STEPPING INTO THE PAST, CHAPTER 9:  IN WHICH OUR FAITH IS RESTORED

Days 39-43:  Israel to London to Home.  If one wanted to devise the perfect antidote to Israeli rudeness, you couldn't do much better than hanging out among the British for a few days.  When we decided to take our leave of Israel early, we just tacked on the extra days to our stop in London.  We were glad we did.  It was so refreshing and restorative to be treated kindly and respectfully.

Rain was in the forecast at least part of the day for most of our time in London, but since we were in a winding down mode on our way home, it suited us perfectly.  In fact, a solid morning of downpour on Wednesday afforded our first opportunity to have our clothes mechanically washed in 40 days.  After six weeks of hand washing, we were giddy over the prospect of putting our laundry in a machine to wash and then transferring it to a tumble dryer, a rarity in Europe, where they're considered energy hogs.  (Yes, we booked a room in a Residence Inn exactly for this amenity.)

In addition to wandering around London, our primary excursion was a train trip to Cambridge, sixty miles north.  We've had the city and its Uni rival Oxford on our list for a while and thought we might visit both.  But the weather dictated differently, and we prioritized Cambridge because we recently learned that our brother-in-law's father, a casualty of World War II, was buried in an American military cemetery there.
Cambridge American Cemetery   (photo from Wikimedia)
Once the United States entered World War II, American forces streamed into Britain.  Over the course of the war, more than 3 million Americans were stationed in the UK at one time or another, fighting and dying alongside their British allies.  In 1943, the University of Cambridge donated a 30-acre plot of land for a temporary cemetery to shelter the remains of United States soldiers who lost their lives in battle.

At the close of the war, the British government authorized the use of this land as a permanent burial ground for Americans whose lives were sacrificed in the war.  Many who had been temporarily interred in other parts of the country were transferred to the Cambridge cemetery before its official dedication in 1956.  In addition to the 3,800 buried there, a 500-ft wall memorializes more than 5,100 additional Americans who were Missing in Action, Lost or Buried at Sea.  Included among these is Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., brother of the late President, who was lost at sea in his first mission as a bomber pilot.
Wall of the Missing
When we asked Suzie, the visitor center associate on duty, to help us locate the grave of Sgt. Adams, she could not have been kinder.  Extending the warmest sympathy, she located the needed information and asked whether we wanted the grave to be "dressed."  Unsure what that meant, we responded affirmatively since it was clear from her tone that it was a way of honoring our niece and nephew's grandfather.  She excused herself and returned with a silver bucket containing a number of items.
Suzie dressing the grave
As she guided us to the burial spot, eight landscapers who had been mowing and trimming nearby immediately halted their work and extended their respect by standing quietly by.  Suzie gave us the opportunity to take a couple of photos of the marker before she removed a small container of sand from her bucket.  Meant to fill the letters of the engraving so that the name and other information stand out clearly, sand offered a temporary, harmless solution which will wash away in the next rain with no damage to the marble headstone.  Significantly, the sand used by the cemetery for this purpose is brought from Omaha Beach, the section of Normandy Beach where so many Americans lost their lives in the name of freedom.
The effect was remarkable.
After wiping away the excess sand, Suzie planted small American and British flags beside the marker.  The flags had been used to decorate graves in the cemetery during a Memorial Day ceremony.  Having completed her part, she left us there to reflect.  Not until we walked away from the grave and back toward the visitor center did the landscaping team resume their work.  When we returned, we checked out the excellent exhibits in the center and Suzie presented a packet of information and the flags to deliver to Sgt. Adams' 98-year-old widow in Georgia.

Although this was a unique situation with an extraordinarily compassionate person, it was typical of the experiences we had in our four days in and around London.  Not once were we pushed or shoved, even in jam-packed rush hour Tube stations and trains.  Never were we made to feel unwelcome.  In fact, people eagerly engaged with us, even if just driving our taxi or selling us tickets.  And always, people seemed glad to assist if we asked a question.  It was just the reassurance we needed.

By the time we left the cemetery, rain was threatening again, so our visit to the university campus in Cambridge was cut short.  We saw just enough to whet our appetite for more and give the city a priority position on our next visit to the UK, along with Oxford.
The Bridge of Sighs at St. John's College, said to be a favorite spot of Queen Victoria
St. John's College Chapel
Main gate of St. John's College
Front court, King's College
Mathematical Bridge, Queen's College, with a rare geometric trussing technique
Ending our trip in London wasn't exactly intentional.  Though we do enjoy the city, we were just passing through because the cheap tickets we booked were between Atlanta and Heathrow.  Yet it turned out to be the perfect place to end this journey and restore our faith in our fellow humans and in travel.  

