28 03 2008

Today was the day for Petra. Knowing the best light was in the mornings, I decided on an early start. I was glad I did, but not for the light! Up at 6 am, and at the entrance to Petra by 7, there are just a few people around as I buy my ticket (21 dinar) for the day.I scan the display by the entrance, but decide not to book a guide (a bit too extravagant for just me) or a horse, so quickly to the gate and in.

This walkway is about 500m long, and takes you to the Siq, or Shaft, which is the ceremonial entrance to Petra.The Siq starts out slowly enough, but has some very dramatic parts. Here are some images from my walk and out:

After walking along Al-Siq, you suddenly come upon Al Khazneh, or The Treasury:

As you can see, the light is better later in the morning, but the crowds are worse. Today was the start of Summer Time here, so instead of the sun hitting the Treasury at 9am, it is 10am – by then the day-trippers from Amman has arrived.

I did walk further in, seeing many other things – but if I tell you all about them here, I will have nothing to say when I am back. But to finish, here are some other photos from the day:

And finally proof that I was there:


Splendid Isolation

27 03 2008

Again, with no map, I am planning my day down to Petra. I decide to drive by the Dead Sea, so pull off the highway following the well marked signs. Double carriageway again, with little traffic.

From NZ the long way

Somewhere after I go below sea level (no photo there as there was a checkpoint) I go through a construction zone. Shortly after I am pulled over. I think it was for speeding through the construction zone. But, I do not speak arabic, the young police officer doesn’t speak english, and he decides to wave me on before his partner gets out of the police truck.

A couple more police checkpoints later (only one of which I show my passport) I am at the Dead Sea. And it is dead. No one around, no real access to the water itself :\ The only places with access are the resorts, all lined up together in a zone. It is all built up for tourists, but with no buildings, or tourists!

From NZ the long way
From NZ the long way
From NZ the long way
From NZ the long way

I drive through a few more checkpoints to a roadway away from the sea and make it to Al Karak. Now, I know I am on the right road south to Petra, but I can’t be sure, so I turn around. When I look at the map, I see I was actually going the right way *sigh*

I eventually make it back to the main north-south highway, which is an efficient, if boring, way to Petra.

From NZ the long way

I realize how much I am traveling in splendid isolation when I check into the Petra Marriott. Splendid views, about 3km out and above Petra. This is not useful for my tendency to be shy and a bit of a loner — something not to repeat when I come back!

From NZ the long way
From NZ the long way

Tomorrow is a full day at Petra!

Feeling my way into Amman

27 03 2008

We board our flight slowly, and by row.  I am on a FULL flight, not an empty seat on the aircraft.  Allot of Americans with short hair-cuts on board, including some with American Embassy Baghdad jackets on.  Most of those are connecting to commercial flights from Amman to southern and northern Iraq.

I will leave most of the details of my flights to a separate post, but I can say I slept for over 5 hours, which is quite the record for me.  We had quite the tailwind, as we made up our 1/2 late departure from JFK and land about an hour early in AMM.  Quickly off the plane, I exchange money, buy my 10 dinar Visa, and get stamped through before the lines start.  

No matter, it took forever for my bag to come through.  Not that it was long for the bags to start (they were going when I got there) but that the A340-200 was loaded to the gills with baggage, and goods.  A few tires, some seats, many boxes, but mostly massive suitcase after massive suitcase.  Eventually my small case comes off, and I make my way through customs.

I buy my phone chip (8 1/2 dinar) and decide I am awake enough to pick up my car here instead of the next morning in Amman, saving 20+ dinar on the taxi.  

Eventually, I get into a clapped out Peugot 307.  I should return it, but don’t want to argue, and it is way better than any UPS truck I drove.  I can handle it.

Forgetting a map, I drive north to the city with just a mental map, a cell phone, a remembrance of what the hotel looks like, and  the address of the hotel.  The main highway into the city is not bad – dual carriage-way with interchanges as I make my way around lumbering trucks into Amman.

Amman itself is not terribly pretty.  A modern city it is full of sand coloured buildings in rocky, hilly, and treeless terrain.  I go north at the 7th circle (which is now an interchange) knowing that the hotel is in a district north of the circles.  Amman’s main east west roadway has numerous names, but can be called “the circles” — numbered traffic circles from the city center out to the west.  

I take the main road going east feeling that this is the right way.  It is rush hour, so the traffic is surging.  Lanes? Lanes are well, nice in theory.  Signalling? If doing something major, maybe. Horns? Less than NYC.   

Eventually, I make my way to where my hotel is.  It is 3 blocks from me, if only I can get there… … … … … A dozen times around the blocks, and possibly the wrong way down a short street, I make it to the outer guardhouse of the Kempinski Amman.  Because of the bombing of the Marriott Amman a few years ago, my car (and myself) go through basic airport screening to get into the hotel.  Baggage x-rayed, metal detected &c. 

Quikly checked in, I am up to my room overlooking Amman.

Where my hotel is located is mostly a banking district – the hotels down by the circles have more around them.  I clean up from the trip and make my way out into the city.  It is COLD.  My sweater not working to beat back the wind, and feeling tired, I have dinner at the hotel.  FInding some wireless, I make a blog post, do some reading, and call it a night watching BBC World.


Tomorrow, to Petra