In true Lauren Zink style I woke up before the alarm was set to go off in Eilat. Typically I am known to do this anyway, but I also was anxious to awake and get going on my Jordanian adventure. I got dressed and made myself look pretty presentable and then sat on my bed hoping my roommates would wake up. About fifteen minutes later we headed downstairs to have a continental breakfast consisting of coffee, tea, and a warm bun that was really a closed hot dog roll – it didn’t have the slit to put the hot dog in. Speaking of slits, did you know bagels are not popular in Israel? This is funny to me since in America Jewish delicatessens are the best places to get bagels. Anyway, after consuming lots of coffee we made our way back upstairs to gather our things and check out of Motel Aviv.
From there we took a short cab ride to the crossing border between Israel and Jordan. We had expected for it to take quite awhile, and prepared ourselves for possibly going through intense questioning as to why we were entering the country. Surprisingly (and fortunately) it was an easy process and before we knew it we were in a cab prepared to take a two hour ride to the town of Wadi Mussa. In typical Middle Eastern cab driver fashion this man (Tellet) was very nice. At the beginning of the ride he stopped at a gas station and bought all of us orange soda.
We continued to talk as much as we could but unfortunately Tellet knew little English, and we know absolutely no Arabic. The drive was also so scenic and beautiful that we would have rather looked around then focus on conversation. About a little more than halfway our cab driver made another stop, this time to a public restroom area. This was convenient because I had both water and orange soda sitting in my lap, and neither were completely full. The rest area was also a souvenir shop and it was a good entrance into the Arab style of jewelry, tea cups, etc.
Our third stop of the day was at a lookout point. It was absolutely gorgeous here – one of those times when someone needs to pull you away or else you could just sit there all day long and stare.
During the drive we were also fortunate to stop plenty of times to let camels cross the road. It is no surprise to me at this point to see signs where instead of “Beware of children” it is “Beware of camels.” Although in Israel I find there is better ‘camel control’ as far as them crossing the streets than in Jordan.
A little more than two hours later Tellet pulled his cab right in front of the Peace Way Hostel – our place of residence for the next two days. When we walked inside we were greeted by a man in his later twenties who told us to take a seat and he would be right back. He then came back a few minutes later with three glasses of mango juice. He asked if we could wait a little while to finish getting our room ready. We were more than happy with abiding by his request due to the fact that we had mango juice in our hands and a TV to watch playing an Arab soap opera. Midway through the show we saw one of the characters also drinking what looked like mango juice. We concluded in that moment that between our cab driver, our hostel manager, and this TV character, Jordanians must love orange drinks.
After settling into our room a bit we realized we were quite starving. We went downstairs to ask our hostel manager restaurant recommendations and he said there was a restaurant right next door that had fantastic food and if we ate there we would get a 20% discount. Perfect. It was only right to try a true Arab meal – so we only allowed ourselves to look under the section entitled “Home Favorites.” Two maglobah’s and a koftah later we decided Jordanian food was fantastic food. Chicken, lamb (no worries I am still a non-red meat eater), vegetables, rice, all blended with middle-eastern spices and sauces for dipping.
While at lunch we all said how we were so fortunate to be able to be in Jordan feeling so comfortable. Everyone was so nice to us and they absolutely loved Americans. I also loved to be able to travel to such a unique place, and it was nice to see Arab culture at its realist. We eventually stopped talking and listened to what sounded like Arab music playing. I then thought, “No this is a piano-only version of a Boys 2 Men song.” Ok so pretty much wherever you go the United States is going to pop up somewhere.
We were very much looking forward to seeing the town of Wadi Mussa and what a Jordanian town is like. About twenty minutes later we realized we had walked the entire downtown. Ok so it was little – mainly consisted of drug stores, convenience shops, Internet cafes, male clothing stores, and restaurants. And of course hookahs frequented all of these places.
We walked into a few of these stores to see what they were like inside. Out of all the downtown area there was only one women’s clothing store. It was interesting to observe that women were not really seen walking around town. When they were it seemed to me that they were always going somewhere, they were not just casually hanging out like the men. Though they do have to cover themselves from head to toe in extreme heat I must say the one women’s clothing store that we did go into had a lot of options for their way of fashion. It was nice to know that they do find creative ways to make their burkas more sparkly or their dresses more colorful.
The convenience shops were interesting because there was fun food and drinks that we have never seen before. Meat in a can? Banana milk? It was also nice to see foods and drinks that we have seen before. Coffee beans! Oreos! Pringles were there also, but they had a hot and spicy flavor. How come there aren’t hot and spicy Pringles in the US or Israel? I am sure if it is hot and spicy enough though I could pop and eventually stop (corny I know but I had to throw it in somehow).
While we were walking through the streets a call for prayer came out of the sound system of the clock tower for the whole town to hear. Many people on the streets stopped what they were doing, closed up shop, and headed towards the mosque for one of their many prayer sessions for the day. This to me was one of those moments when I realized I was in a real Arab country.
Since we pretty much covered the town of Wadi Mussa and it was only about 4:00 p.m. we thought it’d be nice to sit and have some coffee. We found a great shop where you had to walk up a few flights of stairs and could be on the roof with a beautiful view of the Jordanian canyons. Nice as it was the coffee was horrendous. It was unlike anything I had ever tasted and I was quite disappointed because I was really looking forward to having a cup of Arabic coffee. I wanted to drink it so bad and I didn’t want to be rude either but the second time I even took a sip I almost gagged and puked it back up. I can’t even begin to describe how it tasted but I can say that Ariel was in the same boat as me. They (whoever they are) do say that across different parts of the world our taste buds are different. Well my taste buds may be in tune with the Jordanian food but certainly not the Jordanian coffee.
Even still we managed to sit up there for quite awhile, conversing in great discussion and sometimes just looking around and not talking at all. Afterwards we decided to ask our hostel manager if he could recommend a place for us to go watch the sunset. He put is in a cab and told the driver to bring us somewhere specific. The cab driver was nice enough (I’m not even surprised anymore by their thoughtfulness) to stay with us while the sun set and explain our surroundings and then give us a ride back. The sun set was so beautiful and you could get a tiny glimpse into Petra below.
Eventually we headed back to the hotel and all read our books. We then had dinner and called it an early night because we were to wake up early and get in as much of Petra as we could.
Around 5:00 a.m. we were awoken by the sound of another prayer call. The prayer is typically sung about five times in ten minutes. It was fascinating and exciting to be awoken by this. An hour and a half later we woke up again; this time to get out of bed and go to Petra!