dekel and i were stoked to be traveling to a neighboring country and one that we’ve never been to before to see what it’s really like and to just experience petra, the city in which lies a new wonder of the world. in all truth, since it’s an arab country, if it weren’t for me, dekel would probably never venture there. but i really wanted to go so he agreed and helped me plan. thankfully, being mr. meticulous that he is, he even created and printed out a detailed plan for how to get to the border-cross and how to get to amman (jordan’s capital) and from there to petra. i made fun of his for this, but, in the end, we were really relieved that we knew exactly what we were doing and where we were going because almost no one spoke english.
we left our house around 9 am wednesday with two carry-on bags and one backpack, we arrived to the border-cross in bet-she‘an around 9:30 am, parked our car and rolled inside to change some dollars to dinars and exit israel. after our passports were stamped, we waited for a bus to take us to the jordanian border-cross so we could enter jordan. i, naively, thought it would be like one building and it would be a quick process. silly me. so, 15 minutes later a bus comes to take dekel, myself and about 20 arabs to the jordanian border-cross where we need to roll our shit inside, get a visa and enter jordan. we followed the crowd, waited in line for about 40 minutes and sure enough the teller takes one look at dekel’s israeli passport and has us head over to talk to “tourist police,” like we look threatening. i know they were just being cautious but the funny thing was that the “tourist police” could have cared less about us. they wished us a nice trip and sent us right back over to continue with the visa process. anyways, done and done we got our visa, officially entered jordan and set off to catch a cab to amman (an hour drive from the border-cross), from where we would then take a “local bus” to petra (a 3-hour drive from amman). dekel ended up making friends with a nice-looking arab businessman who agreed to taxi with us to amman, to split the cost and also to communicate with the driver because we sure couldn’t. the only catch was the taxi company was a first come, first serve basis, so we ended up waiting a whopping 2 hours for a cab to amman.
to catch you up, it’s now around 2 pm. the drive from the border-cross to amman was indescribable. i will try my best to even repeat in words what my eyes have seen, but it was crazy. at first all you could see was just desert with sheep and cows running around then we started to drive into an arab village. at this point in the drive my jaw was open and my camera was in my hands, i was unable to even calculate to take photos and it almost seemed rude to photograph such poverty. kids sleeping on the sides of the road, men barefoot and filthy, teenagers sitting in unfinished homes as if life had no meaning. i know my descriptions may sound silly, but it was as if no one there had anywhere to go. i only wished i could get inside those people’s heads to hear their thoughts. what their lives consisted of, if they had dreams, goals. maybe their goals were to have a next meal. i don’t know. there were tons of crop fields and women tending to them wearing headdresses, covering everything but a slit for their eyes. and it was hot out. well above 90 degrees fahrenheit. we drove through a local market where the randomness exceeded anything i’ve ever seen in the markets here in israel. it would jump from a store selling house-stuff, like brooms, trash cans, plastic goods to one selling live chickens in cages to one selling car parts to one selling clothes to one selling fruit and vegetables. and all along the way there are goats and people crossing the street without looking, as if cars don’t exist and people playing chess in the median. oh! and don’t get me started on the driving…speed limits and street signs are ignored. hell! street lights are ignored! it’s seriously chaos in the streets, honking from left to right. it was crazy.
so we drive through a few villages like this with my mind never at rest. always on the lookout for something i didn’t see before, something more shocking. we finally part ways from the villages and climb a mountain to approach amman. finally, a city. where i saw familiar-to-the-states food chains like chili’s and applebee’s. i even saw a poster for a mango, a retail chain they have here in israel. there were tall, beautiful buildings, some done up with sparkly paint and some unfinished. we dropped our taxi partner at his hotel in amman and the cab driver took dekel and me to the central bus station, also where we had no idea what was ahead of us.
we arrived 10 minutes later, mind you- it’s now about 3:30 pm. as our cab driver pulled up to drop us off and help us with our bags a man, whom i shortly after figured out was the “central bus coordinator,” approached us to see where we needed to go so he could direct us to the right platform. we knew he was the gate-keeper and to stick with him. we parted with our cab and rolled our shit over to the platform to petra, all along getting the “we scream foreigners” stare down. we parked our stuff up against a pole and saw across the street some local food that we had to get in our belly because we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and we were about to face a 3-hour ride to get to our final destination. we asked our friend “bus station coordinator” to keep an eye on our stuff (besides our backpack that we took with us which held our money and passports, of course!) and we ran across the street to order a schwarma. in the hole-in-the-wall restaurant were some young boys who immediately started gawking and speaking in arabic, which i can only assume was about me, because the next thing i know one of them is shaking my hand and touching my hair and trying to speak to me in english. they were pretty cute and we got a kick out of trying to communicate while our schwarmas were being served up. we paid the cheap fee of $3 to get two schwarmas and a big ass bottle of water, crossed the street back to our bags, plopped down and chowed down. it was the best damn schwarma we’ve both ever eaten, on that we agreed. wnd we’ve had a lot of schwarma :) after licking our fingers (just kidding! but it was really THAT good), dekel inquired where the bathroom was and headed off to use it while i stayed guard. he returned and reminded me of the long 3-hour ride we had ahead of us and scared me into having to pee too, so i crossed the entire bus station grounds, feeling like a piece of meat being whistled at the entire time, found the bathroom, entered and walked right back out. i thought to myself “no way do i have to stand up to pee, i must be in the men’s” because of course, there was no sign. so i walked into the bathroom next-door only to meet a man walking out at the same time, pointing me back in the direction i came from. shit. there was seriously no toilet, only a hole in the ground and a place on either side of the hole for your feet. i was seriously about to pee standing up and of course, there was no toilet paper. thank god i was in a skirt and sandals because let’s just say the sink with running water became my next best friend. i left feeling nastier than ever before only to see a huge crowd of people all pushing and shoving to get on a bus and then i see dekel’s in that crowd. i scuffle over and find our friend the “bus station coordinator” and point to the bus and point back and me and dek saying “we are on the bus, yes.” he nodded casually pointing to the front seat. let me just describe this little “local bus” for ya. it holds about 10-12 people tops and seriously 30 were trying to board the thing. a fight even broke out, in arabic, so we couldn’t understand what all the chaos was about, but we figured its best if just stand up next to the bus and keep the “coordinator” in sight and talk to the bus driver, who knew a little english, to try to ensure we got on there because who knew when another local bus would come around. he assured us we would have a seat and i kept thinking to myself “ok, where?!” all the seats at this point were taken, except for the front seat, which wasn’t like individual seats, it was like a long bench that could fit 2, maybe 3 people. after the chaos settled down from the fight, and the bus driver finished his 3rd cigarette in a 10-minute period ,he took our money and told us to sit up front. we had to literally climb over people to get up there, cause there was no front door on the passenger side, and sat down to realize that the driver allowed another kid on the bus to sit in the front too. this now means 4 people were to cram on a bench that could fit 2. for visualization, the kid and i were back to back and i had a seatbelt holder up my ass the whole time. dekel was crammed up against the window. there was no air conditioning, arab music/ news was blaring in our ears, sun right smack in our faces and the driver was chain smoking cigarettes.
i'll leave it at that for now and will work on a post about arriving to petra and the experience of petra by night and by day. hope you enjoyed!