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

Dune Bashing

This weekend, for the first time in my entire six-year stay in this enormous construction site of a desert of Dubai, I went on a Safari.

It was brilliant.

It really was like in a Land Cruiser TV commercial where you see the car going up and down the dunes effortlessly. Except that I was in the car and it was anything but smooth, but that is part of the experience.

We set out at noon after being delayed by yours truly – I went down in the morning to see someone with a lorry has reversed in the parking lot and rammed into my car. Bugger ran off too as usual. Thankfully there is only a minor dent on the side door as well as a scratch extending the entire width. Everything else seems ok (knock wood). We called the police and an hour and a half later we called them again to “cancel our order”. They were busy with another accident (amusing they have like one patrol car for the entire city). I wasn’t going to let anything ruin my trip.

So we set off and met with the other Land Cruisers who were waiting for us in a remote petrol station that looks like it was featured in the recent Resident Evil movie. They didn’t have the AC and freezers working so everyone was buying the ice creams before they melted. It was funny.

We then rode off in a single file and suddenly swerved into the sand and our bumpy ride started. For the next hour we were dune bashing, going up and down dunes as if they were made of water. It was incredibly wobbly and I had my entire camera equipment with 4 different lenses (which I realized was idiotic of me because I bought with me a macro lens instead of a telephoto lens, sigh). Anyway, I tried to take photos when the car was reasonably steady.

A guy from another car couldn’t take it and we had to stop while he finished vomiting.

We were the only Arabs, myself and my friends. The rest were a German group who were utterly dull (no Asma I am not being racist), an incredibly cute Japanese imperial family (as in the entire family tree up to someone who is probably the last Samurai) and some odd man who was speaking in classic Arabic. My Palestinian friends were thoroughly entertained by this man while I was chuckling away at the Wasabi Clan.

After the dune bashing, we rested on a pretty high dune to watch the sunset and take photos. Man, treading up and down the dunes on foot is an exercise. The sand was incredibly soft and my entire foot up to the ankle sank in with every step. It is a good thing I spent the last weeks running because I had the stamina to climb the bigger dunes while my friends stayed at the bottom mihmihmih.

Later we went to this remote village-like tent made of straws and stuff, where we rode camels, had dinner and watched some belly dancing. The dancing was atrocious. I find it insulting when they bring non-Arabs to do the belly dancing. Utterly ridiculous. But it was fun as she forced the old man from the Wasabi Clan and his 573 year old wife to dance with her. It was hilarious.

Then my Palestinian friends got jealous and they all went down to the dance floor and circled around the belly dancer in a quick and light dabkeh dance.

But it was a different story how she ended up ignoring them and asked me, the photographer, to come up and be with her on a lead group dance. It was awesome and I sparked a lot of jealousy from my fellow hormonal friends. It was a testosterone fight all the way back.

Our trip had to be cut a bit short as the nocturnal animals started appearing and within minutes the camp was being overrun by enormous spiders the size of my fist and scorpions. It was amusing how the Wasabi Clan shrieked in horror and people started fleeing.

And that was the end of our trip.

Trip to Syria pt 2 – Sightseeing!

My photoblog is ready but just needs a little brushing up, therefore I thought it best not to postpone this post here and I would be posting some other photos on my photoblog once it is read (should be done in these two days – I just need to edit the header now that my hair has grown back :D )

Alright, anyway, on to the important stuff. I stayed in Syria for 5 days only. I spent the morning and the late nights with granny, and the rest of the day I was out with my best friend, his fiance and all of the rest of the gang… well, not all of them since most of them were out of town. I will post on my best friend later as part 3 of this trip.

I went one day to Safita, my village. I called up Abu Fares and said hi, but apologized for not being able to make it to Tartous which is incredibly close to Safita (and on a clear sky is visible from the Safatly mountains). The other Kinan was also there, and he SMSed me that it was raining. At that time I was under the rain taking photos on my way out of the village. I was only going to Safita for 3/4th of a day and I had to spend it seeing my family there. I saw dad’s side of the family (mom’s side is in Damascus). They were all nice and jolly as usual, which is what I like about brief trips. Staying there for prolonged periods inevitably surfaces many pending family issues, so it was a great idea just to make a brief visit and enjoy the moment.

My grandpa’s health has improved. He has been suffering with some issues in his hands, which made him very sad because it made him stop his job, what he likes doing best – his blacksmith business. Yup, my grandpa is a blacksmith! He has been hitting with the hammer since he was a kid. He’s a pretty strong man ;) Funnily, at the age of 90, he still didn’t stop smoking. He has been smoking for 80 years, he makes and wraps his own cigs. I told him several times to stop smoking but there is little you can do to convince a 90 year old to stop an 80 year old habit.

Back in Damascus, I spent half a day at the Ancient City itself, which was a bit sad because I had little time to take photos and enjoy the place (I usually spend most of my summer holidays there). I didn’t even go inside the Umayyad Mosque to take photos. In fact I didn’t take any proper photos of places, because I didn’t bring my tripod with me and because most of the landscapes I wanted to shoot were now occupied by the military (and my dad is paranoid so I didn’t take a risk).

Trip to a Palace

I spent the weekend in Abu Dhabi. It was amazing and certainly refreshing from the rushing Dubai.

The fact that there is no traffic (largely thanks to the grid-like roads) is enough by itself. Best part is that it is almost an island, so it is surrounded by water. The weather was wonderful and I had a blast of a time. I absolutely love the smell of the sea salt. It is refreshing and I can literally live in all my life in a little tent on the beach.

The people there are also nice, much nicer than those in Dubai, and most certainly are in a class of their own. Not having the majority of citizen as expats does help in preserving the culture, and it shows how this quite city is certainly the best choice to live in.

I got a panorama shot of Emirates Palace, but unfortunately when developed it didn’t turn out as I had expected (it was too dark for my tastes) but when I go there next time I will make sure to be prepared and bring a tripod =p

Next week I may be off to another Emirate – if I have the cash to do so. Hehe.

You may also want to check out these links:
Storm on Saturn (movie clip)
New ring found on Saturn
Lakes found on the moon Titan
Best life outside Earth may be on Saturn’s moon

trip to Abu Dhabi

I can’t get enough of swings.

little fella’s eaten our breakfast

my and my best friend outside Emirate Palace

one of the main entrances to the palace courtyards

at the stairs of the palace

the palace