Day 5: Amman / Jerash, Jordan
Nassir and I are sharing one of the two rooms in the Airbnb and his alarm must still be set for work because it goes off at 5am. He is the deepest, fastest sleeper I have every seen and somehow does not wake up even though it's beeping for what feels like many minutes. There is also a call to prayer around 5:02am so at least that is pleasant but the two things together is just madness when it's still dark. I go to the bathroom and miraculously when I get back the sound is off. I use my headphones to listen to a speaker tape for an hour and then finally get up and shower. Afterwards I write the diary post for the day before as is becoming my new work habit.
Apparently my quiet moving around and gathering of items to shower was way louder to Nassir's sleeping ears than a blaring alarm right next to his head and so he winds up getting up not too long after me. I'm in the middle of my post and he comes in and tells me he's going to go find breakfast to bring back for everyone. There are only 3-in-1 Nescafe packets here and I don't drink milk or sugar so I have no coffee and this is awful so I immediately tell him I want to go and we're off. Nassir had been to Jordan 10 years earlier and somehow still remembers where to go in this maze and he drives confidently to somewhere. It's Sunday which is like Monday so there are kids going to school and grownups commuting to work. One of those kids is in front of the food part of our destination - another hole in the wall but the entire front of the store is a shoulder height open space with a big food display case stuck in it at an angle because I guess it's wider than the opening? There are two items in the entire case - a sheet tray of oblong pastries and narrow wrapped crepey cigar-type things. There is a giant coal oven inside and an older man cooking a third item that I can't identify but maybe zatar bread? There is really not room for people (customers) to be inside the space so I go back out and Nassir talks to them in Arabic. I spy another cat and this one lets me pet it score one for me. I poke my head in and ask what he's ordering because everything looks delicious. He is a little surprised because when he had asked what I eat the day before I informed him of my not eating bread/dairy/sugar. I explain it's my vacation and I want to eat the local stuff. He gets two of the oblong things and two of the pastry rollup things "to taste" because this is not what he is looking for. Next door is an even smaller hole in the wall and there is an even older man behind a tiny counter with a hot plate to his right and a wall of cigarettes behind his head. On the hot plate he is brewing coffee in an ancient looking Arabic coffee vessel that I'm sorry but I don't know what it's called. Also I don't take pics in these kinds of places out of respect but I'm reconsidering this position as maybe the proprietors would dig it? Anyway! It's Arabic cardamom coffee and it's amazing but I always forget to stop drinking at the end so I wind up with a mouth full of spicy coffee sludge. This is basically the highlight of my trip right now - this little peak into morning life and these flavors and people and the cat my God the cat! I almost tear up back in the car as I tell Nassir how thankful I am that he invited me along as I don't think I would get to have this kind of insight if I was by myself but who knows?
We stop another place that's a "sweets shop" of sugary breakfast items and another hole in the wall. Nassir gets something that looks like a phyllo dough cheese danish and I ogle a giant pan of what look like fried chicken wings but I know they're not. I ask Nassir if we can get one and the proprietor tells him to tell me to take on to taste which I do - it's not hot but it's basically a fried dough with a caramelized outside. I'm satisfied and we go.
Back at the host house we pickup the Muhammads and head off somewhere but I don't know where. Finally I find out we are going to the King Abdulah Mosque first - it is Easter Sunday by the way but here because the observe the Orthodox calendar it is only Palm Sunday. Funny thing - what seems to be the most popular church is across the street from the big mosque. There is standstill traffic and no parking because of the big Palm Sunday celebration going on. It's a perfect indicator of the religious tolerance here that the big church and the big mosque are right across from each other. The street in front of the church is closed to cars and there are loaves of bread being handed out and a parade/procession. I take a longer video and a shorter video - the shorter one is the better one but I get shut down by an officer who makes it clear my actions are not cool. I have to put on a full abaya with hood to enter the mosque and after they give me tea and a tasty sesame seed cookie. Lunch is next - Nassir orders for us again and I give in and eat the pitas as everything is eaten with hands here and the only way to get the other foods into my mouth is to pick them up with pieces of the pita. There is foul, kibdeh, some falafel and two types of hummus - one has "pieces in it" as described by Nassir. I think the pieces are garlic - everything is amazing and I am stuffed.
Next we stop at a Nissan place so we can pick up spare parts - while waiting in the car with Muhammad 2 (Eddie) I leave to go to a grocery store and get regular Nescafe and some Nescafe Arabic Coffee packets that make me very excited. Finally everyone is back and we drive more - a lot more. On the way I see my first camel - there is a makeshift camel zoo (?) inside a highway roundabout where someone basically cobbled together some boards and wire fence and then boom instant zoo. I see my second camel about an hour later - again just kinda chillin off the highway. We arrive in a place that kind of looks like Madaba but with way more hubub. Some guy sees me and yells something in Arabic - I ask Muhammad 1 what he said and he tells me the guy was saying "Hello! Hello! Welcome". I find this sweet and funny as I think my shaved head has caused the locals to keep a distance. **I am wearing a bandana on my head when this happens!
So Jerash - there are ruins, so many fucking ruins... Seriously - the site goes on for a full kilometer which I only know because Nassir said so and I don't know what a kilometer is - kind of like a mile right? I'm American and ignorant about the metric system after all. I explore nearly the entire thing; it is very hot and I regret not getting water at the beginning but keep going by pretending I'm in the zombie apocalypse and there is no water and I have to stick it out. I survive; I meet back up with my companions who have spent the whole time sitting in the shade and we head back to Amman. We are driving through mountains and the car goes very, very slow when we are driving uphill. At one point there is a "pop" and we almost stop completely. About a dozen times on the way back we pull over and the guys pop the hood and Nassir does some stuff with a lug wrench which seems to mildly improve things for a few minutes and then it all happens again.
By the time we are back in Amman it is clear the car is fucked. We park and go upstairs. The guys smoke, I take some pics of the host house and take a nap. I wake up to Muhammad 1 and Nassir coming back with dinner and news that we will be staying in Amman another day and night because all of tomorrow the car will be getting worked on. As we need the car to get to the other destinations, there really is no way around it. Dinner is more of those rolled crepe things - they have chicken and pickled onions inside by the way - a heap of french fries, pre-packaged cup of spicy pickled veggies, something that is a cross between relish and coleslaw and another thing that is like mayo but not. The rest of the evening is uneventful and I go back to sleep by midnight for the second night.