I’m writing this in a run-down hotel room in downtown Amman, the capital of Jordan. It’s been a long day, but we are finally showered, fed, and in bed, and looking forward to going to Petra tomorrow -- the reason we are in Jordan.
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Something I forgot to mention about Abu Simbel: there is a lot of graffiti chiseled into the rock, on the monument itself, especially on the standing figures in the first chamber. There are names and dates from 1812, 1847, and other 19th Century years. In case you imagine that people “these days” are less respectful than they were in ye olden times, it ain’t so. The graffiti really bothers me -- the disrespect for the creators, and the distraction to us.
I loved seeing Abu Simbel, but I would have liked to stay at the site longer.
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This morning Allan set out to hike up the sand mountain visible from our Aswan hotel. I unpacked and re-packed all our stuff. Our hosts did our laundry -- and by hosts, I mean her, because he doesn’t do anything but smoke cigarettes, ask guests how everything is -- in a manner that implies you must say things are great -- and order his staff around. Anyway, the laundry was great, but I had to repack everything. Our luggage is very full!
I was having breakfast on the roof patio when Allan showed up, sweating, panting, and asking for the room key. Apparently hiking up a sand mountain before breakfast is not a fun thing to do.
The patio was full of guests, so in order to be in shade, two people sat with us -- a good-looking young man traveling with his mother. They are Korean, and he has been living and studying in Egypt and Jordan for six months; mom is visiting. I said Allan had been hiking earlier, pointing to the mountain. They said, “How was it?” A pause, then Allan said: “Steep.” It was very funny.
We were figuring out our tips for the staff -- an extremely important thing here -- and I didn’t know whether or not to tip the owner’s sister, who does all the cooking. I’ve learned her name is not Shyela -- it’s Nusa. I think we were having a bad language-barrier moment. I thought she was telling me her name, but she was saying something else! I finally decided against giving Nusa money, but I gave her a gift -- one of the pashima shawls I bought in Luxor. Hopefully she is able to wear a colour other than black.
A short time later, she gave me a hand-made beaded necklace -- a distinct Nubian design with three colours in a spiral pattern. I was really touched.
Allan took more pictures of the house, and we took a cab to the airport. Very low marks for the town of Aswan -- but it was absolutely worth it to see Abu Simbel.
Our flight from Aswan to Cairo was delayed, which left negative time to reach our connecting flight from Cairo to Amman. They were both Egyptair, so they held the flight for us (and one other couple) and someone from the airline helped us get through security quickly. Security is tough in the Cairo airport! Even though you have been screened before a flight, you are screened again after. And even though we had just been screened after a flight, we had to be screened yet again before boarding the next one! This includes shoes, and of course we’re wearing our boots because sneakers take up less room in the suitcase. By the end I just stopped tying the laces. Note to self: put nail file in checked luggage. We were held up twice by a little metal nail file.
Once on the plane -- out of breath, sweating, disheveled -- Allan wondered if our luggage would be as lucky as us. Would they be waiting for us in Amman? We were thrilled to find them right away. Thank you, Egyptair!!
Just a walk through the Amman airport and getting processed through customs, and we knew this was a more modern and functioning city than Cairo. I had arranged pickup through the hotel, and we had a long ride into the city centre.
On the flight, I realized there was a problem with our plans. Tomorrow we are supposed to get up very early to go to Petra. Why don’t we stay in Amman one additional night, and push everything back by one day? This was the general plan... until we saw the hotel room.
It’s very run-down -- dingy. It didn’t help that the heater was on full blast, and the air-conditioner didn’t seem to work. We asked at the desk about the A/C. The clerk was quite surprised. It is winter here! (Something like a warm summer day in Ontario.) After we determined that we could, in fact, get the room cool, and there was hot water, and the sheets and bed are clean, we decided we could stay here for one night.
To simplify things, we are still going to Petra tomorrow, and staying in Petra one night, as planned. But when we return to Amman, we’re staying in a nicer place. Tonight I cancelled our return nights at the current hotel, and booked the Amman Marriott for the last few days of the trip.
We needed a few things, so we went out to forage near the hotel. It’s a bustling downtown area, crammed with shops of all kinds. The streets are clean, and no one harassed us. At a pharmacy, a nice pharmacist recommended guava syrup for the cough I’ve developed (allergy-related, I believe). We bought some fruit, yogurts, and water -- the bus to Petra leaves too early to have breakfast at the hotel -- and no one overcharged us. We went into a store selling candy, dried fruits, and nuts. The gentleman there invited us to try pistachios, cashews, and almonds. When we were finished, he came around from behind the counter, chose two fancy foil-wrapped chocolates and gave us each one.
Egypt was an experience I won’t soon forget. It was thrilling to see so much of the ancient world, and it was amazing to do that with Allan. But contemporary Egypt... not a happy place.