I was going to write a blog about the second half of my spring break trip to Turkey but after thinking about it, I realized that it only consisted of me sitting on a beach and taking a long overnight bus ride back to Istanbul. The beach was beautiful, but alas, not very interesting. Therefore, I’ve decided to skip ahead a little bit and talk about my trip to Jerash, followed by a separate post about a trip to Petra and Aqaba.
After talking about weekend plans with some of my friends during the week I found myself with a last-minute planned trip to Jerash with my friends Alex and Aliya after our Thursday classes. To say it was planned is kind of an overstatement but we figured we would get there somehow. After all, it’s not that far from Amman so how hard could it be? We took a cab to the North bus station where we planned to catch a bus to Jerash. After exiting the cab we were led by a man (did he work there? Who knows…) from the waiting area with the Jerash sign to another waiting area for another bus which would apparently stop in Jerash on its way elsewhere. One thing I have to note is there are multiple types of busses in Jordan and we were set to take a minibus. A minibus is privately owned by the driver and travels a set route licensed by the government. The bus has no schedule, leaves when it is full, and you basically have to get on as they appear and pay the controller after you’re underway. Needless to say we ended up waiting for a bus for probably an hour or hour and a half.
The entire time we waited the crowd of people waiting for the bus got bigger and bigger. When one finally arrived it was a mad rush to get on. Alex and Aliya got on right away whereas I was being too polite. Of course once it became obvious that my behavior would cause me to miss the bus I surrendered all my politeness and pushed my way onto the bus. I even pushed past a woman who told me her son was on the bus (she made it on anyways, and there was no son with her tsk tsk for dishonesty). Once I was on the bus I looked to the back to see Alex and Aliya sitting by themselves on the bench, most likely because everyone is afraid to sit by western women. I on the other hand have no such qualms so I sat by them and we were off to Jerash.
The bus trip was interesting. It felt like we were driving 100mph down a really bumpy freeway. I might have fallen asleep and then we had arrived and were dropped off at the side of the road. It seems strange to me and I have trouble getting used to the idea of incredibly old ruins in the middle of towns. We made our way to the site and through a metal detector into a small bazaar with souvenir shops of all types filled with all sorts of tourist goodies. We got to the entrance and bought our tickets for something like 1or 2 JD each (thank you residency card, tourists pay 25 I think).
After going through a majestic gate, we walked along a path past some Europeans impressing the local shababies (really young Arabs) with their football (soccer) skills. I quickly realized how it’s much more fun and interesting to travel with a very small group of people. We took our time walking along a stone road which was at least 1500 years old yet amazingly well preserved. The ruins themselves were pretty unbelievable but overrun with European tourists and it also seemed to be quite a hang out for local children. You couldn’t walk very far without being descended upon by children who would proclaim greetings in English and who would be taken aback when we would respond in Arabic. Of course it helped that I was accompanied by two American girls who were constantly barraged with professions of love and requests for their names by the local shababies.
When we were finished looking at the ruins we decided to return to the entrance to look at a few possible souvenirs. When we arrived and walked into the small bazaar there was quite a bit of commotion and yelling. One of the shopkeepers told us there was a shwe mushkila (slight problem) not to worry and it would be taken care of quickly. As we walked we noticed a crowd of people around a boy maybe 12 or 13 years old who was seated holding a cloth to his head with a pool of blood at his feet. We decided not to look at stuff in the shops and to leave. We really don’t know what happened but as we were leaving an ambulance came and took away to boy in question. I can only assume that he got in a fight with one of the other boys or something else of the like.
Once we were outside, we realized we had no idea how we were going to get back to Amman so we went back in to ask a shopkeeper. He lead us outside (Jordanians are amazingly hospitable and helpful) and showed us where we could go to catch a bus. As he was showing us there was a bus full of students (8 or 9 year-olds) and the driver asked the shopkeeper where we were going to which he responded we were going to Amman. The driver responded that we should get on board and they would take us. It was actually a funny situation because the shopkeeper told the driver that his bus was full of students and we wouldn’t want to go. All of this transpired in Arabic and I was happy that I actually understood what they were talking about. After a quick little discussion with Alex and Aliya, we decided why not, so we got on the bus. After that I must say I experienced the most memorable bus rides I’ve ever had. There we were on a bus with 15 or so students and 3 teachers. They asked us all the usual questions (why are you in Jordan, do you like it in Jordan, what are you studying) and after a while invited me to dinner with them which I respectfully declined as I knew we were leaving for Petra early the next morning. Also, the children were extremely interested in Alex and Aliya and asked numerous questions about them. The best part was it turned out one of the teachers was encouraging the kids to ask these questions since he was interested in the girls. The reason for this was that the teacher did not speak English (the other two did) and the children do so they were relaying the answers to him.
Eventually we got back to Amman and the teachers, after telling us to watch out for taxi drivers as they will try to rip you off, got us a taxi and paid the driver 5 Dinar to take us wherever we wanted. Unfortunately 5 Dinar is way more than any cab ride would ever cost going anywhere in Amman. We tried to decline but they insisted and to refuse would be considered a rebuke of their hospitality and considered rude. We ended up taking a cab to Hashem’s and enjoyed a falafel, hummus and fuul dinner. Later that night we went out and met some friends for drinks and then went home early to get up and go to leave for Petra early in the morning.