TUESDAY, 7 MAY—SATURDAY, 11 MAY, 2019
Chapter 9 Stats
    •  Started in:  Jerusalem, Israel
    •  Ended in:  Atlanta, USA
    •  Air Miles:  6,566
    •  Rail & road Miles:  214
    •  Foot Miles:   32.42
    •  Weather:  41° to 63°, rain, partly cloudy, cloudy, more rain, sunny
    •  Subway capacity at rush hour:  136%
    •  What we could buy with the cash saved from last trip:  nothing
    •  Colleges at University of Cambridge:  31
    •  Rude people we encountered:  0
Loved:  Being treated as valuable human beings.

Lacking:  
Sunny weather and more time to explore.

Learned:  Our visit was a great reminder of how much we enjoy traveling in the United Kingdom.  We will return there soon.
Our habit of taking home extra cash for a head start fell through when new notes were issued.
We had to go to the Bank of England to exchange them for currency with more currency.
These bold starlings tried to steal a snack out of my hand.  Obviously not British. 
Definitely not rush hour at King's Cross station 
Chapel at Cambridge American Cemetery
Eagle pub in Cambridge where researchers announced their discovery of how DNA carries genetic information
We checked out the Canary Wharf area, a financial center where niece Karoline will work next month.

STEPPING INTO THE PAST, CHAPTER 8:  IN WHICH WE LEARN ABOUT CHANGE

Days 32-38:  Jordan to Israel.  After our extreme security experience in Amman and what we had read (and experienced in our 1979 visit) regarding the infamous thoroughness of Israeli scrutiny of visitors, we approached passport control with dread after landing in Tel Aviv.  It turned out that our concerns were completely unfounded.  The affable Israeli immigration agent was friendly and joked with us about his time spent in Atlanta working for a moving company.  He stamped our immigration cards, returned our passports and sent us on our way.

Incredibly that's all there was to it.  We kept waiting for the other security shoe to drop, but we were unhindered as we went to pick up a rental car and drive away to begin our Israeli road trip.  On our previous visit forty years ago, we had moved around the country using public transportation—mostly a lot of intercity buses.  Since our comfort level with foreign travel has grown and the Israeli road system has been modernized in the intervening years, this time, we opted to drive ourselves.
Since Israel lacks the narrow country lanes common in Europe, we were able to rent a compact SUV.
On our 1979 visit, we hit all the tourist highlights:  Tel Aviv beaches, Masada's ancient fort, the Dead Sea swim, Safed's artist colony, Jerusalem's Old City, Galilee villages of Capernaum and Tiberias, and numerous sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Though it had been a while, we didn't expect these sites to have changed much, so they did not make the cut for our itinerary.  Instead, we decided to follow the path less traveled, affording us the opportunity to see some new places and avoid the tourist hordes.

Our original plan called for spending nine days in Israel, but we left two days early.  In our seven long days there, we encountered a range of experiences vastly different from our 1979 visit.

