I’ve had this draft since three years ago, in 2015, and I never finished it. Here it is as I wrote it back in November 2015, while I was still on this trip….

Oh Amman – I only wish that I had been feeling better when I returned to your sweet, somewhat smoggy embrace. The previous night had been hectic – Caitlin’s blog entry here sums up the almost-stolen-backpack and lost-debit-card stories – but I was overjoyed to learn that the newfangled “Jordan Pass” worked exactly how it was advertised. Jordan has doubled the cost of the tourist visa since the last time I was there in 2012. It started at 10 dinar when I lived in the country, then became 20 dinar in 2012, and now it’s 40 dinar. The tourism industry must really be hurting in the country for the price to have shot up that much, that fast. However, the Jordan Pass and its magic QR code – you don’t even need to print it, the website said! Just show the code on your phone! – promised to get you into the country for 70JD, negate the need to purchase a visa separately, and then also get you into Petra for a day, too. Since Petra now costs a whopping 50JD by itself (it was 21 when I lived there!) I’m sure you can do the math – 50+40 equals a 20 dinar savings by just buying the Jordan Pass, and that’s not even counting all the other museums and more “minor” attractions that the Pass grants you free admissions to.

However, after frequent runarounds and lost paperwork at various esoteric Jordanian ministries, I was a bit leery about the nation’s sudden enthusiastic usage of QR codes and smartphones. I opted to print out my Jordan Pass, and as the four of us stood in line in Queen Alia Airport’s beautiful new terminal, I fervently hoped that my piece of paper and my three friends’ phone screens would be enough to get past the bored looking customs and security officers. We hadn’t exchanged any money into dinars yet, and I didn’t know where anything was in this new terminal. I fired up my rusty Arabic skills for the first time to shmooze and charm my security agent and told him that I had the Jordan Pass printed out (“No problem, give it here,”) but that my three friends, who didn’t speak any Arabic, only had it on their phone screens. “No problem, that is fine,” was the reply. I almost couldn’t believe it. Modern-ish technology working on the first time? He scanned my QR code with his phone, which had a little black plastic case on it that emitted red light. It beeped, his phone screen showed a green check mark, and I was waved through. Well hello, Jordan!

A second pleasant surprise was at a newly-created “taxi stand” that merely asked us where in Amman we were going to, asked me for 20 dinar, and then tore off a receipt. A young man (who then wanted a tip, which is definitely not normal in tip-less Jordan) escorted us to a taxi, we tossed our bags in, and off we went. In every previous airport arrival, I shunned the obnoxious taxi drivers and their overpriced, unregulated taxi fee to use the 7 dinar bus instead. We’d already agreed that for four of us, a taxi would be more economical but I was very happy to see that I didn’t need to deal with haggling over prices and meter usage this time. Well done again, Queen Alia!

The 45 minute drive from the airport to First Circle was surprisingly…damp looking. The air was cool and moist and the road was slicked with water. Our driver informed us that a massive rainfall had hit the region just last week. In the desert, in a poor country, civil engineers didn’t plan for flood-level rains and unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened in some of Amman’s numerous valleys and low spots. The floods had even killed some people, I heard, who lived in basement apartments. Global climate change is going to be making things more and more strange as the years go on, I’ll wager. The taxi driver attempted to engage me in Arabic conversation, as he could tell that I was trying to use it, but I remembered enough Arabic to tell him that he’d have to speak extremely slowly with simple words in order for my aged brain to understand it.

We arrived at the First Circle, and after a few panicked minutes trying to find it, finally saw a sign on the second story of a large building I’d walked past many times. We checked in, I published my previous Istanbul-related blog entry, and we got a bite to eat. By this point, my Istanbul-related illness was causing me to cough and sneeze ceaselessly so Kate and I called it a night, and left the newlyweds to continue their meal at a conveniently-located (and surprisingly still open) sports bar located just across the street from Antika’s building.

The next morning, Caitlin and I ventured out so I could view my beloved city in the daylight – and also to find cough medicine. I had almost forgotten that Jordanian law apparently(?) forbids grocery stores and little convenience stores (dukkans) from selling medication of any variety – luckily the hotel owners were relaxing at a little table next to the check-in desk and reminded me that I’d only find medicine at a pharmacy. The very first word in Arabic I ever learned to recognize by sight was “Saidahleeh” – صيدلية – because you see them pretty much everywhere. We found one within minutes and I loaded up on pseudofed-filled medicine. This British medicine, “Lim-Sip” is like tea, except with all the cold-killing power of a psuedofed pill! I’m glad I brought some back to the States with me.

For our first meal in Jordan, we checked out my favorite local cheap spot – Abu J’bara. Bowls of fatteh, baba ganoosh, hummous and of course my favorite – their fuul, which is the best I’ve ever had anywhere. My friends finally knew what I was talking about when I reminisce about it! It was chillier than expected, unfortunately, and we went back to the hotel to don our windbreakers before making the half hour hike to the duty free shop to get our cheap Amstel beer, whiskey, and in my case, Araq anis-based liquor. It’s not the prettiest of hikes down Zahran street – and since I was coughing whenever the slightest irritant entered my throat, I brought an air filter to wear over my nose and mouth. I’m sure I looked pretty lame but after memorable bike trips up and down that street, I knew pollution would be bad.

The story continues at Tastiest of Noms….