Amman to Irbit
Hotel & Taxi Dramas
Uni student to the rescue
More taxi dramas
Pool & Placebo
We were out of Beirut Hotel and off to the north bus station to get a ride to Irbid. We would use this as our next base to explore the north of Jordan. It should be easy to get around and see the attractions from there. Irbid is the second biggest city in Jordan, and a University city to boot.
Getting to the bus station was easy. “TAXI” hum, which one do we want out of the 10 that stopped? This was a 2JD trip out to the northern suburbs of Amman. It is quite a trip. The cabbie dropped us off right outside the ticket office for the bus. You have to love it. The bus is a big bus, and tickets are 2JD each, to travel half the country. The bus is seat allocated, and air-conditioned. Always nice. On boarding, we found two women in our seats. They checked their tickets and instead of being 22 & 23, were 15 & 16. No problem, we would sit there. As we were in front of the other two, it caused a bit of surprise for the ticket inspector that we were in the wrong seats. He looked at ours, and the girls waved at him that it was ok.
When the bus left we started our trip. I am glad we do not have to do it by camel, as it would be a long and tiring trip. With a bus it is bliss. Well, as much as any bus ride can be. The scenery along the road was fantastic. Cliffs, hills, towns spread out over the hills, wide valleys and I swear I saw water at one stage. Passing through Jaresh, we saw the columns of the ancient roman site, and are looking forward to seeing it. As it is the most famous ruin we are saving it for last. Doing some of the smaller ones first and building up to it. We do not want to be jaded and say “Jaresh was better!” at every site. From there we took a nap and woke up in another town. The bus stopped at a station and a few people got out. After this it steadily dropped off more people throughout town. Then when the last person but us got off at the University, the driver asked us where we wanted to go as we were still on the bus. We were in Irbid already. (I am following Jordanian spelling here. Erbid, Irbid. Eirbid. Most signs have different spelling for the same place) Oh. It was a direct bus after all.
As we were dropped off outside of the bus station, there were no calls by taxi drivers. We took a moment to re-orientate ourselves and look at the university gates. There has to be a hotel around here somewhere. Yet we had no idea where we were in town. Most of the people coming and going from uni were still traditionally dressed, yet fashionable. We had thought it would be a bit freer, similar to rainbow street in Amman. Waving down a taxi, we tried to explain to the driver that we wanted a cheep hotel. He said he knew one, and we set off. It was on the other side of the Uni, so we basically did a block. We ended up at Al Joud. This is quite a nice place, but costs 35JD a night. Out of our budget. We asked for a cheaper hotel, and they recommended Omayo in the downtown region. “TAXI” This is where our entertainment for the day realy started! No english. “Omayo.” ‘Wha?’ “Downtown.” ‘Downtown?’ “Omayo Hotel Downtown?” ‘Hotel!’ “Yes, Omayo Hotel downtown.” ‘OK.’ 2 minutes later we were at another hotel, but not the Omayo. 40JD Gurrr. “Not this hotel. Omayo Hotel.” ‘mayonnaise?’ “No Mayo!” Apparently the people in this hotel had never heard of it and said there are only three hotels in Irbid. Three hotels in the second biggest city in the country? You are kidding me. Our driver took us to the next hotel. 80JD! WTF?!? I was loosing it now. No Jordanian would be paying 35JD for a room, let alone 80JD! I stormed out, grabbed the bags and went for a sulk. This was not turning out the way it should.
