Posted by: Anna | November 17, 2010

Snapshot of a Day – Traveling from Israel to Jordan

We usually focus the blog on a unique site or an activity, but this time, I decided to just give you a snapshot of what turned out to be a pretty interesting day of travel.

Starting out in Eilat, Israel, we got up early and went to get our Egyptian visa at the Egyptian consulate – no problem for us. We had researched what we needed to take: a picture, our passports (must be good for at least 6 months), and 65 shekels ($18). The other people at the Embassy were not as prepared. The first group showed up and tried to insist to the staffer that they did not indeed need photos. He insisted. The second group showed up and insisted the visa could be issued with copies of their passports….really? It’s a sticker and stamps that you put in your passport. How is that going to work with a copy? But the saddest was the American woman who showed up with a passport good for only another 30 days because her passport was stolen in Italy. They told her she had to go back to the American embassy in Tel Aviv to get a proper passport issued. She argued, she cried, all to no avail. What she should have done was wait in Italy (where her passport was stolen) at the embassy for a proper passport to be issued – they will issue you a temporary long enough to finish your trip or a proper one, but you have to wait a few days for the proper passport. A lesson for us if/when our passports are stolen.

Anyway, after getting our visas issued, we headed for Jordan. You have to take a taxi to the border. Next, you pay your exit tax, which we paid in a mixture of shekels and dollars. Dollars are good everywhere in the world, so we always keep a couple hundred with us. ATMs will often issue them, at least in the countries we’ve been so far. So we moved on to passport control, and got the Israeli exit stamp – these Israeli stamps in our passport prevent us from entering Syria, Lebanon, and maybe some other Muslim countries. Then, we headed out to walk through no-man’s land. Strangely, within my parent’s lifetimes, Israel and Jordan were at war. Now it’s a peaceful crossing. You have to walk about the length of two football fields alone – with no people or guards in that area. On one side of the area you walk, there is a sign on the fence saying “Do Not Enter: Mines!”, serving as a reminder of the past.

You arrive on the other side, and the Jordanians immediately start welcoming you, every one, including the machine-gun armed guards. They joke and tease during the passport control process, pretending to hand you your passport through the glass, telling me I’m pretty. Tommy did not get this special treatment…and I got the distinct impression that this is like an Italian-style “there’s a woman – I should comment on that!” harmless flirtation. It was completely non-threatening.

Before exiting the secured area, the tourist police stopped us and gave us guidance on finding our way to Petra. They warned us about the lying taxi drivers, explained how to get the bus, and gave us a helpful map. To get into the nearest town from the border, you have to take a taxi. Jordan and Israel have an agreement that no buses can run to the border for security reasons. We hop in a taxi, and the driver insists that it is election day – a holiday – and we cannot take the bus because it doesn’t run. Not to worry – he will give us a good price on the taxi to Petra. He argues, we insist, he argues, getting frustrated with us, we continue to insist upon the bus. Giving up, he drops us at the bus station, which is just a big parking lot. Now in Aqaba, we decide that we might be in the wrong bus station (there are 5 on the map) so we head out to find a street sign.

Have you ever seen the children’s book Are You My Mother? That’s the feeling we had. Wandering around the city, with no street signs, asking assorted strangers – police (the nicest police ever!!), hotel staff, the tourist office..”Where is the bus?” After a consensus of “maybe there’s no bus today? I don’t know” we decided that perhaps our taxi driver was not a liar, but today he had a point with the no buses. A note on buses in Jordan: they do not have schedules. They come when they come. There is no guarantee that buses will come at all on a certain day. In fact, Jordanians call for the bus, to let them know they will take it tomorrow — odd.

We head back to another bus station, and select a taxi driver. He offers us a price of 40 dinars ($55-60), which is a good price from what we’ve heard. We are off to Petra. The drive takes about two and a half hours, through the driest desert and mountains you can imagine. The landscape parches you just to look at it, and to imagine people living there inspires faith in the human desire to survive.

We arrive in Wadi Musa, the small town where you stay in order to go to Petra, around dusk. A huge traffic jam full of honking, decorated cars with speakers jimmied to the roof greets us. Election day! Truly, I have never seen anything like this. The noise is deafening, and everyone is celebrating. Jordan has a king, but the Parliament is elected every four years, and we happened to arrive on the day of elections. A party lasts all night to celebrate. We talked with some Jordanians to gain some information on the day – the four towns that make up the electoral district decide every time on a candidate ahead of time, rotating between each of the towns at each election. So the election is a fore-gone conclusion, although there are still other candidates. Then – big party! This year, it was Sami’s turn….so all the cars were decorated with Jordanian flags and pictures of Sami.

Not the best picture, but hopefully this can give you an idea.

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Responses

  1. That crossing sounds like an experience. Right now in the US so many people are protesting the full body scans being implemented at the airport. This is quite a contrast to how easy it really was for you to cross into Jordan from Israel (if you had the right papers.) The haggling with all the taxi drivers must get tiresome. I am not sure I would have the stamina for it! Love you guys.

  2. Another day, another adventure-but probably too much for me. Maybe it’s my age!! Really enjoy reading about your adventure.
    Sandy

  3. I once traveled from the top of the world (Amsterdam) to the bottom (Cape Town).


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