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Cameras: Canon 70D DSLR, iPhone 4 and GoPro Hero.
Maud complains of feeling a little disjointed after flight from Beirut to Amman. Pull yourself together, I tell her.
Soon she’s back to her old self again.
Amman cityscape, from host’s balcony.
My first Amman host, who is planning a bummel of his own soon.
Luxury: a wonderful friend, Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, a human rights lawyer, businesswoman, activist & philanthropist, puts me up in her fantastic Landmark Hotel for free. Suddenly the bummelling life doesn’t seem so hard.
A 60-year-old man from Baghdad who came to Amman 13 years ago. Lost leg due to gangrene, and now sells mobile phone parts in the market. Kindly buys me tea with sage, despite my protests.
41-year-old Syrian man who fled Damascus two years ago with his three young children aged six, five and two months. Plans to fly to Algeria and travel overland to Tunisia and Libya, where he will board a boat to Italy. Currently works in the Amman market selling mobile phones.
King Abdullah Mosque, ladies quarters. Distinctly less impressive than the men’s next door.
The men’s quarters in King Abdullah Mosque. A little unequal, methinks.
Bustling streets outside the mosque.
Streets soon packed with men praying – though not always in the same direction, curiously.
Cardboard sheets sold for a few cents to use a prayer mats.
The Roman theatre, built in the 2nd century AD.
View from the Amman Citadel, considered to be among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places.
View of the Roman ampitheatre from the Citadel.
Most of the ruins date from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods (30BC to 750AD). The Temple of Hercules, pictured, was built in the 2nd century AD, like the theatre.
Irritating but redeemably cute children, who stalk me around the Citadel.
Stopped for a selfie by two women in a niqab and chador, incredibly.
The odd but charming Duke of Mukhyber’s Residence, which I stumbled on by chance. It claims to be one of the oldest buildings downtown, and is full of old pictures, newspaper cuttings and artefacts from the past century.
Mr Jaffer, the caretaker (pictured) showed me around, but couldn’t speak English so I didn’t learn too much. Seemed a very nice chap, however.
Pictures and dolls in the back bedroom of the museum. A lovely collection.
Sign outside the Green Space Cultural Cafe, which touts itself as a ‘space away from the city of stones and business’.
Visit refugee camp in Jerash for stateless Palestinians from Gaza with IFMSA, an international federation of medical student associations. They have raised £12,000 to provide food, fuel and blankets for residents, and today are distributing clothes.
A woman in the camp. Overall, 30,000 people live here, in desperately poor conditions. People came here in 1967 after Gaza was occupied and have been here ever since. They have no chance at Jordanian citizenship (and no wish to take it), and no rights to free state healthcare and education.
A picture of King Abdullah II and his family. Everyone seems to love them here, despite the fact the Hashemites have ruled Jordan since 1921. Basically a benevolent dictatorship.
Boxes of clothes for residents.
One of the medical student volunteers.
A few hours are spent organising the piles of clothes before residents arrive.
Bags bags bags.
Volunteers from IFMSA.
The residents are grateful for the clothes, but it’s far from enough. They need self-empowerment. Yet a recent law was a backwards step, requiring all Gaza residents to have work permits and sponsors before they can get a job.
A cheery, slightly mad, guy who accosts us in the street.
Kids everywhere, playing happily in the streets.
Hope for freedom: grafitti outside the school. Education is taken very seriously by Palestinians, who see it as their best way to escape their current predicament.
The camp is basically like a small shanty town, filled with forlorn, stained concrete buildings, kids on donkeys, mounds of rubble and rubbish, clusters of dysfunctional mechanical supplies, and a general aura of thinly concealed hopelessness.
The youngsters remain ever-exuberant, however. I’m not a great fan of kids, but it’s hard not to warm to this lively bunch.
Underage driving (in a stationary vehicle).
Many of the volunteers are Palestinians themselves, though several have Jordanian citizenship. In fact, a hefty proportion of Jordanians have Palestinian origins.
The medical students tell me that public healthcare is excellent in Jordan. Better than private, though far more crowded.
Sewage in the street.
This man and his wife are desperate for medical help, but cannot raise the funds. As they are old and frail, others have priority.
Their leaking roof, filled with asbestos.
The local market.
Eileen is 36 with seven children, including a newborn baby. Her roof and floor have both started to collapse, and rats are getting inside. IFMSA hope to fund the repairs from their fundraising activities. ‘It’s a tragedy,’ she says. ‘Everything is mouldy and destroyed, and all my children are ill and have allergies.’
