Entry Info

10th (Thu)
Jun 2010

[day104] A Short Stay in Amman

This time, we checked in to the Mansour Hostel which is located in the middle of the downtown area. As usual, this accommodation is favoured by Japanese travellers for the Asian only special price. The dorm room with free wi-fi and breakfast costs only 3JOD. Though the shower's water flow was not really good, we shouldn’t complain for this price. What’s more, a local person who really loves Japanese people was helping there and he gave a lot of information to us. All in all, it was a reasonably comfortable accommodation though I wouldn’t stay long like Dahab.

Since I hadn't been to such an urbanised city like Amman for a long time, I decided to go to a book café which many foreigners frequent. The café is on the upper floor of the stylish imported book store and surprisingly a security check with the guard is required in order to enter the store. The café is a sort of an oasis for the Europeans residing in Amman and its interior is absolutely cool. It reminded me of my favourite café in Tokyo. I just ordered a milk shake which cost 3.5JOD. I reckoned it was quite reasonable for the quality of their design and service but a glass of milk shake was indeed more expensive than a night in accommodation. Incidentally, the dinner on the day, full of Arabic meals, was merely 2JOD. In fact this was the most highest expense in Amman for me. Yet, it was also the most satisfying moment too. Thinking about this situation, prices are very thought-provoking. Well, I should stop this topic here otherwise I can keep pondering over this forever.

We decided to stay in Amman only 2 nights for a few reasons. Firstly, Amman is an Arabic city which is slightly more sophisticated than Cairo but according to the friends from Dahab, Damascus's old town should be more fascinating than Amman for its very long and complicated history. Also some people go to the Dead Sea starting from Amman but in terms of the Dead Sea, it's better to go from Israel side as it's cleaner and very importantly girls wearing bikinis are there! Therefore, we couldn't find any reasons to remain this city. The friend group from Dahab would be also divided to the one heading for Israel and another for Syria.

Incidentally, travellers planning to visit Israel on their Middle East journey usually go to the border connected to Jordan by King Hussein Bridge. As you know, Israel is still at war with some Arabic countries such as Syria and Lebanon and with the Israeli stamp on your passport, many Arabic countries would refuse to let you in to their lands. Especially, it is critical for the people who are planning to go up North by land as there are no way to avoid Syria and they have to fly in this case.

Hereupon the King Hussein Bridge is used for a kind of a trick. In fact Jordan has already normalised the diplomatic relationship with Israel and there should be no problems for coming and going. In addition to this, at only this border, you can ask "no stamp" to the officers and they put the all stamps related to the passport control on another sheet of paper. In this way, pretending not to enter to Israel, you can technically enter Syria afterwards. Be wary not getting the stamps from the Jordan side as well for the concrete alibi. Also some seals will be put on your passport and luggage for security reasons when you enter Israel and you must remove them very carefully as the officers at the Syrian border would inspect for the trace of the seals only. (This information is based on a story on April 2010. The circumstances could easily change due to the international situations. Therefore, please refer to the fresh information, especially from the travellers onsite, when you make an actual trip.)

Speaking about myself, I was planning to go to the other Middle Eastern countries first and fly to Israel from Turkey as I didn't want to be bothered by the complicated stamp process. Thus, I joined the group going to Syria. As a matter of a fact, I didn't know that I was going to have a little problem entering to Israel but please wait for this moment. I'll write about it later.

From Petra to Amman, we used a shuttle bus (5JOD) which comes in front of the hostel on the morning of the departure if we make the reservation beforehand. It's a snap isn't it? Dozing off on the bus for two hours, we arrived at the bus station located on the outer edge of the city. From here, we had to find the next transportation by ourselves and as usual started negotiating with the taxi drivers waiting there. They offered us 1JOD each person to any accommodations in the down town area.

Well, is it cheap or not? We didn’t have the faintest idea of the local market price and nobody would tell us about it. In this situation, the only thing I can rely on is in fact my own instinct. Although some people always try to bargain the price negotiating for hours, to be blunt, it's the same difference with 1JOD or 0.8JOD, just waste of the time. Therefore, for the less stressful negotiation, I always try to judge with only my values. Besides, I don’t want to exploit the local people by settling on a too cheap price. It is reasonable to pay 1JOD for transportation in an unfamiliar city.

