taxi for me. The driver spoke good English and we chattered on the way. He used to live in the United States. A few hours before he returned from a ride to Wadi Rum and was quite tired, so he went to bed and intended to sleep until the morning – but then around midnight the hotel called and he had to get dressed get into his taxi again. He had no choice – business is business.

At the airport, I went through security twice – the first time before even entering the airport and the second time before going to the gates. I have never before experienced this double security check! The moment I got an exit stamp into my passport it became official – I was leaving Jordan. I felt a little sad… I had had such great time in this country, much better than I had expected! This trip had definitely been among one of the best in my life!

Regarding my flight back to Amsterdam, it was quite challenging due to my stomach problems. I had to use the restroom several times on the plane and at the Athens Airport where I had a layover. I made a mistake of eating the breakfast I was served on my flight to Athens – my stomach didn’t appreciate it. I learnt my lesson, though, and on the flight to Amsterdam I didn’t eat anything – just drank water and electrolytes.
Ruins of the Citadel

Ernie thought a "hate free zone" during lunch would prevent me from playing pranks on him... *shaking head*
It's not a prank-free zone, buddy! =)
My first hamburger in 45 days! And it was delicious!

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