I have to climb back from Akabe to Pedra. Puff. I hate at most returning the same road I came on bicycle. The only good thing of this road is its slope. Otherwise, it would be really boring. I train my sights on the point where the slope starts to steepen. Approaching that spot I take a look at the sides of my bicycle. “Is there anything hanging loose, anything to fall down? Let me change the music” …… Good to go… As first leg I climb from 0 to 650 m altitude. Once I stand up on the pedals I only sit once on the saddle or never throughout the climb the bicycle swinging back and forth to the sides. I climb slowly but continually to the first check point on my 60 kg heavy bicycle under 42 degrees centigrade. I’m going to lose my conciousnessssssssss haha. Dude, hurry up to shadow, yallah.
Let’s get some rest at the bus parking area and. By the way, the feast of sacrifice lasting 4 days has started. Let’s see whether someone will invite me during these days? It is October 4th and already hot, 42 degrees centigrade, whoaaa. I wonder in which country I’ll come upon snowy and cold weather again. The water I carry will last till the next gas station where I had a short rest while I was descending, no problem. Right in front of the customs I lay down dog tired till the police officers came to me and started to examine my bicycle asking questions. While we were chatting we heard a loud brake squeak, a car hit the sidewalk, flew through air and struck the ground. Dude, the road is so broad, how come such a high speed? Boo. The police officers ran immediately to the accident scene but I kept sitting. I could see what was happening there from my view point. No need to crowd up. The people came out live from the car and started to tell why and how the accident happened in seconds. Anyway, hope they get well soon.
Honestly, between Akabe Amman along the 335 km ride only two people hosted me and one guy handed me a bottle of water on the road. As I mentioned before, I had expected people would invite me due to sacrifice feast as it was the case in Algeria. But, didn’t come out as I had thought. At the town Ma’an which was on my road I wanted to rest but couldn’t find a hotel. The only one I saw was so bad even a dog wouldn’t stay. I turned to the owner:
“Your country needs the tourism income. Don’t ever try to sell a room at which even an animal won’t stay to the people visiting you country” and left the hotel immediately.
While strolling around in the town a man in front of a grocery store called me. He had seen me on the newspapers: “My store is yours, take whatever you want” At the second day on the road back to Amman and for the first time someone made me an offer. Generally people are very nice but there are also some black sheep among them as in every country.The town is chaotic and very dirty. I guess aside major cities there isn’t any maintenance or restoration. The town Ma’an is one of them situated outside touristic attractions. Meanwhile, teenagers recognizing my bicycle outside the store come to me and ask whether I’m Turk. Replying as yes they immediately ask whether I’m Muslim? No matter I say yes. At the end they don’t believe that I’m a Muslim. I take provisions and exit the city. Taking the direction towards Petra I came upon a huge university campus 10 km outside the city. I asked the attendants at the entrance for permission to camp inside the campus under the trees but they didn’t let me. Just outside the campus there was a big mosque. While looking for the entrance door I came to the back of the building where a group of women and men were eating. As I entered the women got into panic and covered their face with veil. Tut! I would bother these people with my coming in and out. A washed my face and hands at the ablution place and went on my road. Just at sun set I found a suitable camping place 500 m to the right of the road.
Although it was close to Petra the geographical formations and the soil were quite different. A volcanic field instead of soft rock formations. As far as I got from the photos I can say that this resembles the land structure of red planet.
There isn’t any plant in this region but there are some animal farms. But how come the animals feed? During my visit there I learn that all the fodder comes from the agricultural fields on the north of Saudi Arabia. While taking photos of one of these farms a car stopped next to me and the driver asked: “Why are you taking photos of this place?” Although I mentioned that I’m a tourist and a writer they didn’t believe and wanted me to delete the photos… Yes, yes I deleted I said.
