Our final day in Jordan started like every day, with a scam. Keen to bail out of the country we had now come to despise we woke up at around 5.45am to get the first bus to Aqaba. As we checked out of the hotel there was a guy in the lobby and I asked him where the bus stop was. “There are no buses to Aqaba, you must take taxi” Now, there is some truth in that statement, there are few buses to Aqaba but there is one at 6.30am one at 8.00am and one around midday. I told him I knew there was and could he at least tell us where the bus stop was. He was adamant there was no bus and just would not tell us. But guess what – He was a taxi driver and could take us now – Imagine that.
One of the most useless books ever penned was Lonely Planet Middle East and just about every time I have referred to it on this trip it has been inaccurate and at times completely wrong. Serious, wipe your arse and look at the result – That is more use than LP Middle East. I put my faith that the bus stop was where it said in the book and so we headed out of the hotel under the darkness and cold desert night. Within a few minutes a mini bus pulled up and the driver asked where I was going. I told him Aqaba and he said 5JD each. I knew the fare was 3JD and so refused. He told me it was the tourist price and no one would take me to Aqaba unless I paid it. His bus was completely empty and so knowing it was a government bus I took the number plate and told him I would report him to the police for refusing us access to the bus because we wouldn’t pay the higher fare.
Suddenly he was open to discussion. He told me the bus was due to go at 7am and If we waited we could pay the 3JD each. But if we wanted him to leave immediately what would I pay. Knowing we had a long day ahead of us I agreed to pay him 4JD per person if he left now. He smiled and I was privy to his unbrushed teeth and away we went.
Watching the Sun Rise over the desert never gets boring, the sun glows a fiery orange and the landscape glows a stunning red colour. I have seen the sun rise many times over the clouds when we have been in the air and it is stunning and I felt was the best way to watch the sun rise – And until you see the sun rise above sand dunes it is.
The journey to Aqaba took around two hours. Aqaba sits on the North coast of the Red Sea and is as far South as you can go in Jordan. It is a border town for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel. The taxi to the Israel border took about fifteen minutes and cost 5JD.
As we pulled up at the car park Charlie was excitedly saying we were almost free of Jordan. It is no exaggeration when we say we have really hated Jordan, it has actually united us and we have really grown together in Jordan, united by the sheer hatred toward the Kingdom.
Jordan makes Delhi look like Disney World, almost every single person we dealt with or met in Jordan tried to rip us off. People would say that not everyone was like that – Then proceed to try and scam us. Petra and the Dead Sea aside (though both places had their moments) everywhere else we went in Jordan was a nightmare and I would seriously with every part of my advise against visiting Jordan. It actually used to be that people would visit Jordan and go to Petra and then bail out of the country all in one day. To try and stop this happening the government of Jordan doubled the Visa fee, increased the entrance to Petra for day visitors to 90JD (£85) and then introduced an exit tax of 4JD. By March this year visitors to Petra are down 25% on the previous year and overall visitors to Jordan are down a whopping 50%.
Discussing the government or Royal Family in a negative light is illegal in Jordan and carries a jail sentence. If you ask me that’s their way of forcing people to put up and shut up. Since we’re no longer in Jordan I can say that both the Government and Royal Family are a bunch of greedy, arrogant bastards.
Upon approaching the border which is called Wadi Arab, you show your passport and then proceed to departures. We were the only people at the border and had to knock someone up. He told us the exit tax was 8JD per person. It isn’t, I looked on the government website the night before and knew it is 4JD. I told him this and he just shrugged and shut the window on me. I went to passport control and they refused to stamp my passport until I paid the departure tax. I asked how much it was and he said he didn’t know, sniggering as he said it. We left and tried to sneak out of the country but got busted and marched back to the tax office. I had no option but to pay the 24JD, this is Jordan.
Once back at passport control the guy asked for 2JD per passport for it to be stamped for exit. I refused and told him I didn’t give a shit if he stamped it or not, I would never be returning to his awful country anyway. He told me we would not be welcome anyway, stamped the passports and then dropped them on the floor in front of me. I picked them up and started to walk off, he called for the receipts from departure tax, I dropped them on the floor and continued walking. Minutes later we were free of Jordan and at the Israeli border. I turned round and shouted the guy he looked and I gave him the two finger goodbye. There was not a thing he could do about it, the kids and I then celebrated the fact we were free of Jordan. It was only fair that Charlie mooned Jordan. The guard was shouting at us going mental, showing your arse to a country, particularly an Arab one is probably frowned upon, but since we were in Israel there was not a thing he could do about it. And he knew it, best of all he knew that I knew it too.
As we walked away hand in hand under the welcome to Israel sign we smiled at each other and swore that we would never step foot in Jordan again.
Finally we were free, finally we were out of Jordan.
Getting into Israel can be a lengthy process. It is common knowledge that after doing their military service young girls go to work for customs and the guys for security. Armed with the knowledge that we would soon be encountering a young woman in early to mid twenties that would decide not only if we would gain access to Israel but how long it would take I sorted my hair out, brushed my beard, ate a mint and styled my chest hair. I might have done a few press ups too if it hadn’t meant Id have made myself look a dick.
We were greeted by smiles and a warm welcome. Security at the border is understandably tight and is completely manned by young guys and girls. The guys are all your usual macho looking 23 year old type, huge arms, plain clothes and a M14 in their hand. They look slick and are guarding the absolutely stunning, sexy and slim Israeli girl – Maybe 24 years old, tight jeans, tight top, revolver on her waist that makes her look so much more sexy. Charlie and I pinched ourselves to make sure we were still on earth. Once we had been deemed applicable to enter we were passed on with a smile and had our bags scanned; Again more smiles and sexiness oozing from everyone. Still we were the only people at the border, and as we approached the counter to have our passports checked I almost went blind. I could not take any more sexy Israeli women and yet there I was facing one who was the only thing standing between us and Israel. I turned on the charm and I swear she was flirting with me. Not one to complain, she asked where we were going in Israel and I explained we were flying home from Tel Aviv the next day. She was like “Oh no that is so sad, you should stay longer, have some fun” I was in heaven. We stood and chatted for about ten minutes, just general natter about some of places we’d been, how long she had worked on the border etc. A serious point actually to note is that when entering Israel never say you are going to the West Bank. I will explain in the next post, but if ever asked at any border in Israel simply say Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Mentioning a destination in the West Bank is sure fire way to deportation. I didn’t get asked for any more info or have to prove anything. She asked if we were staying in Eilat (the border town in Israel) and I said we were heading North, she told me it was a shame and passed back our passports. As I checked the passports just to be sure she had stamped us in I saw she had written her email address on the security slip. I walked off thinking I was a real Stavros. The doubters are probably thinking ‘kerching – UK Visa’ But the reality is you’ve either got it or you haven’t. I can’t help being God’s gift to Israeli women and you should embrace my awesomeness and skills.
We hopped in a taxi and within minutes were at the bus station we needed to be at ‘Egged’ Actually pronounced Egg’Ed. Not a wind up but one of the most efficient bus services in the world. About thirty quid later we were headed North. Pretty much following the border with Jordan all the way North we looked across at the kingdom and smiled.
Headed toward one of the most beautiful and historic cities on earth we look forward to Jerusalem with anticipation and excitement.
Welcome to Israel, and what a welcome it really is.