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Meeting the Locals
and seeing their Castles

Day 5, June 18 1998, Amman, Castle loop

We got up at seven today, washed ourselves thoroughly before going out to get some pita bread. Then we went over to Sophey's to get our morning fruit mix. He offered to make us breakfast, which was ok, but the cheese (feta) was very salty.

Today we are going to visit three desert castles, all east of Amman.

At nine we went to the reception, where we met our taxi driver for the day, Fuad, a bald man with a chequered shirt. His English was ok. There were also two American girls, Sarah and Ann, sisters. After introductions were over, we followed Fuad downstairs. Once outside, he began to walk with great speed through the streets of Amman.
We were confused, but we were determined not to let him out of our sight. I overtook him and attempted a conversation. He made it clear his English was not that good, and doubled his speed. It struck me as very odd. Why take people on a tour if you can't speak English? I let it pass and tried to keep up with him. I told Dennis this felt like a 70s Bond movie. Finally, our driver stopped at a paint shop, where he asked us something in Arabic. Luckily, Sarah spoke a little Arabic, having spent a year in Egypt. While the girls were discussing the desert castles with the man with the Lonely Planet guide in hand, Dennis suddenly turned to me and said: "This is not the man we met at the Cliff hotel."
I was flabbergasted, but I could immediately see that he was right. He was also bald and wearing a chequered shirt, but he was not nearly as tall as our driver. How could we have been so stupid? When we told the man, he laughed out loud. To him, it seemed very funny.
Can't imagine how it must feel to be chased by tourists.

We took our leave of him and went back to the Cliff. And sure enough, there was Fuad, our driver, again, a little more distressed than when I first saw him. He made us hold hands until we reached his taxi.

And then, out of Amman and into the desert. The city slowly thins out and after about twenty minutes, there are no buildings to be seen anywhere. The first two castles we visited were Qasr al-Kharaneh and Qusayr 'Amra. We had tea with flies in the tent of the very hospitable Bedouins, and at the first tent we were given musical instruments to jam with the locals. Too bad the instruments were fretless. Neither one of us could pull it off convincingly.

The third was Qasr al-Azraq, where T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) hung out in 1917. We met his supposed son of 90 years, and his supposed grandson, whom we had to pay to stop showing us badly copied pictures of Lawrence. They could also have been Bedouins pretending to be sons of Lawrence; it's a great gimmick for tourists. The castle itself was the biggest one of the three and I spent some time walking along the walls on the upper levels. This holiday is a great way to get rid of these feelings of vertigo that I've always had.

On our way to Qasr al-Azraq, near the Iraqi border, our driver pointed out a number of trucks, and told me that these trucks bring oil from Iraq here, in exchange for medicine and food.

At the third castle, Sarah suddenly discovered she had forgotten her camera at the second Bedouin tent, so we had to go back there to pick it up. The bedouin was already planning to have it sent it to the Cliff hotel. It had become very hot in the car and even the desert wind scurrying in through the open passenger window feels warm.

For dinner we had Mensaf, a traditional Bedouin meal with veal and yoghurt sauce, at the Al Qurt restaurant. The owner saw us read our Lonely Planet and pointed at a picture of King Hussein. Then he noticed the map and remarked that it was incorrect. The West Bank is not supposed to be Israeli. I guess he's a Palestine refugee too, like so many people in Amman.

At night: pillow fight. Finished Stephen Fry. A pretty good book. At 23:50, sleep. Tomorrow the hot springs at Hammamat Ma'in.


c   l   i   c   k


View from first Qazr
 View from first Qazr

The proud owner
 The proud owner

Deep thought
 Deep thought

A lonely camel
 A lonely camel

The second Qazr
 The second Qazr

The 3rd Qazr
 The third Qazr

 It really is a highway

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