While heading towards Petra from Dead Sea I saw two settlements along the shore. Moving further upwards there were villages of which I passed through at most two. There is a third road between Dead Sea and the highway cutting the country from south to north. This road is called King Highway which has been used since the periods of Romans and Nebateans. Taking this road towards Amman I passed two huge valleys with pretty steep climbs having 17% and 20% slopes. I climbed 300 m in altitude within 3 km. One of the slopes was 100 km just before and the other 100 km after the town Kerak.
Along this road it is possible to pass Roman period control posts which had also been used by the Ottomans. But unfortunately nowadays they are leveled to the ground especially ruined by treasure hunters. I entered a grocery close to the Udhruh castle. It was a hot day, time to eat something. The owner learning that I’m Turk:
– Inside the castle ahead we found trinkets, could you take a look whether there are some maybe of Ottoman period?
– I don’t understand much but let’s take a look
They brought a bow with quite a few trinkets. Dude, they really found a lot. But there wasn’t any belonging to Ottomans. If were some must be in such a detail and fineness beyond my knowledge.
I said they all belong to Romans. Of course this information was far from enough for those guys. They asked me why I have come to this region, just in case I know the hideout of Ottoman gold : ) There are efforts to establish a pine forest along this route which seems quite successful.
The biggest problem I faced along this route was always caused by children. Children throwing stones. This did never happen in touristic regions!! Along Dead Sea, Petra, the road and villages along Wadi Rum, the villages and settlements along highway, Amman, Saudi Arabia and Amman-Palestine road you never get stones thrown on you. As soon as you take side roads and enter country roads the problem starts.
In one town I was riding slowly looking around. In a second something hit my bicycle at the back. I lost my balance and fell down. A kid hiding between two parking cars kicked my bicycle and without able to take the cleats off I fell down in the middle of the street. The driver on the other road lane seeing what the kid did, started to follow him. Meanwhile I stood up. The kid entered a building. The shopkeepers around and the driver also entered the building, caught the kid and started to beat him black and blue. I said “don’t do it” but the kid got a real beating. Another day while I was on the road kids sitting on the trailer of a truck throw an apple which hit on my back. In another town I saw the gathered kids on the other end of the street waiting for me. They were collecting stones from around. I stopped and called the kids but they didn’t come to me of course. I asked for help from a villager around who guided me along these kids. Another day they throw a plastic stool at me. I got off my bicycle and tagged them for a while but couldn’t leave my bicycle behind for long in the thought I may not find my bicycle on the way back. I have traveled in so many countries this was the first time happening to me. I did a small sociological study why children throw stones but I need to collect more data in other countries to come to a conclusion. For the time being I’ve only data for Jordan. One day while I was passing through a village climbing up a slope kids started to throw stones at me and thereby yelling. If it would be 2 or 3 children no matter I would continue on my road but this time there were 6 to 7 kids. Some of the stones hit on me and hurt of course. Just at the same moment a car drove towards the kids and scattered them. The driver came to me and apologized in the name of kids. He asked me where I was going and as soon as I mentioned Kerak, he told me not to miss Dana village. He said: “The owner of the Dana Tower Hostel is my brother. It is a very old beautiful village. You must go and visit”. I said alright and he called his brother for some discount. Great, thank you very much I’m changing my direction towards the village.
As I arrived in Dana village I said: “Dude, it’s nice here”, but there was a really crazy climb to reach the village. A 20% slope for 1 km, then an 18% slope down and I have to re-climb this slope on the way back. After all, aside Dead Sea region and the desert at the far east of the country there is no level land. A country with lots of climbs and descends. Either you cry or you have a hell of a time.
