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Melantrys’ Page » travels

Archive for the ‘travels’ Category

Trip to Damascus - pt. 2

Monday, November 26th, 2007

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Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

The maze here seems to amaze everyone. (Well, I guess the more likely explanation is that Amer has friends staying at the house when it’s not being rented to anyone.) During the night someone was hammering at my door, calling “Ahmad?!!” repeatedly. I resisted the temptation to shout back “No, Melantrys. Will you push off, you loud annoying person, you?!” and turned over in bed instead.

Apart from that I had a lovely night. Finally I had gotten used to the noise level outside. Good.
Hence I crawled out of bed at a sensible time of around 11am. That morning a mild drizzle was falling outside - the only rain I witnessed during the course of my holiday there.
By the time I had finished washing a few clothes the rain had already stopped again, so I could take ‘em up to the roof to dry.

Around noon I decided to face my inner demons and fry some lunch. I started off small by cleaning and cutting some veggies.
While I was doing that Caesar called me from work to check that everything was all right. Yes, of course it was.
I finished chopping the veggies, tore off a piece of old newspaper and twirled it into a taper. It doesn’t really help one to overcome one’s fear of gas if one has to light said gas with - basically - a piece of burning paper. I turned on the gas and lit it anyway. I am so proud of myself.

(Please note the hole with the burn mark above it where one of the gas switches should have been and the way the stove swayed when I turned on the gas as something was obviously wrong with its rear right leg.)

Something made me check the tap in the corridor again. It coughed and wheezed and spit, then it was working again. Ghosts.

Caesar called me after work and told me he’d be here in 30 minutes. So when someone knocked - twice - half an hour later I was wondering why he didn’t give my phone a ring as well, but went to open the door.
It was a boy, maybe 6 years old, who looked at me with big eyes while I told him in English that he must have the wrong house. “Baba?” (daddy) he asked, and I shook my head, pointing at me and then upstairs. Reluctantly he turned to go and didn’t yet see the man hurrying towards him from the left… ;)
(Baba = Ahmad???)

The next knocker thankfully was indeed Caesar. And he let my phone ring before knocking.

When he had cooled down a bit in my air conditioned living-room (sitting in one room with me, without me ever having breastfed him, oh! the scandal! :rofl: ) we went and bought some salt and black pepper (which I’d definitely need now that I had overcome my fear of using the stove) and dishwashing liquid.
A man with two kids came into the store, the eldest of whom was the boy who had been knocking at my door. I’d say he recognized me as well, for he kept hiding behind daddy from me.
Then we went to another store and bought a few bottles of coke and brought it all back to the flat. Fascinating, yeah, I know, that’s why I’m telling you.

We wandered about some more, and after having received an SMS from my sister, complaining about the father calling her cos he got no reply from me in the morning, we made the long overdue purchase of a 1000-unit phone card.
In a handy square we sat down on a bench to recharge my phone’s account and send off some SMSs, then moved on.

To the embarrassment of my guide we kept getting lost, so he decided to take a taxi to Bab Touma.
They either wanted to charge a ridiculously high amount of money or wouldn’t go there at all. We stayed lost for a while longer until a police officer was kind enough to point us in the right direction. It had been just around the corner, basically….

We ambled about a bit, admired the alcohol on sale and had a dinner of pizza and shwarma respectively.
Caesar took me to the square at which we had gotten off the taxi on the night of my arrival to see if I’d recognize it. Evil man, testing a senile old woman that way…
But I remembered it all right.

As my poor host had to work the next day we returned to the flat rather early’ish.

By the way, on one of our many rounds across the suq someone said “nice tattoo” in Arabic in passing. *grins manically*

The ants in my flat turned out to be a weird migrating bunch. They mostly stayed out of my bedroom that day and populated the living-room and kitchen instead. Did they somehow take notice of the large number of them that I had squashed? Did they hear me mention ant poison on the phone the other night? Or were they just weird??
Either way, the sofa had stayed ants free (except for a few dead ones, *cough, cough*), but I didn’t trust that state of affairs enough to put my stuff back on yet.

Furthermore I was starting to think that the bed was killing my back…

.

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Got up, showered, dressed.

Cut up two more potatoes, the last zucchini and an onion and bravely lit the stove and heated up some oil. Although I singed my overly heat sensitive hands a bit, I equally as bravely kept stirring the new veggies and the leftovers I had added a while later until they were partially crisp. Now I remembered what I also hate about cooking with gas: the heat.
I also added some of the newly-bought salt and pepper. It’s amazing what this most primitive spice mix can do to the flavour of a meal you have been eating without any spices a day earlier. Tasted like the food of the gods…

cooking
the tools & some leftovers

While I was eating Caesar called to check on me. I padded into the kitchen to escape the noisy air conditioning and saw a piece of zucchini peel I must have dropped. It was covered in ants.

ants invasion
ants invasion

When I had hung up I quickly poured some poison on them and on the kitchen main trail and finished eating.
After doing a bit of laundry, the washing-up and spreading some poison in the living-room, I sat pondering the idea of venturing out into the warren outside on my own. Asking my travel diary to wish me luck, I set out…

I managed to find the suq which made me hope I’d also be able to backtrack later on. This was when I found out the suq was larger than I first thought, as I explored the streets branching off on the right and left.

At around teatime I was sitting on a bench (in the shade, yay) in a square in front of the Agricultural Cooperative Bank, which, incidentally, was the same square we had stopped at the day before to recharge my phone credits. I was quite confident I’d be able to find my way back to the flat.

I decided I had to take back what I had said to Caesar earlier. If a half-naked tourist lady is walking the streets alone the vendors are more persistent and she does attract the odd stare.
Apart from that I was feeling dizzy and short of breath. Ozone or just a mix of rather high temperature and a high humidity level? Guess I’ll never know. (Although my guess’d be on the ozone as that is my usual reaction to it. You may call me the Walking Ozone-o-Meter. :shifty: )
A girl in hijab on the next bench flashed me a friendly smile while I was looking up pondering what next to write. :)
I discovered that I was running out of book, so I decided to use both sides of the pages after all, even though the book consisted of some rather cheap see-through paper. (Don’t buy at our store, even if the note-book cover looks cool, lol.)
When I was done writing I continued my stroll.

I spent ages getting flat feet and working up an honest sweat walking the suq and its side alleys. I even purchased something. A sponge with a rough side to scrub my cooking pot. For… ta-da-da-dum… 5 SP.1

I SMSed some with my friend C. back home and with Caesar. After telling the latter that I was heading home I saw a street I had not walked through yet (If you are about to leave the suq in the direction of the Omayyad Mosque it’s the last side alley to the right.), so I walked into it of course. A guy in an olive-green shirt looked at me and stopped at a stall and let me pass. A while later I noticed he was walking half behind me, which was kind of annoying, so I slowed and let him pass in turn. Shortly after that the main merchandise seemed to have been reduced to old ladies’ panties and huge ugly bras so I turned back and left the suq. When I had crossed the square and was talking a left turn into the alley behind the mosque Green Shirt was suddenly beside me, asking “How are you?” As this meant he must have been dogging my steps for between 10 and 15 minutes by then, I was feeling anything but polite and simply walked on, ignoring him. Unfortunately he kept pace, and it was dawning on me that I should not go home if I didn’t want him to see where I was staying. After a few more paces and some desperate thinking I stopped in my tracks and headed back to the highly frequented square. Right enough, he turned as well…

At one of the Roman arches a couple of men were sitting, two of them in what looked like some kind of uniform. I half-approached them, stopped, crossed my arms and glowered at Green Shirt who was keeping some distance now and staying on the street right in front of the mosque. Either he didn’t quite get the message I was trying to send or he was simply reluctant to leave as he kept hovering. So I approached the guys. Like so many people there they spoke no English. After having verified that I spoke no Arabic and that the gibberish I was urgently addressing them in was English they referred me to the bearded old man sitting in the hintermost corner of the arch. I explained my problem to him, he said something the the young men, and they all shuffled their bums aside to make room for me to sit with them for a while. As my exchange with the men had taken quite some time this wasn’t necessary anymore though. When I scanned the crowd for Green Shirt he was gone. Apparently me really turning to other people for help had spooked him after all. I thanked the men profusely, pointing out that my stalker had disappeared, and headed home, stopping behind corners and watching out for Green Shirt, feeling like someone had dropped me into a silly spy movie. More fun to watch than to star…
I made it home without further incident though.

By the time Caesar arrived I was already pretty hungry, so we stopped at a stall close to the mosque and ordered falafel and mango juice (Germany should be sued for not having mango juice on sale…). While we were sitting and eating the guy from the stall was getting into a heated discussion with an older man sitting at another table. Caesar said it was something about the rent.
A while later an Iraqi couple ordered food and sat down across from us under an awning to wait. Suddenly a cockroach dropped onto the woman from somewhere, and she squirmed and hastily shook it off. They kept waiting for their food, but at an outside table.
After bravely finishing our meal we did some more ambling about which included ambling through the Christian quarter Bab Touma again.
At the square at Bab Touma (the gate) we ran into B. (some American spending a lot of time in the Middle East whom Caesar vaguely knew; ask him about B. if you need to know more) and his local guide O. who wanted to invite us to some huge party with DJs that they were going to by bus, but we declined. We had already been on the way back home anyway.
Not much further on I couldn’t walk anymore, thanks to some evil blister I had developed at the front of one toe, so I peeled off the offending shoes and my socks and continued barefooted. Poor Caesar was constantly being afraid I’d step into pieces of glass or - later at the suq - pins.
We arrived at the square I had been sitting at earlier in the day, and Caesar wanted to turn into the street to the left of the one leading to the suq. So the tourist said to the guide: “Actually, this is a short cut. It leads to the suq.”
We rested a bit on a bench, then continued on our way home.

Shortly behind the mosque we had to wait a bit and then wind our way through a wedding party taking place in the street.
But somehow we made it home.

.

Friday, June 1st, 2007

I needed new food, so I bought a few tomatoes and three sorry peppers at the store next to my lodgings. Payment was achieved by the guy in the store indicating I should show him the contents of my wallet. When I timidly showed him a 50 SP note that seemed to make him happy, so I handed it over and got a few coins back.
On I went to try and find shops with fresher vegetables, exploring side alleys, but not finding any.
Upon returning from one of those alleys one of the many vendors there accosted me. I told him I had no time as I was hungry and looking for some place that sold vegetables, preferably fresh ones. He described how to get to the daily vegetable market (but not without handing me his business card): up the street I had just come from, then to the left, and right into the next street. And indeed there was a vegetable market where I bought eggplants, onions, parsley and garlic (a monstrously huge bunch of parsley for 5 SP, the garlic for 10 SP, evil, half-naked tourist lady cheating garlic vendor…).
On my way up the street to the market an older man kept pace with me for a while, smiling and saying hello. “Just to say hello, be friendly,” he labouriously brought across. I said marhaba, and soon had to add that that was about the only Arabic I knew. He smiled again, increased his speed and said good-bye.
The two young men closer to the veggie suq on the other hand were a major nuisance. One kept doing stuff like indicating the shape of breasts with his hands, saying “I love you” and adding god knows what in Arabic.
They re-emerged after I had finished my shopping and only pushed off when I stopped and threatened violence.