Asbestos is everywhere, but IFMSA has started to replace all the old roofs with new tin ones.
Eileen’s bathroom, for a family of nine.
One of the new roofs, keeping the damp out.
The volunteers. Palestinian refugees have been hit hard by the Syria crisis, they tell me. Nobody cares about them anymore, and funding is running dry.
A man stops me in the street to ask for help with a visa to the UK and show me the splits – both forwards and sideways. What more does the Home Office want?
Up high into the mountains en route to the Dead Sea.
Yet another jolly tot. When will they desist?
A passing highwayman – or just a horseman, as it turns out.
A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tent a few km south-west of Amman.
I pop into the tiny village of Al Amir as I spot a sign for the Iraq Al-Amir Women’s Co-Operative Society. The place is derelict, but I later discover the organisation was founded in 1993 by the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation. The idea was to teach women the skills of weaving, paper work and pottery to help them become self-sufficient and keep their culture alive. In 2001, the foundation dissolved and the women started funding themselves.
Now, sadly, it looks like the co-operative is no more. In 2013 they were already struggling to pay rent and wages, and falling into debt. Very sad.
MORE happy children, by god.
A sweet family I pass by, who invite me to join them for tea and water.
Goats, goats, glorious goats.
Suddenly realise I’ve lost the tarmac road, despite it being entirely straight all the way to the sea. This is surely a special skill.
Meet Errol Flynn tending a flock of sheep in the Jordanian mountains.
And Sean Penn’s there too.
With his donkey.
Not entirely sure where this road leads, but there’s no turning back now.
Man’s best friend, sweet and welcoming as ever. Rescued by shepherds for the third time this trip.
Chilling out near the bottom of the mountain. I can’t get to the Dead Sea this way, they tell me, as the road is closed. I choose not to believe them.
Car passes and offers to lead me an alternative route.
And I make it, just as the sun dips low – hooray to survival!
Get a puncture with my new ‘puncture-proof’ tyres, bought in Beirut, andam forced to catch a ride – only to be sexually assaulted by the man on the left in the cabin of the truck. He asks for a kiss, tells me he loves me, then grabs my left breast – twice. I get out my knife, tell him he’s a ‘bad man’, and he finally drops me off by the roadside. Am very shaken up and don’t report it to police, to my great regret ever since. Bedouin culture has a somewhat curious concept of women, I later discover.
Chalets on Mujib Nature Reserve by the Dead Sea. Beautiful uninterrupted views of the sea, but there’s an eerie, bleak, moonscape feel to the place. It seems entirely deserted, and I am the only guest.
Living sky above Dead Sea.
The restaurant is closed, but the (slightly odd) manager finally agrees to provide some grub: a plate of yummy wallpaper paste and some salad.
Exposing my glorious new tan in the Dead Sea, which is lovely and toasty due to lying 400m below sea level: the lowest place on earth.
A local manatee, floating in the densely salted water. The sea is almost ten times as salty as the ocean due to having no outlets. Instead, water much evaporate, leaving behind salt deposits.
New puncture-proof (prone?) tyres seem to have been hit with 14 punctures from the roadside thorns – which is quite a feat, tbh. Only have eight patches left and no spare tubes, so catch a ride to the next town with these lovely fellas. No opportune boob fondling this time, I’m pleased to report – though I have my knife to the ready, just in case.
About a minute after this pic is taken, he lights a cigarette too.
Arrive in Kerak in the dark. All the hotels seem to be closed, and it’s freezing cold. What to do?
Textile worker in Kerak making goatskin rugs and putting some ICRC boxes to good use.
The ‘second oldest pharmacy’ in Kerak, I am told. No idea how old this might be, however.
Go to see the Tourist Police and one of them very kindly takes me of a tour of the town to find a puncture repair kit. It’s a long job.
As it’s now pitch black, the police agree to drive me to the only open hotel in town.
All the rooms are taken, except for this one in the basement. Cold, dirty and cheap – perfect!
My room. Not too bad, though filthy and chilly.
I decide against a bath.
Total patch-count: ten.
The other side.
A lovely crisp morning as I set off towards Dana, on the other side of a deep valley.
Maud enjoying the view. Pic taken minutes after an old Bedouin man (with seven children, not present) stops for a chat, asks me if I love him and tries to kiss me. Not aggressive, just opportunistic and misguided – but after our brief but emphatic exchange, I’m hoping he won’t be doing it again.