Entry Info

Started Up North - PetraWith the four friends met in Dahab, I departed up North to Jordan. Firstly we had to cross the Red Sea by the ferry which runs between Nuweiba, Egyptian side and Aqaba, Jordan side. Mostly, foreigners are forced to use the "high speed ship" but it costs 60 USD(+exit tax 10 USD). By Egyptian standards, it's a super expensive transportation. It's more than triple my daily spending in Dahab! But thanks to the surprisingly clean interior, it was by far the most comfortable trip ever in Egypt as well.

Yet unsurprisingly the ferry was running on the Egyptian quality schedule. Although we were rushed to come to the seaport as the ferry was supposed to leave by the noon, there were no hints for the next movement on time and we had to wait the next few hours there. What's more, even after boarding the ferry didn't start immediately and it was already very dark when we arrived at Aqaba. At length, the time we exited the passport control was after 9 o'clock.


If I'd travelled on my own, I'd given up going further and tried to stay there one night but I was with my friends who were also very experienced travellers. We knew that it wouldn’t cost too much even if we used the taxi to Petra directly and therefore started negotiating with the drivers there. After a 15 minutes tough negotiation, one driver yielded to our request with 40 JOD(40 EUR) for 5 passengers, which was about half his first suggestion. Well, how wonderful that I have dependable company.

The roads in Jordan were very well paved and much cleaner than Egypt. Also the cars themselves looked in good condition and there were traffic signals too. Well, it sounds like we, who were so excited about these normal things, came from very countryside. After two hour driving on the wagon, we noticed it was a bit chilly outside and it was the arrival of Petra which is located on 1000m altitude. This time, we checked in at the"Valentine Inn" which is very popular among backpackers for their very affordable price. 3 JOD for the dorm room is a pretty good deal.


The next morning, we went sightseeing immediately. Thanks to the free shuttle bus from the accommodation, it took only 5 minutes instead of taking 30 minutes on foot. But there was a small pitfall with it. The bus was supposed to depart at 7 and 8. As we arrived there very late last night, we decided to join the bus at 8 and went to the bed straight away, taking it for granted that there is no time difference between Egypt and Jordan. However, there is indeed due to the day light saving. Not realising the fact, the Japanese group got together precisely at 9 in Jordan time. Though the guy in the accommodation graciously helped us to get there, we learnt that we must check the time difference after passing the country borders.


Started Up North - PetraThe entrance fee of Petra is in fact notoriously expensive. It costs 33 JOD, matching it to a decent theme park. What's more they are planning to raise the price to 50 JOD as of November 2010. What great confidence the Jordanian government has. Nevertheless, if I'm asked "Would it be worthwhile to go to this site?", I would still answer "GO". (At least, providing it is 33 JOD. 50 JOD is very high.) Actually, this ruin site is bigger than ordinary theme parks and takes more than one day to walk around the whole are. Plus, it would cost anyway the same if we go to on a one day tour.


Started Up North - PetraWalking along a flat road, sheer cliffs came into my view and making the way further a huge caved temple "Al Khazneh" suddenly appeared from the break in the cliffs. The BGM playing in my mind was of course the theme of Indiana Jones. Well, I did come here in order to see the temple. Although the atmosphere was slightly spoiled due to the number of tourists there, the huge temple was absolutely overwhelming. Also there are various ruins and theatres along the road, and looking at them, I moved on my way further.


Started Up North - PetraAfter walking for a while, I found a small sign in the middle of the cliff and it read "fortress" with an arrow. Although the other tourists simply disregarded the sign and went on the main road, I preferred less people and tried to go with the sign. Walking half an hour and following several signs, I found that I was on the route to the other side of the mountain. Though I could see so many tourists walking far beneath, there were only a few people on my course. Well, my sense of travelling worked well this time. It was nice to have less people for the photography indeed.


I guess I walked much more than 10 km in total. When the shuttle bus came to pick us up, I was so exhausted that I didn’t feel like going out afterwards. So, we joined the buffet provided by the accommodation and it was surprisingly tasty. The lack of proper foods since the previous day might have affected my taste though, I enjoyed the typical Arabic foods from them. Also playing cards with beer with the friends was so much fun too. As Petra doesn't have any special places apart from the ruin, we were leaving on the next morning to Amman.