On my way back I thanked the vendor who had sent me to that suq and - once home - set about making some food. Even if I say so myself, it was really good.

food
food

Caesar wanted to take me to the cinema but was somewhat late, so he called me and asked me to meet him at the square in front of the mosque.
The carpet, etc. vendor accepted that I was - again - in a hurry but said that I had to drop in at some time. Yes. Definitely. *cough, cough* :whistle:
I already met Caesar at the steps leading up to the path around the mosque, where he was standing and talking to Amer. We arranged for him to come by Saturday evening to fix the satellite tv.
On we went through the closed suq and grabbed a taxi.

The cinema was showing Spiderman 3 and the Mr Bean movie, the latter of which poor deluded Caesar would have liked to see, but we went into Spiderman anyway.
The cinema was a bit chilly, so we walked out after the movie in happy anticipation of the balmy air soon warming us up again - only to walk into a rather cool and stormy evening. I sure was glad I had brought my long-sleeved hoodie along.
We got lost a bit, had a burger and hommus respectively at a restaurant, then headed back home, making a stop at an internet café.

.

Saturday, June 2nd, 2007

I didn’t hear the alarm…. again. Nevertheless I woke up around 11, showered and warmed up some breakfast.
Shortly after that Caesar arrived. After hanging around a bit at the flat we headed to the Omayyad Mosque.
I had a long-sleeved shirt and a scarf in my bag, but female tourists had to pay an entry fee of 50 SP2, presumably for the rent of the dreadful, stifling cloaks they have to put on. Don’t let the seemingly low price fool you, 50 SP is what we paid for most inner city taxi rides.
I duely took pictures of paintings, arches, minaret towers and Caesar in the inner court of the mosque.

Omayyad Mosque 1
one of the many famous wall paintings

Omayyad Mosque 2
anti-gravity drive girl in court

Omayyad Mosque 3
one of the minarets peeking over the roof

Caesar (hopping around in a short-sleeved t-shirt) seemed to consider my getup amusing and worthy of a picture, so here it is:

Omayyad Mosque 4
me in fashionable garb & kids playing on ancient cannon cart

Yup, this thing was as warm as it looks.

As my friend J. pointed out upon seeing the kids on another picture, “You can clearly see that this picture was not taken in Germany. German children would not have climbed over that chain to play on that cart.”

What was even less amusing than the heaviness and warmth of the cloak’s fabric was that I am suffering from a mild hypothyroidism. As long as I eat loads of iodized salt that’s no problem, except for me feeling like I am getting strangled if I’m wearing shirts with tight collars. That cloak thingy was way too tight around the throat, and I could not follow Caesar’s advice of simply undoing the uppermost Velcro fastener because the next one was at lower chest level, and I of course had not put on the decent t-shirt over my summer clothing before donning the cloak. I was starting to simmer anyway…

Omayyad Mosque 5
nicely shaded place for making wudu

Omayyad Mosque 6
Tourist woman getting stifled to death by rental cloak?

We sat down in the shade for a bit, then went inside. The mosque is very beautiful, but there was some serious renovation going on, so we didn’t stay for long.
Having been born a Christian I felt I should take a picture of the shrine inside, which is said to contain the head of John, the Baptist.
Funnily enough, only women were allowed to enter the roped off area you can see on the right, to approach the shrine and take pictures. When Caesar tried to follow me he was politely but firmly denied access.

Omayyad Mosque 7
Shrine of John, the Baptist’s head

Afterwards I only felt like getting out of that cloak and getting the hell out of there, so we (sadly) skipped paying a visit to the shrine of Saladin.

Saladin's Shrine
Saladin’s Shrine

At one of the souvenir shops around the square I bought a bunch of postcards for the relatives, friends and colleagues.
Caesar was feeling lazy but said I could show him the vegetable market on the way home. After maybe a third of the way though he got (presumably) kidney pains and - understandably - wished to go back.
He rested a bit at my place before going home for further, in-depth resting.

Shortly after he had left I dozed off on the sofa (yeah, old people tend to do that ;) ), which was not a clever thing to do, as the armrest tried to establish a symbiosis with my head, even with the cushion in between.

Caesar felt better after some rest and a shower and came back over. He didn’t feel like walking around though, so we stayed at the flat, waiting for Amer to see to the fixing of the satellite tv, but the half hour he had promised on the phone stretched into two hours, so we went to an internet café.
It was a wise move to leave the flat as the idleness of waiting for Amer had driven Caesar to trying the contents of several of the mysterious spice and tea jars under the sink. No wonder the man is having weird pain attacks…

At the net café I chatted some with Khalid who only then realized that I was already in Damascus. :heehee: How did he think I had been able to SMS him from a Syrian phone number then…? Poor confused man.
When the connection broke down we left. They tried to cheat me by 10 SP, the buggers, shame on them. Thanks to Caesar I only paid the 70 SP that I really owed them.

.

  1. Which is € 0.075. Go figure it out in your currency of choice yourself. :P Ok, I’ll be nice. At that time that was about $ 0.10. [back]
  2. € 0.75 = $ 1.00 at that time [back]

Trip to Damascus - pt. 1

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

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Monday, May 28th, 2007

Thanks to the fabulous genes my father unkindly passed along to me, I was starving for most of the day.
Well, I should be thankful that I merely inherited a general tendency to travel nervousness and not the exact same thing he has.
That way I hadn’t really been able to eat anything, as my stomach kept tying itself in knots. He can eat all right, but he soon goes and vomits it out again.
Better half unfed and hungry than bulimic and hungry…

The lady at the baggage check-in thought that it was rather unusual to
a) travel all alone and
b) to Syria.
Not a usual choice for a holiday. Hm. Maybe I should have given her my travel guide book. Loads of tourist things to do listed in there.
And anyway, there was a Caesar to meet. 8)

The new safety regulations were still bearable. Only two people asking after liquids (or cosmetics) in your on-board luggage.

The guy at the x-ray thingy admonished me to next time only bring one jacket (one was my hoodie/zipped sweatshirt…) but thankfully that was only a joke. When he started to struggle with the clasp of one of the outer pockets of my knapsack I told him that those weren’t working too well. He complained that I surely had caused that on purpose, just to annoy him. I agreed and said I had ’specially smashed them with a hammer.

While we were boarding Türk Hava Yolları flight number 1528 and settling down in our seats some mildly annoying folk music was being played over the speakers.
In self-defense (most of the senses not involved with reading shut down when I’m absorbed in a book) I started reading “Fragile Things” by Neil Gaiman which I had bought at the airport.
My stomach seemed to be unknotting itself somewhat, so I was starting to look forward to the on-board meal.

Take-off was about 20 minutes late.

The food was………. adequate. A mixed salad of (German aka curley leaf) parsley, some red leaves, rucola, spinach (?), and something dreadful. Couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
The main dish consisted of rice with corn and some dreadful spice, rubbery carrots, spinach and red and yellow peppers.
As an aside I had a small wholemeal…… bun (Brötchen!), Becel diet margerine (no, thanks) and the brand of breadspread that I usually buy myself, only I’d have never picked the “Olivera” flavour of my own free will.
Dessert was a peeled, sliced orange. Ever tried eating that with a fork? You should try it; it’s fun.
Oh, and I had a coke.
My stomach had quit its games for the moment, but still I could hardly eat up, so the meal was adequate indeed.

Remember my romantic babbling about what Amman looked like from above? Well, it seems that every bigger city looks breathtakingly beautiful if seen from above by night. İstanbul as well looked as if someone had scattered a big handful of jewels. Only in this case not across some hills but over a flattish surface.

Sometimes I think airport personel exist to make people’s lives miserable - at least the ones responsible for flight plans (or for filing lost luggage reports…). At Atatürk International Airport in İstanbul they had changed the gate for my flight to Damascus. Oh, well.
After having located the gate I asked my way to an eatery that accepted foreign currency. Service has its price, it seems, so I paid a staggering 3.64 Euros (around 4.85 US Dollars at that time) for a generously sized plastic cup of coke. I was a bit thirsty, and I needed something to wash my aspirins down with, as I was having a splitting headache.
To make the day (or rather evening) brighter I was suspecting that I was starting to smell like a skunk. Changing from a chilly plane to a warm one (during the landing) and an even warmer airport without the opportunity to throw off some clothes before finally staggering into the toilet is not my thing - nor is washing at a sink in a public toilet without any deodorant around anyway. That was a long and totally dreadful (content-wise) sentence.

Well, it can’t have been so bad, actually.
Back at the gate a boy sat down on my left with his little sister on his lap. After absent-mindedly kicking me a few times (she was fidgeting around on her brother’s lap) the little girl started telling me stuff. In Arabic. And didn’t find it the least odd that I was babbling back incomprehensible gibberish (English).
She pointed at my festival bands, pulled at my left sleeve, fingered my tattoo…. all the while talking with me.
Her brother spoke a bit of English and told me that his sister didn’t understand English (no, really?).
I also learned that they’re Iraqi.
After a while they got up and went over to the rest of the family again, the boy telling them excitedly about his chat with the foreign tourist. He kindly started his account in English, so I could follow some of it.

Food on board the second Türk Hava Yolları flight was…… hm.
It was a slice of something truly dreadful on a salad leaf. I didn’t even taste it, as the taste it had transferred onto the pepper slices was more than enough to nip any curiosity in the bud. There was also a slice of tomato and a few slices of grilled eggplant.
Dessert was melon and orange.

Furthermore every passenger got a card with about the same formalities I had to fill out on my visa application form already.

Later at customs (much, much later; long, slow queues), that card was to be handed over to a guy who stamped it with hardly a glance and gave it back to me while handing my passport to the other guy at the pc. That other guy entered some stuff (probably along the lines of “Ugh, what a scary mug shot; this woman surely is a terrorist and needs watching”), then he handed it back to the first guy to stamp.
Even so the guy standing right beside the booth needed to look at my stamped visa before indicating that I could move on and wishing me a pleasant stay.
A guy a bit further on inquired if I was from Turkey. I told him I had come in via Turkey but was from Germany. He also wished me a pleasant stay.

Thanks to the slow procedures my luggage had long arrived, hooray!

For a while now Caesar had been making fun of my preferring written chats over voice chats and joked that we’d need pen and paper to converse on this holiday of mine.
So…. I unpacked the three notes I had prepared for him…

Hi!

It’s so good to finally meet and talk in person!

:p

… grabbed my belongings and trundled to the exit.
I tried shoving the notes into Caesar’s face but he was too distracted by my arrival to actually read them there and then.
He did ask to see them again in the taxi though and was sufficiently amused.

We got off at the square in front of Bab Touma (the gate, not the part of the Old City - although both pretty much amounts to the same). Caesar let Amer, the guy renting me my lodgings, know we had arrived, and he came to pick us up a while later. He tried to wrestle my luggage from Caesar, but Caesar hung on to it.
Men.
Arab men.
*rolls eyes*
I think that he regretted the hanging on rather soon while we were following Amer through the maze to the house.
It was the middle of the night, I was tired, and it felt like we endlessly hurried through small streets, taking random, confusing turns. Soon I’d have been unable to find my way back to the square.
All the while Amer was making small talk with the both of us and pointing out points of interest like his own house (and I can’t shake the feeling he made a detour just to be able to pass it…) - as if I at that point had any clue of where I was….
Finally we arrived at a white metal door, which he unlocked. He ushered us in, showed us the rooms and the roof, handed over the key and left. Caesar organized something to drink for me, then left as well.

Tesbah ala khair.

.