While riding towards Dana I thought to stay one night but then stayed for 3 days. It was good to sit at the veranda and fool around. I was told that the village was 1000 years old. USA donated 4 million USD for restoration works. Among people this village is called as Ottoman village but to me this is not true. The owner of Dana Tower Hotel told me that as the Hejaz Railway was still on duty all the wooden parts of the uninhabited houses were used as fuel for the train boilers which passes just 20 km away the village. This could be true, I’m not sure. Due to earthquakes the village was deserted and rebuilt at the mountain skirt. After US donation people started to return to the old village and begun with restoration works. To me, I must admit that the best sun set I saw in this country was here. If one day you happen to go there please send me a photo saying: “Hey, we are here and salute you”. A surprise from me in Amman. : )
The other day on the road I met a shared-taxi driver. As he told he has 4 wives and 24 children 9 of them girls my mouth went o shaped. Asking him “how is your life going on?” he heaved such a deep sigh echoing in the surrounding mountains. Really, throughout the years I’m on road I’d never heaved such a deep sigh, I beg.
Since it was still day time and I came close to Kerak, I intended to stay overnight in a hostel but ramps went on incessantly, up and down, up and down. While I was focused on riding dark clouds covered the sky. I said: “aha, it’s going to rain” It started to shower so soon that I could only have time to wear my jacket. It’s raining cats and dogs but I won’t stop. It stopped raining only after I got soaked to the skin. I could reach at Kerak Castle only after it got dark. Dude, what a climb!! Since I rode in the dark I couldn’t recognize where exactly the castle was situated. Just next to the castle there were 3-4 hotels. I stayed at Kerak Castle Hotel for 15 Dinar. The next day in the morning I went to the castle leaving my bicycle at the hotel.
I had to visit this castle during my tour in Jordan. This castle is frequently mentioned in the movie “Kingdom of Heaven”. In one of the scenes the Muslim and the Christian armies come across in front of this castle. Hah, need to look down at this field from the castle. Actually, I had gone to the castle constructed for this movie in Quarzazate Morocco the biggest open air movie studio.
(Movie set, the fake castle)
Now, let’s visit the real one. Is it worth visiting as it was told and depicted?
The construction of the castle began in 1132 under Pagan butler of Fulk King of Jerusalem. Its situation couldn’t be better. This castle is the third among the biggest in Levant. After a 3 hours visit I must admit that I got really surprised. The agora and the stores are still intact.
There are prayer halls for Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims. The pits in the wall caught my attention while walking around. At some points there are ducts going down to ground and at the ground there are canals on each side of the isles. Since the upper part of the castle was ruined I couldn’t understand for what purpose those ducts served. Outside the castle I asked to an authorized person. The ducts were built to collect rain water. There was a cistern under the castle of 4000 L water capacity. After 883 year there is no construction resembling this application in Jordan! It is almost impossible to occupy this castle. The western and southern walls of the castle stand on steep cliff. The eastern side of the castle controls the pilgrimage roads heading to Mecca. And on the north is a small entrance.
As Ottomans ruled the region an uphill battle took place for this castle. There is a museum near the castle but it was closed at the time I visited the castle. So, I couldn’t visit it. Everywhere in the castle you see relief of yellow wild flower also on the crest of the crusaders of this region. The worst devastation of the castle occurred during Ottoman period done by Ibrahim Pasha told by people.
In the morning after visiting the castle I strolled around in the city and then set off. It was not more than 20 km after the city exit when people called me while I was looking at a village house on the left side. As stopped to take some photos the kids came to me.
While they were saying “Please tea tea” I shot their photos smiling. People were calling me from the house. Well, let’s go and see what’ll happen. The kids look incredibly happy.
Four women and a man took me to the backyard of the house. They offered tea and apologized for not having food. The name of the girl speaking broken English was Melek. She asked me who I’m and I told her, she translating to the people around. The herd keeper got surprised and lost in thought. After each question he was squinting and standing in a brown study. He was trying to understand what I was on. He stood up and looked at the bicycle.
He asked: “Did you cover all the road on this bicycle?” As I replied as yes he squinted again and started to examine the bicycle.
The rush in the house is due to that they want to cook for me but they don’t have enough money to buy goods from the shop. There is also a neighbor at home. I gave some money to them and they went shopping. They bought a big box of goods with that money. Food, fruits, junk food for the sweet kids. Melek’s parents came home at the evening from the hospital. Melek’s mother had some problem at her belly therefore she was going to hospital at certain intervals.
