Posts Tagged ‘Jordan’

Northern Jordan–شمال الأردن

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
UmmQais2

The following day, we planned to go somewhat early to the Dibeen Reserve, one of the less-developed of RSCN’s nature sanctuaries, hoping to avoid the fees associated with the parks that have more facilities for visitors.  I asked the hotel owner where we could get some foul, a question which prompted him to lead me once again by the arm to the window, whereupon he gesticulated wildly in a manner that almost seemed to be a formal sign language in order to try to communicate to me where it was.  A few Arabic words were thrown in for good measure, though they made little sense without a full understanding of the sign language.  Nevertheless, I felt like I had a reasonable idea of what he was trying to communicate and we headed off in search of breakfast. (more…)

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Chariots Afire—عربات مشتعل

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Getting out of Damascus ended up being rather more complicated than we had expected.  The staff at our hotel had given us rather specific times—five of them, in fact—at which busses leave from the Sulmariya station on the outskirts of town to Amman.  We were aiming to catch the 3pm bus and arrived at the station after having ridden the 12km through Damascus and its suburbs at about 2:15.  We were beckoned by one fellow to the window of a particular company to get tickets.  I was a bit dubious, being under the impression that there were competing companies with service to Amman, but it turned out that this company actually had no spaces left, it was leaving at 2:30, it was the only bus of the day, and this was the only company offering service to Amman.  I called to hotel to verify the information and make sure that there wasn’t something that I was missing.  Maybe there were departures from another station, or another company whose window was not yet open.  The woman at reception simply insisted that there were five departures per day from the company which had just told me there was only one and seemed unwilling to accept that her information might need to be updated. (more…)

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R&R in Damascus—الإستراحة والإرتياح في الشام

Friday, June 26th, 2009
damascus5

Our day in Damascus was slow, easy and relaxing. We wandered again around the old city, visiting the palace of As`ad Pasha al-Azem, the 18th century governor of Damascus. It was bigger and more elabrate architecturally than its smaller cousin that I wrote about in Hama, but the latter had been more carefully restored and, on a purely aesthetic level, found it more impressive. This Azem Palace in Damascus was more like a museum, with the focus being on the objects filling the rooms, and less on the rooms themselves. The cheezy dioramas were still there, and there were a great many artifacts that had been left in the old house or recovered from elsewhere. There were copious signs detailing the historical context of this period of the Ottoman Empire, although there was only passing mention of the diversion of resources (including the cutting off of Damascus’s public water supply) that was necessary to build this magnificent palace. What mention there was of such matters was left unexamined, while other signs made note of all the luxurious appointments built into the palace, such a retreat and respite being a virtual necessity for a man holding such grave daily responsibility as the Pasha. What a bunch of hogwash.

Perhaps the reader is thinking, “and what about you, o intrepid traveler? What has been so taxing about three weeks of vacation (and two more to go), wandering about the countryside of Syria, treated as a guest of honor wherever you go, that you should be in need of such ‘rest and relaxation’ in Damascus?” Touché, dear reader, touché. And it is not without a twinge of guilt that I announce that I’ll be giving up on the part of this trip that has been genuinely challenging: the cycling. Between my bum knee and Elaina’s “delicate constitution”, as she puts it (with a touch of irony, I presume), cycling through the much less hospitable (in terms of the terrain and the elements) territory of Jordan seems like stubborn folly. Instead, we’ll be doing the unthinkable: renting a car. It’s a little more than we’d like to spend, but will allow us to visit the sort of out-of-the-way places we might have hoped to have seen by bike, and is certainly cheaper than a knee operation.

With that in mind, the only obligation we spent the day attending to was figuring out how to get ourselves to Amman via bus (it was not possible to rent a one-way car to al-Aqaba from Damascus). The rest of the day was spent wandering, resting, relaxing and generally vacationing, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Try not to let your jealousy get to you.

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