Tuesday, May 29th,2007

My lodgings were in the Old City, the original Damascus, so to speak.
That part of town could be out of some old movie, you know, the kind in which the hero is being chased through some quaint Arabian city and finally loses his pursuers in the maze of small streets. Totally cliché.
A few of the streets are even too small for a car to pass through.

The house… sure has seen better days. When you entered the building there was an open (knocked out?) doorway immidiately to the right which led into some kind of store/junk room. It also smelled a bit musky.
A couple of metal steps led up to the first floor of the building which contained the bathroom and the bedroom. The bathroom could have been a bit nicer.

stairs entrance
stairs up to first floor (complete with Alien blood stains)

water heater & wiring
water heater & wiring

And, no, I did not electrocute myself while using the water heater and the shower… ;)

A steep open metal staircase (Did I mention that I was afraid of heights?) led to the second floor containing the kitchen and air-conditioned living-room.

stairs first floor 1
stairs up to second floor

stairs first floor 2
stairs seen from above

Please note the sink on the wall for later reference.

kitchen 1
kitchen sink & stove

kitchen 2
stove, fridge & washing machine

living-room 1
the living-room

The cable you can see in the background belongs to the air conditioning by the way.

living-room 2
tv and stuff

The bottle in this picture is a mysterious water bottle which had been left behind by some former resident of the house…

Even steeper than the stairs was this metal ladder that led up to the roof and that you could only use if you closed the toddler safety gate at the top of the stairs, as that gate would otherwise peek out between two of the rungs and trip you up.

ladder to roof 1
ladder and open toddler gate

ladder to roof 2
The aliens are coming to get me, aargh!!!!!

sofa on roof
the… er… sofa

The roof was searing hot and for some reason the light there also seemed brighter than in the street. It was the ideal place to dry your washing. I always left it for about two hours, but I think it could have been dry even earlier.
The sofa…. might have been a cool idea at some point, but today it’s certainly not a good place to sit down in. Not that this obvious fact kept Caesar from sitting down anyway - in a rising cloud of dust…. :heehee:

I wasn’t living alone in my lodgings though. Maybe it had to do with Caesar’s persistently referring to the place as a mini-house, I don’t know. Fact is, I was sharing it with a small colony of mini-ants, most of which were dwelling in the kitchen. Yes, mini-ants. They were totally pale and spindly.
I already killed a few of them in the first night. And a mosquito.

My first night/morning was rather dreadful. I tend to sleep through basically anything, but a combination of tiring journey and new surroundings seemed to be keeping my sleep light. There was a constant rush of people and cars outside which woke me up way too often during the course of the morning. Evil people. They should have been flogged.

While I was jotting down notes on the above, someone outside seemed to be giving a guided tour in French.

Around noon Caesar arrived at the house. He had felt compelled to do a little shopping for his honoured guest, the crazy cute little man and trundled in laden with oil, veggies and soap.
We headed out of the maze going past the Omayyad Mosque. I wish people would make up their mind about how to spell that period in English. (The most official Jordanian web pages spell it Umayyad.) Crazy Arabs.

Anyway, on the other side of the square in front of the main entrance of the mosque stands a lonesome Roman arch - all that has been left of the Temple of Jupiter. This arch now makes an impressive entrance to the Suq Al Hamadiyya.

Suq Al Hamadiyya
Roman arch at the Suq Al Hamadiyya

After having taken the above picture (and one of Caesar ;) ) we went over there and entered what at first glance strikes one as a rather small bazar (or more correctly suq), a huge roofed passage lined with shops running from this arch at the one end to the Citadel at the other. But the suq is not restricted to that passage; every once in a while streets branch off on both sides that then either peter out and turn into regular city streets (mostly the case on the left hand side if you’re walking from the mosque to the Citadel) or intertwine with each other in a small labyrinth (on the right hand side).
You can buy just about anything from icecream over shoes to head scarves.
And ugly socks.
It seems that everywhere several vendors are gathered in one place, there’s always one or two waving ugly socks at you. I came to the conclusion that this must be some kind of suq rule.

After having traipsed around a bit we went to a Commercial Bank of Syria branch to exchange the US Dollars I had brought because some hotels only take Dollars. Amer was ok with either 400$ or 20,000SP (Syrian Pounds), so I figured I might as well go and get the Pounds myself and make a small win. According to their receipt I should have gotten 20,180SP. The cashier gave me 20,000. When Caesar went back to complain he got another 150.
Cheating Commercial Bank of Syria bastard. ;)
Apart from this annoyance it was baking hot inside the bank. I must have lost 5kg in sweat while counting and recounting my money.
But they had some nice potted plants on their stairs (sorry, no pics).

For lunch I had some “special” vegan hommus at a fast food joint, which looked frighteningly creamy but didn’t contain any milk products.
I am still seriously pouting at Caesar and the waiter for finding it amusing that I was being afraid of the food. Buh, evil Arabs.

On the road in front of the Parliament building a group of people were chanting “Bil rooh, bil dem, nifdeek ya Bashar” (Our blood, our souls, we sacrifice for you, oh, Bashar), the same thing Caesar said people used to chant for Saddam, only here for Bashar of course.
Unfortunately they were done doing that (sounded impressive) by the time I had my cam out. But I filmed a bit of song and dance (from afar). Enjoy.

Amazing how all those people spontaneously got together to celebrate Bashar’s re-election…

On our way back to the flat someone shouted after us from a café. It was Amer, who invited us to tea and coffee. He was sitting there with an Australian woman whom we briefly chatted with before she took off again. I guess much to Caesar’s annoyance Amer used the opportunity to show off a bit with his German skills, but we soon switched back to English.
Afterwards he took us over to his shop, where I gave him the money for the rent. Just because I am German, and because he knows it’s done there that way, he thought I should get a receipt. Which he expected me to write. :dunno: Ok, hehe.

We continued on to the flat. In one of the small streets a girl asked my name, and I gave my usual “My name is (Melantrys), and what is yours?” response. She gave her name, then demanded to know Caesar’s. I was about to tell her, starting with calling it a boring name compared to mine, when the lying bugger unashamedly told her that his name was Francesco. Tch.

Amer had told us to expect a cleaning lady.
What we actually got was a plumber who put the mat/towel from in front of the bathroom (flakes, the same all around the world…) into the sink on the corridor wall opposite the bathroom. (Remember the sink from the photo earlier?) Then he - basically - tore the tap (that hadn’t been yielding any water) out of the wall, helping along this slow and laborious process by hammering out chunks of plaster. Hence the towel, so the sink wouldn’t get blocked. When he was done he threw the liberated tap into the sink as well.
Then some kind of problem seemed to arise and he and his helper/apprentice/winner of the Against All Common Sense Award left - but not before the young man had given in to the urge to lift the towel, shake the old tap and plaster into the sink and throw the towel on top of the mess. The burning question that he left me and Caesar with was: WHY?????

A while later another guy with a big wrench arrived who fixed the tap in no time.
He was accompanied by an associate of Amer who seemed to be the announced cleaning “lady”. The guy made a token effort of tidying up a bit in the kitchen which - thankfully - included heaping the mysterious bowls of food that had been in the fridge onto a tray and handing that tray to a boy who had come in bringing a bag of cement.
After stashing the cement bag under the kitchen sink the cleaning “lady” left with the promise to come back to fix the satellite problem (the tv kept saying that it was getting no signal, and everything was plugged in and turned on).

We waited and waited, and no sign of the cleaning lady/satellite repair man.
More as a joke than for real I suggested arm wrestling to keep us entertained. Caesar agreed though.
After a loss he blamed it on the moving table cloth, removed it and got himself one draw and another loss.
The poor man.
The poor Arab man.
*laughs a bit in a good-natured way*

At 6 pm we decided we had waited for long enough and headed out again.
I still didn’t want to buy ugly socks, thank you.
We saw yet more festivities to celebrate my arrival at Damascus (idea © Caesar), er, the outcome of the elections.

fountain
fountain & Bashar

Bashar
Bashar on yet another building

After the fireworks that ended the party, or rather during the fireworks and trying to escape the noise, we went off in search of a falafel place. It was a longish search but in the end we were directed to one eatery where I got a falafel sandwich with heart-shaped falafels.
Damascus wasn’t just happy I was there, it was also in love with me. :shifty: Wow.

We walked for a bit until Caesar admitted that he was tired and worn out and wanted home. (The poor man had been working all of yesterday after all, then picked me up at the airport in the middle of the night.) So home we went.
Caesar checked for monsters under the bed and stayed a bit, read my travel diary, had his picture taken and whatnot.

Caesar & diary
Caesar reading my diary

After he had left I headed into my bedroom where I eventually discovered that the ant colony consisted of quite a large number of the spindly ones and a few normal sized ones with a big head (like the one I took a picture of in Amman, together with the Red-Arsed Fly) and not just a few.
Their trail erupted from one of my jacket’s button holes, went across the jacket, a piece of the sofa, my jeans leg and down the sofa and in the direction of the door. Furthermore everything I lifted off the sofa (my travelling bag, the jacket, the jeans, the bag with the electronics…) had ants crawling underneath it.
I’m not much of an ants expert but these at least seemed to be mainly night active.
Yes, I squashed a lot of them, but far from all.

The new tap had ceased working by the way…

I undressed and crawled into bed. It wasn’t all that late (I think?) but still I found myself unable to continue the diary.
So instead I sent Caesar an SMS about the ants (which he apparently never got) and SMSs to my friends C. and A. Sadly I dozed off while writing the last one, so I merely managed to send it at some point, while totally forgetting about the smiley I had wanted to include and my name. Fortunately A. is a clever girl and SMSed me on my German number the next day, asking where I was roaming around again.
Unfortunately I was out of credits, so an answer had to wait.
Whoops, I’m running ahead of the narrative…
After I had managed to send off the half completed SMS, switch off the lights and crawl back into bed, someone called me to tell me he had arrived home safely. Which puzzled half asleep me quite a bit as it felt like he had left a very long time ago. Yet I managed to mumble something about ants and poison before hanging up and falling asleep for good.

Trip to Damascus - Prologue

Friday, July 13th, 2007

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I can’t say that Syria was ever on top of the list of countries that I wished to visit. We had our own “democratic republic” just around the corner in the still rather recent past, no need to visit a similar country far away and support the regime through tourism.
But what I did wish to do was to combine this year’s holiday with meeting Caesar of Pentra and that turned out to be a surprisingly difficult task.
Non-Arab countries were out of the question for a meeting (we had briefly considered going to Turkey) as there are two different types of Iraqi passports and he had the sucky one…
Jordan was out of the question because Jordan doesn’t allow Iraqis in who have entered Syria at a certain border checkpoint. Guess at which one Caesar had entered Syria…
The silly little man (*remembers her threat to keep calling him that until he changes his silly profile text on his blog to something better*) suggested going to Beirut, but I strongly disagreed with that notion.
What did this leave us with?
Iran? Strange that he didn’t suggest that. ;)
Iraq? No comment.
So - as we say - if the prophet doesn’t come to the mountain, the mountain has to come to the prophet.

