March 03, 2009

If I could I surely would

Monday was a tourism day. We began by driving (being driven) out to Madaba, where there's a famous mosaic map of the region. That was interesting, but the drive out of town was much more so. People we spoke to told us about how real estate prices had gone through the roof outside of town, since many people who had left Iraq with lots of money "no one knows where their money comes from" had relocated there." We also drove past mansions owned by "nomadic" Bedouins, with their tents and livestock in the gardens. Times and fortunes change.

From Madaba we went to Mount Nebo, where Moses was granted his distant view of the Holy Land, and where he died and was buried by God. Needless to say, the view was stunning. The name of the country across the river never quite makes it into conversation, I've noticed: "That hill belongs to Jerusalem" is about as far as one gets.

Coming down from the mountain and heading toward the Dead Sea we saw some really dramatic scenery, and lots of tents without big mansions attached to them. Herds of goats on or near the roads, though I couldn't see anything around for even goats to eat. During a conversation about milking and/or goats, our driver told us, "Goat is the best lamb." My new motto.

On the road to the Dead Sea there were a couple of checkpoints: "What kind you got?" the soldier asked our driver in Arabic (it's great traveling with native speakers). I guess the driver responded with our nationality, since the soldier smiled and said, "Welcome to Jordan" in English. Along that road I saw camels for the first time, and the only armored vehicle I've seen as well. The Dead Sea was, well, still dead. There's salt just lying around down there, and interesting salt crystal growths on some of the rocks. Pretty cool.

Then it was on to the site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. We met some British folks whose daughter lives just a few miles down the Susquehanna from us. Small world. Set foot in the Jordan river, which, slightly flooded from the recent rain, is barely a creek (and you know, if you know me, that that's pronounced "crick"). But across the river in the neighboring country was an impressive concrete ... thing? bunker? ... looming, impressively, with big flags flying. Assertively to say the least.

I've been asked to say more about the food, and I'll try to do justice to the dinner we had last night in a future post. I did have a revelation last night, not in the mosaic church, not atop Mt. Nebo, and not at the site where Jesus was baptized, but outside the shawarma stand back in Amman. Traffic is insane in Amman, but it works. People drive aggressively and with little regard for people behind them, as I guess is necessary in places where traffic is guided by circles, and where streets have grown organically rather than through planning, but it works. Everybody seems to know that everybody needs to get where he or she is going, and there is apparently some sense of fairness to the whole thing. Double parking is reasonable as long as the inconvenience to others is within reason. It makes some kind of sense.

I'll leave you with one final observation, a followup to not speaking the language: banal pop music on MTV is a lot better when you can't understand the words; it's exotic and compelling. So, that's something.

1 comment:

Michael said...

They have cricks in Jordan? *That's* a revelation!