Anna kept a level head, as always and went and asked a shoe salesman what could we do? He had never heard of the hotel, and made a few phone calls to find out. Downtown was a long way away, and I had had enough of taxis for now. The man had a brain wave. He had a uni student working there that lived nearby, this guy could use the money, so he arranged for us to stay there for the night. This was fine by us. A place to sleep was all we needed, then we could take time in looking for a hotel for tomorrow. We grabbed our bags and followed our new friend. Unfortunately we never did catch his name, so he will remain our mystery friend. He did literally live around the corner. On the fourth floor of an apartment complex. The unit was basic, and being the first house we have entered in Jordan, we are not sure if this is standard, or reflects his budget. He kindly gave us his room, and wouldnt accept Anna taking the couch, and Andrew the floor. The room is probably cleaner than the living room. At least there wasn’t dirty clothing everywhere. Just DVD’s and school books. Our friend had to go back to work, so he gave us a key, pointed out the sleeping flat-rate, bathroom etc, and went back to the shoe shop. We dropped our bags and went with him. It would be good to have a chat with him tonight as we should get a students interesting perspective of life in Jordan (and maybe a drink! Wink Wink Nudge Nudge) As we wondered what to do, we passed an internet cafe. Thinking it a good idea to look up hotels in Irbid we went in. Apparently this street has made it in the Guinness book of records for the most internet cafes on the one street. Ours was fine. Small cubicles, slow internet. The usual. When the pages finally loaded we got the deal or Irbid. There are only three hotels here. Oh. It also turns out that 35JD is the cheapest. Well if that is the way it is, so be it. We debated going back to Amman, or heading out to Umm Qeys, one of the sites we wanted to see from here. It was getting into the afternoon, and we were not sure if we had enough time. Especially after the great falafel sandwich we had just eaten. We decided on seeing the sights. We were here after all, regardless of my mood.
“TAXI” Well, what else could we do. We didnt even know where we were in the city. Google Maps didn’t tell us anything. All the other sites we looked at online for a map of town linked back to google maps. It is a great thing sometimes, but people are not making their own maps now because of it.
The taxi took us to the bus station. This is a fair way out of town and there is no way we would have ever made it there. Finding the right bus was easy, and we were off to Umm Queys. This is an ancient roman town up in the hills. There was a major highway through Jordan at the time, and this was one of the trading cities that sprang up along it.
The bus dropped us off directly outside the gates to the ruin. Handy. Our luck is turning! Getting our tickets we start to wander through the site.
There are columns, wide road and more columns. We skipped over the amphitheatre to walk around some ruined houses, and struck the main street. From here we walked north for a ways, and I thought I spotted a river in the distance. We went off the road, and the track, and through some trees. This led to a pretty little spot overlooking the valley to the north. It was perfect. There was a small stone wall to sit on in the shade, and we took good advantage of this to have a drink and unwind a bit. What I had thought was water turned out to be cliffs at the bottom of the valley in shade. It was a fantastic view. And there was water there. Off to the left was a big expanse of deep blue water, shimmering in the light. Anna thought this was the Jordan river, and I thought it was too big. We pulled out the map to see if it was on there, and if we could work out what we were looking at. It wasn’t the Jordan river. It was the sea of Galilee or Lake Tiberius now. That meant we were looking out over three different countries. Jordan where we were. Syria across the valley in front of us, and the West bank on the other side of the lake.
With this sorted, we headed back into the ruins. On the way we passed some cows. Wow, you say. How interesting! Well they were Frisians! As we were making funny sounds to attract their attention to take a photo, we noticed the shepherd boy that looks after them staring at us. embarrassed, we gave him a wave and headed on. Then there were the holes in the ground. These looked like bridges, yet the arch of the bridge was dug out of the hill side. If they had left it there, you wouldnt need the bridge. It did not seem to be for drainage, so we went in for a closer look. Inside there were two tunnels. One on either side. These led to a cement encased shaft back up to the surface with metal rungs in place to climb up. They were fox holes. This started making sence as there were also multiple watch towers around the place. I suppose if you could see Syria and the West Bank from here, they could see you as well.
Back at the ruins we saw something shimmering in the air, and went off to explore that. It was a tablecloth. Under this was a table. I suppose that is normally where you find them. Besides that was another table, and another. They had built a restaurant on top of the ruins. Not wanting to go in, we walked around it to the old Temple. There is really nothing left of it. A few pillars, and a stone floor. Here and there are a few guide poles. One side of this is information in Arabic, the other German and finally English. It turns out that the Germans have claimed this site for their archeological research. From here we wandered around the site some more. Read a few more signs, about how a church was built here, and a house there. Someone had stolen to stones to build their house in town from this place, and in another how they had reconstructed the Babylonian Hanging Gardens from toothpicks. As we went round the site we found a small museum.