That decision made, the next complication arose. A cashier colleague of mine was suffering from cateracts. Has been for years already, naturally.
One day she came to work and went up to the office, all hush-hush. When she returned she announced that there would be a lock-down on holidays.
I was like, “What, when, why?”
“From the 13th on.”
“Which month??!”
“June. I set dates for a laser operation on my cateracts. I’ll be off sick for five weeks or so.”
*stare of disbelief*
*innocent wide-eyed look of shock* “Oh! Was that when you were going on holiday?
“Yes.”
Of course it was. And she knew. It wasn’t as if I had been talking about much else those days…
“Did you already book?”
No. How lucky for all of us…. bitch…
She then went on to claim that she had had no say about the dates and had to be thankful that she got any anyway. “And to be honest my eyes are more important to me than your holiday.” (Well, rather the latter than the former I’d say… No, I swear I am not being spiteful. If you knew the woman in question you’d agree with me.)

The boss confirmed that sickness came before vacation, but had been under the impression that she had been clueless about her operations clashing with my holiday dates. Hah!
Soooooooo… I was informed to either scratch my vacation or move it. If I moved it to an earlier date he felt he could do without the both of us for one week but absolutely not for longer.

I conferred with Caesar about this new complication. As moving the holiday to a later date would have meant moving it to late August, he said I’d have to come earlier then.
Which didn’t make things any easier of course, as I had to rush preparations now. Unlike Jordan Syria does not issue visas at the airport/border. Au contraire, if you dare enter without one, they put you on the next flight back home.

So I hastily filled out their rather long and nosy application form, answered the question if I had ever been to occupied Palestine in the apparently required negative, and confirmed with my signature that I had no plans of seeking work in Syria either with or without payment. I also duely noted that any visa in my passport from an Israeli border crossing would render a Syrian visa null and void.
Well, as you all know, I got my visa, and I’ve never been to Israel or any part of Palestine in the past.

So I went to the travel agency and booked my flight and some insurances (including a lost luggage one…) and got special commendations for being one of the rare few persons who fly to countries with strict entry requirements and find out beforehand what I need to get to be let in and get it. The lady I talked with said it wasn’t uncommon for people to wander into their agency and try to book a flight to Syria for next week without having a visa or - in some cases - even a passport….

Meanwhile Caesar arranged for some lodgings for me.

Finally my holiday could start!

(All about me leaving the country (sort of) over at one of my sister’s numerous blogs.
Unfortunately the photos died with the un-nerdy blog move of my sis to the nasty Kitten blog, plus the bit of text around the pics is so far down the page under all the other old posts, so I’ll refrain from including the new url here.
Melantrys, September 8th, 2009)

Trip to Amman - Epilogue

Sunday, July 1st, 2007

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Monday, August 28th

Well, Monday had been reached even before I boarded the plane, so I will continue the story here.

After an uncomfortable flight (the young man I was sitting beside seemed to grow sideways when being asleep, which he unfortunately was for most of the flight) I easily managed to change planes at Schiphol Airport. The lady at the travel agency had been right - 50 minutes was actually more than enough time to make the transfer.

As on the way from Düsseldorf to Amsterdam, we had a Fokker 50 for the flight back from Amsterdam to Düsseldorf.

Fokker 50
Fokker 50

A short time before take-off there was a strong smell of jet fuel, and when the flight attendant came by the couple across the aisle asked her about it, but she said that was due to our being above the engine, absolutely normal, no worries, and that it would disappear in a minute. Which it did. Neither did we catch fire or anything. :)
They handed out the same non-vegan cookies as on the first flight. Well, this way daddy got a culinary souvenir as well, and not just aNarki.

At Düsseldorf airport I waited at the luggage conveyor belt until a young man approached me and informed me that there was no more luggage from my flight and told me where to report the loss. :shock:

There, the man at the counter either wanted to make sure that no-one could ever accuse him of making promises he didn’t keep, or he simply was an asshole. He vaguely alluded to the possibility of my luggage appearing again, for which remote eventuality I should fill out this form here and describe my lost piece of luggage. At the same time someone from the same flights was reporting his luggage as lost one clerk down the counter, but “my” clerk stolidly refused to consider and offer a helpful comment on the possibility that this meant that our luggage had merely stayed behind at Schiphol due to lack of time and that it might be on the next flight. The way he kept talking I should have considered my luggage gone for good.
“What are you still doing here, staring at me with that shell-shocked look, woman? Begone from this place!!!”
He didn’t actually say that, but it was obviously on his mind…

I dejectedly slunk off and phoned up Frenzie (and woke him; I am so sorry), in the hopes that he might be able to get more solid information from Schiphol Airport, but they were being as “helpful” as the clerk at Düsseldorf. Maybe airport personel gets a special training? :eh:
Well, at least this meant that I didn’t have to lug around a lot of weight on my train trip back home. ;(

Fortunately the problem had indeed been the too short transfer time. Or maybe my luggage wanted to see more of Amsterdam. It must have had some adventures for sure because when the delayed luggage delivery man brought it around 11pm it was partially soaked. I was sure glad that I had wrapped all of my books into plastic bags (to protect them from being rubbed against the rest of the contents of my bag with the “open” sides and suffering damage that way by rough treatment of my luggage - who considers them throwing the luggage into puddles….?)
Ah, whatever. I had my luggage, and after around 40 hours of being awake I blissfully fell into bed. :yawn:

.

Concluding remarks:

Just a few things that were not really bound by any time frame, but which I noticed and want to share with my attentive readers…

At that time a certain shoe form was the height of fashion in Iraq, so there were quite a lot of people wearing those shoes in Jordan as well, including - I am sad to say - the Kid. The shoes were longer than the foot, narrowing down in the tip and curving slightly upwards.
The thing I just couldn’t get into my head (quite apart from the fact that those shoes were ugly as hell) was this: In a country where the worst possible insult/suspicion is that a person is a homosexual…. How can totally gay shoes become the height of men’s fashion????? :?: Poor, confused Iraqis…. :rofl:

Talking of confused people and footwear (Do I see you smirking at me mentioning that the Kid was wearing those dreadful shoes as well, aNarki?) there is a certain type of German male - mostly above the age of 50 I’d say, but also those younger ones that are past 50 in their mannerisms - who will always wear their sandals with socks. Preferably those fugly men’s socks with this sort of plaid pattern. Maybe they even wear socks in bed; I don’t know.
I mean, if it’s too cold yet for sandals, wear real shoes; and if it’s 30+°, for god’s sake, give your poor feet some air and leave the socks off! Sandals were made to wear on bare feet! Old German men! Always being too proper. Such an embarrassment!

You can imagine my shock and confusion upon discovering that aNarki is an old German man…

Trip to Amman - pt. 4

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

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Tuesday, August 22nd

Hhhhhhm, it seems nothing much happened on this day, at least according to my notes. Although someone else might beg to differ…

For lunch I tried the vegan Indian meal at the Mecca Mall food court to have some variety. I soon wished I hadn’t. The food was rather hot (as in spicy) but still not hot enough to cover the taste. The taste of….. yucky fat meat? Now, even if that was just some odd aroma and not for real, it pretty much grossed me out.

In the evening we went out with the V-Knight again. While we were sitting at a falafel place aNarki got an SMS he had been waiting for all day: his lady’s family had ok’ed him as their future son-in-law.
Drunk with joy and relief he invited the V-Knight for dinner and me for drinks….. at Burger King. ;)

Before going back to the hotel I got the usual private “internet café” service at aNarki’s family’s place and took a few pics of his mom’s cat R. giving me the evil eye.

.

Wednesday, August 23rd

After a nourishing breakfast of…

breakfast
… hommus, Iraqi bread and Dr Pepper…

… the day could begin.

Extensive research had shown that decent pubs were rumoured to exist in Swefiya. Something to look forward to concerning the evening. ;)

Having learned from yesterday’s experience I rather ordered the Chinese lunch at Mecca Mall. Hhhhhhm, just rice and veggies, nicely flavoured, no weird spices…

Morbid Smile was hoping to catch me after all, now that she was going back to Amman again for her flight to the US. She was told that she’d make the trip next week, and would get the exact schedule tomorrow.
Next week would have included Saturday and Sunday already of course…
But Fate did not smile upon the chance of us meeting each other, so we were hoping in vain.

The evening took aNarki and me through Fresh Waffles Street and to an Irish Pub. A real pub. With no attentive women hovering around any men. Yay!
And what a pub that was!
The interior was typical Irish Pub design. Dark wood everywhere, and Ireland-related memorabilia on the walls. I’ll show you the toilets later… :shifty:
The drinks prices were as high as in the… non-pubs… we went to before, but at least they served alcohol for alcohol’s sake.
Unfortunately they did not have Snakebite on their menu, so I courageously ordered a Tequila Sunrise (You’re asking what’s courageous about that? Well, the last time I had Tequila Sunrise was at a private party where I accidentally inhaled some of it and almost choked…), which was really nice (the drink at the pub was nice, not me almost choking to death at that party…. although it’s a funny story nevertheless…).
I ordered a second one which was nice as well, but contained…. hm, maybe the triple amount of tequila. :party:
When I had finished that one I felt like one more drink, but if they had brought me another ‘Sunrise like the last one aNarki would have had to carry me back to my hotel. So I ordered a pineapple Bacardi Breezer - a flavour we don’t have over in Germany. ;(
Tipsy to exactly the right level we left the Pub after that one. That is, we left the pub, but it was me being tipsy. Poor aNarki. :lol:

Did I mention the toilets?!?! :bigeyes:

Hm? What did you say? Oh, you’re still wondering about the Fresh Waffles Street? Well, that one street we had to walk through was filled with the smell of freshly baked waffles in one place. aNarki told me it always smells like that there. As there is no restaurant or café in the vicinity there must be a private household continuously busy with baking waffles…?

I did mention the toilets, didn’t I?

.

Thursday, August 24th

I don’t quite recall what it was that kept my personal entertainer away from me; I think he had to finish writing that report of his.

After having spent enough time inside of my apartment and staring at the tv to get thoroughly bored out of my mind I decided to head out to Mecca Mall. I did some window shopping and also some real shopping at Al-Afghani. After all, I had promised people to bring souvenirs.
Laden with half a dozen sand bottles and other trinkets I hastily slumped down at one of the rare free tables with a coke I had bought.
While I was sitting there, kicking my heels, I witnessed something I found rather fascinating.

Two men had repeatedly passed by on their (fruitless) search for a place to sit. Finally one of them already went and got their lunch, in the hopes of finding a table by the time the food was done.
They didn’t of course. It was a very busy time of day apparently. I had to repeatedly shoo people away who wanted to nick my second chair. And I just knew that if I gave it away we wouldn’t manage to get a new one when aNarki arrived.

The two men talked to one of the guys sweeping the floors. He disappeared and soon appeared with a table, which he squeezed between two others. A while after that he brought two chairs as well. One of the men gave him some money. As they were a couple of meters away and the Jordanian Dinar was not that familiar to me after the time I spent in Amman, I can only definitely say that the note was blue, but not whether it was a 10 or a 20 Dinar note. Still, even for 10 the table and chairs would have been way too expensive…

When aNarki told me he was on his way I SMSed him and told him where I was sitting and asked him to already order the Chinese meal for me in passing. I was starting to get a bit hungry, but I wasn’t going to get up and leave the table of course… Naturally, my enthusiastic host did that for me.

Mecca Mall
some random people at Mecca Mall

Afterwards we did the usual internetting.

Later we went out with the V-Knight again. We spent some time in Wakalat Street, and ended the evening with a nourishing meal at Burger King.
Apparently one of the guests - or possibly an employee, considering it was still there when we left again - had arrived on a rather… simplistic means of transportation.

donkey
donkey

Well, actually I am fairly sure the donkey had nothing to do with the Burger King at all… ;)
I took this photo because of the all-round absurdity of the picture: the donkey tied to a post and standing right behind the entrance sign.
We did pity the poor animal though, having to stand there for hours, with nothing to do but to stare at the wall. :|

.