The Good

National Parks
In an area about the size of New Jersey, Israel has preserved more than 50 localities as national parks, from historic sites to settings of natural beauty.  Quite a few of these made their way onto our agenda.  In the far north, on he slopes of snow-capped Mount Hermon, we started with Nimrod Fortress National Park.  Built in the early 1200s to defend the road from Damascus to the Mediterranean, the fortress followed the topographical conditions of the area.
Its position along a cliff made Nimrod Fortress almost impregnable.
On a high hill south of the Sea of Galilee, Belvoir National Park protects another impressive ancient stronghold, this one constructed in the 12th century by the Knights Hospitallers (yes, the same order of Crusaders whose history we encountered in Cyprus and Malta).  The building stones and bedrock foundation of the fortress were basalt, an immensely strong volcanic rock, making it the perfect citadel for the final holdout of Crusaders in the area known as the Holy Land.
Belvoir basalt has stood the test of time.
Protected by a 65-ft wide dry moat, Belvoir fortress withstood an 18-month siege in which the opposing Arab army was able to undermine only one tower.  But the prolonged attack had done its job.  Isolated and without supplies, the defending knights surrendered in 1189, restoring Muslims to military power in the area.
Most scrolls were hidden in the cave at the lower left.
Having seen the Dead Sea Scrolls in a Jerusalem museum on our previous visit, this time we wanted to check out the spot where they were found, now protected in Qumrun National Park.  In 1952, a Bedouin shepherd discovered seven scrolls housed in jars in a cave north of the Dead Sea.  Archaeologists subsequently uncovered and reconstructed numerous other ancient manuscripts dating to the 4th century BC in various caves in the area.
Ruins at Avdat National Park
Like other areas we've visited on this trip into the past, the roots of history run deep in Israel.  Avdat National Park preserves the ruins of an ancient Nabatean settlement along the famous Incense Route. The same nation that built their opulent capital at Petra in Jordan constructed a series of way stations, fortresses and towers to offer protection to traders and their caravans on this lucrative trade route.  Avdat was station #62 on this route from the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD.
A model on site shows the layout of the ancient city of Beersheba.
Like Avdat, Tel Beersheva National Park is located in the Negev Desert in southern Israel.  Artifacts found at the site indicate that it was occupied as early as 4000 BC.  The city was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries, as layers of ruins attest.  This was the site of the biblical city of Beersheba.
Gravesite of David Ben Gurion and his wife Paula
Though not a national park, another site which we found fascinating was the former desert home of Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, in the town of Sde Boker.  His gravesite is nearby at the university that bears his name.  Though an important national hero and revered statesman, Ben Gurion stated in his will that, after his death, he wanted his humble two-bedroom home open to the general public, preserved as it was when he lived there.  He stated further, "I ask that during [my] burial ceremony no eulogies will be read and no salvo fired over my grave."

Comparing Israel's size with Georgia
Compact Size
Thanks to its modest size—70 miles wide at its widest point by 200 miles long—Israel is easy to navigate efficiently.  In fact, there are few places that can't be visited in a day trip from Jerusalem in the center of the country.  Driving from the lush agricultural fields of the north to the dry and barren deserts in the south can be done in little more than an hour.  This made it easy to check out a plethora of the country's fascinating archaeological and natural sites in the week we spent there.

Excellent Infrastructure
Based on our experience with narrow, twisting European roads, often with little or no right of way and stone walls built at the edge of the roadway, we typically rent cars much smaller than our vehicles at home.  In Israel, however, roads are more like those found in the North America—modern design, wide lanes, and well maintained.  
Roadside light poles all sported zebra stripes near their bases, making them more noticeable.
Plumbing in Israel, we're happy to report, was also equivalent to Western standards.  Unlike some of the other countries we've visited on this trip (yes, you too, Greece), we saw no restroom signs indicating that toilet paper could not be flushed and should be dropped in the waste can provided.  Nor did we see any squat toilets.

The Bad

The Heat
Yes, we do realize that a large swath of the south of Israel is covered by desert.  And yes, we do remember the oven-baking experience of spending ten July days in Israel in '79.  But we were still caught by surprise when the temperature climbed to 100° on May 2.  With no shade in sight, of course.
The canyon at Makhtesh Ramon
Weekly Easter
We have written often of stumbling upon one Easter holiday after another when traveling, usually involving three to four days of store, museum, and other closures, leaving us a bit adrift in terms of finding meals and activities.

Though Israel is technically not a theocratic state, there is no question that its ultra-Orthodox minority wields disproportionate control over the secular majority, thanks to the vagaries of coalition building in a parliamentary government.  As a result, most restaurants, stores, and other businesses, as well as all public transportation, close a few hours before the beginning of the Jewish sabbath (sunset Friday) and remain closed several hours after the holy day ends at sunset on Saturday.  For visitors who don't know this ahead of time, life can be a bit challenging.
Most tour buses per capita in the world?  We wondered.
Excess Tourism
As a place dear to the hearts of adherents of three major Western religions, Israel attracts almost 4 million tourists annually.  At least a third of these come on large, organized tours, meaning they're moving about the country in packs on tour buses.  All these tourists also have helped to drive up prices at Israeli hotels.  In fact, prices in general tend to be higher in Israel.  We paid the highest price for gasoline on this trip in Israel, an average of $9.56 per gallon.

The Ugly

Security Threats
While we were staying in the south, rockets were launched at Israeli targets from the Gaza Strip, more than 600 over a two-day period.  The morning after the attacks began, we were advised by the owner of the vacation rental where we were staying to take an easterly route on our way north to Jerusalem, rather than driving through the area beset by attacks.  Until Israel and its neighbors are able to reach some accord, these types of incidents are always an imminent possibility.

