I could go on for days on what I love about this country. However, there are two things I will never care for in Jordan:
Public transportation and Jordanian men.
Some of my best memories here involve taxi rides I’ve taken throughout the city and my travels around the country, but my experiences haven’t always been ideal and bus rides are always my worst nightmare.
Most taxi drivers are some of the nicest people I’ve met here, but I’ve also had some who watch me the whole ride, verbally harass me and sometimes follow me. I know I’m not the only white girl in this city so it’s never justified when they call me things their mother would probably slap them for.
Buses are a whole different story, and taxi drivers usually go hand-in-hand with my bus experiences. Not only are they uncomfortable in actual transport, as I can usually find a man staring at me at any given moment, but never in my life have I wanted to punch a grown man more than when I get off a bus, where taxi drivers literally flock to the bus doors and get in your face asking where you’re going and if they can take you somewhere. Situations like this usually include me pushing through the crowd, occasionally shoulder-checking a few people. While I try to be polite about the situation, taxi drivers know how to push my buttons, especially when they follow me half a block to try and get me in their car.
The only time men are on their best behavior on buses is when we get pulled over for security checks. As unnerving as they are, with police men making their way through the isle and staring everyone up and down, it’s a time I’m thankful for in my travels. Everyone looks straight ahead, hoping the police man won’t ask them for their ID, and for some time afterwards there is complete silence.
The men are just the worst here. I knew before coming here that I would have issues with them, but I had no idea how irritating it would be on a daily basis.
They’re even worse after football matches. Thursday night there was a football game between Palestine and Malaysia. Alhamdulillah Palestine won because I’d hate to see what happens when we lose. The men go bat sh*t crazy in the streets after a victory, with riot police and tanks dispatched all over the city, and the harassment levels go up tremendously. That being said, Thursday was not a good night for me.
Groups of guys would walk by and yell things at me, occasionally tell me they loved me or spit out their weird Jordanian cat call, “pssss psssssssss.”
Rule number one in our women’s safety seminar at the beginning of the term was this: put on your b*tch face.
Okay it wasn’t really put that way, but regardless I put it on hard that night. Luckily I was with Junior and surrounded by cops, but he’s hardly a threat to a group of seven guys twice his size and the cops didn’t even stop the guy literally standing on top of a moving vehicle waving a huge Palestinian flag down the road, his face wrapped up in the Palestinian kuffiyeh. All I could think was that if we saw a guy like that in America, everyone would think ISIS made its way to the US and we’d run for our lives.
No big deal in Jordan.
You know what else isn’t a big deal in Jordan? Child labor laws and camels.
If you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, I survived Petra yesterday, an ancient city filled with dirty little Bedouin kids trying to sell you postcards and herds of enormously tall camels just trotting through crowds.
After yesterday I really don’t like camels, animals that I’ve determined to be just ugly, confused giraffes.
However, I will admit that the truckload of baby camels I saw on the way home last night were pretty cute.
The last big adventure of my time in Jordan began at four in the morning, after two hours of sleep.
Our bus left Abdali Station at 6:30 in the morning where we met a very kind Canadian man traveling in Jordan for the next two weeks. He loved getting to know each of us, and we spent a good 45 minutes just talking about our travels around the world and where we were headed after our time in Jordan would end for each of us. However, the dude woke me up from my nap on the bus to ask me where I was from in the States. He lost a few cool points after that, but I know he had good intentions.
After a three-hour bus ride, we arrived in Petra. We went in with the goal to convince the ticket booth man to let us in for 1JD, prepared to put up a fight. Apparently the last time Luyi went to Petra, she got in an argument with the ticket man and they took her to the tourist police station. She was more than willing to do it again.
However, the fight we intended to have was quickly put to bed and we reluctantly paid the 50JD entrance fee.
With that, we made the way through the gate and were on our way to the Treasury with a history lesson from Jack to go with it. I usually tune him out, though, and this was no exception.
Petra, while great overall, was probably the most irritating travel destination I’ve been to in Jordan. I should have known, though, as it’s the most visited place in this country.
Literally every other minute there was some random Jack Sparrow-looking Bedouin dude trying to get us to ride a camel or a donkey, also referred to as “a desert Ferrari.”
Not only this, but there were endless amounts of horse-drawn chariots racing through the small canyons, and they show no mercy. You either get out of the way, whether that means pushing yourself against or even climbing a wall, or you get run over. What’s worse is that the stupid chariots were always filled with little Asian women with too much money on their hands and nothing better to do.
Anyway, on our way through the canyon we ran across the first of many “charming” Jack Sparrows and I was his first victim.
“Hello sweet lady, would you like to buy some jewelry?” said Jack Sparrow.
I smiled my Midwestern smile and said, “No, thank you!”
“Oh you smile because I call you sweet lady? Awww,” said Jack Sparrow.