Friday, August 25th

As it was Friday, it was restaurant time again with the family. At the excellent falafel place close to aNarki’s parents’ home of course. *drools*

food
lunch

Afterwards we went to aNarki’s parents’ place.

I have no clue why we started talking about German movies. Anyway, that topic always makes me state that the only really good German movie to speak of is “Das Experiment” (The Experiment), not least of all because the scenario is all too likely. Up until then I wasn’t even aware that the plot of the movie was loosely based on a real experiment. Reading up on it sure kept us busy for a time…

When it was time for dinner we bravely entered the packed Mecca Mall food court (it was Friday….)
Of course there were no tables/seats available. Well, there were, but only the ones reserved for certain restaurants and none of those for general use.
aNarki sneakily bought us the right to sit at a table belonging to a place selling fries and similar by buying a round of coke. (He assured me it was better not to eat there anyway, as people eating there tend to feel… unwell… later on.) Good thing I was eating the Chinese meal again. ;)

When I was done eating we headed up to the cinema and watched The Sentinel.
Not necessarily a DVD I’d buy, but it was sure entertaining enough for an evening out at the movies. :)

As most of the afternoon had been devoted to researching disturbing experiments I had some late night internet time, catching up on emails, blogs, etc, before heading back to the hotel.

.

Saturday, August 26th

The fact that my holiday would soon be over hit me very hard that day. My first scribbled note for Saturday is “don’t wanna go home”.

aNarki was expecting his professor to call, and thus didn’t really wish to go anywhere. As the call just didn’t come, we went out for a late lunch at Mecca Mall after all.
Of course he called shortly after my food was done. :lol: Murphy’s Law.
My host insisted that I take my time and eat up but I still did my best to hurry.

It was still rather early and I had no real plan what to do, so aNarki took me home with him, picked up his papers and left me to use their comp with his parents hovering in the background and making sure I didn’t starve/die of thirst/get bored from lack of company. I was catching up on stuff on the net, like I said, still aNarki’s mom asked me at one point if it was all right if she left me alone for a while to go and pray. Arabs. Totally crazy über-hosts. ;)
Besides, I wasn’t alone; I had a grumpy cat to keep me company…

grumpy cat
R., being annoyed at me taking photos

At around 8 I decided to go back to my hotel and rest a bit. Of course aNarki was done with his meeting with the professor when I arrived there. Figures. He also remembered his attempt at playing my personal bodyguard for the duration of my stay in Amman and almost got a heart attack upon hearing that I had walked back to the hotel on my own. In the dark. Oh dear. All 200m of the way. Goodness. :P
Well, he had to see his grandparents anyway, so I stayed at the hotel and read a bit in one of my new books. (*laughs and waves at Lynnette* Yes, I can even sit in a foreign country and stick my nose into a book. ;) )

It was around midnight when aNarki finally returned, but as I was still awake he insisted on taking me out for a late dinner at MacDonalds.
When we returned from there, we found a dead, er, sleeping cat.

sleeping cat
sleeping cat

.

Sunday, August 27th

We were up way too early. But first of all I wanted to check out of the hotel this morning already to save the money for one more day of rent, and secondly aNarki had to take his slightly corrected papers to his professor.

So we carried my belongings over to aNarki’s parents’ place and dumped them in a corner of the living room.
Then we took a taxi to the professor’s hotel to drop off the papers. Security there was rather tight (including a metal detector at the entrance), as the Days Inn - quite apart from being a way more high class establishment than my apartment hotel - had been one of the three hotels that had been hit by almost simultaneous suicide bombings in November 2005.

Days Inn
Days Inn

That done, we met up with the V-Knight and headed out to Downtown Amman.
They tried out a strange alien weapon on the V-Knight and aNarki, but as soon as we left this particular spot, things got back to normal again… ;)

Downtown
Downtown

I still needed a souvenir for the Muffin Man, and I am sure he would have appreciated a pin with Saddam on, but I really did not wish to pay people money for selling them…

We ambled through several streets, browsing stores and looking around.
At one point we passed a ghetto blaster that seemed to be playing some kind of speech. A couple of streets further on we walked into Muslim Brotherhood territory. Innocent tourist me didn’t really notice anything, but both aNarki and the V-Knight ambled nonchalantly on while announcing that we should better leave. Now. (Not only were they accompanying a half naked tourist lady, they themselves were looking way too western as well…) We tried to do that, and even succeeded, although the side “street” aNarki dragged us into was more of a dark, murky trap than the street. :P ;) We passed the ghetto blaster again and the guys informed me that the voice emanating from it was, basically, preaching jihad. Nice…. neighbourhood.

We found more friendly streets lined with DVD stores. I say DVD stores. What they were selling was pirated copies of movies. For 1 to 2 JD, which is really rather cheap of course.
In one store I really should have taken a picture or even made a small movie. Of the special… customer… browsing one of the shelves.
This big cockroach kept walking up and down that one DVD shelf…
We kept staring at it, part in disgust, part wondering if the store owner really didn’t see that creature, or if he just pretended that nothing was amiss. The other customers didn’t seem to mind/notice either. :eh:

Talking about icky things, at one point the V-Knight took off for a bit on some errand of his own while aNarki and me went into a restaurant. I had to powder my nose, but rapidly decided against it after having taken a peek at the facilities… Right. In funny countries (like Turkey, France…) you shouldn’t be surprised if you encounter those kind of toilets where you basically hunker down over a hole in the floor. But… the whole room was reeking of excrements, and it wasn’t difficult to find the source(s). Brrrr. :sick: It’s amazing for how long you can go on without using a toilet, even after you thought you really had to go.

Ohhhhhkay, after the V-Knight had joined us again we walked the streets for a while longer, then decided to head back home again.
It took us quite some time to get a taxi, which the guys attributed to the fact of us being too western for Downtown.
We did manage in the end though.

In the evening aNarki, the V-Knight and me walked through - yes - Fresh Waffles Street to the Irish Pub.
I hope the guys derived some pleasure from watching me drink Tequila Sunrise. :) Well, I sure enjoyed it.
Hm, I also ordered something to eat. What was it? Something with pasta? I so totally forgot. I do recall though that someone put cheese on it despite our little talk about veganism, so unfortunately they had to fix it twice.

Ok, so this is the moment you have been waiting for since “Wednesday”, eh?
This day I took some pictures in the Ladies’.

Irish Pub 1
the sinks

Irish Pub 2
interesting bench

A two-seated bench in the style of the above is standing in front of the pub by the way…

Irish Pub 3
Toilet with double roll facility for the user in double need?

Or maybe one roll was for number ones and the other for number twos…..?

Anyway, here’s one last picture from the pub, showing my companions and me:

Irish Pub 4
me with clowns

Well. Then we went back to aNarki’s parents’ place and killed the little time that was left until aNarki’s cousin arrived to take me back to the airport. :(
As check-in happens right at the smallish entry hall at this airport we had to rather hastily say good-bye, while trying to stay out of the way of fellow travellers.
aNarki must have been meditating very long that day, as he not only returned my good-bye hug but courageously insisted to “do it right” and make it a double hug. Brave man. ;)

I gathered my belongings and went through the security checkpoint. My cabin luggage got an extra search as my electronics collection (plastic bag with charging cable for cell phone, charging cable for camera, second cell phone, charger for rechargeable batteries, rechargeable batteries) must have looked suspicious. After checking in my luggage and getting some mysterious tag for my cabin luggage I rode up the elevator to the gates. As aNarki had told me I had a good view of the entry from the elevator and could give him and his cousin one final wave.

At the cabin luggage checkpoint above they waved me out for a manual check. I fished out the plastic bag, opened the knots I had tied to keep it shut and handed the plastic baggie and the open backpack to the man doing the search. He hardly glanced at my electronics collection, but went through my other stuff, including the little zip pocket inside the backpack.
Safety-pins, hair ribbons and Jordanian coins seemed to be familiar to him, but my tampons had to be inspected closely. Can it be that this dude seriously didn’t know what they were? Or did he think he could embarrass me by taking them out and giving them an intense stare? We shall never know, as I didn’t bother to ask.

After a long and boring wait for the designated gate to be opened we got shooed over to another gate.

Finally, on board the plane, the people beside me were trying to argue with the on board personel. Unfortunately the passengers didn’t speak English, only a bit of German, while the personel belonged to the rare few Dutchies who seriously don’t speak German. I interceded and explained to them that the family had been under the impression that the seats they had booked would all be in one row. Well, they were, but with the aisle seperating one of them from the rest. That explained, I was of course the ideal “victim” and got asked if I was willing to switch places with the isolated family member. I wasn’t, really, as that meant switching a window seat for an aisle seat, but I agreed anyway.
Which confused the guy bringing the food later on a bit, as my meal was reserved for the other seat number of course.
Talking about the food… that was nothing compared to that on the trip to Amman. Some boring veggies, a dreadful and tasteless rice cake… brrr.

Trip to Amman - pt. 3

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

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Yes, yes, yes, I know this comes a bit late, but better late than never. :) I am determined to finish this before the start of my next holiday and promise that I’ll try to be faster in posting about that trip. :bat:

David, I am sorry; this post contains a lot of photos and will proabably take a while to load.

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Sunday, August 20th

On Sunday aNarki picked me up from the hotel and took me to his parents’ place where he intended to get some of his work done.
I guess me huffing down his back (figuratively speaking) was distracting enough for him to give up on that thought pretty soon. Er, sorry?

Sooooo we headed out to Gardens Street, where we successfully roamed the Philadelphia Bookshop. And this time I bought books (”Marker” by Robin Cook and “The Vanished Man” and some short stories, “Twisted”, by Jeffery Deaver), not marbles and ugly pottery!
While I was paying up, the lady at the register complimented me on the tattoo on my arm :blush: and told us that she had recently been to America and had almost got one done herself.

Drunk with delight (well, me at least…) at finally having found some books we stumbled out again into the sunny day, and aNarki informed the V-Knight of our whereabouts.
Then we stood in the sun and waited for the young man.
And waited. And waited…
After a while venerable me slumped down onto the pavement, announcing to the world in general that I didn’t care what people’d be thinking; my back was killing me.
Then we waited some more. :yawn:

After the young man finally had arrived, we (aimlessly?) ambled about a bit, then ambled through the University Bookshop, where I aspied a weird book by Stephen King, called “The Colorado Kid”, which I bought, of course.
Stopped to eat the usual falafel and stuff.

The guys took me to their favourite CD store whose owner seemed to be disappointed that I don’t share aNarki’s love for Old School metal stuff. Unfortunately that shop is situated underground in some passage with a lot of shops. It was a normal warm day, and the air was not really fresh down there. I could fight it off for some time by inconspicuously cozying up the the fan, but then my old trouble made itself felt, and I had to get out into the fresh air in order not to faint. Bad, bad blood pressure….
We sat on a ledge for quite a long time, cradling soft drinks, until aNarki went back down to collect the shopping. A while after that we got moving again.

For a sense of variety we went to another mall that evening, the Amman Mall, and almost stayed until they kicked us out.

