Taxi to Jerash

After a mosquito bite and leaky bathroom filled night in my tour-recommended (AWFUL) budget hotel in Amman, I found myself with an entire day to explore. My group wouldn’t meet for it’s orientation until 6pm, so at breakfast I met up with two couples, one French and one from the UK (they would be on my tour), who were interested in hopping in a cab with me and heading up the highway 45 minutes to the ancient Greek/Roman city of Jerash. (This is why I love travel so much – you meet great people everywhere!) Anyhoo… Jerash is one of the largest and best preserved ancient sites around and I was itching to see it!

The drive to the site was an interesting expedition in and of itself. All along the freeway we passed “Camel stands” where you could buy fresh Camel Milk… Every so often you would see people with refreshment or snack carts. There were even spice sellers just sitting on the edge of the freeway. If you wanted something, you just pulled over, parked and got out of your car! ON THE FREEWAY! Imagine trying that in the states.

This drive was my first real taste of middle-eastern driving. And at first glance, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the Middle-Eastern style of driving. At all.

It’s a smidge terrifying to anyone accustomed to the Western style of driving. You know. The style where the driver stays within the confines of the lane he’s supposed to be driving in.

Californians pride themselves on being good, defensive drivers. I’ve driven in California, I’ve driven in Boston, I’ve driven in New York City (two of the worst reputed driving places in the States). I do not EVER wish to drive in a Middle Eastern country. Ever. Thank-you-very-much.

In the Middle East, the painted lines on the roads that would tell Westerners “Hi, I’m a lane, I’m what you should be driving in” are more like suggestions for where one could plausibly go if one happens to come across someone else driving along the same road. (Keep in mind, this was a freeway!)

Absolute chaos and utter madness. 
Except, really, it’s not.
Because everyone there drives that way and expects it.
So it’s normal.
For everyone except visitors, who end up cowering in the passenger seats of theirs taxis hoping to not die!

Readers, meet Mohammed (My first Mohammed of the trip… apparently everyone and their second aunt name their child Mohammed in the middle east)

And next, we have the four other passengers along for the taxi ride to Jerash:

And finally, me, wearing a headscarf – my first venture at wearing a headscarf (It was actually pretty great for keeping my hair out of the wind):

For some reason we lived through the drive and made it to Jerash. Which was gorgeous and SO cool. It’s got ancient Greek and Roman origins and you can see the difference in the various styles of building throughout the city.

A group of schoolkids on a field trip. So cute!

A ways into the city I ran into two gentlemen. One late thirties and one in his sixties. They were traveling together and we were traveling the same route through the city. After nearly bumping into each other while taking photos a couple of times, the younger said to me “Well, lets just wander around together so we can take pictures for eachother.” Deal. This arrangement of convenience is something that really ought to happen amongst travelers more often. Except you never know if you can actually trust anyone. But in this instance, I felt comfortable with it, so heck, I went with it.

My new friends, Fadi:

(Yah… its a long shot)

And Mufi:

Fadi and Mufi are from Beirut. That’s in Lebanon. They’re Pharmacists who were guest lecturing in Amman on combating illegal drugs. Pretty interesting. They had a spare day and decided to come to Jerash and meet me.

Well, we had a blast tooling around the city, and it was really nice for me to have a couple of translators that spoke Arabic with the locals and got more back story for us on the place from the locals.

More City photos:

Camel Milk for sale!