As I warned when I started this blog, it wouldn’t be a substitute tourism guide, but rather a place to share experiences in the Middle East from a personal perspective.
So, my weekend to Jordan…
I was planning to book a trip to Egypt actually, but my boss told me I’d probably like Jordan, so I went to Expedia, checked the prices and booked the ticket within about 20 minutes. Those who know me best know that I’m not one to spend hours checking out the destination, hotel or those other pesky details.
When I did a quick check of the town I’d already booked a hotel in, I read this: “Because there are lots of Christians in Madaba, alcohol is plentiful.” My kind of place. Plus, the town is small enough that you can walk the whole thing.
The weekend came and off I went. The plane was packed, but since it’s only a two hour flight, I didn’t mind the screaming children everywhere. You can survive most things for two hours. I made it through immigration quickly. There were about 20 switchbacks of crowd control rope ahead of the counter, but I was a little impatient and ducked through them to save myself about 2 kilometers of needless walking since there was only one person waiting. I got to the counter and was told that I could only buy the visa with Jordanian money, so I ducked under all the ropes again to find an ATM, got my cash and scurried back to the counter to buy my visa.
Apparently the visa sellers aren’t authorized to stamp passports but they work in pairs with the immigration guys (same uniforms). The visa guy held out my passport for the immigration guy and said, “Stamp this” He stamped it without looking at me or the details on the passport. As we was handing me the passport he said ‘You’re welcome’ before I had a chance to say ‘thank you’. We’ll come back to this point later.
I had no trouble finding the driver the hotel sent to get me at the airport. He introduced himself after I identified myself. For his name, in the loudness of the airport, all I heard was “Fuck” plus some sound. I didn’t want to say “Fuck what?”, so I actually never got his name until we arrived at the hotel and he gave me his card. I should mention here that twice, Fuckme or whatever his name was, said ‘you’re welcome’ then took my bag for me. I thanked him and began to wonder about the peculiar order of a thank you/you’re welcome exchange in Jordan.
About a half hour later we arrived at the hotel. It was quiet, so I checked in quickly, (they knew my name before I said anything) asked where the bar was and what time they closed, then went up to my room to dump my bag and get back to the bar. Cute little bar, but I was the only one in it. The bartender followed the same habit of saying ‘you’re welcome’ before I could say ‘thank you’. By the time I left I had it figured out. If I wanted to thank first – it was a race!!! “CanIhaveabeerpleasethankyou?” I win!!!
It was late so I didn’t plan to do any exploring until morning. When I got up, I went to the buffet breakfast and found I had the huge dining area to myself AND the entire buffet. Nobody even asked me if I was staying at the hotel. They just acted like they knew me and said ‘you’re welcome’ at odd times quite a bit.
Now it was time to do some exploring, so I walked into the historic district and looked at all the historical shit and then sat down in a café to do some people watching and have some coffee. I was surprised at how different the people in Jordan look compared to the people in Saudi. They are neighboring countries, after-all. Jordanians seems to have a wider range of skin-tone and eye and hair coloring. After coffee, I walked around some more, but since it was Friday morning (Muslim holy day) pretty much everything was closed, so I went back to the hotel to sit on my balcony and read for a while until some places opened.
Until now, I realized I hadn’t seen a single other guest in the hotel or any signs of obvious tourists in the whole town despite perfect weather for exploring. Turns out I was the only guest in the hotel of maybe 75 rooms. I figured I’d throw the hotel restaurant some business for lunch before heading back out, so I went down and ordered up a mixed grill – which was supposed include lamb and other tasty treats. They brought some sort of fried chicken instead. ‘You’re welcome.’ I didn’t bother saying anything about it being the wrong thing because this looked good and I didn’t want their only meal served that day to turn out COSTING them money.
After exploring for a few more hours, I decided I’d try the bar at the neighboring hotel for my ‘night out’ because they had a sign that said ‘bar’. (Easy to sell to me) I walked into the lobby and the only guy visible was sitting at reception. I asked him the way to the bar and he led me down some back stairs, past a couple of dark rooms and the swimming pool and into a really nice lounge/bar with huge windows over-looking the pool. He asked what I wanted, got me the beer, said ‘you’re welcome’ before I remembered about the ‘thank you/you’re welcome race’, then left me alone in the bar to go back and run reception. Not a soul in site, but the tv was on and had Star Trek playing, so I watched that until my beer was gone. I was torn whether to get a second beer on my own or go back upstairs to ask for one. I opted for the latter choice. I nursed that beer in the deserted bar and decided to try someplace else. More of the same, it turns out.
The last weekend of April is a trip to Beirut, but this time I’m meeting a friend, so even if there are no other people around, there’s bound to be more conversation.