Amman Mall 1
The view I had over aNarki’s and the V-Knight’s shoulders

Amman Mall 2
slightly lower view

straw
aNarki’s ear and what he did to my straw…

Well, they did dim the lights, so we figured we’d better leave… :D

As our idea of late night seemed to differ wildly from that of the people running Amman Mall aNarki and me went to his parents’ place for a bit of internetting after parting with the V-Knight.
aNarki’s parents returned from the pre-wedding party of a relative, laden with food, and fed me Iraqi bread and Iraqi baklava.
When I mentioned this in my chat with my Turkish/Kurdish/Martian colleague A. he ordered some Jordanian baklava. Greedy colleague. ;)

I guess at some point I returned to the hotel.

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Monday, August 21st

On Monday my travel guide/entertainer/host joined his parents in attending the actual wedding of said relative.

Not willing to be called a bad host for “deserting” me, aNarki had arranged for Attawie and me to have a girls’ day out.

Attawie picked me up at my hotel, and we took a taxi to Downtown and hence the Roman Amphitheatre.
The taxi driver was being overly helpful and even gave Attawie his number, so that we could call him to pick us up again when we were done.
Then - us being dumb little women - he tried to take a lot more money for the drive than was his due. I didn’t understand a word of course, but Attawie sounded rather…. vehement. :D
When the idiot had taken off with a more reasonable amount of money in his pockets than what he had demanded we agreed that we’d take any taxi back but his.

At the entrance they didn’t just check the tickets we had bought at the booth across from it but also told us we could not bring the drinks we had just bought and opened onto the premises with us. A guide generously made an exception and tried to suck up to us. We got rid of him - for the moment - and went into the Museum of Popular Tradition and the Folklore Museum which are situated on opposite sides of the theatre ground and are frankly absolutely boring.

Outside again we climbed the steps all the way to the top, which already mildly set us to simmering in the midday heat.

amphitheatre 1
view from the top, part 1

amphitheatre 2
view from the top, part 2

From there we aspied some more ruins on top of the hill opposite the theatre:

hill
Jabal al-Qala’a or Citadel Hill

Downstairs again we asked the sticky guide what that was, and he said it was the Citadel, and that he’d give us a guided tour for only 10 JD. He had just talked to that Australian couple over there and offered them the tour for 20 JD, so we should be discreet about it.
Yeah, and I am the Queen of Saba.
We declined, accepted his card and fled the premises.

Attawie still had the water she had brought along, and ever thirsty me stocked up on soft drinks. Then we set out in the direction we figured the ruins must lie. The directions we asked some way away from the theatre (to avoid lurking guides) confirmed the guess.
The street was already rather steep, and when we finally reached the spot where the hill started for real - read: the only way onwards was up some stairs - I realized that unfit me would have to admit that she was close to collapsing and needed a rest. Just when I was about to open my mouth to do that Attawie sank down in a spot of shade halfway up the steps. :phew!: Either the lady is as unfit as me, or I am not quite as unfit - yet - as I thought. :)

looking back
A look back

stairs
The way ahead

Then the stairs ended and only pure hill remained for us to climb.

bridge
wooden bridge

As we didn’t try out the above construction, our search for an easy way up drove us more and more to the left. Which was good as it later turned out. Very good indeed.

Finally we reached the top and found the ruins we had seen from across and below.

amphitheatre 3
look back at amphitheatre down in the valley

section of Amman
look across a comparatively small section of Amman

columns
the columns that had lured us to the hill

We repeatedly contacted BT - who Attawie said is a fan of ancient ruins as well - to lure him to where we were, say good-bye and give him a few photo CDs. He tried to make it, but sadly couldn’t squeeze it into his hectic “finally preparing to leave for the US” schedule. Well, it was a pity, but what can you do? If the time is too short, it is too short.

The whole top of the hill contains ancient ruins. Unfortunately a lot is really mere ruins and has been reduced to rubble, i.e. the low remains of a few walls. We looked at everything anyway.
I so wanted to take pictures of lizards, but the buggers were just too fast…
At one point we walked around a corner and into a “room” and were hit by a very nice smell that literally filled up all available space. I could have stayed there the whole day, just breathing…
Here’s the cause:

staghorn tree
staghorn tree

Determined to explore everything there was to explore, we peered into several (litter-strewn…) wells and the occasional unexplained hole (litter-strewn…) in the ground.
From one of these a cave seemed to lead off, but it was impossible to see into it. Attawie jokingly suggested I should climb into the hole. Well, people who know me better wouldn’t suggest a thing like that if they didn’t mean it… ;)
I threw a stone into the vegetation growing at the bottom of the hole as hard as I could, and as it landed with a satisfying “thunk” I carefully lowered myself into the hole.
The red arrow shows where I stood.

hole & cave
bottom of the hole & the cave

Attawie “kindly” took this terrible picture of me while thinking about whom to call for a rescue mission. :D

exploring
exploring

I pointed my camera into the mouth of the cave and took several pictures. Ok, the climb was a nice little “adventure” (and I am sure Attawie could amaze loads of people by telling them about the crazy German blogger lady that climbs into suspicious holes in the ground… ;) ), but it turned out it hadn’t really been worth the effort, as all there was to see was rubble, cobwebs and…. right, rubbish.

cave
cave behind hole

The most well preserved ruin (that has also been rebuilt in places) is the Umayyad Palace, which looks a bit like churches tend to look in Muslim countries. (*is thinking of the Ayasofya or Hagia Sophia in İstanbul for instance*)

Al Qasr - The (Umayyad) Palace
Al Qasr - The (Umayyad) Palace

roof
the new roof of Al Qasr

Inside we saw a couple of women from Iran on a sightseeing tour as well. A real ladies’ day, hehe. :)

In a small room off the main hall we saw what I tend to see as the real tourist attractions: the little everyday things that you forget to expect when being on holiday. Or the funny “flaws”. Like this one:

broom
broom

Like I said, the lizards were too fast for me but Attawie spotted a weird insect sitting on the wall above an arch under which we had to pass. Any suggestions what kind of insect this might be?

weird insect
الذبابة ذات الطيز الأحمر or Red-Arsed Fly

Back to the regular tourist sights. ;)
In one corner a piece of floor was fenced off to protect the inlaid work on the floor that was in the process of being unearthed.

inlaid floor
inlaid floor

A little way downhill lies the Jordan Archeological Museum, which is a really good museum - not like the ones at the theatre. After having been severely fried by the early afternoon sun, we entered this museum at around half past four.
Unfortunately it is forbidden to take pictures there. :(
At the entrance we realized our good fortune concerning our climb up the hill. Entry to the museum is included in the fee payable at the ticket booth further down the path. As we were past the booth everyone assumed of course that we had paid, and didn’t ask us to produce the tickets. :D
And seeing how badly the ruins were littered with no-one bothering to clean up that mess I refuse to have a bad conscience about it. We didn’t litter, so the free entry was our just reward. ;)
The time in the comparatively cool museum was a nice rest - quite apart from the interesting exhibits - but still I was rather dead and melting. Attawie looked a lot fresher than me, for which she should be spanked.

After leaving the museum we climbed down the hill again and caught a cab back to my hotel, where Attawie lounged in my living room ;) while I had a quick shower.

She accompanied me for a quick shopping trip for some necessities, then we went to Mecca Mall for a late lunch (and to cash 2 more of my traveller cheques).
Our conversation wound down a couple of notches as Attawie was tired and I was developing a splitting headache.
So at around 7 pm already we lumbered back to the crossroads close to my hotel where we tried to get a taxi. An older man with a towel on his head ;) (who either lives or works there; I saw him quite often at that corner) shooed us a bit further down the road, saying something about that being a better spot. Then he stopped a taxi and called us over. Attawie got in and drove home; I lumbered back to my hotel and collapsed onto my bed.

Without words…

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

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visa

Trip to Amman - pt. 2

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

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Wednesday, August 16th

Wednesday turned into bank day for us.

We took a taxi out to Shmesani, only to be turned away at the Bank of Jordan as well. The man there suggested going to an exchange office; they’d accept my cheques. Yes, we told him, but their rates were daylight robbery. So he sent us down the street to an American Express office. His description reminded me of the taxi drivers in Turkey when they were unwilling to drive you for a “short” way; we definitely walked a lot farther than he had told us we’d be walking.

At the American Express office we were sent up to some other office - which looked much less like American Express than the first door we’d walked through which had had the logo and all…. Sorry, no, they didn’t cash traveller cheques, they only issued them. (Yeah, that makes sense…) But he’d call an exchange office in the area. I’m a bit hazy on the exact rate (you’re not the only senile person on earth, aNarki…) but I think it was about 68 or 69 JD for 100 Euros, so I looked at aNarki and said “Mecca Mall!”

After this fruitless trip I was more than just mildly vexed and pretty parched, so we went to C-Town to grab some soft drinks. What a small place the world is! In one aisle we ran into Micho and her mother. After a bit of smalltalk we all went our seperate shopping ways.

aNarki and me ambled a bit through the area, then sat down at the Strand, his grandfather’s favourite café in Amman, and had tea/a softdrink while deciding upon what to have for lunch. There was a falafel place close by, so we went there. I didn’t like the food as much as the one at the place near my hotel though. Nevertheless I liberated the bread I didn’t manage to eat up so I wouldn’t be breadless at my apartment.
I don’t think aNarki noticed, but there was a dude at another table who kept glancing in our direction. He was more discreet than most and cute into the bargain, so I didn’t mind too much. ;)

Spent some time at aNarki’s parents’ place watching videos and begging the lazy Kid to grant us the honour of an audience on his last evening before heading back to Baghdad. Finally he gave in and picked a café close to his family’s place. :P

The café was pretty packed, so aNarki and me got shooed from the large table we wanted to sit at to a smaller one.
Shortly after us Micho and her mother arrived, so we got a large table after all.
The Kid was being fashionably late. (Is that really that fashionable…?) His excuse was that he had had to cut his beard (which looked indeed freshly trimmed by the way) because I had said that he looked rather satanic. (Yes, dear, I had, but what I had meant was that haughty look you can give people and the general cut of your beard and not the (minimal) stubble, lol, so don’t blame me.)
Ahhhh, I’m afraid I was less communicative than usual as I didn’t know the two ladies at all. I was aware of Micho as being Morbid Smile’s sister, but I think so far we had not exchanged a single comment anywhere, not counting the run-in with the two at the supermarket earlier that day of course.

At some point the Kid stole my camera to snap off a shot as proof of what a perfect pair aNarki and me’d make. (No, dear readers, he had not given up on that “old” joke yet…)


me & aNarki

As you can see aNarki doesn’t just still look like some clown but has also been growing a true camel driver beard. ;)

The Kid was kind enough to stay for some time longer after Micho and her mom had left, neglecting the work he had said he had to do, for which I was thankful, as he had been rather busy chatting with Micho’s mom in Arabic quite a lot earlier on.

We got shooed off to a smaller table again by the way.
I don’t remember how that topic came up, but at some point the Kid asked aNarki if Kurdish was difficult to learn, to which he replied “Of course not, even Kurds can learn it.” (If there’s one thing you have to know about aNarki it’s that - in contrast to his character - he never misses an opportunity to crack an ethnic joke.)

