And pretty bloody conservative too - Jordan!
We decided to keep our time in Amman short, based on various peoples moans and recommendations. Found a cheap room (by Jordanian standards) and set up a base, covered the floor with our stuff and made it messy enough so that it felt homely. Our first full day we took a walk around the city, spending most of the morning (early afternoon) looking for a bank that would accept our cards, and having found one we stood and pondered for quite some time what else there was to do. The Planet was back at the hotel so we tried to follow the 'discover the city for yourself' tactic so expounded within the guidebooks (they know that we hate them), but to no avail. We wandered high and low and stumbled across several tourist sights, all of which were intending to charge us extortionate amounts to go in and none of which seemed worth it. We climbed a hill and got to the city's citadel, but as we arrived the hour struck 6 and it immediately closed. We tried hopping over the fence but were caught by the po-po and so were ousted. They didn't have guns, yet were somehow more threatening than the Syrian tourism-guards. It was probably their matching clothes, which at least gave some vague suggestion of organisation. Having neither the energy nor the resources to attempt a subtle break-in under close supervision, we decided to retire to an internet cafe. The trouble with the currency was that 1 dinar was equal to 1 GBP, yet it was split into 1000; the coins were then 1/2, 1/4 as well as 10 and 5. But 10 wasn't 10, I think it was 1/10, or 100. Either way, we on several occasions ended up spending about 1 JD for a can of coke before realising later that it probably wasn't the best way to keep under budget. Nor was my plan to buy a baby duck from a pet shop and take it with us to the sea, but after about 20 minutes deliberation it was decided that it was more likely to die with us than in a cage so reluctantly I agreed not to home him. The best thing in the entire city was, no doubt, a small cafe we discovered on the way towards the centre. They had the standard chicken-grilling vending-machine-style contraption yet here the smell was so good that our stomachs forced us to settle down and get something. One whole chicken, 4 JD. Fantastic hummus, spicy, great texture, exactly the kind of stuff that I'd had a craving for for about 3 months before we even started the trip. Over our 2 day stay in Amman, we must have eaten about 5 chickens altogether. Yummy.
Enough with Amman, let's go to the Dead Sea. Our driver told us about his brother who was a banker, and upon learning that we were British showed us his CV and phoned him up with the intention of us helping him out with finding a job in a London bank, but presumably his brother told him to stop being stupid so the conversation never reached us. It was wildly hot when we arrived, completely sweltering. It was difficult to walk even a short distance without becoming exhausted, drenching your t-shirt in sweat and the pondering the real question of whether you will die of dehydration or skin cancer. The Sea itself was amazing, it glistened like nothing else I'd ever seen, almost like a huge pool of glitter. There was barely any wind so most of the time it was completely flat, and the hills of eretz could be easily seen, only a few kilometers away. The hotels each cost about 100 dinar for each night, spa and pool and this and that included - we did a recon and of course, it was solely middle aged overweight foreigners enjoying the benefits of the beach - and so of course we set up the tent. What a great spot we found, about 10 yards from the water's edge, shaded and camouflaged by trees, far away from the road, next door (with an easy sneak-in entrance) to the private beach, and best of all there was endless rows and rows of glorious firewood. Planks and planks and logs and twigs and everything Ray Mears could dream of. In the evenings it was still so warm that even a t-shirt was unwanted, and as a result the fires were literally just to give us light and send smoke signals to the Pally's on the other shore.
We spent a day being leisurely on our neighbouring beach, two pools, showers, mud and an all-you-can-eat restaurant. We spent literally hours there, bobbing around in the sea (technically lake) and discussing whether it was worse to get the water in your eyes or your mouth, followed by a shower and a dip in the pool, or some sunbathing. Someone said that it was up to 38 °C which is easily believable, though it necessitated frequent and expensive ice creams and water. Swimming's fun was minimised after I broke my nose - it looked great in front of all the horrified tourists, grinning and covered with blood - so spent of the rest of the evening measuring the swell on the loungers before investing in the restaurant - it was also expensive and so paced ourselves tactically, finishing off with about 6 plates of food and desert each. We filled ourselves so another trip to the faraway shop was rendered unnecessary, and then set off the next morning (early afternoon).
We could have done Petra, but at $50 it just didn't seem worth it. Granted it seems equally not worth it to come all the way out here and not go and see it, yet at the cost of a week's food and with travel costs on top, the decision was already made for us before we knew about it. So instead we took a huge, totally southerly road all the way to the furthest tip of Jordan, just before it becomes Saudi. What a great drive, desert on both sides with raging mountains behind, Israel's and Jordan's totally indistinguishable with the remnants of the Dead Sea in between and then nothing but black dunes and straggly plants. Palmyra stand aside, this is the real desert. From our hotel window, you could see both Israel and Egypt, and we were only about 20km from the Saudi border. The temperature throughout had already been stupidly hot but this took it to another level. 43 °C was the figure quoted by taxi drivers, and whatever it was we were literally incapable of doing anything at any respectable speed, being forced to take regular and long breaks in our room just lying in our underwear with the air-con blasting away and the fan on. Even the wind was blazingly hot - it was like the rush of air you get when you open an oven door, yet you can't duck away from it. For some reason, though, the entire town was filled with tourists. It was certainly quite a wealthy spot yet we couldn't discern any real touristic value except for its proximity to all the other countries. Either way, two more days spent there and we were shocked at how quickly Jordan had swallowed all of our money - dollars included - so we resolved to get out as quickly as possible. Wadi Rum will have to be left behind, we headed for the port on the morning of our third day (actual morning this time) only to find out that, hey presto, it was the only day that a ferry for Egypt wasn't leaving. Well, suggested the taxi driver, why not go over land through Israel? Why not, we thought, as we instructed him - "to the frontier!"