jordan

A Small Post From Amman

A Small Post From Amman

When my notebook is not with me it’s my tradition to write my thoughts on the iPhone notes and probably copy them later when I have the chance. This time I decided to share mY thoughts with you. Fresh, raw, unedited.

It’s very hard to describe what I am feeling right now. It’s a mixture of happiness and sadness and bitterness and loathing and compassion and excitement and regret to name a very few.

My trip to Amman has been cut short, but at one point it was going to be cancelled before it even began. The circumstances were all pointing to the Dont Walk signal. But for once, i felt the need to ignore logic and go with instincts.

I needed to go.

I’ve met many wonderful people, bloggers and the blokes on Twitter. Sadly I haven’t seen them all, and their schedules with my failed plans made logtistics impossible to meet eveyone. But I am coming back in July. And I have to joke about the weather, at least the July heat is something i am very familiar with as a Dubai resident.

I’m leaving to Syria tomorrow, Tuesday. I’m going to go see my grandma, and my dad. I’m also going there as an incentive for mom to fly over to Damascus so we can treat her back pain she has been enduring. I’m very sensitive to pain, especially mom’s and granny’s and it’s mentally exhausting and brings me to tears just thinking about it. I tried my best to cheer mom up on mother’s day, and her birthday, but there’s very little you can do to a woman getting shots in her spine and is in pain. I can only fight my own tears as she spills hers and I console her by telling her I love her and that I am very happy.

Happy days have been few these days, making little triumphs seem like epic achievements. Nevertheless I haven’t been this content for some very long time. It feels strange and alien. In fact it even seems inappropriate. But I will embrace it. It’s a small gift from the universe I cannot be modest about and reject.

Cutting to the chase I guess all I really wanted is to thank Khaled (@shusmo). He lift a heavy burden off of my shoulders whilst I was there. I feel lighter now, just enough for me to push myself forward. Thank you Khaled.

A Broken Promise

A Broken Promise

Many years ago, a friend of mine from Jordan fell in love with a girl.

It was a glorious day, of course, for his happiness was so profound I felt my messenger window quake with awe, and that was when it barely had a few emoticons.

The love blossomed between them, and, as I was a young little lad, they loved me to bits, each talking to me privately and telling me the secrets of the significant other and the affection between them. Naughty boy that I was, I used these to my advantage to extract more info out of them. Hehehe… never mess with a kid!

The year passed, and the guy decided to propose. I was very excited, of course. To see that love finally going somewhere… the best place for love to settle!

Then she told me a secret.

She told me she was ill.

I didn’t know what to do, or how to think or react. I said nothing, but the usual. I asked about the cause, the reasons, where was it going, if she was going to tell her significant other.

She didn’t know, either.

The guy talked to me, telling me she was acting strange… suddenly going on a Europe tour with her family. But he said she probably needed a break, or was a bit worried… you never know what is up with women!

But I knew.

We spoke, her and I, later on, and she told me to take care of the guy, whatever happens. That was the last I heard of her.

When the news broke out, he was devastated, utterly and totally. He was lost, for quite a while, not knowing how to proceed or go on with his life. I stayed by his side for quite some time, until he was feeling better, the following year.

Time passed, and we each went on with our way, like many friendships do. I always felt a burden, that I have to take care of him always. It was a dying woman’s wish… how could I not honor it, forever?

Last year I was in Jordan. I thought of him. I knew he was somewhere between Jordan and Riyadh… I didn’t know where he was, back then. I still, somehow, carry the weight of the burden. We hooked up again, found each other on Facebook and on email. But I can’t dare to talk about an issue so long ago, or how to act, or do, or be friends like we used to be back then.

I broke a promise, my first of some, and each promise I break carries a huge weight with it. I sit and wonder sometimes what attaches me to places, to people, to cities and countries.

And then I remember a poem by Robert Frost entitled Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, which has touched me back in school profoundly I remember it till now. The last lines of it read:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 

Pilgrim in Jordan – Hiking to the Stars

Pilgrim in Jordan – Hiking to the Stars

I wanted to cut this post short, but I didn’t want to run on forever with my accounts of the trip to Jordan. So bare with me a little and read the following in chunks. If you’re not interested, here’s a summary: It was a beautiful journey of pshysical and spiritual endurance, and from it I knew that nothing can stop me from fulfilling anything I desire if I put my mind and soul into it – and have the amazing social support I had. You can also check out the photo album >>here<<.

The last day of my pilgrimage without a doubt contained the most memorable series of events that I have experienced in recent years. It was the challenge of the body, mind and soul – the exact one I have been pursuing in my recent pressured times.