The farm wasn’t belonging to them for which they were paying monthly 100 dinar. In the middle of the field is a huge villa. The family makes income by animal farming. Outside are many sheep, lamb and cows. The mother asks Melek and in turn she to me:
– Don’t you have a family?
– Yes, I have
– Where are they?
– In Turkey
– Well, how come you are here?
I told them what I was doing, what happened and so on.
– Do you have brothers, sisters?
– Yes, I have a brother.
– How old are you?
– Are you married?
– No, not
Dude, what’s going on? Why did this woman started to say “haram”? Why should this be a sin?
– No, aunty this is not haram. Traveling is not a sin.
Afterwards I learned that if you pronounce Haram like her it means “what a pity” in Arabic. Hehehe.
Hehehe Dude, so pigs do fly. Anyway, after this day whenever I get upset I say HARAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMM.
– You are now our guest, our home is yours. You can stay here as long as you want. Muhanned came to my home how can I let him go.
By the way Muhanned is Kivanc Tatlitug (a famous Turkish actor). Since I’m also blue eyed some people call me Muhanned. Anyway, I spent the night at this family and the next day set off early in the morning.
It started to rain again while I came closer to Amman. While I stopped to wear my raincoat kids across the street started to throw stones at me. The house owner hearing that I was shouting at them came out and shouted at kids who disappeared immediately. He invited me to his house and let a meal prepared for me. Bread, olive oil, humus, dates and black tea. Wowww. gooood. A police officer on his rest day. He was spending this day with his child. While we were chatting his father came to us, Muhammed amca. He asked his son who I’m. When I told that I’m Turk he asked me: “Are you Muslim?” I replied as yes. Then he made a long talk to his son who translated halfheartedly to me.
“My father is saying that Islam has deserted this land long ago”. I could ask him why he was thinking like that but I took a swig from my tea and looked at the old men’s face. Silence came. We didn’t speak for a while. We listened to the rain drops and watched outside through the open door. I saw so many things and experienced during this journey that I did understand what this old man wanted to say. When the rain stopped I stood up to set off. The old man tried to put 10 dinar in my pocket while I was preparing my bicycle. I didn’t say no. I bended and kissed him. He said god speed you.
It is really interesting that coming closer to Amman people began to stop and offer water and fruits which wasn’t happening before. While I was climbing a slope near Amman a car stopped in front of me and people inside the car started to record me on video. I looked at their car which had a different license plate, a traveling pair from Bahrain. Mariam and Hussein. Since I was on road I asked them to meet in Amman and have a cup of coffee together in the evening. When we met in the evening they asked me:
– Are you coming to Bahrain?
Honestly, Bahrain is not on my route. Therefore I don’t think to go there but who knows where the road will take me to. We’ll see in the future. These two friends travel around Bahrain and in nearby countries and share their story on the net. They talked about their Saudi Arabia travel and showed photos. They showed me various spots and said: “Gurkan, we were not able to go there, but you have the opportunity to go there”. They talked about the frequency of police controls and about Sunni and Shiite relations. We chatted till the closing time of place we were sitting. We shared so many experiences in those couple of hours. While leaving we hugged each other. I love such moments and such people.
