Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blowin' in the wind...

Checking out of our Amman hotel for the second time, we headed out onto the road. I had thought it was going to be Easter Sunday and had carefully packed all sorts of Cadbury chocolates for the bunny to bring. However, when we got to Jordan I happened to look at a calendar which said that Easter was the 19th, not the 12th.

Knowing how impossibly handicapped I am with messing up dates I figured I'd made a mistake and packed the goodies for nothing. The chocolates had melted by that point anyway; fortunately I had prepared for that likelihood, bringing non perishable gifts for the kids' baskets as well.

Before we got on the road we stopped to pick up snacks for the road trip and cash and discovered that something had gone very wrong with my camera. It seemed to be working OK, except in one small detail: all the photographs were completely black. So, in desperation, I picked up another camera from a very limited selection (I had a choice between Polaroid, decided no, and GE---did you even know GE makes cameras?!) and hoped for the best. No one was in a great mood, heading out later than we liked and tired from stomping around Jerash the day before.

Yellow blooming olive trees and tea on Mt Nebo

That Sunday we went up the biblical Mt Nebo, the place where Moses was supposed to have finally glimpsed the Promised Land, and then died, to be buried by God in an unknown grave. We went to look over Israel ourselves, to see the olive tree planted for peace by Pope John Paul II, and we did those things, but that day our children decided to be bad.

Bethy and Mike, the Promised Land beyond

Well, maybe not bad, exactly... but close enough. Thomas flung his sunglasses over the fence towards the West Bank to be lost forever (whereupon Mike taught him to say his sunglasses were "resting with Moses"...I can't take them anywhere) and Bethy pitched loud fit after fit about absolutely nothing. It was awful. Probably no one's fault but our own; we'd asked a lot of our kids.

However, after we left, driving through the hills, past vineyards, herd after herd of sheep:

and curiously slanting trees, telling the tale of how fierce the winds can blow across that part of Jordan:

we managed to get our happy traveler selves back and relaxed. Mike got a particular guffaw out of this sign:

(OK, maybe I did too), and if you don't see what's so funny about it, good for you.

The ancient King's Highway that we were on is not the quickest way to get anywhere, but we had heard that it is one of the best ways to see the country, and gave it a go. The most striking landscape along the way was that of Wadi Mujib (formed by the biblical Arnon River) where the road wound and twisted down, down into the gorge and then steeply back up the other side. We once again sent silent thanks to the travel gods that we'd gotten an upgrade for our car.

Wadi Mujib

During a potty break Bethy found a positive boulder of some sort of fine grained yellow quartz which flaked easily and loaded her pockets with it. I had to satisfy my rock hound desires by haggling with a roadside merchant at an overlook for a rock loaded with sea fossils and also a perfect little barite sand/desert rose. We stopped on the far side of the Wadi for lunch at the first place we saw:

Barking dogs outside that were unceremoniously smacked away by the workers not withstanding, we were pleased to go in and find a delicious buffet, including most of the lower half of a lamb which, when carved, yielded the tenderest meat I have ever eaten. Plenty of food, most of which I had little or no clue as to what it was.

I did accidentally steal the "Jordaine" (as opposed to Jordan) Lonely Planet book that was sitting on the bench next to us...the Frenchwoman to whom it belonged politely asked for it back after I put it in my purse. Tres embarassant! It honestly did look exactly like ours, except for that little detail of what language it was in.

To wrap up the meal we had tiny cups of strong coffee and a dessert I had never tried before, a sweet semolina sort of cake, slightly sticky, cut into diamond shapes in a large pan, each piece crowned with an almond. Complimenting the gray haired owner on it, I asked what the pastry was called. Basbousa, he told me, and, as far as I could tell, offered to get us some to take with us. Stuffed, I declined, thanking him for his generosity, and we got up to leave.

In the sand and rock parking area a good way from the building we were just starting to back out when he chased us down, carrying two plates carefully wrapped in aluminum foil for us to take with on the road. I was really touched by his gesture and thanked him profusely once again. He seemed pleased.

One of the most interesting sights along the Kings Highway, down in a wadi near herder camps was the small children who, seeing our car coming, would hold up a single egg or, one time, a bunch of herbs to sell. I rather wished we'd had a need for eggs, but there was no way to cook them, and I didn't see the herb seller until he was behind us. How one could choose from which of the kids with their wistful eyes and offers held high you should buy your eggs out in the desert, I really don't know.

We drove past Al Karak, a formidable Crusader castle along the King's Highway, but after an extended friendly debate with ourselves decided not to stop. The castle and the town seem to have grown into one another. While we would have loved to have delved into the history of the castle, and I was tickled by the tale of attackers who besieged the castle, leaving the wedding chamber unmolested as a gesture of chivalry to the bride, (!) we were off to Petra, and had made some wrong turns already, (shocking, I know!) so we kept on the road until we got there.

And it wasn't until the next Sunday, back in Dubai, that I found out that there and in the USA Easter had already gone by the week before, while it was indeed being celebrated in Jordan on the 19th, as according to the Greek Orthodox calendar.
So, I guess we were on Mt Nebo overlooking Israel on Easter Sunday...sort of.


Julia said...

Yeah, I'm juvenile enough to get a big kick out of the roadsign too. ha ha ha.

Anonymous said...

After driving in Aman, pretty much every sign seemed to say that in my mind ...

-The Silent Partner to the Blogger

sherrip said...

Dear Silent Partner--

You crack me up. I had to laugh at the sign, too!