We headed out to Petra before the dawn with roughly a couple of hours’ sleep. The trip itself was relaxing, if a bit long. While I was a bit aggravated with the obnoxious speeding limits on highways (I travel twice as fast inside Dubai), it was a great opportunity to take things in slowly and simply sit back and enjoy the sunrise and the changing scenery. I needed the change of pace.

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We arrived at Petra with a huge amount of tourists. I wasn’t surprised but a bit disappointed (there were just too many people) but that soon brushed off as we started treading the paths between the sheer mountains (the Siq). I was astonished at first that there were no Japanese tourists but no sooner than I updated my Facebook status (so that the guys back home can constantly know Qabbani hasn’t kidnapped and sold me on the black market) and out of no where, a few Japanese tourists were pointing everywhere and oh!-ing.

You gotta love them :)

The road went on and on, and we occasionally stopped here and there to take photos of ourselves, of rocks, and of other people taking pictures of themselves and of rocks.

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We arrived at the magnificent Treasury. I was astonished at the wonderful piece of carved art it was. What an impressive human feat of architecture! Here I was, in the middle of absolutely no where, and before me stood evidence of a civilization that was once living in this very barren lands. If we were to attempt living there now, we probably would just give up (those of you who watch Lost are excluded). But neccessity begets creativity. The water canals are enough proof.

When I thought this was all there was to see, Hamza informed us that there is something else still up ahead.

We continued our way through the open – and hot – landscape where the actual city was. We didn’t take the luxury of exploring every corner, burrow and dwelling, but passing through an ancient city filled with modern people was enough of a paradox to take in.

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We arrived at the supposed end of the city to be informed by the locals that there is a monastery up ahead. We didn’t know that by “up” the guy really meant “up”. We declined his offer of rinding donkeys and instead decided to trek the path.

It started out with smiles, but along the path, it was a struggle of muscle power, will power and stamina. At several legs we almost decided to give up and return. But having been through all of this and coming all this way we decided not to chicken out.

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Becides we would look bad as three young supposedly healthy men giving up, when some old couple as ancient as Petra were climbing without breaking a sweat.

And them Japanese tourists.

We refused to succumb!

We reached the monastery which resembled the Treasury but on a larger scale. It was prettier to take photos of – except I forgot to take the images in RAW format – however the main attraction was the view from the mountain peak.

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It would have been breathtaking if it were not noon and the sun’s rays fried our eyeballs to crisp.

What was breathtaking however is the euphoria we got from reaching the peak. We endured! It was a great test to all of us – and to me especially – that if we only were a bit patient and fight our urge to be lazy, we could really achieve wonders. Just like the inhabitants did when they built this whole place.

From the top of the peak, the path didn’t look too rocky after all.

Two hours’ worth of hiking later, we were back to the car and on our way to Wadi Rum.

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The post is getting too long, no? Perservere!

We arrived at Wadi Rum at sunset. Qabbani went with his cycling buddies to do their thing while Hamza and myself climbed a nearby cliff to attempt watching what was left of the sunset. It was so quiet and peaceful.

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Until one of the camps decided to put dabkeh music on full volume for 4 consecutive hours.

After we had the delicious zarb, we headed out into the dark desert in a group to watch the stars. Some couples drifted off to get personal with the sand. I detached from the main group to go meditate while trying to be away from unsuspecting couples.

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While some poor chap was being live-buried by his friends in the distance, I drew a circle on the sand for no other reason than to create an atmosphere, sat in the center and controlled my breathing.

I closed my eyes to feel the energy of the stars.

A breath at a time, I was able to visualize the sky with my eyes closed. I then lay on my back and opened my eyes to see what I have visualized.

It was just beautiful.

Like a hopeless romantic, I drew the faces of people I loved in the stars. I tried to pick out the stars and constellations I already know, and attempted mapping the rest of the zodiac accordingly. With so many stars though it was taxing on my already-exhausted brain and I took out that time to just relax and enjoy the sky.

My meditation was interrupted by hyenas. I decided to relocate closer to the group in an attempt to not have lots of me eaten by the time I was rescued.

When I was finally comfortable and alone in my thoughts, I was interrupted again by the hyenas. Not one to ignore too many hints, I sat as close as possible to the group who were a major source of noise more annoying than the dabkeh music.

Determined though to enjoy this moment, I silenced them with my selective hearing abilities and concentrated on the stars.

I took many decisions that night regarding the direction of where my life was heading.

The group however had a different plan and decided to go back to the camp. I wanted to be there more but I was pretty sure of the hyenas’ presence (I have heard them and seen them in the shadows) and thought it best that in order to carry out the decisions I have taken, I needed to be alive and preferrably unchewed.

It was without a doubt one of the best nights ever – and I would love to go there again (for a different purpose hehe). The whole trip to Jordan has both been the detox I needed and intoxicating in other things.