“No, I’m smiling because you’re creepy and I don’t know what else to do with my face,” said creeped out Hayley.
“Oh no, no, you smile because you know you’re a sweet lady. It’s true, sweet lady,” said Jack Sparrow.
“Nope. K thanks, bye,” said I, and I walked briskly away.
He was the joke for the rest of the trip. “Sweet lady.”
The young Bedouin men in Petra are known for their charm, and almost any travel guide to Jordan warns women not to fall for their ways. What’s funny is that I know someone from my school here that actually fell for it, and is now living in Petra with some young Bedouin who wooed her with his words.
What’s worse is that not only are the men charming but they teach the young boys there to be the same way.
Arriving at the Treasury, I had a boy come up to me and try to sell me postcards. I smiled and said no thank you.
“Oh lady, you dropped something,” said the boy.
“I did?” I said.
“Yes………your smile,” said the boy as he looked up at me with a cheesy grin.
“Ha. You’re funny, little man, but my smile is always up here,” I said as I pointed to my face.
“Oh hahaha,” said the little boy and continued to shove postcards in my face.
Taking in the magnificent glory of all that is the Treasury, I turned my attention to the large animal sitting next to me.
The last time I had any real interaction with a camel was when I was probably five and at the zoo. I had no idea camels were as freaking tall as they actually are until this thing stood up next to me and towered at least three feet above me. These things are massive, and surprisingly fast……and sassy. There were a few camels who were not too pleased to have overweight women sitting on top of them. I wouldn’t be, either.
Moving on from the treasury, we continued down the trail to more men trying to get us to ride donkeys and to some place whose name escapes me but it looked like this:
Many travel books say you need at least two days to see enough of Petra but we came here with only six hours to see what we could, and by golly it was enough for me.
Just this area above took us an hour and a half to hike through and I was ready to call it a day.
What was interesting about this area was when we got to the very top of the canyon. There were two Bedouin men and a woman just chillin’ there, drinking tea and talking. One of the men started talking to me and it was obvious that he looked very different from regular Jordanian men or even Arabs for that matter.
When one thinks of an Arab man, they usually imagine a light brown-skinned, bearded dude. You wouldn’t imagine that Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East has Arabs that look like the blackest black guy you’ll ever meet. That’s who we met at the top of the hill, and while I’ve seen many Jordanians similarly dark as him, he was very dark. Jack explained that he was probably a direct descendant of the Nabataeans, a nomadic Arab people originating from the Sinai Peninsula in Africa and migrating into the Negev Desert region before setting up a trading system in Petra. However, little is known about the Nabataeans, so I take his story with a grain of salt.
Coming back down from the Bedouin powwow, we ventured on to the Monastery approximately a two hour walk away.
Here are some of the things we saw on the way:
On our way there, we had many men ask us if we’d like to take a desert Ferrari to the top, as it was about a 45-minute trek from where we were. We politely declined and kept going, although my blood sugar was dangerously low after not eating since five that morning, Luyi has a heart condition and Junior just wanted to sit for a few minutes.
We carried on, though, and finally made it to the Monastery after an hour and a half.
Similar in appearance to the Treasury, the Monastery’s doorway is as big as a two-story house. It is said that it wasn’t actually used for a monastery but most likely for a temple for the Nabataean King from the first century BC. Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to enter either the Treasury or the Monastery without permission, so it was a bummer in that regard, but still cool to see.
Having a quick rest while Jack climbed up to a view point a couple miles away, Junior, Luyi and I snacked on some cookies and Junior made a kitty friend, while I listened to the Jordanian men behind men act like idiots and then curse at me when I ignored them later on. Apparently I’m not the “sweet lady” they say I am.
Once Jack came down, we had to make our way back so we could grab a quick lunch before our bus back.
Unfortunately, the only way down from the Monastery is the way you came up, so we made the 1+ hour trek back, avoiding all the donkey crap that fills the stairs and the annoying Bedouin ladies trying to sell you things along the way.
We passed the Canadian dude we met on the bus ride to Petra on the way back and kept going until we reached the Treasury, hoping the crowds had died down so Junior could get a photo by himself.
Nope. The later in the day it got, the more people seemed to flood in.
Junior got his photo taken out front and we headed back through the canyon walkway, avoiding camels, Asians and getting run over by chariots (again).
We headed into the city located just outside the archaeological site and grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant for as cheap as we could get it. I had the worst hummus of my life, boarded the bus and slept for an hour until I woke up to the cute truckload of baby camels outside my window.
We jumped off the bus at Abdali Station, got flocked by taxi drivers, found one that would turn on the meter for us and made our way back to Amman.
I made a quick dinner of Filipino sour soup, collapsed in bed and slept for 14 hours.
We walked 17 kilometers yesterday and I’m still exhausted, but it was well worth it الحمد لله.