To the east!

08Dec15

Christ, I need to step it up with these.  I’m going to forget everything that happened if I don’t move it along cause we haven’t even make it to Jordan in recap-land yet.  Ok… ready, go..

When I left off we were heading to bed very late Sunday night/early Monday morning.  As such, B and I decided to take a lie-in while Kate and Zach who were feeling more energetic went out to see a few more sites.  We all met up again later in the morning to scrounge up some lunch and to hopefully, finally get to go in to the Blue Mosque.

We were successful on the lunch front (lahmacun pt. 2, delicious lamb boogaloo) but less so on the mosque front, as the call to prayer was yet again just starting when we finished.  We instead did a little trinket shopping from a nice old man and went back to pack up our things in preparation for our flight to Amman late that evening.  At some point during this packing process, Kate got a news notification on her phone that simply said “2 Americans Killed by Jordanian Official”…  which, when you’re Americans and only a few hours from your flight to Jordan is understandably a bit concerning.  We were fairly quickly able to discern that this was a non-random shooting of the workplace violence type and not a death to Americans type thing, so whew.  Plus, we’re Americans!   With the police killing people and gruesome shoot-em-up workplace violence we would feel right at home!

Anyway, after we got all packed and ready to go, we FINALLY had the timing right to go to the Blue Mosque.  Unlike the Hagia Sophia, which was converted into a museum, the Blue Mosque is still used as an active place of worship… so they don’t want people wandering through and gawking at them while they’re trying to pray.  The Blue Mosque was the only time on the entire trip that I had to cover my head (one of the main questions I’ve gotten from people has been about whether I had to cover my head most of the time or not) and they are quite strict about what you wear to go in as well, though they have all the modesty apparel to lend you if needed.  I had on a dress that went to my knees and leggings on under that and they still made me wear a long wrap skirt, lest my calves turn anyone away from Allah.  You also have to remove your shoes before entering, since the entire mosque is carpeted in the most lovely, thick carpeting you’ll ever feel.

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Getting hijab'd and shoeless

Once we were sufficiently modest, we were allowed to walk through the sanctuary.  It is stunningly beautiful, my pictures can’t begin to do justice to all the beautiful stained glass and mosaics.

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Since it is still an active mosque there is a fairly limited area where visitors can go, the above picture is looking in to the area where only muslim men are allowed to go.

P1090714 (1)The sign apparently said something along the lines of “Women, please do not pray here”… but ladies, never fear.  You get your very own prayer area, way in the back, walled off from everything else, lest someone gaze upon your backside while you are praying.

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After we finished at the mosque we still had a bit of time to kill, so we again took a wander and again ended up on a rooftop cafe for tea and coffee and a snack.  It was then time for us to get to the airport and fly off to Amman, to arrive very late that evening.

The flight was uneventful, though a bit longer than I thought it would be because we took the least fiery-death-from-missiles route which basically took the right angle side of the triangle rather than the more direct hypotenuse.  Thankfully we were once again on Turkish air, with their tasty food and quality entertainment so the time passed quickly.

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We touched down in Amman, and almost immediately things took a turn for the excessively stressful.  When we got on the flight, Branden wanted to put his shoulder bag (containing his passport, wallet, and laptop amongst other things) in an overhead bin but they were already full immediately above us, so he tucked it in a bin 3 or 4 seats up the aisle.  This shoulder bag is literally one of a kind, he bought it in Chicago and it had been custom made for someone or as a prototype or whatever… doesn’t matter, besides to say that this bag is quite unique, not something someone could mistake for their own.

We’re waiting to get off the plane and it’s a huge plane so it’s taking forever but finally the people right in front of us are starting to move..  one of the guys starts his way down the aisle, sees B’s bag in the otherwise empty bin above a now empty row, and apparently thought to himself “jackpot!”.  I see him grab the bag and start down the aisle again and so I immediately start jumping up and down and screaming HEY! HEY! HEY! THATS NOT YOUR BAG! HEY HEY! much to the shock and irritation of the other people on the plane.  For once in my life my ability to be loud as hell and cause a big scene was a benefit and not a curse, because he quickly turned around and handed Branden his bag, with a slightly-sheepish, shit-eating, you-caught-me grin on his face.  What an asshole.

So, we finally manage to get off the plane without starting an international incident and make our way to customs.  Prior to our arrival we had all purchased a “Jordan Pass”, which included our visa fees and entrance to a ton of tourist attractions like Petra (and on a side note, if you’re ever going to Jordan I highly recommend this route because it will save you a bucket of money), but only Zach had thought to do it in advance and print out his receipt, whereas the rest of us just had a PDF with a QR code on our phone.  Zach had many warnings for us about the technological capabilities of Jordan (well, the lack there of) and so we were all a bit nervous for the moment of truth as to whether we’d be able to get through customs…  but thankfully it went about as smoothly as such things can go.  We then got our luggage and found an ATM to take out some dinar when the next stressful situation hit when B realized he had lost his debit card somewhere in Turkey.  Thankfully this ended up being a non-issue, since I could still take out cash and he had his credit cards, and it wasn’t stolen by anyone or anything… but still, not the thing you want to discover when you’re already exhausted and stressed.

Once we finally got out of the airport our fortunes started to turn.  We caught a cab and made our way in to the city, Zach excitedly chatting with our driver in Arabic the whole way.  Amman is arranged along a series of traffic circles though the middle of the city (though, in looking at a map it doesn’t really make any organizational sense at all, but I guess that’s what happens when you build a city on a bunch of hills) and we were staying at the First Circle, which is also the general neighborhood where Zach lived.  Zach was super excited to be “home” again, and even more excited that our hotel room had a butt washer:

Plumbing systems there are not as robust as here (and need to use less water since, ya know, desert), so you generally shouldn’t/can’t flush toilet paper and rather there’s always a little garbage can to toss your used TP in.  Since this could quickly get…  horrifying, most bathrooms have a sprayer that you can use to clean yourself up before wiping, basically a handheld bidet.  Zach is a big fan of this system, as you can see from his joy above.  The rest of us were never really able to get in to it.

We got settled in and decided we were all still a bit to amped up and also a mite peckish, but it was two in the morning so we weren’t sure we’d be able to do anything about that.  Mercifully there was a Buffalo Wings and Rings (or as we called it, Wings n’ Stuff) right next to our hotel that was still open and serving til 3am, so we were able to get a bit of nosh and a drink and relax a bit after a trying travel experience.

First Jordanian(?) meal

Wings n’ Stuff basically became our American embassy, like how Mitch Hedberg said that Subway was his embassy in Dublin.  We made note that they had signs up advertising both that they played NFL games and that they had a location in Aqaba, where we would be the next Sunday.  Sweet, sweet American chain restaurants.

So, with that we headed off to bed to get some rest for our first day in Jordan.

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