Gratuitous Disrespect
What really grated the most when we visited Israel was the barrage of rudeness and disrespect we encountered.  We experienced it from hoteliers—repeatedly—, in public places, and especially on the road.  Queue jumping seems to be the national sport as Israelis have no regard for the rights of others who have stood in line before them.  When people blow off scheduled meeting times, they laugh off the fact that you have been waiting and shrug, "It's Israeli time."
Clearly not a place one should speed through
And for some reason, Israeli drivers tend to be aggressive to the point of bullying.  As we neared a police checkpoint with signage clearly indicating we should approach with caution, a truck driver behind us blasted his horn repeatedly to insist that the driver of what was a clearly marked rental car rush past the armed soldiers to save this trucker a few seconds.
Even bus drivers don't hesitate to tailgate.
In the end, the rudeness was like an abrasive sandpaper that wore us down to the point we decided to depart early.  Are we so sensitive that we had our feelings hurt?  No, but the lack of common courtesy and disregard of personal space did get tiresome.  And at the bottom line, we decided we'd rather spend our money somewhere we were treated with respect and didn't have to battle for fair treatment.

When we went Israel in 1979, people were friendly and seemed to appreciate our visiting. Availability of English speakers was fairly widespread, and people would try to help us whether they spoke our language or not.  Forty years later, our experience was quite different. Back then, when we were standing on a street corner looking at a map, locals would stop and ask if we needed help.  Today if we stopped on a sidewalk to consult a map, we'd probably be shoved out of the way.  And now we're told that visitors are being rude if they approach a local and waste his or her time asking for assistance.

Israel, you need not worry.  We certainly won't bother you again.

TUESDAY, 30 APRIL—MONDAY, 6 MAY, 2019
Chapter 8 Stats
    •  Started in:  Amman, Jordan
    •  Ended in:  Jerusalem, Israel
    •  Air Miles:  70
    •  Road Miles: 888
    •  Foot Miles:  38.56
    •  Weather:  63° to 100°, sunny, hazy, partly cloudy
    •  Beware of Camels roadside signs:  137
    •  Camels:  1,145
    •  Tour buses:  1,794
    •  Stores open on Friday afternoon/Saturday:  5%
    •  Bugs hitting windshield:  37,902
    •  Courteous drivers:  1%

Loved:  That there were plenty of interesting sites to visit away from the tourist hot spots.

Lacking:  
Speed limit signs.  Rarely was the speed limit posted, so we were left to just guess.

Learned:  Even though much of our trip has focused on history thousands of years old, we learned that a lot can change in just 40 years.
Airing pillows and linens in the the old town of Acre 
Acre's busy old town market
Haifa's beautiful Ba'hai Gardens
We've seen lots of hooded crows on this trip.  Their call is identical to the ones more familiar in North America. 
Camel riding opportunity at a rest area.  (Note the graphic stop sign.)
Modern tools for date farming
Ein Avdat National Park, a spring in the Negev Desert 
Had a great visit with Ken's college roommate, Jeff, and his wife Diane in Jerusalem.
The perfect metaphor:  an unstaffed Information desk at the main Jerusalem train station.

Best Clock of the Trip
At the Ben Gurion Airport, we saw the coolest digital/video clock ever, sponsored by a local car rental company.  It takes up an entire wall.  Check it out herehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMzfX3kUe4U.


