Thursday, February 14, 2008
The bus comes, I get a seat, my main pack sits in the middle of the aisle, people stepping over it, and then we’re off. I’d like to be able to tell you about the marvellous scenery along the way, the desert, Wadi Rum etc, but despite the horrifically small leg room available, I slept all but a couple of minutes of the three hour journey. When we arrive, I walk about, trying a couple of hotels until I come across the charmingly-named Cleopetra Hotel! It’s rather faded and run-down, but the people running it are friendly enough and according to their business card they have Indiana Jones! I end up with an en-suite triple (!) room for 13 dinar per night, including breakfast, transfer to the Petra site (which I think is a good walk from town) and a bit of free internet access. It’s more than I was planning to pay, but I doubt I’ll be able to get much cheaper without a fair bit more effort, and for two nights it’s just not worth it. I use the loo and discover that it’s so small and they have left so little space in front of the toilet that when I sit down with knees against the wall I am off the rim at the back! I have to sit side-on to achieve anything!
Downstairs I check my email and drink my “welcome tea” before heading out to wander about town.
Wadi Musa, as this place is called, the town nearest to Petra, is spread out over rocky hills, but is essentially a small town, which I presume exists solely to service the tourism coming here for Petra. There are some bigger chain hotels, like a Marriot, on the other side, but where I am staying is just up from the round-about which seems to be the centre. There are a few banks, ATMs (hallelujiah!), and various shops and restaurants. I think tourism is fairly quiet at the moment, judging by the attention you get from all the restaurant owners.
Here’s the difference between Africa and the Middle East: A little girl was staring at me, so I smiled and waved. She gave me a dirty look and then stuck her tongue out, without a trace of humour! I pick up some shampoo for 2D (I wanted a small bottle of 2 in 1, which I couldn’t find anywhere in Ethiopia), some dates (Egyptian not Jordanian) for 2D (does everything here cost 2D?) and a shwarma wrap from Al Arabia for 1D (I guess not). This was a wrap with chicken shavings cut off one of those rotating stacks, with some veg and spices, then toasted briefly. Very nice, and whets my appetite as I continue my stroll before the sun goes down. There seem to be lots of carpenters in town. My feet are cold!
One of the major advantages of being in the Middle East is Middle Eastern bakeries and sweets. Lower down I find the intriguingly-named Sanabel Automatic Bakery. Automatic? Inside, I discover the meaning of this – they have a machine churning out pitta breads, which drop from the ceiling on to a table in front of a chap who bags up the amount you require. No customers for a moment? He puts them into another bag to be sold later. It’s brilliant, especially the frequency with which it spits them out, one every second or so, and it throws them all over the place, only his quick reactions stopping some from ending up on the floor. What a zany idea! I’ll come back tomorrow for provisions for my Petra jaunt.
So of course, I head back to Al Arabia. Moslef from the hotel has told me to mention he sent me for a discount, but I’m not sure whether this is him just getting brownie points for directing me along there. I take a table then order tea, hummous and an Indian kebab, which the waiter tells me is very spicy, with chillies mixed in with the meat.
Good stuff – chillis are a sensible precaution given that it’s clearly pretty cold here - my room has radiators (not in use I’m sure) and two thick blankets per bed (or six all for me!). The food is very tasty, and I’m plenty full by the end of it when my plates are all clean! Cost – 6D, or about 4 pounds. Definitely more expensive than Ethiopia.
Back at the hotel, it’s early, but what else can one do here? There is alcohol but it’s fairly limited, only available in the larger hotels, of which Cleopetra is not one. I pull off the cover from the bed, then realise that the cover on the pillow doesn’t come off! Eugh.. I use my fleece to provide some sort of protection!
Posted by Sam Crawley at 6:52 am