Archive for Amman
They all sat outside the amphitheater selling bills, most no longer worth their ink, most from a decade of a ruler demised, or a leader deposed. Saddam Hussein glared up from the street, girdled in wide greenish-blue dinar. Middle Eastern, Eastern European, and African heads of state lay side by side in neat spreads replicated near identically by each squatting vendor.
For 1 JD, about a buck-fifty, any one of them can be yours. Buy more and strike bargain territory. I took greater interest in those currencies long out of print, those minted in a day when one language was good enough and a banknote never traveled far. Just across the border from a land divided, a land that was once theirs, these money markets are the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter what the bill can buy now. It doesn’t matter what it ever could have bought. It doesn’t matter what it’s selling for on eBay — now it costs one Jordanian Dinar.
“Let’s go, man.”
We took the long way back to the parking lot, every moment asking why? — why are we doing this? why are you doing it with me? Given each action, each movement, under what circumstances would they make sense? If you’re trying to rob me? If you’re just trying to hang out?
“I don’t normally come here,” Salim said about the downtown quarter. “But I like to walk with company, because of this one.” He patted his belly.
He walked me into a falafel shop — I’d mentioned I was hungry. I ordered one, then two, and Salim paid. Weird. Sure, they were about 50 cents each, but when did a cab driver ever take his fare to lunch? Either he felt it was only fair considering how many thousands of dollars of electronics and dirty sweatshirts he was going to steal from me, or he bizarrely wanted to make a nice gesture for a tourist in his city.
Whatever his game, I decided to fight back. We paused at a streetside tea vendor. I paid. Maybe if I was nice enough, and melted his heart with warm mint tea, he’d call off the hit.
It all seemed a bit too easy, but for sixty dollars I had hired a driver from the Hussein Bridge Border Crossing to take me into downtown Amman, and later, to the airport —more than two hours of total driving. Plus, I’d have three hours to see the Jordanian capital before my flight back to Abu Dhabi. I put my duffel in the trunk, jammed my backpack into the back seat and slid in the front.
Salim was from Palestine and had lived almost everywhere his visa would let him. He lit a cigarette and spoke in better English than my Arabic.
“How’s Abu Dhabi?”
“Abu Dhabi’s okay,” I told him. “Hot. Jordan’s so nice in the wintertime.”
“I don’t like the cold.”
After an hour and a half and several bouts of involuntary napping, I opened my eyes at the city limits, where swaths of identical square houses cover every inch of hillside. Where Jerusalem stone is white, textured, the façade of Amman is yellow and brown, its flat boxes textured only by pressing against and climbing over one another like a cubist painting.
The Conclusive Guide to Crossing (In and Out Of)
Jordan by Land
If I’d spent Hanukkah in the United Arab Emirates, I had to spend Christmas in Israel. At a dark 5:30 in the morning, a muezzin belted out the dawn Call to Get Moving from the Grand Mosque. We few “Members of the Tribe” left for an 8:00 flight to Jordan, the civilized among us connecting to Tel Aviv by air. Not me. Here’s how to do it by bus:
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