Day 6: Even More of Amman, Jordan
The plan is that the car is getting repaired today. I get up early again to write and enjoy the Nescafe I bought myself yesterday and once the guys wake up Nassir informs me they are all going to the mechanic and they will be back. I negotiate to keep the key and hide it above an electrical box outside the door because I have zero intention of being stuck inside for an indefinite amount of time. They leave around 8:45 and I work until I leave just before 10. My big mission is to locate an ATM from Jordan Ahli Bank as I saw a post on the interwebs that they don’t charge a big international fee and have a very high limit of withdrawal. All ATMs I’ve encountered so far have charged ~$7.50 (US) for each transaction which is fucking bonkers. I still need to pay the budget balance of the trip to Nassir and have a little pocket cash for falafel and other necessities so I map out a plan even though pinpointing my starting location proves somewhat difficult given street names and numbers don’t exactly match what appears in maps and what is stamped on the building but I have enough recognition of the landmarks around me to let it go.
I am immediately faced with one of the classic Amman near-vertical, crumbling staircases and I am panting from heat and exertion halfway up. I see an elderly woman making her way to the stairs from a little alley that extends out from the middle of the stairs and out of fear of being passed by her I push hard to the top. She arrives shortly after and not winded. There is another set of stairs but not quite as bad; I am now at the street where the magical ATM is but even though I don’t see it the map is telling me I have passed it. I believe it must be within a locked, gated area for a church school and even after a sweet local woman offers help she recommends I go to a different bank in the other direction instead. I decide to go the actual bank branch which is a 40 minute walk and when I get there it charges me the same fee. On the way back I stop at a shawarma place I read about but it’s n0t great. I am on my way to what is supposed to be the ultimate Amman falafel place when Nassir messages me that they’re back and they have food and they’re waiting for me so I abandon falafel dreams. Lunch includes falafel and it is pretty good. I get filled in on the car story too and the service place was basically useless so Nassir did some more work himself but in a deeper area of engine and they think everything will be ok enough to go. They nap after lunch, I work some more, when they get up we’ll be heading to a mall and then getting food in the downtown area which is nearish to where we are in the “old city” part of Amman.
Traveling with a group requires a certain amount of letting go and going with the flow that ruffles my independent streak but I am doing my best; the mall is prime example. Anyway, once there and through the security car check we prowl for a space. Some lady in a red sports car tries cutting in front of us to pull into the space we are clearly about to turn into and Nassir makes a “back the fuck off” gesture out the window and she stops and stays behind us - just then a guy coming towards us from the other direction tries the same exact thing and Nassir, positioned perpendicular to the space in question, turns the car off and just sits there. It is the most baller move and I bend over laughing in the front seat. We get the space.
I entertain myself with a grocery store inside and the guys go shopping for I don’t know what and to one of the million bank branches. When we finally meet up I have four small glass bottles of pressed oils from radishes, arugala, mustard and carrot. I also have a gigantic kilo of fresh ground Arabic coffee because I still don’t understand the metric system and somehow my hand gestures for a normal size package of coffee did not translate. After we unpack at the Airbnb Nassir tells me I am going with him to get dinner; he had asked me earlier what I wanted and I answered kebabs so I guess that’s why. Downtown we stop at a random kebab cart in the middle of an intersection and he orders mystery meat on sticks. It all smells delicious and cars are pulling up and getting served from their seats in a steady stream. Several young kids are doing some DIY electrical repair on the string lights around the cart and finally the youngest runs across the street and comes back with the biggest light bulb I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t fit the socket but they get light briefly when they hold it a certain way and they cheer. Next they tape the whole thing together and start replacing the rest of the lights with more giant bulbs.
Back at the apartment the kebabs turn out to be liver, kofta, and chunks of solid beef fat - or at least that’s what they taste like - nobody else seems at all concerned with identifying the food. We eat until we are stuffed and then I discover the guys bought UNO while at the mall and we play for several hours. Muhammad 1 is clearly the strongest player and wins the final hand 7 times. Nassir said we’re leaving by 7 to give ourselves plenty of time to get to Petra tomorrow and again I go to sleep at midnight.