I love the middle east and have some great travel stories and memories from this region.
A couple years ago, I got invited by one of my clients to a dinner party in Amman, Jordan – I was in Dubai at the time so I flew to Jordan for a long weekend.
Although the Iraq war was raging out of control, I was not concerned about my security whatsoever.
I stayed at the beautiful “Four Seasons” hotel in Amman — when I checked into the hotel, I noticed many western, probably American security/secret service people.
After checking into the hotel, I walked around the city — AMAZING. The city of Amman is made of white buildings … which gives the impression, at least to me a sea of white buildings many decades old. The city is not modern and seems very poor, thus can not compare to places like Cairo, Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
All the people were very kind and three of them offered me tea … I probably spent 3 hours walking around the old city – I was the only westerner that I saw.
When I came back to the hotel, I was standing in the elevator alone and just when the elevator doors are about to close … a rush of people came running up and opened the door just as they were closing -pushing a man along with them, and get in the elevator with me … suddenly I look up and see someone that I have recently, seen on TV very often, Al-Maliki, the Prime Minister of Iraq and 5 of his secret service people all who were obviously Americans … are now standing directly in front of me in the elevator.
I was staying on the 13th floor — and they were staying on the top floor, the 14th … and it hit me … if there is one person in the world that is going to be a target for assasination … I have to believe its this guy.
Everyone knows that he is just a puppet for America…and there he was standing right across from me in the elevator … sweating profusely … obviously, very nervous about something.
For some reason the elevator stopped at every single floor … and when it would stop, the secret service men would step in front of the doors before they opened … acting like a sheild with their bodies.
The first couple of times, I did not understand – but the third time I got very nervous because none of the floor buttons were lite up so none of us, including my new friends understood why the elevator kept stopping; they were speaking loudly, and nervously in American english on their headsets to try and get it to stop stopping at each floor.
…so every single floor from 2nd – 13th we stopped and two secret service men would step right in front of the doors before they would open, acting like a sheild with their bodies. I was very scared.
This lasted 5 minutes or so until finally – I made it to my floor, said good bye to everyone and then walked into my room which over looked a beautiful square and the city of Amman …. as I undressed, I thought about how Al Maliki was staying in the floor directly above me ….hope no one out there has a rocket launcher …
However, I slepted great .. and of course nothing happened.
My next day I hired a driver and drove to the Dead Sea and the Jordan river … unfortunately, the Iraq war has absolutely crushed tourism in Jordan and the surrounding areas so I was the only person at the Jordan river at the site where Jesus was said to baptised …remarkable experience.
After a short visit at a very narrow, almost dried up Jordan river — the driver then took me to the Dead Sea.
I did not have a swim suit on me – but nothing was going to stop me from swimming in the Dead Sea .. and I stripped to my boxer shorts and got into what I remember to be very very cold water .. and the mud was super slimmy (later I would discover that the mud is famous as a beauty product).
I have done many crazy things – but I would have to rate swimming in the dead sea as one of my highlights … I have seen on TV when I was a kid, people reading books as they float in the Dead Sea … but its crazy, you float so high in the water that one can easily sit there and read a book.
Incredible. Not one person was in the tourist area where I was swimming. Israel was right there in front of me … very exciting experience.
After an hour or so, my driver then drove several hours to one of the 7 wonders of the world, Petra. For those that do not know Petra — it the site where they filmed “Indiana Jones.” It is mausoleums built into pink cliffs.
Petra is nearly as famous as the pyramids, however, I was the only tourist that I saw over two or three hours of my visit. The war in Iraq has scared the tourists away. In Giza there were many many many people … I had Petra all to myself.
Later that night I went out to dinner with my two friends, a Jordanian and a Syrian. The restaurant was packed with people, obviously I was the only westerner … but everyone treated me with perfect respect and great hospitality. Jordanian/Lebanonese food is great – and this meal is probably the best of this food I have ever had.
During the dinner, my friends and I discussed a sad fact … if my two arab friends went to a crowded, popular restaurant in America, certainly they would not receive the same friendliness as I did.
After dinner they took me to a shisha bar and we enjoyed many great conversations – and never once did they complain about anything.
Before my plane left the next afternoon – I walked all around Amman again. I went into the empty back streets — as well as visted two crowded markets. Absolutely brilliant experience– but for me, what is most remarkable, after all the problems that America’s war on Iraq has caused this country and its people — not one single person was rude nor aggressive to me.
I will be adding several of my adventures into this section … not to boast about my travels … but ideally, to inspire the reader to go out and see the world … and make your life happen.
As for the pictures, I hope the size of the photos on this blog does justice to the beauty of this country.