Finally the Kid announced that he really had to go now ([insider joke]”Poor Nabil.”[/insider joke]), so I got up as well and stopped him, saying “Wait, let me get all western and sentimental,” and telling him to take care back over there, to which I think he wasn’t paying that much attention anymore, as he was busy standing there, unmoving, suffering getting hugged by some German madwoman. (Ever hugged a coat rack?) :P ;)
The funniest part was when I let go of him again and he said “That was weird” in a slowly-returning-to-regular-level-of-coolness tone of voice. (Already sorry you had no objections to letting me tell the story the way I perceived it? :P )

After he had trundled off I have to admit aNarki and me still had a lot of fun discussing that little scene. That is, it rather seemed to me though that aNarki sobered up a bit after reflectively remarking that he should probably start getting used to the thought of him getting hugged as well when I was going to leave Amman.

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Thursday, August 17th

Finally we cashed some of my traveller cheques at the exchange office at Mecca Mall. Their rate was even more acceptable than I had thought earlier as the 0.82 was the final rate, after deduction of fees, so their rate was only 0.02 lower than that of the bank inside the airport, and not 0.06, as I had assumed.

While there, we also went to Al-Afghani where I got a bunch of typical tourist postcards.

A friend had told aNarki that he knew of a decent night club which he himself frequented. So, in the evening we met up with aNarki’s long time pal, the V-Knight, and went to that place.
It was called “Rouge” but over the entrance it invitingly said “Bar & Restaurant”. Shortly after we had sat down the waiter approached us and asked aNarki if they were Iraqi, which he confirmed, then if they wanted a woman. He declined. So much for this being a decent night club just for quiet drinking. But this place was definitely more classy - at least on the outside terrace; we didn’t care to find out what went on inside ;) - for it was indeed possible to simply sit there and drink and only pay for the drinks and no other imaginary services. The 5 JD for the canned (!!!!) Budweiser also included a waitress in a mildy belly-free top pouring the beer for me while throwing herself into some vaguely sexy pose. Her efforts were wasted though, as I am hetero, thank you, and my male company was stoically staring at nothing (aNarki), respectively out into the street (V-Knight) instead of at belly or pose during the pouring of the beer. So I guess it’s my place to remark that she looked a lot better than the ladies from that… other… place.
The beer was dreadful of course (Canned beer!), but it was beer, with alcohol in, and it was still nice already just sitting there, unmolested. The waitress was clearly bored, yet attentive and totally unobtrusive, sitting at another table on the terrace and waiting for possible drinks orders.


aNarki’s and my drinks, the V-Knight’s shirt

It was here by the way, Kid, that your SMS (re hug) reached me. ;)

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Friday, August 18th

I was up and about before my faithful guide/entertainer/bodyguard :P was fit to come over and pick me up, so I went over to Grand Supermarket to refill my drinks stock and do some lazy food shelf browsing. The dude at the register kindly packed all my shopping into a plastic bag, but I had bought so many (heavy…) drinks that this was really impractical, even for such a short trip.
So I stopped at the corner and sat down at a ledge on the pavement and stuffed most of my shopping into the backpack I was carrying. While I was busy doing that a car abruptly braked right in the middle of the street and the dude at the wheel sat staring at me for several long seconds before driving on. Rrrrrright.

When I later told aNarki about that incident he got all worked up and apologized for not having been with me. Er. Dude. That had been meant to entertain you. And, sorry, I was there to visit you guys, not to enslave one of you as my permanent personal bodyguard.

Lunch was with the whole family (i.e. with aNarki and his parents) at the nice falafel place around the corner, which also provided me with several days’ breakfast as they literally forced all the leftovers on me. (Sometimes I wonder if I look like a starved alley cat to some people……)

Later on we went to Mecca Mall, but didn’t stay for too long as it was just too damned loud and crowded. Well, it was Friday.

So we spent a long lazy day at the parents’ place, watching Euro Trip and Just Friends and doing the usual daily online stuff.

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Saturday, August 19th

Woke up, showered, dressed, had breakfast (read: bread and hommus) in front of the tv.
Around 1pm several men started shouting out in the corridor. As they were doing that in Arabic of course I had no clue what was going on and was a tad worried.
I SMSed aNarki and told him that I didn’t care about the house rules and that I wanted him to pick me up from my room if things weren’t quiet again when he got to the hotel. Thankfully the corridor was quiet and empty by that time though.

We headed out to Swefiyah to wander a street my guide doesn’t recall the official name of; shame on him! :P Inofficially it is called Istiklal Library Street.
Of course we also went to the Istiklal Library, where I bought some marbles for myself (yeah, I collect the oddest things ;) ) and some Pretty Ugly Pottery as a souvenir for my sister. I think I should visit her and snap a shot of that mug and put it up here; I just love it.


Pretty Ugly…


… Pottery

(My sis dropped by and brought the mug, so I could take these pics. :) )

While wandering around the area (aNarki assures me that was the day we were doing some uphill walking and I was babbling something about the Black Forest region…) we ran into his cousin. Yup, the nosy one, who had been playing airport taxi. :)

Spent some time at aNarki’s parents’ place again, you know, internet, blah, with aNarki busily contacting people and arranging things in the background. :)

The V-Knight picked us up and we went to Mecca Mall to meet up with Attawie. aNarki had been repairing Attawie’s guitar, so this was a good opportunity to give it back to her.
From the Mall we took a taxi to al-Hussein Park, or King Hussein Park, if you prefer.
There we met with 24 and BT. We aimlessly ambled a bit through the park until we found a couple of unoccupied benches.
Hhhhhm, bugger, what do I recall? I am sure not even half of it.

Of course, some guitar was being played, “Knocking on heaven’s door”, for instance, and the Iraqi anthem. Maybe I should have requested the German one, lol :P


al-Hussein Park


me filming “Knocking on heaven’s door” © Treasure of Baghdad

After 24 was done with his excessive SMSing (and don’t you deny it; I got photographic evidence) he participated in the inevitable politics talks (lol, poor aNarki), though this time even some German politics were mentioned. Another topic was Islam and alcohol. Hhhhm, either my memory is very selective or I talked mostly to 24 that evening. He was being really sweet and trying to think of jobs I might be doing that might be more to my liking than my current one. Thanks for caring.

We tried to catch that car exhibition the Iraqi bloggers had missed on some previous visit to the park cos they had come on the one day per week when it was closed. That day was the right one but it was too late already, so no exhibition this time either.

At a fountain BT and 24 snapped off some group pictures and I am seriously pouting for not having seen a single one of them so far!

No-one had thought to bring food or drinks, so we decided to leave the park and grab something to eat at Mecca Mall. Due to our number BT and 24 took off in a different taxi again.

We were just approaching one of the escalators when two young men stepped up from the right, one of them demanding to know “What are you guys doing here?!” Which of course saved aNarki the trouble of calling or SMSing the guys to meet up again, lol. First we checked out the cinemas, then headed down again to the food court. To my delight I found that one of the meals at the Chinese place was just rice and vegetables, so I tried that. It took a while until we could sit down, as the food court was rather crowded that evening. The food was different from the Chinese food around here, but I had been kind of expecting that already, seeing that it is different over in Holland as well.
We ate, we talked some more, and suddenly the evening was at its way too early ending.

Trip to Amman - pt. 1

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

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Note to readers: I used to keep public travel and festival diaries (you know, on paper and all) for myself and family and friends and whatnot, so this might’ve turned out to be a cross between that and a real blog post.
I sure know that I am writing a lot and that it takes me way too much time.
Hope you will enjoy it anyway. :)
So here’s the first three days:

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Sunday, August 13th

Got up way too early for a Sunday. But what with the terrorist scare of only a few days previously we thought it might be best for me to be at Düsseldorf airport around 11ish. So we had decided to leave around 9ish. “We” being my sister, her husband and me.

The trip to the airport was scary. Their car had been having some problems which - supposedly - had been fixed. They hadn’t. The motor occasionally cut itself some slack and slowed down. Still, we got there.

I checked in my luggage, and after a round of hugging, good-byes and the transference of several cat hairs I walked off to the gate and passed the check in front of it in approximately five minutes. Right. So much for the accuracy of information on the news….

Fortunately I had come armed with a thick book, my discman and a ton of mp3’s, so I had no trouble passing the time. I also chatted with some Iranian dude who was on his way to Turkey (with a 20 or 30 minute transfer at Schiphol, brave man…) and with a woman travelling with her baby to either GB or the US who was unhappy about having had to taste all the baby food stuff she was bringing on board the plane.

In the end the plane was almost an hour late which did not make the Iranian guy very happy, as you can probably imagine.
And what a plane it was! I knew that I’d be flying a Fokker 50 from Germany to Holland and back, but I had had no idea what kind of plane that would be. Yeah, sue me, all you plane fans out there. ;) For those of you who don’t know everything there is to know about plane types…: It is fairly small (about 20 seat rows or so, with two seats on each side of the middle aisle) and has propellers.
The take-off was less smooth than on board a bigger plane and had me battling dizziness. (Thank you anonymous Turkish fellow low-blood-pressured dude on my first flight ever aaaages ago for the seemingly senseless tip about how to deal with this problem!)
As there was no real meal on the short flight, there hadn’t been a meal request option available, but everyone got a drink of orange juice and a filled cookie, which I pocketed.

Well, for me the delay had the nice effect of shortening my long stay in Amsterdam. Still, I had enough time to buy drinks and a 5-pack of Smelly Jelly (© aNarki-13 on August 27th; actually it’s Snelle Jelle), which is a “gezond lekkere kruidkoek, van nature vetarm”. Dutch - you just gotta love it.

Despite my reservations after having seen the bigger KLM planes from the bus that took us from the Fokker to the gate (it says “The Flying Dutchman” on them….) I continued my journey to Amman.

By then I was having real second thoughts about my trip. Not for any of the funky reasons my colleagues and neighbours came up with, but for the simple reason that I am more shy in real life than you could gather from this blog here, and having arranged to meet all those “strange” people was starting to freak me out some.

Anyway, I bravely boarded one of the Flying Dutchman’s planes and settled down for the 4.5 hour flight.
Spent most of the time reading and listening to my discman again. Dinner was some chicken curry thing for the regular passengers. Smelled nice.


boarding pass

Me, I had a cup of water (ick…), cous-cous, a slice of Snelle Jelle (lmao) and a fruit salad.

Some time before midnight we started circling Amman, going deeper with each turn. Now this will probably sound totally corny and dumb, but Amman looks grand from above at night. As if someone has taken a handful of jewels and scattered them across a couple of hills.

At around 0:05 local time I arrived at Queen Alia airport (Amman), powdered my nose, claimed my luggage, cashed a traveller cheque at the bank counter there and went through customs, where the very nice young man chatted some with me and wished me a nice holiday.

Then I went out into the hall and pretty soon espied the famed aNarki-13 and his cousin.

And what a cousin she is! During the longish ride into town she kept firing questions at me:
- How come you picked Jordan for your holiday?
- What made you become a vegetarian?
- What do you do for a living?
- Are you involved? Do you have a boy-friend?
And on and on.

Among the few sentences aNarki-13 was able to utter in between was the sad news that I wouldn’t be able to meet Morbid Smile after all, as she had gone back to Iraq already.

Don’t know at which time we arrived at the hotel.
Once they had checked me in, aNarki-13 and his cousin took off while Mr Mainly Night Duty took me and my luggage to my room.
So, this was Amman, and that had been aNarki-13.
Good night.

.

Monday, August, 14th

Woke up, had a cold shower, dressed, breakfasted on Smelly Jelly (© aNarki-13) and Dutch coke and took pictures of my room and of the view I had from my bedroom window.


“my” street

My apartment consisted of a bedroom, a living/eating-room, a kitchenette with a scary gas powered plate which I never dared use and a bathroom.

