Today we leave Aqaba for a 4 hour drive back to Amman. Its also Australia Day ... so I bring out the patriotic thongs.
|Aussie Day in Jordan|
|Driving through the Wealthy parts of Amman|
|Fruit Art... a fitting way to conclude our tour in Jordan|
Jordan is 80% Desert and that is pretty much reflected in this drive. Its not until we get close to Amman that we start to see any real greenery. The 15 minute toilet stop turns into a 40 minute one as the toilets seem to be attached to large gift shops here. The girls walk out with some more Dead Sea product. On the way we see a few phosphate and potash mines but its still difficult to see how the economy can thrive with so little obvious industry. Amman dominates as the commercial centre, and perhaps banking and finance may benefit from the relative neutrality of Jordan compared to its neighbours. Riad takes us for a tour of the wealthy areas, which only emphasises the gap between the haves and the have nots.
On the bus Riad tells us a little about the changing customs in Jordan. Marriages are still often arranged, including his own, despite having worked and studied in Germany in his youth. He has also rejected a prospective wife of one of his seven sons. He has only one daughter …. They are expensive to marry off. Dowry expectations are in the several thousands of dollars (2 – 3 camels worth). Riad in his youth also worked on the reception at the Regency hotel in the early 1980s. He tells us about a terrible experience while working there. He befriended an American woman while at the hotel. After a few drinks as they were sitting outside the hotel, he gave her a light kiss. Before he knew it the police pulled up … he had been reported. Without any hearing he was thrown in gaol into a small cell with 40 common criminals for 3 days! Thankfully things have progressed quite a lot since then … but that was only 30 years ago!
We ended out tour today with a traditional Arabian meal in Amman. We liked the communal round serving dishes and the food of course. As I said earlier, we tend to prefer organised tours when we have some doubts about how easy it would be to travel independently. The Middle East for us fits this bill. Having been here now I think that it wouldn’t be as difficult as some of the lesser developed Asian countries. We all loved Riad, his sense of humour and his openness to all points of views. That said, when on an organised tour the tour leader does become “your eyes” into the culture of the country, rather than necessarily experiencing first hand. Its easy to see how many tourists could be ferried from one tourist site to the next without ever getting a real feel for a place. This is something I miss when compared to travelling independently. But there are pluses and minuses for both, with the big plus being time efficiency.