Today, our bus took us to Jordan. Our Palestinian tour guide left us for now because he couldn’t cross the border but we’d see him again after this short trip.
I was quite excited about this trip. Not only because we would go to Petra where Indiana Jones was filmed but also because one of my friends is Jordanian. I was hoping to see her mother who was in Petra. I tried to look for my friend but couldn’t find her, no social media accounts whatever. Instead, I found her mother’s contact information online. Interesting, right? But why and how I found her mother? Well, her mother is a famous author in Jordan. That’s why. I emailed her but never got a reply before I flew. Now that I’d be in Petra, I might have a chance to see her and then she might be able to tell me her daughter’s (my friend’s) contact.
The soldiers at the border got on our bus with their guns and checked all of us. I didn’t know what they were looking for but looking back now, I guess they were probably checking to see if we were trying to smuggle anyone onboard. It is still quite common in many countries. Some backpackers got trapped by the locals (I don’t remember where it happened) and were then in serious trouble. It was so intimidating to see those huge guns that close. Little did I know that I’d be with a group of soldiers touching their guns and bullets years later in Bangladesh (I will write about that later). We were all very quiet on the bus. After a few minutes or so, they left and we continued our journey.
Another group of pilgrims who were there at around the same time later told me they heard gun fights at the border. We didn’t hear anything. We only saw the car in front of our bus stopped and it took a long time for the soldiers to finish searching that car. It’s not the kind of experience that any travellers want to have.
We were first greeted by our tour guide who was a very young man and apparently not religious. He took us to Ajlun Castle (or Ajloun Castle).
After a day of sightseeing in Jordan, our bus stopped at a very grand hotel. The tour guide said, ‘you will all stay here tonight.’ We all screamed! Really?! I didn’t expect that. We were here on a pilgrimage but we got to stay in a five-star hotel?! Seriously? When the tour guide saw our reaction, he smiled too. We got off the bus and wanted to rush into the hotel. It was magnificent! But we were stopped by the hotel staff at the entrance – they wanted to scan our bags. Ok, ok, whatever you wanted to do. A few of us (some of us had become friends – we spent time together and had our meals at the same table all the time) got in first and admired the impressive décor. I looked up at the beautifully decorated high ceiling and the walls, amazed. ‘Wow!’ A couple of us exclaimed. I totally forgot about my backpack at the luggage scanner. One of them called me, ‘your bag!’ Ah yes! Lol! I grabbed my backpack and continued to admire the lobby. But that didn’t last long. Soon, another shouted to me, ‘come back!’ I turned around and saw a few of them waving at me urging me to go back to the entrance of the hotel. Puzzled. I went.
‘What’s going on?’ I asked.
‘The tour guide made a mistake. We are not staying here tonight.’
Now, that was our first night in Jordan.
25 July 2009
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