STEPPING INTO THE PAST, CHAPTER 7:  IN WHICH WE RECONSIDER OUR IN-TENT-IONS

Days 25-31:  Barcelona to Jordan.  Though we subsequently learned that Jordan has a lot to offer beyond its well-known rose red city, there's no doubt that the opportunity to visit Petra was what put Jordan on our agenda for this trip.  Since Petra's carved sandstone facades were featured as the site where Indiana Jones found the Holy Grail in the 1989 blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, tourism to the site has grown steadily.  Being selected as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in a global voting campaign in 2007 further stimulated the flow of visitors.
Obelisk tomb.  Bottom floor had banquet hall where the family held annual feast to honor the dead.
Petra was founded around the 4th century BC as the capital of the Nabataen kingdom.  This ancient Arab state amassed prosperity and power through their strategic location along major trade routes.  Gaining control of the lucrative incense trade made them wealthy, and that status was reflected in their beautiful capital city.
Arriving early allowed us a view of the Treasury without hundreds of people present.
The iconic image most people associate with Petra is the so-called Treasury, undoubtedly the most spectacular and dramatic monument remaining from the Nabataean period.  With the height of a 12-story building, the structure is actually a mausoleum, probably the burial place for a Nabataean king.  Its familiar name stems from a local Bedouin legend that the king hid a treasure in the urn at the top, which is pitted with bullet holes left by would-be grave robbers attempting to retrieve the mythical riches.
The main street through the city (gate at end) was once lined with tall columns.
At its peak, Petra was home to about 20,000 people.  In the second century AD, Nabataeans were conquered by Rome and the opening of sea routes undermined their trading dominance.  After an earthquake destroyed many buildings in 363, the city's population dwindled to a small group of nomads.  The once flourishing powerful city faded into oblivion until it was 'rediscovered' in 1812 by a Swiss traveler and geographer who disguised himself as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city.
Carriage and horseback rides through Petra are offered by Bedouin vendors.
After the Swiss explorer wrote about his experience, Petra gained fame in the West as a beautiful  rose-colored city of antiquity.  In 1985, Petra was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, prompting the Jordanian government to negotiate an agreement with the Bidoul Bedouin people who inhabited the caves at the ancient settlement.  They were allowed exclusive rights to the tourism business in Petra in exchange for resettling in a town a few miles from the site.  A few years later, Harrison Ford came by with his film crew and Petra sealed a spot on the tourism map.
The siq leading to the ancient city is reminiscent of slot canyons in Arizona and Utah.
From the entrance area, visitors walk about a mile through a wide valley to the siq, a natural geological fault split apart by tectonic forces.  At the end of a three-quarter-mile narrow passage, the siq opens up onto the Treasury.  We opted for an early start, arriving at Petra around 6:15 to avoid the heat and thousands of cruise ship passengers who visit by bus from Aqaba.  By the time we walked the main path through the tombs, temples and monuments carved into pink sandstone cliffs and returned to the parking area four hours later, we had amassed 6.5 miles on our daily fitness goal.
Donkeys bear goods for vendors set up on the stairway to the Monastery.
One place we did not visit was the Monastery, Petra's largest monument, dating from the 1st century BC.  We had planned to try climbing the 850 steps to the top, but after seeing how treacherous some of them were, realizing we had to share the steps with donkeys hauling goods and visitors up and down, and assessing our fatigue level and what we had already seen, the decision to bypass the climbing opportunity was an easy one.

Although we recognized our limits at Petra, we failed to comprehend what we had planned at another Jordanian site we had read much about—Wadi Rum.  In the far south of Jordan, Wadi Rum is a desert valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock.  Inhabited for many centuries by a variety of cultures which left their marks in the form of petroglyphs and rock paintings.
It's in the middle of the desert.  How do we get there?  (photo from booking.com)
Like Petra, the area became known after it appeared in several movies, often used to represent a Martian landscape.  Local Bedouins have created a tourist industry for visitors who want to explore the area with camping retreats and popular activities like rock climbing, 4x4 safaris, and horseback or camel riding among the massive rock formations.

