Into Jordan 17/10/16
Windhoek like Swakopmund was modern, bustling and clean. We had skirted it when we arrived and drove from the airport to Africats, our first stop in Namibia, the road to which passed through the outskirts of Windhoek. At that time we had the strong impression of its German cultural heritage, many of the older brick building being designed in a recognizably germanic colonial style. On our arrival today, the centre of the city strengthened this impression with graceful old neighbourhoods filled with colonial homes and a thoroughly modern CBD with stainless steel and glass skyscrapers.
Our hotel for the night, the Olive Exclusive Guesthouse, so named not to confuse it with a rival property next door, the Olive Grove Guesthouse, was charming and need I say, not exactly exclusive as it accepted us, scruffy, dusty and the worse for wear after 2 weeks on the road. Very, very large and modern suite and a wonderful restaurant on the property, our only regret was that we were there for only one night. Dinner in the restaurant, a long hot shower, a good nights sleep and off to the airport next morning for our flight to Amman, via Jo'burg and Dubai.
We were met at the airport in Jo'burg by Susie and Rich Prangley of African Avenue. Susie has been planner and advisor on of all of our various african adventures and in fact has also planned the african segment of the trip currently being taken by Brian and Sylvie, neighbours in Toronto, who we were very pleased to introduce to Susie on hearing that they were trying to figure out their plans. Susie and Rich have become very good friends and on our first visit to South Africa they invited us to stay with them at their home in White River near Kruger. Since then they have created two beautiful little ones, Rosie and Zach who we were very keen to meet. Since we did not have time to get to White River on this trip, we arrived in Jo'burg at 4pm and our flight to Dubai was at 10:30pm, they came down Jo'burg, picked us up and drove us to Rich's mother's house where had dinner with their family. A really pleasant afternoon and evening, spoiled only by the fact that we had so little time and had to rush off after dinner back to the airport.
Overnight to Dubai on Emirates in Business, Air Canada has so much to learn! Long layover in Dubai and then a 3 hour flight to Amman, getting us in late afternoon. Our hotel is the Intercontinental and after 2 weeks in Namibia we had almost forgotten what spoiled can feel like. I'm a great fan of Intercontinental Hotels and this one was no exception. Next morning, coming down to the Concierge desk on the elevator after breakfast on the Club floor, we struck up a conversation with a man on the elevator who after hearing that we were figuring out what to do with our day, introduced himself as the Director of Intercontinental hotels in the region and the GM of our hotel. He is Swiss, a charming and very knowledgeable man who as it turned out is also a photographer in his spare time, and was very keen to help us plan our time in Jordan. He first made a call to find the head concierge, a crossed-keys concierge named Bashar, who we discovered was the first crossed-key concierge in Jordan, and put us in his hands. Bashar has been enormously helpful and even more important, warm, friendly and caring. He has taken us under his wing and smoothed our path as we have planned and changed plans and has made all aspects our itinerary work. Cannot say enough good things about Michael the GM and Bashar, if you are ever in Amman, don't stay anywhere else! And a reminder to all to chat with everyone you come across when traveling, you never know where it may lead.
Bashar sorted a car and driver for us today to drive to the ruins at Jerash about 45 minutes out of Amman. Jerash is the site of the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, also referred to as Antioch. Ancient Greek inscriptions from the city as well as literary sources support that the city was founded by Alexander the Great or his general Perdiccas, who settled retired Macedonian soldiers there (γῆρας - gēras means "old age" in Ancient Greek). This took place during the spring of 331 BC, when Alexander left Egypt, crossed Syria and then went to Mesopotamia. Jerash is sometimes misleadingly referred to as the "Pompeii of the Middle East", referring to its size, extent of excavation and level of preservation however Jerash was never destroyed and buried by a single cataclysmic event, such as a volcanic eruption although it was largely destroyed in an earthquake in 790AD. Jerash is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the Near East.
We spent a fascinating afternoon wandering the site but in the end beaten by the sun which at that time of the day is relentless and there is little or no shade to be found on the site.
We had noticed on the drive from Amman as we got out into the countryside, cars and trucks pulled over on the edges of the highway displaying boxes and trays of fruits and vegetables, bright and shiny and stacked for sale. We were very taken by this and our driver told us that the region of Jerash is a very rich and fertile valley where much of the country's produce is grown, dry dusty appearances notwithstanding. He scouted along the sides of the road on our return and suddenly pulled over to the side of the highway at the site of one of these fruit sellers, opened the door and got out. No one in Jordan ever appears to close their car doors, so there we were on the side of a 3 lane highway, cars speeding by at 100+k , our car doors wide while our driver began the most heated, loud and frantic negotiation for a tray of fresh figs, some bunches of grapes and a couple of pomegranates while we looked on. At the end of the very intense discussion the driver and the fruit seller shook hands, broke out in loud laughs and appeared to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves, honour having been satisfied on both sides. The driver then presented the fruits to us and refused any payment.
This is but one example of the graciousness that we experienced from the Jordanians with whom we have been in contact. They have been unfailingly charming, helpful, warm and friendly. We weren't sure what to expect prior to our arrival but our experiences have been nothing but positive and these small touches make an enormous difference when you are navigating your way through a new culture.
Tomorrow, on our way to Petra.