Stuck here in the Jebels with you… - 10.04.2005

After the visa office I returned to the Hotel Al’Munzor to collect my thoughts and prepare for the rest of the day. I was hoping to meet up with an Iraqi I met and had lunch with on Sunday, who is staying here at the hotel, but he was out all day.

At three o’clock I left to go to the Marriott Hotel, in order to meet with Marfaq, Mohammed Alwan’s brother-in-law. It is my hope to interview him first, and if it goes well, I will be able to interview the whole family, or at least many of them.

Because I have been having a lot of trouble with the taxis in Amman overcharging, I decided I would walk on Jamil’s suggestion that it would only be a 15 minute walk from the hotel.

Unfortunately, in Amman we have these things known as “jebels” which are kind of like a combination between hills and cliffs. Because of the jebels, Amman is a lot like parts of San Francisco, but without the cool ocean breeze or the hippies.

So because of the Jebels its really difficult for a foreigner like me to navigate the city, as the roads are based around circles and overpasses, so unless you know which stairs to take up or down, you may have to take a very roundabout path, just to get to some place that is 10 or 15 minutes away.

I unfortunately become lost very quicly, because the road signs are helpful mainly to cars, not people. This is most likely because there are fairly regular and fairly cheap “Madhaba Buses” around the city, as well as plenty of service taxis and regular taxis.

I began to ask for directions and had a few short but interesting conversations with men on the street about Amman. However it soon became clear that few people knew exactly where the Marriott Hotel was located, perhaps because the ease of the bus system may make it unnecessary to know where things outside of your general circle or Jebel are located.

Eventually I received directions from a man, who seemed to know where the Marriott was, and he pointed it out on the skyline. A huge, beautiful round building that I had seen many times while riding around Amman in the taxis.

So I waited for a long time for a bus or service taxi, and met some people at the stop. We spoke for a while and had a hard time flagging down a taxi. Eventually a Madhaba bus showed up, and my new Egyptian friend suggested we just take it. It was almost entirely full however.

Perhaps you have never seen a Madhaba Bus or a “Chicken Bus” in Central and South America. These are like buses that we have in the States, but they are just packed full of people, so there is hardly any room to even breathe. It is quite an experience however, and in Amman, more comfortable than the buses in Guatemala, and a good way to make fast friends!

You have probably guessed where this is going. By the time I was able to get the bus to stop, we had passed the hotel by more than a block, and when I reached the hotel I found it was not the Hotel Marriott, but the Royal Hotel! So in the end I had to take a Hotel Taxi to the Marriott, which was quite expensive, 3JD for only a short distance, and then when I reached the Marriott I was about 45 minutes late and Marfaq had already left!

So I took a taxi back to the hotel, had a nap, then checked some email and by then it was time for Iftar, which made me very happy as I was quite hungry, having eaten almost no food all day. It is of course Ramadan in Jordan now, as in all the Muslim world, so it is impossible to go to a restaurant during the day, and in order to have food you must make a plan to go to a grocery and then back to your hotel or home in order to make a meal.

Perhaps needless to say, with all of my adventures around town today, with the visa and trying to find Marfaq, I had no time for food, so we had a very good dinner at Iftar, and some watermelon afterwards. I was able to log and capture Haj Ali’s interview this evening, and hopefully, inshah allah, Jamil will do some more translating of it tonight because he is on the night shift all evening, and by tomorrow morning Jordanian time, we will be able to upload the video.

Until then.

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