Naively sitting in our suburban home in Georgia, we conducted lots of research on the "luxury" camps available and carefully read dozens of reviews of the forty-something options.  We hand-picked a camp with private tents (pictured above), each with its own bathroom.  Information sent to us after reserving our tent indicated the camp was 12 miles into the desert from Wadi Rum Village, and that someone would meet us in the town upon our arrival and provide directions to the camp.
Our transportation options
Driving to Wadi Rum, we watched miniature dust devils kicking up sand along the roadside.  Outside the car at the visitor center, we were assailed by blowing sand stirred up by the wind.  Only when we arrived in the village and found the office for the camp did we learn that we had only two options for transportation to the camp.  Rather than driving there in our rental car, which we had understood from the communications we received, we could ride a camel or in a jeep.  The jeep sounded fine until we learned a new definition for jeep—sitting on a bench on the back of a pickup truck with all our belongings, while everything (including us) became coated with dust on a 12-mile ride across the sand (and back the next day).  And, by the way, it was 85° and the goat-hair tent had no air conditioning.
Our Chevy Aveo rental and a local worker in Wadi Rum Village
That's when we came face to face with where our needs stood on the scale between comfort and adventure.  We dutifully paid the bill for the tent ($84) since we were cancelling last minute, drove south 35 miles to Aqaba on the Red Sea coast and paid way too much for an executive suite (only room available) in a luxury seaside resort.  And we were happy to do it.  No sand in our clothes, hair, ears, or belongings, and we liked it.
Hadrian's Arch, Jarash.  Central passage for chariots, sides for pedestrians (one for nobles, one commoners.)
Though Petra and Wadi Rum are the best known Jordanian sites on the tourist map, they are certainly not all there is to see.  Just 30 miles north of the capital city of Amman is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jarash, a location with a chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years.  Lying on a plain surrounded by hilly wooded areas, the city of Jarash was built by Alexander the Great around 331 BC.  Standing at the crossroads of trade and communications and with an abundance of natural resources, the city grew rapidly.  And like the rest of this part of the world, it was ruled over time by a variety of empires.
Original paving stones of the main thoroughfare were rutted by chariots that once jostled along them.
Conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, Jarash came under Roman rule and became one of the ten great cities of the Roman Decapolis League, with imposing ceremonial gates, colonnaded avenues, baths, great theaters and temples, and a population of 20,000.  Like Petra, Jarash began to decline when overland trading routes were supplanted by shipping to transport commerce.
The South Gate of Jarash, one of four along the city wall.
Though the city had a brief period of rejuvenation after the Muslim conquest reached the area in the 7th century AD, Jarash was destroyed in 749 by a series of earthquakes.  By the time Crusaders came to the area in the 1100s, using some of the ancient ruins as a fortress, they described Jarash as abandoned and uninhabitable.
The Roman forum, unusual for its oval shape and huge size (300 x 260 ft)
No further mention of Jarash was recorded until its rediscovery in 1806 when a German traveler came across and recognized a small part of the ruins.  The ancient city had been buried in sand, accounting for the remarkable preservation of some of its structures.  Archaeological excavations begun in 1925 and still ongoing, have gradually revealed more of this well-preserved ancient city.

A Different Brand of Hospitality
Almost every travel writer we read before this trip—from professional journalists to bloggers—raved about the incredible Jordanian hospitality.  We arrived eager to embrace the people of this country which has never closed its borders to refugees in need.  What we found was not exactly what we  expected based on our research.

In all fairness, our perceptions may have been influenced by our experiences in Albania last spring.  Based on our impressions in visits to 60+ countries, Albanians set the gold standard for hospitality, always genuinely eager to offer you any kind of assistance and unwilling to accept compensation for it.  Even the young Albanian woman who helped pay our postage when we lacked sufficient local currency refused to let us pay her back in euros or dollars.  Albanians' interactions with strangers are friendly and open and sincere.

Our interactions with Jordanians in the week we have spent in various parts of the country could not be more different from what Albanians taught us about heartfelt hospitality.  In our experience in Jordan, you're expected to accept everything that is offered, whether it's something you actually want or not.  And whatever you offer, especially in payment, is never enough, even if it is clearly considerably more than an object or service is worth.

A few examples will best explain.  When we arrived at our Petra hotel, one of the desk clerks offered us a glass of orange juice, a nice gesture.  When I declined because I don't care for the beverage, he brought me a glass anyway, and it was thrust upon Ken with the expectation that he drink mine as well as his own.

At a Crusader castle we visited, a local dressed as an ancient warrior offered to pose for a photo with us for a fee, and we declined politely with the Arabic phrase for "no, thank you."  When we walked back past him on exiting, he sneered at us and made some pointed comments to his similarly clad colleagues.

While I was taking photos at Petra, Ken reached out to engage with an older female vendor nearby.  In an effort to help her, he offered her one dinar (about $1.40) for a tiny, ordinary pebble on her sales shelf, something he could have easily picked up a foot away for nothing.  "Two dinars," she insisted.

As we were driving through an off-road area looking at rock formations, a young boy of about nine chased after us yelling "one dollar, one dollar."  When we declined to give him any money, he made a face and demonstrated a too-mature hip grinding gesture toward us.

We could enumerate many other examples, but, suffice it to say, our impression of Jordanian hospitality was nothing more than aggressive sales pitches.  Hands were extended to us for money, not in friendship, as we experienced repeatedly in Albania.  We went on road trips in both countries.  Had we broken down on the road in Albania, there is no doubt an Albanian would have stopped and helped us and refused to accept compensation for his trouble.  In Jordan, we were unsure whether anyone would have helped, but had someone stopped, there is no doubt the person would have expected money and lots of it.

