The title is perhaps a little misleading. I had never been to Jordan before, so it didn’t really “return” anything. But it goes with the theme, so there.
Knowing I wasn’t going to visit the water parks or beach all that much in Dubai I figured a day trip was in order so I decided to head to Jordan, making it the 27th country I’ve visited and the 7th in the Middle East.
Planning wasn’t really the way I approached my trip to Jordan, instead I had a general idea of what I wanted to see and decided I would figure it out once I arrived. THAT was my plan.
The Dubai airport was a little confusing at first. You go through security to get to the check-in counters, and then through security again with your carry-on luggage. I asked where I needed to go to get my ticket and was first told to go to the Royal Jordanian offices, up on the second floor. I went up there, wandered around a vacant section of the building, and realized the person had no idea what they were talking about.
Royal Jordanian is actually a pretty cool airline. The flight was packed but they made up for it with really nice sized TVs at every seat with on demand movies and TV shows. Plus, even though the flight to Amman was only three hours, we were fed a full meal. (Take note U.S. based carriers.)
Upon arrival in Amman I realized that it was not the nicest airport on the planet. At least not nearly as nice as Dubai’s version. But then what is? I went to get a taxi and told him I wanted to hire him for the day – we would be best friends. I told him where I wanted to go, and he said, “Oky doky” – but not using those exact words.
Since he didn’t understand everything I had requested he called a buddy on the phone and gave me the cell, we chatted and the friend relayed everything to the driver. Then we were on our way.
First stop was Mount Nebo, the burial site of Moses. Like everything in the Middle East, even Mount Nebo is undergoing some construction. The cost of entering the site is just 1 Jordanian Dinar, like a buck-fifty American. But the guy at the gate didn’t have any change for a 5 (still don’t get that) and let me in for free.
First you see a huge stone slab marking the site as the burial place of Moses. I took a picture and a nice American gentleman that was there asked if I wanted him to take a picture of me. Very nice of him.
I went over to the ledge of the hill and could look out over a huge part of Jordan to the north.
From there, I headed up the hill a little bit more for the money shot. There is a small plaque that highlights the locations of the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem, all visible from this part of the Mount.
It wasn’t exactly clear that day, so it was hard to tell what was what…but I’m pretty sure I saw the gold domed roof of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem from there. Maybe not. It could have been all the bling at the Gold Souk in Dubai, who knows.
When I finished, it was back in the cab to the Dead Sea.
Now, if you think the mountain side roads of Colorado are scary – take a trip down the winding, even narrower roads from Mount Nebo to the Dead Sea. Good thing I trusted my new best friend, otherwise I would have been screaming.
He pulled over to the side of the road when we got to the Dead Sea for some really nice pictures. It was very, very blue.
Then we headed over to the entrance to the public beach. All I planned to do was take a few pictures, although it would have been neat to float in the water (which you can do on your back since there is so much salt in it) but the cost to go down was 12 Jordanian dinars. Figured the pictures I was getting where just as good from where we were.
Our taxi went to another look-out point where a few boys randomly came up to us with their camel. Poor thing wasn’t in the best of moods, kept screaming, probably because there were about 50 flies buzzing around its nose and eyes (the camel, not the boy).
After a few more pictures we got back in the car, with a few of those flies joining us, for the trip into Amman.
On the way, my new best friend stopped by a shop on the side of the road to buy us both a bottle of water. Then, once we were underway again, he offered me some chiclets. I mean, how nice is that?
What should have been a relatively short trip was actually pretty long thanks to the intense amount of traffic in Amman. We drove down streets lined with shop after shop after shop. I could see hills of homes in the distance. Finally, we made it to our destination, the Roman Amphitheater.
It is exactly that…an Amphitheatre much like from the old days of Rome carved in the middle of the city. I paid the 1 Jordanian dinar charge and walked inside. The first person I saw was wearing a…wait for it…”Air Force One Presidential Crew” t-shirt you can get at those tourist shops in D.C. Too funny.
The Amphitheatre was really cool. The steps were huge, but I headed up and down a few sections and took pictures. A really amazing site.
After that, it was back in the cab to the airport. My dear driver friend kept asking “Amman good?” “Yes, Amman is good.” I mean, I didn’t see THAT much of Amman to make a definitive judgment call, but he seemed happy with the answer.
We got to the airport way too early, so I hung out at Starbucks for like five hours before my flight back to Amman. I had seen everything I wanted to see in Amman, so it was worth it.
Tuesday was supposed to be a relatively easy day, and it was. I woke up at 10 a.m. or so since I didn’t get back to my hotel until 2 a.m. local from Jordan. Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly change the time zone on my Blackberry back to Dubai so I woke up at noon. (Why are Blackberries incapable of doing this on their own like every other cell phone?)
So I ended up hitting up my favorite joint – the Mall of the Emirates – for food before wandering around a few different sections of the city to see what all the fuss is about.