The place I stay is Sydney Hostel. My first day at the hostel. A group of people were sitting and chatting. I joined them. We were talking from here and there. Deana a Chinese world traveler brought a new concept to work at home, work at hostels. She does her job while staying at cheep hostels for a couple of months all over the world and at the same time travels. She was working either in her room or in the lobby her laptop always on her lap. I asked the name of the girl sitting next to me. She said, Canes. Well, upon my question where she was from she answered Turkey. My mouth got o shaped. I stopped speaking in English and asked her in Turkish: “Are you really Turk?” “Yesssss” I would never forget the smile on her face. Canes was the first Turkish traveler I met by chance and strolled around with. I got a rush. She had quitted her job and decided to travel to certain destinations on the world before starting to work again. She was living in Switzerland. During my stay in Amman we were almost every day together visiting museums, the old town, going to cinemas and concerts. We made up a nice group with the others. Also, Dia and Tarik employees of the hostel accompanied us from time to time. Sometimes Tarik cooked for us and we dined all together. Days past fast and after a while the group got separated. I still have contact with them via Facebook. Canes waits for me the next winter to the Swiss Alps. Kismet. We’ll see. : )
During the first days I arrived in Jordan I had stopped at Amman station of Hejaz railway. I was told there that those trains were run for tourists in summer, of course upon payment. What a nice coincidence that Yunus Emre foundation was going to organize “Turkish days” in Amman. They rented this train for a day tour. Wauuu. This is good.
Anyway, Turkish Days lasted for 3 days. Folk dances made a really good performance. Turkish films days were held with Osman Sinav’s causerie. A TRT (Turkish Radio and Television) artist came and gave a concert. A Hejaz Railway exhibition from Eskisehir was displayed. We traveled in the old train.
It was really a nice experience. I won’t say that I didn’t get in an Ottoman train in Hejaz. The governor of Eskisehir and the Major of Kecioren, Ankara with his board were present. Our embassy employees and I were there. But, but Jordanians were absent.
Whyyyyy? Because the company from Ankara organizing this meeting forgot to make necessary advertisements, that is forgot to inform Jordanians. Well, money doesn’t come from their own pocket!! A life of ease. Well, where does all this money come from? Where else, from the Promotion Fund of the Prime Ministry. Don’t ask me, how much was spent for this event. Well, where does the budget for this fund come from? Wait a minute, wait a minute! Before you start to swear let me say that I ate the lunch given, I was hungry. Give your blessing.
What amazing stories… one following the other… Our Embassy has become a second home to me. Our day and night conversations in the security room. Thanks to Ahmet, how much I learned from him. Ayca and Tutku you don’t know how much I’m missing you. But you know, where ever you go I’ll follow you. Hehehe. I hope we meet again somewhere on the road. Halil how much we struggled for the Saudi Arabian visa together, pofff. I had lost my hope. How we got happy as suddenly we received the visa. Nuri and Ecem thanks for nice conversations. Thanks to everybody who invited and hosted me. Really days after days I met so many nice people in Amman.
At both Turkish School and Jordan University I came together with students. I also made some observations about the university and its surrounding. Jordan University has become the best university in the region educating in Arabic language. I got informed that also our Prime Minister Davutoglu studied at this university. I was told that on a web page of university he was shared as the present prime minister of Turkey. There is also a Turkology department in this university. Teachers sent by Turkish National Education Ministry are giving Turkish lectures. It was a nice experience to communicate in Turkish with the students. I also learned that one of our students had recently married paying 10 000 Dinar as pride price.
Anyway, I’ll return to Amman somehow again since I didn’t receive the Saudi Arabia visa yet. I went to the consulate and negotiated again. Visa permission wasn’t given by Saudi Foreign Ministry. Dude, how come? All the documents I handed them didn’t work, no visa! Hummm. Wait. I made a new decision while on the road, since I’m going to visit Israel and Palestine let me get the visa issues for these countries out of my way. I’m sure I’ll sort out the Saudi Arabia visa problem when I turn back. Let’s see what I experience in Israel and Palestine. I went to the Embassy of Israel in Amman. I handed my documents for my world tour and my passport to the officer. It took only 5 minutes for the visa acceptance. I wanted the visa applied on a white paper and not on my passport. Otherwise, I would face problems entering Saudi Arabia. Upon my request the officer said: “Are you going to enter Saudi Arabia?” Saying yes, he told me: “You don’t need such application because you can enter Saudi Arabia with our visa on your passport, there is no problem.” Lol!!. Anyway, better don’t leave it up to chance. Let’s go to Palestine and Israel. I may receive the Saudi Arabia visa till I come back.