Day 1: Madaba, Jordan

I arrive in Amman Jordan after a 10.5 hour overnight flight - my checked bag is one of the last to appear in the carousel, probably because I was one of the first to check in. I am a paranoid air traveler and prefer to arrive as early as possible. It’s about 86 degrees when I land but I put on a lightweight hoodie jacket as I leave to meet my airport transfer to Madaba. I get stares all over the airport but can’t tell if it’s: a) I am a woman traveling alone, b) my head is uncovered, or c) my head is shaved.

Fahmi, the guy driving me to Madaba, talks me out of getting my SIM card at the airport. He notes how late it is though I had made a point of reminding the car scheduler that not only did I have to get through customs and get a visa but I was also checking a bag. By the time I get in Fahmi’s car it is one hour after I landed. He has to pay extra for the additional time he was parked and we’re off. 

There is green grass. We pass fields and there are tufts all over of longer grass patches - it seems intentional but I don’t understand why. I try to ask Fahmi but I don’t have enough Arabic and he doesn’t have enough English for us to get to the bottom of the mystery.

We drive through a town that had the neighborhood feel of Washington Heights with fruit being sold all over the sidewalk and lots and lots of random goods being sold everywhere. Fahmi informs me this is the “old city” of Madaba. I did zero research on Madaba before booking this hotel room so I was expecting it to be bigger and more city-like. It is clear people are poor; buildings are half built and there is mess and disrepair but it bustles with activity and commerce. We pull over and I figure we’ve arrived at the hotel but instead we are at a small phone store. Fahmi translates for me and I get a 12GB SIM card that I can use in any country. I have to give them my passport to photocopy for the carrier company and Fahmi later tells me I have a baby face and he thought I was probably born in 1993. I am 38 and this makes my day. 

At the hotel a young guy takes my bag after I check in but refuses to ride the elevator up with me; I realize later it must not be appropriate to be alone in such confined quarters with a strange woman. My room is clean and adequate. I lay down to take a nap but instead sleep through the night.