This was mostly closed up, and although there was a seat at the entrance for the guard, and it should have been open. He had retired to a room with TV and was happily watching the football. Completely ignorant of the ignorant tourists with empty heads that needed filling with the rich tapestry of history from the region. As the courtyard was open we strolled past and started looking around. We were sure to make enough noise that could have awoken the dead, but the only repercussion of this was for the noise of the football to amplify. Job done. The courtyard was open air, with four walls. A small roofed area off to the right of the entrance was the new home to one of the murals the germans had plundered from the site. There were also a few pillars and broken statues here to keep it company. After checking these out, and heading to the orchard in the middle of the museum to see if anything was fruiting, Anna called me back. There was something interesting in the mural. Personally I don’t know what she was on about, but have posted a picture to see if you can work it out.
The rest of the museum was dedicated to the aforementioned orchard. I am sure they don’t pay the guards enough, so they need to provide food for the family and sell the left overs. There were lemon, lime and other trees planted neatly in the ripped up floor. The only other thing of interest in the museum was the old stone doors that had been moved here from somewhere nearby. It wouldn’t want to be far, as these things are thick. At least 3 inches of solid stone. The hinges on the top and bottom were still intact, and more importantly, the carved door knocker. Just incase I wanted the wall behind it to know I was there. Or more appropriately, the guard enjoying his football eating lemons and lime. However when I went up to try it, I found that it had turned to stone. Just like the door itself. Apparently they had installed a doorbell, as this one was useless.
Stomping out of the museum, not disappointed that all the rooms were locked off, as we would only see old shards of pottery, a few clay lamps, and all the gold and jewels dug up from the forum. We decided to make our way out and back to Irbid. It was getting late and we didn’t want to miss the last bus. Funnily enough we had passed a few hotels in Umm Qays, had we taken our bags out here we would have been set. Still you never know this until too late. At the egress, we had a chat with one of the stall owners, and his boys as we knocked back a cool refreshing apple juice. Then the water, which we slowly enjoyed. It really should have been the other way around, but I think the heat had gotten to us. He mentioned that the hotels here were only about 10-12JD a night as they want the business. If only we had known that on the way. It was a nice relaxing way to spent half an hour or so. Eventually we asked when the next bus would be, only to find out that we had missed it by 20 minutes or so before we had left the site. As it happened there was a british guy coming out that had hired a taxi, so we asked him if we could get a lift. This was fine, so we piled into the back. We had a chat, found out that he was british and studying Arabic. He had been in Jordan for about three months. After finding out that we don’t speak arabic, our senses started tingling, as there was a long conversation between the two, followed by a handshake. Still, what could we do. When we got to town they tried to hit us up for 20JD. For hitchhiking. This turned into a whole conversation that when you get screwed, you should just bend over and take it. We were not going to. As the meter on the taxi was 15JD and that included the trip out and waiting time, we threw 7JD at the driver in coins and left. I am sick of these people. Most taxi drivers in Jordan are R#X%*!!. I will leave it there.
We dropped back to the unit we were going to stay in, looking for our host, but he was still at work. So we went for dinner. Shwaorma (Kebab) Then we went off to the local pool hall. This was a lot of fun. I think we were the first tourists they had ever seen. It was great, as they were so accommodating, and wouldn’t accept that we were fine without a fan. Then we had to move tables, as the other one had aircon! To top it off, Uni town… Beer in the fridge. We grabbed one, as we were not playing well. Sobriety and pool does not suit us. Unfortunately, the beer would only act as a placebo. It was non-alcoholic! It tasted like beer. It looked like beer, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t beer. We hung out here playing pool for a long while, and then decided to call it a night.
Our host still hadn’t returned, so we started typing up the day in the dark, as there was no light globe in the room. Eventually his flat mate came home. He does not speak english, but made us welcome. Invited us to watch tv with him, and got us a globe. By this time it was after midnight, and we decided to turn in. I was sorry not to be able to take our host to dinner and have a long talk though.