After Palmyra it was time to start the second part of my adventures in Jordan. The day spent getting from Palmyra to Jordan was a very special day. Firstly I had not realized that the clocks have gone back one hour. In the confusion I missed my direct bus connection to Damascus. This did present a bit of a problem as my Syrian Visa ran out that day. With time moving on it was back to the bus station to get advice on the best way to Damascus. After a bit of investigation and assistance from the locals, I got a minibus back to Homs. The vast flat barren desert either side of the main road emphasized even more, the essential nature of the oasis towns throughout the desert and what a wonderful place Palmyra is.
On arrival at Homs bus station my plan was to get the next bus to Damascus. This happened sooner than I expected. Whilst getting off my minibus I noticed another bus just leaving. I quickly checked the destination on the front of the bus. Sure enough it was a bus going to Damascus. I managed to stop the bus and get on, discovering to my amazement that there was only one seat left, a seat for me. The next bus interchange was Damascus north. With the help of the very friendly bus driver he pointed me towards a minibus taking me to the Damascus South bus station. This would then take me onwards to Jordan. Time was moving on. However, with a bit more luck I should be in Jordan by the evening.
Soon I was in the southern Syrian town of Dera stood next to a big American car and the most relaxed and chilled out taxi driver I have ever met. The border crossing took a while in the growing dusk as night fell. However, the taxi driver was very reassuring at all times and even managed to smuggle in 200 cigarettes without anyone noticing. Despite the car being searched meticulously for half an hour.
After another minibus journey I finally arrived in Irbid, very late in the evening at the hotel al-Wahadat al-Arabiyya. After a great meal cooked by the hotel owner, it was time for a very very well earned sleep. What a magical day.
Already Jordan feels different to Syria. It is more affluent. One thing that has not changed is the continuation of rich historical locations and architecture. The first of these was Qala’at ar-Rabad. A wonderful Islamic castle set high on a hill overlooking the Jordan Valley that protected them against crusader invasion. The view of the gently undulating semi-cultivated valley floor below was magnificent.
Before I got to Amman I had a day to explore Jerash. It is one of the best-preserved Roman provincial cities in the Middle East. With a forum, temples, churches and colonnaded streets I was in my element. So well preserved is the site, similar to Apamea in Syria. My mind wandered and thought about all the people that would have inhabited this city. The noise, smell and general hubbub of Roman life.
No trip to Jordan would be complete without a float (definitely not a swim) in the Dead Sea. Book in hand, I floated on the very very salty water. Very relaxing. What I hadn’t accounted for, was the need to shower as soon as I came out, as the salt became very itchy very quickly.
One more bus journey and I was in Amman. To soak up some cosmopolitan atmosphere.