Our tale starts on the Galway-Dublin Citylink bus. Strangely, the bus driver had no uniform and appeared from nowhere. I wondered for a moment if some random Polish guy in a football jersey had decided he’d like to drive a bus tonight.I decided to go with it.
A Chinese guy was playing mandarin rap, loudly. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I have a bad track record with bus travel and foreign rap. (One memorable 13 hour trip from Vegas to San Francisco listening to more Mexican rap than I ever needed to hear being the best example).
When we reached Dublin airport, we bypassed the horror that was Terminal 2 and its queues to get to Terminal 1.
I set off the alarm going through security. No biggie. (As mentioned in my ode to Glasgow, this happens all the time). I was told to take off my shoes, then lightly frisked. Still sounding. The security guard broke out the magic wand to sweep me. It went off. She looked excited and wheeled out a contraption. It looked like one of those giant scales in shopping centres where you can weigh yourself and test your blood pressure. There was a picture of a foot on the metal platform.
Did I mention that the date was the 11th of September and I was flying to the Middle East? Yeah. I placed one foot on the picture and stood with my arms out straight while the guard swept me and frisked me a little more vigorously this time. She told me the contraption was so she could get more “leverage” to frisk. This was not as comforting as she might have imagined. I repeated the procedure with the other foot, the other passengers looking quite amused at this stage, and relieved it wasn’t happening to them. The wand sounded at my boobs.
Frisky McFriskerson grinned and said she wanted to “focus more on the chest area”. I felt like she could at least have bought me a drink first. She proceeded to feel that region, eventually conceding (with evident disappointment) that my bra was to blame. My boobs would not take down national security that day. But be warned: they may strike again at any time.
We reached Heathrow Airport for our connecting flight and had a bit of a wait. We killed time by people-watching. There’s a children’s playground situated strategically by a “Toy Box” shop in order to maximise sales. The cashier wandered around in fairy wings and wafted bubbles in the children’s direction, trying to entice them (and their parents’ wallets) to her like a twisted Pied Piper.
To my complete surprise, a guy I became friends with while flyering for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was on our flight. He’s Jordanian and was going home for a short visit.
The first person we met in Jordan was an Irish guy. (Of course). I had spotted him eyeballing us in Heathrow and wasn’t sure why. Apparently he saw us, thought we “looked Irish” and wanted to give us a helping hand, greeting us with:
“Are ye irish? What are you doing here? I haven’t seen Irish tourists here since February”. (No-one could get past him, apparently).
As the queue of disembarking passengers was entirely made up of returning Jordanians and middle-aged English businessmen, I had no trouble believing him that Amman was not exactly the Lanzarote of Irish tourism. He worked in Amman for a Swiss bank as a programmer and had been there for little over a year.
He turned out to be our saviour as Jordanian queues are lackadaisical at best and he had the insider track on how to navigate them. The baffling visa line was a kind of abstract pentagram shape, with no-one quite sure what direction they should be facing. Some of us were moved into the “Jordanians only” line to help speed things along. The actual Jordanians looked very confused.
I had a brief conversation with a guard about my business in Jordan and my plans. He took a picture of me and then filled my passport with stamps.
After scanning our luggage just before leaving the airport (not sure of the logic of this), we made it outside to the chaos. In the darkness we headed to the taxi rank, where everybody was yelling at each other even though no-one was angry. This bled over to the driving style displayed by the drivers. It’s a bit…gung-ho. Everyone beeps their horn, as naturally as you would use the clutch. Our driver put on an english-language radio station. I caught him singing along to “Love is a Battlefield” under his breath. I joined him.
Ammanians decorate their shops with neon lights, which anywhere else would look tacky. Everyone on the streets was loud and boisterous and energetic. Small mobile food stalls had popped up to catch people seeking a late dinner. Amman is a city of hills, you feel like there is no house you cannot see at one time. Like the whole city is participating in something.
We arrived at our accommodation, Abbasi Palace. “Palace” may have been an overstatement but I liked it immediately. It was located on the kind of street where you would struggle to find a bottle of water to buy but where you could procure a mobile phone at 3am without stepping outside your door.The manager was in high spirits and made us tea while he got our room key. I don’t like tea but I appreciated the gesture and drank as much as I could. Tea is serious business in Jordan. (One of the many similarities between the Irish and the Jordanians). We quickly became accustomed to the toilet paper “situation” (similar to countries like Mexico, toilet paper is discarded in the bin rather than flushed) before heading to bed, exhausted.
We planned to do a tour of Madaba, Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea the next day.