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Monday, 25 January 2016

Amman and the mighty North | Where did I go wrong?



It was Sunday morning, between 2 and 3, when I arrived in Amman. It was different than I expected it to be, especially Old Amman. Cleaner than I expected, more linear than I expected, oh… and that shade of écru that left me wondering in the darkness.
I woke up to a glorious view. There’s no hyperbole there, rather a wow-caption expressed by me on Facebook and Trover alike: ‘First glimpses of a city that boils with passion, in a non-conventional mix of traditional, new, old, and surprising’. Unfortunately, the minutes were limited to the breakfast light and heat.

The return was scheduled in ten days’ time. Darkness again, in a cool and damp air. It was pouring, but relaxed down to drops to allow a proper exploration: the boiled corn that I love, dinner at Hashem’s [hummus, foul, falafel, bread, salad, and tea]… and I already had a full belly [a first in Jordan, ‘Ahhh… it’s here where they keep the good food’]… but I had to try the sugar cane juice that I had been dreaming to have for days and days. It all went in… very sweet yet delicately addictive. I was finally happy and at ease in Jordan, a state of mind that I dwell upon during my travels and that I had not experienced in this country, to that day. I fell asleep to the noise of the city. I loved it! I went back – in my mind – to other two cities that I used to feed on noise in: London and Milan. I was glad to be where I was.
…needless to say, I woke up to that noise, to the view that I loved, to the écru that fascinated me still. It was time for some history lessons – the Roman Amphitheatre, Jordan Folklore Museum, the Citadel, Jordan Archaeological Museum, not to mention the alleys that wind, unwind, and in the end make Old Amman feel authentic. To the core.

Shopping followed: clothes, perfumes, spices… knafeh at Habibah Sweets, a falafel on the go from Hashem’s… all of them in the rain. Heading to West Amman in the evening to indulge in the Syrian flavours of Bakdash [the ice cream was a treat, the service – not so] seemed like an unnecessary parting… and I couldn’t wait to go back to the tremor of the old city.

On the previous day, the taxi ride from Sheikh Hussein Border Crossing with Israel provided glimpses into poorer villages, more litter than I had been used to, people leading their lives far from the constraints of tourism. Real life, authentic life, which unveiled as we drove down the border with Palestine to some stunning scenery backdropping and one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life. The orange light intensified and made me hang on to that image and to a desire that was creeping into my heart… a secret wish to linger in the North. What would have been like if I had reversed my entire trip through Jordan?

The way-too-posh afternoon at the Dead Sea, the incredibly annoying stay in Wadi Mousa and Petra [thank God I hadn’t booked two nights there!], and the extra night in Wadi Rum [one had sufficed].
Where did I go wrong?
I wouldn’t change anything, because those places explored… well, I wanted to see them ever since my early years and not actually going to experience them on my own would have only meant one thing: a longing not satisfied –even if it led to disappointment, in the end-, too many ‘What if’s. The fact is that Jordan’s policy on tourism is not a good one. It is ready for tourists, but not at all ready for travellers, there is no infrastructure for us. There are rarely possibilities to escape the main route everyone seems to be travelling on. It’s like going to school and wearing a uniform. We all go the same way, North to South or South to North, it makes no difference. And all the investments made into otherwise very beautiful places – not as stunning as the North, though – left them heartless, vibeless, and simply vapid. Which feels very sad, in the end, corroborated with the constant feel of having to give something in return for every good deed that ‘befalls’ upon you.      
Unconditional kindness stands for something totally different in my mind. So does unconditional love. With all those ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ considered, I still know that it was in my power to change it all, to change my perspectives. Yet I chose the beaten path, ended up bitter, and probably risked a comeback to the country and to the North altogether. This is, however, for destiny to decide.
And no, I didn’t go wrong. I followed my heart.

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