Amman: between walks, demonstrations and Araq

Amman: between walks, demonstrations and Araq

Chaotic, frenetic, dirty city, but magical and unforgettable, and I still don’t know why

While I was waiting for the Jett Bus to com at the Bus Station of Wadi Musa (Petra – Jordan), I chatted with a policeman and a man from Canada, who told me that his dream was that their children were wanderers, those who learnt while traveling, the heterogeneity of cultures, of life. Once on the bus I met a guy from Sao Paulo who worked for the UN and we focused our conversation on the war in Syria. A computer engineer from Seattle, James, also participates in the conversation. We agreed to meet the following day to spend the day together in the Jordanian capital. Upon the arrival at Amman, there were dozens of drivers like hungry hyenas harassing us and asking us where we went. They wanted to drive us where we wanted and also tomorrow, and the day after, and forever. I made the deal with one of them to take me to my hostel, Towardah Hotel, in Downtown Amman, for two Jordanian dinars. It was located in a cul-de-sac in the heart of the city, not very good looking street. Upon entering there was nobody at the front desk, so I rang the bell, and suddenly an Arab showed up from behind the desk. It took several seconds for him to react and remove the crusting that look out for their almost black brown eyes. It is 9pm, I did not expect someone sleeping behind the reception desk.

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Towardah Hotel, Amman – Jordania © Photo: Ana Vega

After doing the “check –in”, a young Jordanian girl approached me very friendly and suggests to join them downstairs and smoke narguile with her, a Jordanian guy and a Syrian refugee. Before I was offered a welcome drink, a large tropical fruits’ juice. I was not sure if I should take it or not, but I thought that in the end was impossible to suffer more diarrhea, so it could not be worse than that. After leaving my bags in the room – four bedroom in which there was a cockroach in the shower- I did not particularly feel attracted to the idea of having a shower there, in less than 5 degrees of temperature and cold water, so I decided to wipe myself with the wipes I collected in my Royal Jordanian flight. I decided that the best option was going down to chat with the young Jordanian lady, as the bedroom could not be described exactly as welcoming room. We went out to the main entrance and sat around the hookah shisha. She brought me a blanket and put it on my shoulders. We had the typical conversation of how to swear in our respective languages and, like the Syrian guy did not understand what we were saying, he only understood Arabic insults that my teacher had taught me. When I said “kus Uhta” he stared at me surprised and angry, while the Jordan girl was laughing. “Kus Ukhta” is the worst insult you can say in Arabic, as it literally means “your sister’s pussy”, and the severity of the insult stays in the fact that it attacks the sister rather than the mother (as is often usual in Spain), and it is possible that someone’s sister is still a virgin, while the mother could not ever be. Soon, another young Jordanian who mumbled some words in English joined us. We laughed a lot, but certainly I can not remember exactly of what. But of course, I was fascinated by Arab hospitality and cordiality. The Arab lady brought chocolates, offered me the shisha and gave me a tropical fruits’ juice (though I regret the rest of the night). However, some prostitutes left the “hotel” and passed by our side. At least they had the appearance of prostitutes, specially being in an Arab country, with miniskirts and heels with which I would not be able to walk. After five days in Jordan, certainty they were the first Arab women I saw with legs, shoulders and head uncovered.

At midnight I said goodbye to them as I had to meet James at the Hercules Temple at 8 am and did not know where exactly that was and I had no city map. While I was organizing my luggage, someone knock on my door after midnight. They were the Jordanian guy and the Syrian refugee, asking if I wanted to hang out with them that night. I said no, because I was tired and needed to sleep. Actually that was true, but still wasn’t sure if I could trust them. They left and after a while, when I already wore my pyjamas, they came back and knocked on the door. They asked me if we could take a picture, all of us together, so I agreed just in order to be. I went to bed without sheets, with socks, my pyjamas and the towel on the pillow, just in case. I wore earplugs and slept with the passport under my pyjamas, and now I realise that maybe I was overreacting for some reason to a certain fear I had, without knowing exactly what it was.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY3iBwvKdys&feature=youtu.be

I got up early and got into the chaos of Amman after the check- out (7 JD, a real bargain, and leave my second pack there). I asked where it was the Temple of Hercules, but nobody knew where it was, not even the police. I finally found someone who told me that the Temple of Hercules was part of the Citadelle, the ancient city of the capital. I had just 5 minutes left to meet James, so I took a taxi which drove me up to the Citadelle for a Jordanian dinar. And there he was, James, with a short t-shirt (was pretty cold at that time of the day) and a guidebook in his hand. We went and watched the remains of the ancient city. We visited the amphitheater, the temple of Hercules and then the market and the Hussein’s mosque. The market was authentic, fascinating. The smells, the screams, the crowd. In this video you can get an idea of what type of market it was:

Then we went to Rainbow Street, uptown Amman, the most luxurious neighborhood. We ate in an Armenian restaurant. Jim (James became Jim after five minutes of talk) was vegetarian. In the afternoon we stopped at a bar and tasted the famous Araq (typical Arabic drink, aniseed, 50% of alcohol). Each of us took two glasses of Jordanian and Lebanese Araq. I called Royal Jordanian airlines to ask how was the situation in Bangkok (I had to fly there that night), as my friends and my parents told me the conflict was getting worse and the media did not recommend traveling there under any circumstances. Jim finally offered to me that in case the flight was not leaving I could stay with him.

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Jordanian Araq in Amman © Photo: Ana Vega

When we left the pub I was certainty wasted. We went down to Hussein Street and finally found the only nightclub which had beer. There was no woman there. All men stared at me, some of them full of anger, others with desire. When I ordered two beers they frown. Every time Jim went to the restroom, they all turned to look at me, and I raised my glass of beer, as a gesture of “cheers”. We left even more wasted from this small bar and I had to go to the hotel to get my bag and go to the airport. I said goodbye to the Jordanian girl and the Syrian refugee. Jim jumped up with me in the car and we left him in his hotel before heading to the airport. We left Jim at the Toledo Hotel and the truth is that I felt sad to say goodbye to him because we shared unique moments in Amman. I arrived in Queen Alia Airport at midnight, and on the plane I sat next to an Iraqi lawyer. I needed to sleep, but the Iraqi could not stop speaking. Finally I exhausted fell asleep until we landed in Bangkok. I grabbed a taxi and got to my hostel, very close to Kao Shan Road. There I met my roommates, three lovely French girls, but they deserve a different chapter. Certainty they do.

Soy periodista, con una inclinación natural e inevitable por el Líbano en particular, y, en general, por todos los conflictos aparentemente minoritarios que podrían extrapolarse al resto del mundo. Estudié Periodismo y Humanidades y realicé un máster en Edición de Libros en la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Actualmente estoy volcada en el Grado de Estudios Ingleses y soy adicta al trabajo, a la literatura y a la fotografía. Desearía que los días tuvieran más horas para poder poner en práctica todas las ideas y proyectos que sueño en las pocas horas que duermo.