When I got on the Metro at one of the stops a small boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old, was screaming his brains out. A few Metro workers came over to help him. I guess he lost his parents somehow (my guess is they were at a mall…the percentages are in favor of that).
Wednesday, today, was my final full day in Dubai. And I mean full day. I woke up around 7am and don’t fly out until 12:50am Thursday. A loooong day.
Check-out was a breeze. Then it was time to hail a cab. I noticed there was a lot of traffic gridlock outside the Rose Garden hotel. Seems that just across the street another building had caught on fire. The longest part of our drive was just getting away from the hotel. Once we did it was smooth sailing (pardon the pun to come) to the Burj Al Arab, which, is shaped like a sail (there it is).
The Burj is billed as the world’s only 7 star hotel. Debatable since that rating is not possible. What is true for sure is that it is the world’s tallest hotel. And it’s shaped like a sail. Did I mention that?
Like everything else in Dubai, the Burj is situated on its own little man-made island. Unlike other things in Dubai your name best be on the list otherwise you ain’t getting in. That’s a fact, Jack.
Thinking ahead for the first and only time on this trip, I made a reservation for afternoon tea on the 27th floor of the building. So my name was on the list. I was given the green light and welcomed into the lobby of the beast.
A kind gentleman then pointed me to the bell desk to leave my bags and invited me to wander around the lobby while waiting for my 1 pm reservation.
The lobby is, like many high priced hotels, a giant hole in the center of the structure. As you’d expect with a hotel of this magnitude they definitely go over the top. Part of the mystique of the Burj is having to be “on the list” to get in – think Smith Point – expect you have the power to get your name on this list if you want. The other part of the mystique is that the cheapest room topples the $1,000 threshold. Yep, the cheapest room.
Pictures…pictures…and more pictures…then it was time to go upstairs.
I got to the Sky View bar for my tea time and found this Death Star looking panel over the receptionists head complete with blinking lights. The entire two-and-a-half hours I was up there I kept looking for Darth, but to no avail.
They sat me down at a corner table overlooking downtown Dubai to my right, the World directly ahead and the Palm to my left.
First course was a cup of fresh berries. Next came a small slice of beef tenderloin. Then I was served my choice of tea. Easy one: Strawberry Fields (yeah, I’d never heard of it either, but it was quite good). Up next was a tower of plates shaped like the Burj Al Arab itself. The first plate had four different types of finger sandwiches: egg salad, salmon…and two others (oops, I forgot). Second plate was beef finger sandwiches, some little chicken burger puff concoction and prawn filled pastry wrap. The final two plates were all sweets and what do you know…all gone within minutes. Funny how that works out.
Upon the conclusion of my tour of the tower of Burj, they brought out two scones which were really biscuits with two types of jam and two kinds of whipped topping. Finally came a plate of sweets (yes, more!) that I chose from and had put on my plate. The food was awesome, but here’s the crazy part…
I swear that two tables over from me was Scarlett Johansson. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “What?!?” My thoughts exactly. But I have a pretty keen eye for these things and it was either her or someone in the wrong line of work if she isn’t banking on being a Scarlett look alike. We may never know, sadly.
Once I finished my Burj adventure on the 27th floor I headed back down to the ground level to wander around for a little bit. Then I caught a taxi outside of Wild Wadi (of the Amazing Race fame) and headed to the Atlantis hotel at the top of the Palm.
That was more wandering, and looking at yet another aquarium, before I went outside and sat on a bench at the top of the palm as the sun came down before hailing a cab back to my hotel to get my bag and on to the airport.
Sounds simple, right?
Of course it wasn’t.
Traffic was a nightmare. It took us about an hour and a half to get from point A to B to C. It should have taken about 30 minutes. At one point the taxi driver decided to go around the traffic.
His idea was to turn us into some sort of improvised dune buggy and drive right through the sand. Once we got caught he realized how futile his attempt at a shortcut was and turned around. As we pulled away another taxi came to attempt the same feat. Now, I don’t know the literal translation of what my cabbie told that cabbie but roughly it was “I’m an idiot, don’t be like me.” Again, it may not be literal. My Arabic is shaky to non-existent.
We arrived at the airport approximately 5 hours before my scheduled departure to find out that at this particular airport, being early is actually a punishable offense. The check-in counter doesn’t open until 3 hours before the flight. Good for all of us…that meant time to write this.
And now…THE NUMBERS:
Countries Visited: 2
Countries Total: 27
Visits to Mall of the Emirates: 5
Nights in Dubai: 5
Nights on a Plane: 2
Total Flights: 6
Movies Watched: 2 ½ (Night at the Museum 2, 500 Days of Summer and part of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince)
Episodes of Hannah Montana Watched: Never enough (I’m kidding)
Time Spent Staring at Burj Dubai: hours
Rice Krispie Treats Consumed: 10 (special Christmas edition too)
Until next, America…
P.S. 50% of the people working at the Dubai airport where Wal-Mart-esque “How may I help you?” blue aprons. No joke.