Whatever guide book you read they will all say the same thing when it comes to Jordanian people – That they are honest, friendly and welcoming people. Personally I think it’s bull shit. I have found the majority of Jordanians we have encountered to be dishonest, hostile and completely unwilling to help or at times even acknowledge us. Truth be known we can’t stand it here and can’t wait to bail to Israel.
Still whilst here we tried to make good of a bad situation and so decided to head to one of the most unique places on the planet.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on planet earth. It is a mass of water that is unconnected to any other sea (hence the name) and is about nine times saltier than usual sea water. There is only microscopic life forms able to survive there due to the extreme salinity of the water and so the chance of getting munched on by a shark as you chill are reassuringly nonexistent. Such is the density of the salt in the water that one can float. There is also the attraction of the mud which is supposedly life changing, and so it draws people from all over keen to experience this unique and special place.
Jordan being Jordan there is of course no bus that goes from the capitol city to the most visited place in the part of the country. But the day went a little like this…
We had to take a taxi to Muhajireen bus station for the mini buses that head in the direction of the Dead Sea. The Taxi driver was adamant there were no buses and as we pulled up he was telling me how the buses were all going in the opposite direction – Guess what though, he could take us. Imagine that. The fare was 2.05JD which he kindly rounded up to 3JD, I told him no chance and gave him a 5JD note, he claimed not to have change despite the fact I could see a load of change in his ashtray. I pointed to it and then he counted out 0.50JD coins into my hand making out they were worth 1JD each. I busted him and he just laughed. This is not an isolated incident, this is Jordan and everything is like that. And Jordan is not a poor country either, the EU has judged Jordan to be as wealthy as many European countries. People here have money, no doubt about that. It is not desperation that drives their willingness to con, cheat and scam – Just a simple greed.
Once we got out of the taxi we found the mini bus going where we needed to be. The fare was a total of 2JD all in.
The journey was about 45 minutes and we got kicked off at Ramha, some 18km’s from the Dead Sea. In Amman I had figured that generally you pay around 1JD per 5 km and so was expecting to pay maybe 3JD for the journey. The men were practically ejaculating in their pants and slavering at the mouth as they sniggered whilst telling us it was 20JD for the journey. I told them what scum they were (it is 20JD from Amman to the Dead Sea which is 50km) and started to head off through the desert. Before long a car pulled up and asked where we were going. It was a Servee (shared taxi) He asked for a total of 4JD and we jumped in.
A little while later we arrived at Amman Beach which is actually nowhere near Amman and nothing like a beach, but it is where all the cheap arses and independent travellers to the Dead Sea end up. Entry was 1JD each which I thought was awesome – Until I was stopped and politely informed that since I was a foreigner it was actually fifteen times more for me and ten times more for the kids. A Jordanian family of one adult and two kids will shell out 2JD (£1.90) and I was being asked for 35JD (About £33) I was pissed right off and eventually he let Abi in for free. It is absolutely disgusting and had we not travelled that far, it not been that hot and not been the end of the trip I would have told him to stick the Dead Sea up his arse and left.
Once at the fringes of the sea I could see the thickness of the water, it looked really thick and as we stepped over the salt crystals that had formed at the beach it looked and felt out of this world. Opposite us was the deserts of Israel, at our feet was crystals and in the water were people seemingly weightless in the water all floating around effortlessly.
There are a few safety concerns to be aware of which I explained to the kids. Basically if the water gets in your mouth it tastes disgusting (I can vouch for that) If you swallow it you can get seriously Ill the salt content is such that children can get severely ill. If it gets in your eyes it seriously burns (I can vouch for that too) If you try and swim on your front you can drown as it is not possible to swim below the surface as you normally would.
Once in the first thing you notice is how warm it is, and how thick it feels. It feels almost oily, you lean back and genuinely float, you don’t have to consciously do anything other than be there. The sea does the rest and I have to say it is one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. The kids absolutely loved it and we felt completely weightless.
I went out quite deep to see if I could stand up and still float and you do, you simply bob along in the water like a Fishermans float about chest deep despite the fact you are in water about fifty foot deep. It is both amazing and completely weird at the same time.
After about five minutes the water started to sting parts of my body, little cuts I didn’t realise I had. Charlie had started to complain that his bum was stinging really bad, my ball sack was stinging too (I must have had itchy balls at some point) and then Abi piped up “See this is the problem being a girl and having bits, it’s like a little hole and water gets in it – Dad my bits are proper stinging and Charlie thinks it’s funny” We were all feeling the effects and so headed out and showered off. We basically repeated that for a few hours, went in the sea for ten minutes then had to go wash off for ten minutes then back in the sea etc.
There was the usual dick head tourist (no doubt English) laid back reading the newspaper straight out of the 1970’s. Then there were people covered in mud thinking they were slick and then wondering just how they were going to get clean again and that actually it might not have been that good of an idea after all.
Amman beach is off the Dead Sea highway and so I asked at the information desk how to get a bus back to Amman. There were no buses back to Amman, no where a taxi could take us where we could connect with one – Nope. Not a single bus came anywhere the Dead Sea. There were none from Ramha where we had got dropped off, in fact buses drive from Amman to Ramha and then just self destruct since they don’t do the return journey. But guess what – There was a taxi driver just outside who would take us to Amman no problem.
We met a wall of defiance and it was apparent no one was going to help us and so we crossed the highway, actually stood opposite a cactus deep in the desert and I stuck my arm out hoping to cadge a lift off someone. Sure enough, and to my absolute astonishment a car stopped with a man and woman in the front. I said we were going to Amman and they told us to hop in. The woman started to get out of the front and into the back but I refused. A few seconds later we were off.
In some countries paying for a lift despite the fact you have hitch hiked is customary and so I got my wallet out and the driver quickly refused. We jumped out and I was stunned, first of all that we had managed to hitch hike out of the desert back to Amman, second of all it hadn’t cost me a kidney and thirdly that was definitive proof, though the only proof that not everyone in Jordan is a scamming, cheating bastard.
The euphoria was short lived and as we jumped in a taxi to take us back to downtown Amman I quickly realised the driver had ‘accidentally’ forgot to reset the meter back to 0.25 (flag fall) and was in fact still at 1.75. He completely lost his grasp on the English language and it wasn’t until I opened the door to get out at the traffic lights that miraculously he quickly got a burst of almost instant Rosetta Stone, regained his grasp on the English language and reset the meter.
The fact is we have had enough of Jordan now and despite the fact we had an amazing time at the Dead Sea we really can’t wait to get out of here. We had intended to leave tomorrow (Saturday) but in Israel they stop working on Saturdays and so travel or indeed most things are near impossible. Crossing a border on the Shabbat would make what it is widely regarded as one of the world’s most laborious and difficult border crossings infinitely worse.
So here is to yet another day in the Kingdom of Jordan where you will be welcomed with open arms and accepted like a long lost family member – Yeah right, more like here is to another day of scams, dishonesty and hostility.
We genuinely cannot wait to get out of here.