Around midday aNarki came and picked me up and showed me way too many places for me to get my bearings right away.
First we went to Grand supermarket to get some essentials like chips, drinks and toilet paper.
After dumping all that at my apartment I fed aNarki the filled Dutch cookie from the Fokker flight while we marched to Mecca Mall. The cookie had disintegrated some (sensitive, crumbly cookie…), but he said it tasted good.

We wandered around the Mall for a while, then aNarki contacted the Kid, who agreed to meet us there.
Soon the Kid got hungry so we sat down in the food court and had some drinks while watching the Kid eat.
Halfway through his burger he threw out the veggies and put in his fries. Fascinating.


food court playground and people


Iraqi burger

He merrily tucked in, which might have been a sign of him feeling better after having had a cold. On the other hand… maybe he’s just always hungry.
After having watched the Kid dining for about three hours (ok, that’s exaggerating things a bit, but it did take him some time) I was pretty hungry myself, so we strolled off to get a bite of falafel and hommus at a restaurant.
We being aNarki and me; the Kid took off in a taxi.

My memory is a bit hazy on what happened next, but I think we went to aNarki’s parents’ place. Yes?

In the evening aNarki took me to Wakalat Street, a street that’s closed for cars in the evenings, where just about anyone goes to stroll around and/or sit down at a café to watch the strollers and chase away the beggars/kids selling stuff.
One girl was rather cheeky and hit aNarki over the head with her bunch of plastic flowers when he sent her away. That seemed to be to his liking, as he told her he’d buy something off her next time.

When the novelty of counting the people who stared at my tattoo had worn off, aNarki asked the Kid to come join us.
I still go all tearful with recollection remembering the great effort the Kid went to in order to make me feel right at home. He kept claiming that aNarki and me’d be making a nice couple and similar crap that very much reminded me of the kind of talk I always get from my colleague A. whenever he hears of me visiting friends overnight…

All the while the young man was continuously smoking sheesha, which - in combination with his recent cold - led to him losing a lot of voice in the course of the evening. I wonder what they put into the sheesha anyway; he became decidedly merry.
On our way out of the street we did indeed run into the little flower seller again, so aNarki kept his word and - me being the only woman present I assume - gave the flower to me. (And, yes, I took it home of course.)


one of the famous combat flowers

The end of this long day aNarki and me spent at his parents’ place again, and if I am not mistaken, this was also the night on which his mother “force-fed” me after hearing that I hadn’t had any dinner yet. Seriously, I’d have demanded food if I had been hungry. :)

At 2:45am aNarki returned me to my hotel after almost 15 hours straight of playing my entertainer/travel guide. Respect and thanks, man!

.

Tuesday, August 15th

Not very surprisingly we both kind of overslept on Tuesday after that long day.

I confusedly ambled off in several directions, trying to remember where that bank was that aNarki had pointed out to me in passing the day before.
Eventually I reached the Arab Bank and took my place in the longish queue. When it was finally my turn I asked the lady at the counter what the exchange rate for traveller cheques made out in Euros was. “0.89,” she told me, but after I had handed her the cheques and my passport she disappeared into the office area and returned only after quite some time. “Is it ok if I call you [my first name]? [My first name], I am sorry, but we don’t accept these.” I was quite taken aback by that piece of news, as you can probably imagine. She suggested going to the Bank of Jordan. I dejectedly crawled back to my hotel to wait for my self-appointed travel guide.

On top of being sleepy aNarki must have caught a cold and was running around in a heavy sweater while I was melting in the midday heat…

He took me to an exchange office in the area, where the guy at the counter offered me 60 JD for a cheque over 100 Euros. It had not even crossed my mind to try and barter over the exchange rate but our reaction led to him bartering. All of a sudden he offered a (in comparison) staggering 75 JD for my cheque. Which was apparently as high as he was willing to go, for he did not raise his offer when I declined. “If you had Euros, not cheques, I could give you 90,” he said though. Deciding on the spot that the almost 30 Euros that’d leave me with should be all I’d be needing back in Europe (especially considering that I had a credit card now) I changed 100 Euros there so that I’d have some ready cash until we could cash my cheques at the other bank.

Then we zombied off to Mecca Mall, where we tried to revive our spirits with soft drinks (me) and tea (aNarki).
We also got turned away by a bank in the building and checked the exchange rate at the exchange office on the ground floor. At the airport I had gotten a rate of .88 minus a fee of 4JD, so their offered 82 JD for 100 Euros didn’t make me too happy.

On this memorable day aNarki helped himself to some of the food at the falafel place. Not so memorable, you say? A-ha! Little do you know, grasshopper.

For later he had arranged for a meeting with Treasure of Baghdad and 24 Steps to Liberty. At Wakalat Street again, but after meeting up with BT and 24 we went to sit at another place than the night before.


Walkabout Creek… er…


… Wakalat Street

(Note: the shoulders on the side(s) of the pictures belong to 24 and BT.)

I don’t know how obvious it was but - like with Attawie later, and for the same reason - meeting BT and 24 for the first time made me rather nervous, as I hadn’t had that much online contact with them in advance. But I think I did fairly well ;) and it sure was a nice evening. :)

I suppose it’s impossible to get together with BT and 24 without talking politics, which is fine by me. Talking politics, that is, not politics.
What else? The usual round of questions of course, like what made you come here and all. I really should have prepared some papers to hand out to people. :)
Oh, and I think BT said I was the first German he met.
After some prodding the Kid finally joined us as well.

Time passed way too quickly, and BT and 24 left us. The Kid, aNarki and me stayed for a while, then wandered out of Wakalat Street, being undecided whether to go home already or not.
The Kid suggested going to a night club, but had we known that there were no decent night clubs in the vicinity we wouldn’t have agreed. What a seedy little brothel that was, with some dude making music at an earsplitting noise level, Amstel beer with probably 0.5% of alcohol and not so sexy ladies coming to shake our hands. Brrr.

Trip to Amman - Prologue

Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

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I may be a little late in telling/posting but before and during my trip I just felt too preoccupied to sit down and write anything.

Everyone’s been asking the same questions, so here goes:

The story of me conceiving of the idea of going to Amman.

As I was having some spare money (well, not actually spare money as such *cough, cough* but accessible money ;) ) I had decided to treat myself to a real holiday this year, possibly in Turkey or somewhere. Sometime after my colleague A.’s and the boss’ vacation. Whenever.

Then I heard that aNarki-13 was not just staying in Amman for a short while but for weeks.
And Attawie was there as well.
About 20 unanswered yahoo offline messages, 10 SMSs - unanswered - and one threat to phone him (just to be silent at him) later the Kid confirmed that he’d be staying until around the end of August as well.

A quick calculation showed that even with the boss going on a three-week vacation it should be possible for me to go to Amman and still see all of these people.
Of course, with bosses things are never quite as straightforward as they seem to regular people, but after a couple of - long - days spent anxiously waiting for his final verdict things worked out the way I wanted them to. (You feel like a rather sorry sod phoning the Jordanian embassy asking about how long it will take them to put a visa into the passport that you have applied for three weeks ago and which should be arriving soonish while not even knowing whether the holiday is going to take place or not….)

Well, it was going to take place, and right after I got the ok from the boss I went to the nearest travel agency to book my flights.
Took the lady there some heavy wrestling but then she managed to include my meal request in the booking and to arrange for an earlier flight than the computer originally wanted to book for the first leg of the journey. The original booking would have left me with only one hour to change planes at Schiphol (Amsterdam) airport - with only one KLM flight from Amsterdam to Amman per night! Better having four hours to waste than the possibility of missing the flight and arriving in Amman a full day later.
She also - as per my request - tried to book me onto a later second flight for the return trip, but either the computer didn’t accept it or she made some mistake. She figured it might be because that would leave me with a stay of six hours at Schiphol airport. But she assured me that I’d have no trouble changing planes in the 50 minutes that the booking left me with. Well, what the heck, I thought, if I miss that plane, there’ll be several going back from Amsterdam to Germany on that day.

Even earlier I had ordered a load of traveller cheques and finally gotten myself a credit card, so nothing could go wrong anymore. :)

Unfortunately Caesar of Pentra went on vacation in Syria a tad earlier and could not make it to Amman, nor could the Average Iraqi (note: blog still “dead”, author happily not :) ) leave Iraq (Get a passport, you bozo!) but more and more people seemed to be flocking there, such as Morbid Smile, Treasure of Baghdad and 24 Steps to Liberty.

When I first started planning my trip to Jordan, my Turkish/Kurdish/Martian colleague A. was already away on his holiday. As he is constantly poking fun at me - or rather implying improper behaviour on my part - whenever he hears of me going to festivals or parties and sharing tents or bedrooms, another colleague and me were wondering what his reaction might be when he returned and heard of my plans. I laughed and said “I should tell him I’m going there to marry aNarki.” S.: “Do that!”

So the plan was born. On his first day back at work we kept dropping hints that he unfortunately failed to pick up on. What with him usually being “nosy as a goat” as we Germans say our only explanation for this was that he was still dreaming of his holiday.

Hints included
- me showing a picture of aNarki to a colleague, K., and practically bouncing up and down with joy while announcing that that was HIM by the way and her answering that he looked like a very nice person,
- K. inquiring whether I’d have to be veiled for the wedding.

Finally, a few minutes before my lunch break, I simply showed him the pic, asking his opinion. First he got sidetracked by the other people shown in the photo, then he too announced aNarki to be looking like a friendly person. When I told him that I was going to marry him A. totally disappointed us by merely saying “Congratulations!”

After both him and me had returned from our respective lunch breaks he asked another colleague, Ma., if that marriage story was really true. She said it was, so A. simply accepted it. Blast! S. and me had expected him to be sceptical and - once finally convinced the story was true - to try and talk me out of marrying a person I had never met before. Behind my back he apparently expressed some reservations but not to me, oh no. Actually, he was being so nice and helpful (giving tips for immigration and whatnot) that the joke wasn’t funny at all and I soon felt so bad about it that I prematurely cancelled it before S. was due to work that week.

But the joke stirred up something else.
Ma. started getting the idea that what with me meeting several young men over there I might end up marrying someone else. I don’t know what possessed her to get this into her head - she knew right from the start that the thing regarding aNarki and me was a joke to pay A. back for all his past comments on me and my male friends and nothing else - but she kept discussing it.

Kept discussing it first mainly as a joke as well but then with mounting concern, probably due to my replies. But how can you reply to someone who’s convinced that marrying an Arab - any Arab - automatically results in you ending up wearing hijab (or worse)? So I answered stuff like “Look here, if I were to marry any of the Iraqis I know and started wearing hijab they’d declare me insane cos none of them would want me to.” Somehow for her this seemed to imply that I might seriously be considering marriage.

She also told me to not get too involved with the locals when saying goodbye and wishing me a nice holiday. I didn’t even ask whether she meant actual Jordanians or the bloggers I was going to meet, as I felt it didn’t really matter anyway.
Camel drivers, the lot of them!

A neighbour only half-jokingly asked what I’d do if I got kidnapped into a harem, while his wife was more concerned with Jordan’s vicinity to Israel and Lebanon.

So, dear readers, I spent my entire holiday sitting in my hotel apartment and ordering pizza which I had them deposit in front of my door.
The weather was a steady 25°, thanks to the AC in the bedroom; the scenery got a bit boring though after two weeks of staring out into the same street.