Entry Info

1st (Tue)
Jun 2010

[day85] Sank in Dahab

Sank in DahabWell, in fact I didn't know at all about Dahab. I'd even thought about just passing through to Nuweiba if the bus had arrived at the terminal on time. However, the bus which was supposed to arrive in 15 hours from Luxor to Dahab actually took more than 20 hours and I had to stay at least one night there. As usual, many people tried to bring me to their hotels and a piece of advice from a Korean guy who was with me on the bus determined my life in Dahab. "Would you like to come with me to the hostel called Seven Heaven?"

Sank in DahabDahab is a Read Ocean Resort and very famous for diving. Seven Heaven is one of the many hostels located along the coast line as well as cafes and diving shops. As I'd planned to stay only one night, I took a single room - to be precise it was actually a twin room- and the room cost merely 30EGP(6USD). Besides the hostel runs a diving centre and as a nice Japanese instructor is working there, many Japanese tried to get the license at the time.


Unfortunately, I'd had a serious sickness on my lung years ago and the doctor stopped me doing any activities with extreme air pressures such as scuba diving. Nevertheless even normal snorkelling was absolutely mesmerising for the high transparency of the Red Sea and colourful fish slipping through the coral reef. I could see why there are so many people being totally engrossed in this blue world. Well, if I could dive, I would spend a crazy amount of money on diving equipment and underwater photography kits (water proof cases for DSLR are shockingly expensive!). Perhaps the order from the doctor could be a reasonable deterrent against bankruptcy.


Sank in DahabOn the days without snorkelling, I often went to the restaurants nearby and writing blogs, reading Kindle, enjoyed the resort alone. A jug of100% fresh mango juice was only 15EGP. It was in fact quite expensive by Egyptian standards but I didn’t mind as it was absolutely delicious. I usually had 2 jugs per day as well as strawberry and melon juice for “vitamin supplements”.


Sank in DahabFrom the evening, most of Japanese people got together and went to the restaurants. As the most restaurants in Dahab somehow set special discount prices for Japanese, we could eat a decent course menu with a very reasonable price. For example, the usual course consisting of lemon juice, bread, salad, soup, main, desert and water pipe was only 20 EGP. It was very cheap indeed, though I couldn’t smoke even water pipes. As Dahab is on the sea coast, there are so many seafood menus and I typically liked the seafood soup served with a bunch of bones and shells for the rich taste.


Sank in DahabThe everyday routine finished with drinking beer and talking after the dinner. Especially a game called "Dahab Game" played around the world by Japanese travellers was totally fascinating. Basically, it is the game to find the people telling lies and it takes 30-60 minutes per game. As we had to keep talking during the game, the game connects people easily even at the first time. Indeed, this is the game made for travellers by travellers. The game was so addictive that sometimes I was playing it even in the dream. I wish I could play Dahab Game again someday.


Truth to be told, I hadn’t had a good impression towards accommodation with many Japanese people. Seriously, I don't really have it even for now. However, most people I met here were so nice. At the time, there were more than 20 Japanese at Seven Heaven and many of them were long term travellers calling into Dahab to dive. A couple who travelled through Africa for the pre marriage round the world trip, a tutor who had been victimized with a robbery yet still loved travelling, an ex-Italian chef who made up his mind that diving is going to be his life time job enchanted by Dahab's blue ocean, a NEET who came to Dahab just for playing Dahab Game, everyone has their original stories and we talked until midnight every day.


Sank in DahabAs a result, I stayed there unexpectedly 25 days in total. Yes,a heavenly 25 days. In Japanese language, we describe this state as "sank" which means staying one place for a long time during a trip. It's quite depictive isn't it? Though someone said it's quite rare to see the person without diving but having stayed so many nights, I didn’t regret the days at all thanks to the experiences and friends from there. In fact, the fresh information from travellers having passed through Middle East was very useful afterwards. Besides above all, the fellowship of future travel was absolutely precious. Including myself, five people were planning to go up to Jordan and we decided set up the trip together. Though I mainly travel on my own but sometimes it's nice to have company.


The next destination is Petra in Jordan, filmed with Indiana Jones, which has one of the biggest and the most famous ruins in the Middle East. Even though I'd miss the friends who had spent unforgettable days together in Seven Heaven, I started thinking of the next trip. I know that as the number of meetings grows, so does the number of farewells.

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