Day 10: Dead Sea, Jordan to Beirut, Lebanon
I set a vibrating alarm for 5:30 and get out of bed at 6 - this getting up at the crack of dawn thing is really cramping my night owl/insomniac style but I remind myself I am 6 hours in the future so I’m still basically falling asleep in the early morning and waking up in the afternoon in the real world. Not the point so moving on - I boil some water for my precious Nescafe and take it onto the balcony so I can work without disturbing Nassir for at least an hour since he claimed last night that the plan was to get up at 7. My hiking shoes from the desert are dry after being outside all night in the 90 degree heat but even after washing them there is still pool of red sand on the floor after smacking them against my heel. I sigh, put them down in defeat and notice an elderly woman in a black abaya and hijab sitting on one of the balconies above me. I try to catch her eye to nod hello in a “hey look at us! two gals up early whooo” way but she maybe doesn’t see me or doesn’t want to engage. Moving on again - it’s now 7 and of course Nassir isn’t up but breakfast is starting now and I can go and get both water and more coffee so I go back inside. My key is operating the lights and I don’t see Nassir’s so I gently wake him up to let him know that I’m leaving and that I’m taking the key in the lights and he tells me to wait because they’re all getting breakfast at 9. I really just want to keep writing as I’m still playing catch up so I go. Oh yeah, in addition to writing the entries I missed I remembered last night that I volunteered for a travel writing collaboration and I need to write 200-250 words on why Copenhagen is the perfect city for a winter getaway. The deadline is today and all I’ve managed so far is to decide on the right horizontal picture to use. Also my post is based on a bit of a fib as I was there in November and so my experience and my picture are not of Copenhagen in winter but it was cold so there’s that.
The breakfast buffet also has a lavish spread of pastries but different ones than those at dinner. Again I try every single one but again they are largely dry and in my opinion not worth the calories or allergic reaction I get from eating flour (it makes me sneeze and occasionally break out in hives if you’re wondering). I eat eggs and olives and cucumbers and tomatoes and make a middle eastern version of my greek yogurt with strawberry dream by putting labneh in a bowl and drizzling it with honey. It’s better than greek yogurt with strawberries. My usual regimented approach to eating - with intermittent fasting and the elimination of dairy, sugar and flour - is totally out the fucking window at this point but I don’t give a fuck because I’m on vacation and it’s more important to me to eat what people here eat than to keep the stick up my ass. I will detox at home since there’s no way in hell I’m not stuffing myself with butter and pastries once I’m in Paris so why hold back now right? I get a second bowl of the labneh magic and drink lots and lots of coffee and water. As I sit there writing and drinking all the beverages the room starts to fill up and I’m sure the wait staff hate that I’m just staying there with my laptop occupying a four-top but there are actually still lots of empty tables despite the amount of people.
It’s a bit after 9 and I haven’t seen or heard from Nassir so I message him on WhatsApp and prepare to move outside. Just before leaving a give the room one more look and I notice they guys at a three-top so I go over and pull up a chair but I get the vibe that they’d rather just take it easy and talk in Arabic and not worry about talking in English so I put the borrowed chair back and return to the room to pack for my flight. I am traveling with a framepack and it is an absolute nightmare to access and pack the contents each time we go somewhere which has already been nearly half a dozen times. I bury my kilo of coffee in the sleeping bag I didn’t even need to use and get started on everything else taking into consideration the specific weight restrictions on carry on AND checked luggage. It’s all ok because I am a virgo and super neurotic and anal about these things and packing is a specialty so I take pleasure in organizing all my little ziplocs of each item type and wrapping my shoes in plastic and fitting everything in just so.
Nassir returns and I bring up the matter of the budget for this trip - he had estimated $700 when we were planning it but I’ve been keeping tabs on how much we’ve been spending each day on food and supplies and estimated the Airbnb and googling the places we’ve stayed to get a more accurate idea of what has actually been spent. Nassir had also made it clear that if we were under budget of course I would pay less. Given the car troubles we have spent one less night in the fancy hotel so surely it is less. We discuss and negotiate and I hadn’t factored in the costs of their entry to the country so ok and also this Dead Sea hotel is fancier than the one he had originally planned two nights in because he wanted the trip to finish on a high note after our problems so ok I come away paying about $70 less than planned and I am happy.
We finish checking out at noon and we’re off to Amman so I can be dropped off at the airport which is about an hour away. Along the way we stop at a little market for beverages and I finally take a picture of the elaborately decorated veggie trucks driving all over the country. Some other guy parked 50 feet away honks and then honks loudly again and I have the feeling it’s at me as there is nobody else around. I cannot determine if the honk is like in the states where he is essentially sexually harassing me, if he’s upset I’m a lady with my head uncovered walking around doing stuff or because I’m taking a picture and maybe he knows the veggie guy personally and I’m violating some code? It could of course be something totally different but whatever I got the pic and get back in our car. I immediately wish I had taken a pic of the back of the truck also but I glance over at the honker and he’s kind of giving me death eyes so I let it go.
Pulling into the airport Nassir wants to make sure I leave with good memories and feelings about the trips, that every trip has it’s problems, etc. - he is concerned because of how upset I got the day before and also a little paranoid about the car problems and how it affected the plans but I assure him it’s all ok and of course no trip is every perfect. And I mean it. Despite the difficulties and frustrations I wouldn’t have changed a thing and I have zero regrets. Of course I have also more deeply confirmed my love and preference for traveling alone but every once in a while this kind of group adventure would be just fine. He hopes that I visit Oman again soon and we talk about my playing host and returning the favor whenever he or they may visit NYC. We all get out and hug and it is bittersweet. The Muhammads were great and I couldn’t have picked better “strangers” to meet up with.
I am at the airport five hours before my flight and I’m not able to check in my bags and I’m told I have to wait about three hours to do so. Sigh. I buy two stupid cheap Jordanian sandwiches - one labneh with cucumbers and one labneh with Jordanian “bologna” - plus a giant water. 3.75JOD which is less than $5.50 - at least the airport is cheap too. I find a seat and eat and hydrate and write more and batch process more pics. Eventually I get to check in and I buy a bag of Dead Sea mud (a pound? a kilo? I don’t know!) and a giant tin (400ml!) of the authentic German Nivea and the whole thing is less than $15. I also buy some replacement lip balm, Carmex, some more water and two packages of Jordanian cookies. One is a box of almond shortbread and pistachio sesame cookies and the other is a small bag of individually packaged shortbread with date, pistachio or walnut fillings. I eat the entire box shortbread/sesame cookies while waiting to board. On the plane they actually serve a meal AND beverages and wow is this different than flying in states. The flight attendants pass out the visitor cards for customs and I lend my double-ended Sharpie to my neighbor and I realize after that fact that he used the big marker end without realizing there was a fine point side as well. His neighbor says he thinks the pen is a little big for the card purposes and I amaze and delight them by pulling a cap off to reveal the fine point option while raising my eyebrows like “ta da!”. They double over laughing because the first guy has now ruined his card. It’s a nice moment and I can already tell the Lebanese people are gonna be awesome. The driver meeting me is also name Muhammad (#3!) and he is also adorable and we drive the crazy maze of streets to the hostel.
The guys working where I’m staying are endless jokesters and they give me coffee and water immediately and then make a point to find and write down where I should go dancing while I’m here. They asked me what I wanted to do while I was here and I replied that I like to dance to house music and I need a barber shop to get my head shaved and I’ll figure out the rest as I go.
People come and go all night long and while I have everything I need in my little room there is no AC or fan and it’s kind of humid and about 76 degrees so I sleep with my balcony doors open and just the shutters to protect me. I sleep really well.