I’m sitting at our hotel waiting for a lift to the airport. We’re enjoying our first beer in 5 days to celebrate an excellent “local” experience: A bike ride with a group of 50+ riders down to the Dead Sea coast.
It’s a nice way to end our brief Jordanian adventure – there’s been a bit too much tourist oriented activity. Our laziness once again prevented us from lining up any couchsurf hosts to hang out with, so this was an excellent way to speak to some locals and share a little of their perspective.
The Tareef cycling club bussed us all down to a quiet spot around 30km from the Dead Sea coast (Amman being a suicidal place to start a ride) gave us bikes, helmets and drinks, and off we tootled mostly downhill to the Dead Sea, ending up some 400m below sea level which, actually, is the lowest point on Earth.
We finished up with a sunset fire to cook up some kebap and drink sweet tea. Turns out Googling for “cyling jordan” was one of the more useful things I’ve done in the last week. It was great to be back on a bike (and quite a nice bike) after such a long time. Again, cycling really is something I’ve missed on this trip. You can check out the full route – be sure to select “Elevation Profile” from the “Show” menu.
Arabic script fascinates me. Actually all non-latin scripts fascinate me; each time we land in a country with a script I haven’t seen before I do get a bit excited.
Right now I’m watching a news ticker flash across the bottom of the TV screen; probably some sort of finance news. The Arabic script is interspersed with Western numbers (i.e. the kind you and I are used to). Because Arabic is read right to left, the ticker moves across the screen from left to right – the opposite of what you’d see in English language broadcasts.
Now figure this: Western numbers are, of course, read left to right. So try to imagine your eyes following text from right to left, but having to read every number sandwiched in there from left to right. Then resuming your regular right to left reading. It confounds me. Although it’s a good illustration of how we read numbers as whole units rather than by compositing individual numerals. Same goes for words, actually.
And – if you’ll forgive me for taking this too far – what do you do if you’re writing Arabic on, say, Facebook where the text is left aligned instead of right aligned? Do you write all your words in reverse order and the reader needs to start at the bottom of the paragraph and read upward? The mind boggles!
The last couple of days we spent in Petra – apparently one of the “new” seven wonders of the world. Not particularly new, mind you, but a wonder indeed it is. There aren’t many tourist attractions that can live up to their hype – especially to a long term (and perhaps slightly jaded) traveler – but Petra really does.
Petra is an entire ancient city mostly carved out of spectacular red rock. Rather than boring you with words, let’s just take a look:
It flows perfectly, from the moment you walk in you stand in awe, until the final blow is delivered after a long hike to the monastery, a structure that is probably too astonishing for words to describe. That’s Jess at the bottom, pictured for scale:
Prior to arriving at Petra we did spend an eventful day with a taxi-cum-tour-guide traveling from Amman via various sights of historic importance including Mt Nebo, the Jordan River, Bethany (where Jesus was apparently baptised) and a quick swim in the Dead Sea. All were varyingly interesting and fun, if a little underwhelming.
Our slight crazed taxi driver pulled over on the Kings Highway next to the Dead Sea and got us to pose for a photo pretending to be stranded on the Highway after a car breakdown, attempting to hitch a lift. He must do with with all his tourists, due no doubt to the indisputable hilarity of this gag.
Here you can view his enviable artistic talents in all their glory:
Slighty less hilarious, however, was the moment some 20 minutes later when the drive shaft in his Samsung built car (really!) lunched itself. And we really did find ourselves stranded on the Kings Highway.
After 30 loud minutes on the telephone which included turning the steering wheel from lock to lock in an attempt to rectify the clearly serious (and non-steering related) problem, he admitted defeat and arranged for a perfect stranger – who had pulled over out of interest – to deliver us to our destination.
Turns out our perfect stranger / new tour guide was either blind, illiterate, or both. Not only did his vehicle seem seriously unlikely to last the distance, he managed to get repeatedly lost despite asking for direction on at least five occasions. He also mentioned that he had two wives and nine children.
Due to the aforementioned affliction(s) he was unable to read roadsigns, something we were at least able to help with given they were written in English as well as Arabic. At one point we did indeed pass a sign directing us to the Iraqi border, and not any other destination.
But, as always, we made it. And in hindsight it’s all very amusing ;-) Sound familiar?