Thank you all for your support and making this happen :) I’d never forget that!

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Pilgrim in Jordan – The Dead Sea Controversy

Pilgrim in Jordan – The Dead Sea Controversy

My trip to the Dead Sea was nothing short of a breathtaking experience – and a controversial one.

Standing at the lowest point of the Earth may not mean anything to anyone – I mean it is just the Dead Sea, right? Probably. But just like those who climbed Mt. Everest, their difficult journey to the tallest peak does have its merits to bragged about. While descending to the Dead Sea is an effortless journey (bar the difference in pressure that made my ears explode), it is what the Dead Sea represented that made it such a remarkable and majestic place.

If you’re not into religion or myths or anything spiritual then this might not mean anything to you. But standing at the lowest point on Earth and a miracle site (while cracking a joke or two about it with Hamza) does make you rethink a LOT of things.

Describing the texture of the water and the mud cannot be explained with simple words. You have to go down there and experience it for yourself for you to ever know what it feels like. I didn’t find it filthy or disgusting, but it was weird and the whole place was eerie enough for me to understand where the “Dead” part came from.

And yet in this Death there is a lot of life, ironically.

I updated my Facebook status and that sparked a heated 25 comment debate rendering it the most controversial Facebook status ever written!

So here I ask you: Is it haram/forbidden to visit the Dead Sea? If so… why? What’s the “permitted duration” of visiting “areas of punishment” (mawaqe3 el 3athab)?

I can’t help but feel that there IS something wrong with this place (although personally I have not dug deep into the Qawm Lot story) but even from a non-religious point of view the whole place freaked me out completely.

We went up to the mountains to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets ever experienced. The air was beautiful, cold, and strong. I remembered Safita with such a sunset, when a couple of friends and I would go watch it set over the sea of Tartous (if the horizon clarity permitted) and the weather and the clouds were as breathtaking as ever.

I felt rejuvenated, and engrossed myself in deep thought (which were completed in Wadi Rum, more on that in the next post).

I didn’t want to leave that place while at the same time I was so glad I did.

Pilgrim in Jordan – Amman

Pilgrim in Jordan – Amman

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. – Khalil Gibran

 

You may wonder, what does a pilgrimage have to do with Jordan? To say that my trip was a journey undermines its purpose. A journey may have little or no motif that lays the foundation on which the traveler directs his step.

I traveled to Jordan on a pilgrimage; the reasons I shall keep to myself. Through this reading (and the following posts), I hope you understand the purpose of my travels.

My arrival in Amman has been greeted with frowns – which I expected – and a 20 minute “interview” at the airport, given I am the only Syrian on the plane who suspiciously arrived when a bomb blew off in Damascus that very day. I have been alerted that such things are standard procedures, but I did not expect that I had to narrate my life’s story to the head of security for entertainment in an attempt to convince him I came to Jordan for tourism and not running away from serving the Syrian military.

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Amman is a beautiful city. Some of you might be raising eyebrows (I know some of my friends in Dubai did when I told them where I was going), but I am an honest person and I can honestly say I loved Amman.

I traveled more or less everywhere – from Jabal al Taj to Al Hussein Gardens. My soul, however, found its place in downtown Amman – specifically where Knafet 7abeeba is (yes yes I know, food!). The simplicity of the place won me over the snobbish Abdoun area (which I admit, is a great place, but I don’t like such “high class” regions in a city) and seeing 7afartal, kids running about, people selling all sorts of stuff and men group-hollering and whistling at ladies next to a mosque is something you can’t not be amused about.

Amman is much cleaner than Damascus – I admit – and is overall more “higher class” (arqa). However, the differences in social class is much more noticeable in Amman. Whereas in Damascus you could travel from the richest areas to the Old City without much of a change in scenery (bar the number of people per square meter and pollution), in Amman there is a stark contrast in the quality of the roads, houses (and number of houses) as well as the types of cafes and people – how they dress, act and live.

The constant factor in Amman though, is cabs :D Anything that can be physically or verbally done against someone’s genitals can be learned from cab drivers.

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It felt great to smell clean air. Clean? Yes clean. No dust, no humidity… a chilling, crisp breeze with clouds hung low. I miss the clouds, the blue sky, the clean fresh air – especially after the rain. The smell of the grass and the trees, and the wind, even if it is in downtown mixed with car fumes.

Amman was the start of my pilgrimage. This is just a post of many to come – the Dead Sea, Amman again, and the grand finale of Petra and Rum. So stay tuned, and enjoy the Amman’s photos on my photo blog (I will upload the rest when the appropriate post is published!)

PS: for a brief cynical overview of the whole trip, check out Hamza’s post