Thursday, July 7, 2011

Journey to the Rose City

Due to the fact that our flights back home were on a Sunday morning in Tel Aviv, and on Shabbat there is a lack of transportation and shortened border crossing times, we decided to shove our visit to Jordan right in the middle of our trip.

The border crossing into Jordan from Elat, a resort city on the coast of the Red Sea at the southern tip of Israel, was highly uneventful. In less than 10 minutes we paid exit fees, had our passports stamped, walked across the border, paid for a visa and had our passport stamped again. It was much easier than I had imagined it to be. But then again, it wasn't the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge crossing which we would experience later in the week.

Just outside the border crossing were a few taxi drivers, ready to take us wherever our hearts desired. One greeted us and offered his services - to take us all the way to Petra, a few hours drive, if we wanted.  We talked things over and decided to take him up on his offer.  But once we reached his car my mom was visibly worried.

"It's not a marked taxi," she whispered to me.

 I stopped and tried thinking of the last time I had actually been in a real marked taxi.  I couldn't remember if I had in Bosnia, I knew I hadn't in Mali, definitely didn't in Kenya, I really don't think I had in Zanzibar, I never did in Russia.  My unresponsiveness made her a bit more nervous... I guess the time it took for me to think of a country I had taken a real taxi in was longer than I had thought.

London!  I had definitely taken a marked taxi in London. 

"Mom, it's fine.  We're not in a Western country... that's just how it is." 

A group of taxi drivers a few feet away also confirmed my statement as our taxi driver pulled out his permit to calm her nerves.

She was still a bit hesitant while I threw our suitcases in the trunk and slid into the back seat of the car. 

"It's just that I've always been told to never get into an unmarked taxi," she stated as she slid in next to me.

Five minutes later we were pulling up behind another taxi... a marked taxi. 

"I've called my son, and he'll drive you up the rest of the way in his car, that way you'll be more comfortable," our driver said to my mother.

"Oh!  No! You didn't have to do that," she replied. I shook my head and got out of the car.

Thaer, our new driver, had us in hysterics the moment we entered the taxi. All Jordanians, we later learned, were natural comedians. He asked me if age made much of a difference in a relationship, because to him love knew no bounds... not even our 9 year age gap, with me being the older of the two. 

"What about your girlfriend you just mentioned 5 minutes ago?," I asked. 

"Oh, her?  Well actually, I just met her last week and she'll be leaving soon, so there'll be plenty of room for another."

He serenaded us with songs played on the radio, changing a word or two as the lyrics went along. "Lady," he sang Kenny Rogers style, "for so many years I thought I'd never find you... I mean this, I really do.  You have come into my car aaaaand made me whole."

So it continued on our ride up to Petra. That is, until one point when my mom exclaimed "LOOK!  A shepherd on his donkey guiding his flock!  Can we stop and take a picture?"

Thaer swerved to the side of the road and slammed on the breaks.

"Claire, get your camera," my mom ordered as we all stepped out of the car.  So there I was, taking pictures for my mother after being given permission by the shepherd.

And the next thing I knew I was sitting on top of the donkey.

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