A kind father and son, who give me a tomato.
Goats! I just can’t let it go.
Bottom of the valley. Now the hard part.
Selfie! Sand & snout.
I just love goats so much, it’s a disease. Unless this is a sheep?
Boy shepherd #2.
Finally make it, woohoo! A tough slog.
Foggy: a friendly local shows me the view.
Finally make it to Al-Nawatef Bedouin camp, hidden down a tiny off-road track 5km outside Dana. No electricity or running water, but wonderful, soul-enriching panoramas stretching far across the craggy landscape.
Ali, the lovely owner of the camp and a headteacher at the local school. He taught the three young men who work at the camp, helping them to fund university. Married, 49yrs old with six children (a small family around here!). Built Al-Nawatef over ten years, from just one small, concrete hut. Built the place with his own hands, including digging four wells for water. What a legend.
My feast of a dinner, including the biggest portion of stew I’ve ever eaten. I wolf it down like the beast I’ve become.
Morning pic. It’s COLD but beautifully sunny.
Puppies on the prowl. Seriously consider stealing one.
A puncture for the road. Thorns. THORNS.
Strange radioactive bugs are everywhere.
Feel apprehensive cycling through the Ma’an Governorate, one of the most conservative regions of Jordan where ISIS flags have been known to be raised. But all seems friendly enough and attract only smiles and waves.
Wending down to tiny village near Petra, where I am staying with a Bedouin man and his French girlfriend.
View of the village.
My room: one of the two main rooms in the small house, which also has a small kitchen, tiny bathroom and courtyard. I am given the only heater overnight, and it’s cosy and warm.
My hosts. He is a Bedouin tour guide and she his French girlfriend who he met while she was travelling. All Jordanians who aren’t Palestinians are Bedouin by heritage, he tells me.
The towering rocks of Petra along the siiq (entrance pathway). The ancient city is believed to have been built as early as 312BC and a true wonder to behold.
Crevasse & camel.
The Treasury, carved into the sandstone with no exterior materials.
The ampitheatre, which can accommodate up to 7,000 people.
Proud & noble.
The royal tombs, which housed the tombs of the most important Nabataeans dignitaries.
A little history: in Oct 1917, T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) led a revolt in Petra against the Ottoman regime, including rallying local Bedouin women to join the troops. They won a convincing victory.
A local enjoying the view.
Local Bedouin, who give tours around Petra. I avoid them as don’t have more cash to splash.
Sun beginning to set.
The ruins of the Great Temple, although some believe it may actually have been the seat of government.
Shepherds in the hills.
More goats. I know, I know…
I am the last person to leave Petra and it’s almost pitch black by the time I finally escape. Pretty spooky.
Stunning views en route to Wadi Rum: my final stop before the coast.
Finally make it to Wadi Rum, and am gently accosted by a few locals keen for me to stay in their camp. I stick to the recommendation I got from Ali at Al-Nawatef, however.
Take a tour of Wadi Rum with a group of visitors I meet at the camp. Barren and beautiful.
Feels like surface of Mars – and in fact was used as the setting for the Matt Damon film the Martian.
Wadi Rum (high valley) is a valley cut into sandstone and granite rock, and the largest wadi in Jordan.
Wadi Rum has been inhabited since prehistoric times, with many cultures leaving their mark in the form of rock paintings and graffiti.
The group during a spot of canyoning.
Landscape softy electrified as sun begins to set.
6.30am sunrise at the camp. An ice cold shower, then back on the road again.
Wadi Rum village: not too inspiring. Tourism is the main trade here, and not much else.
Some locals invite me for tea and lunch, and have quick glance into their house. A minimalist style, it seems.
Aqaba! Just five days after leaving Amman, in a bid to make my rendez-vous with P in Dahab tomorrow. A true rumpus of a bummel. Finally find the tourist office to buy a ferry ticket after three hours of searching. The boat may go at 2pm, as planned, or may go at 5pm, or not at all, I am told. ‘It’s as the wind.’
My new favourite ungulate, who keeps me company while I wait.
Lovely sun set, but still no sign of that 2pm ferry. It finally arrives at 1am.
Seem inadvertently to have entered the male-only lounge for the Jordan-Egypt ferry.
The only other laydee on board: a 17-yr-old backpacker from China. A brave soul!