One Country's Trash
Not to obsess over Albania, but last year before we visited the country, we read often that it had a significant problem with litter.  In driving many miles all around the country, we can attest that this is simply not true.  Oddly, we heard not a word about Jordan's massive problem with litter until we observed it after we arrived.
The country has some incredible scenic beauty with fascinating rock formations and mountains.  Roads wind through these landforms in ways that offer superb views through the windshield of outstanding scenery.
Yet one has to look beyond massive amounts of roadside trash to enjoy the view.  Plastic bags, bottles, cans, old tires, and other types of debris are littered anywhere and everywhere.  We even saw a police officer at a checkpoint light up his last cigarette and drop the empty package on the road.
Jordanians love to picnic, and once spring arrives, they can be found out of doors on Fridays and Saturdays (their weekends) enjoying time with family, friends and nature.  Unfortunately, this popular activity also contributes to the litter problem, as people tend to leave the wrappings and containers from their picnic where they used them.
All that being said, we did enjoy our week in Jordan, with one surprise after another.  One aspect we did not expect but found delightful was the remarkable natural scenery (once you overlooked the litter).  The Arabah Valley that runs from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba offers some spectacular views, and we admired the engineers who designed roads traversing this mountainous area.
But Wait.  There's One Last Surprise Before You Leave...
Though we've experienced minor annoyances at airport security screenings before (I'm looking at you, Amsterdam agent, dipping your hand into the waistband of my slacks), the Amman crew took things to a new level.  When we arrived at the security line, an agent looked at our passports and boarding passes to Tel Aviv and told us to go to Line 5. Then the real scrutiny began.

Even after the usual removal of shoes, belt, jacket, watch and laptop, iPad, liquids in bin, I still set off the walk-through metal detector.  The female agent who disrespectfully groped my body as she chatted with a colleague left nothing to chance as she included a full examination of my nipples in her pat down.

In addition, we were both under suspicion for having tiny grooming scissors with us (compliant with TSA rules and the security regulations at six other airports on this trip).  That led to much more invasive examinations.  Ken’s probe started with his liquids bag.  His three test tubes with about 1.5 ounces each of water from different seas were confiscated.  “No water,” the agent complained.  He also determined that a small can of shaving cream was suspect and was taking it until his supervisor said it was OK.

Our problems worsened after I foolishly tried to ask about Ken’s items that were being taken. After that, the supervisor agent pulled every single item out of Ken’s backpack and examined it, even down to opening the packing cubes and putting his hands inside. Why? We were told X-ray showed scissors, nothing else.

Both our laptops and my iPad were swabbed and tested.  I pulled out my tiny scissors and surrendered them.  Ken did not, thinking he wasn't allowed to touch his bag, as is true in most security screenings.  (We later learned that his scissors were never confiscated, supporting our theory that the agents' excess scrutiny, which was afforded to no other passengers, was simply an exercise in harassment.)

Finally the agent finished with Ken’s bag, testing of our devices was done and we were released to get our things back together. Before we could, I was called back for even more screening, including testing of my laptop three more times, always with nothing suspicious found.  While my laptop was sitting on the table to be tested and retested, dozens of other laptops came by and were swabbed while I waited. Some were identical to my MacBook, so I ignored the agent and kept my eyes on my device the entire time to be sure it wasn’t switched off somehow.

It goes without saying that each and every item in my day bag had to be removed and scrutinized, though there was no apparent reason for doing so.  The agent delightedly confiscated a plastic knife and seemed disappointed that he didn’t find more.  But again, problem items would have been seen in the X-ray and none was reported.
Our favorite view of the Amman airport receding as we departed
Finally, reluctantly, they again released us to go to the gate area. We wasted no time in doing exactly that, thankful that we each had one bag that wasn’t pawed through. Even after stopping at a cafe for a bite of breakfast, we were the first ones to arrive at the gate and it was a little creepy because that entire section of the concourse was deserted for at least 30 minutes before other passengers began showing up.

During that time, we fretted that we still might have to undergo more security demands. I even reverted this blog post on Jordan to a draft because I had questioned the myth of Jordanian hospitality in it.  Eventually more passengers began to arrive at the gate and we began to breathe a little easier...and fret about our arrival in Israel and what that examination might be like.  But really not until we boarded the plane AND it pushed back from the gate did we believe we would be able to leave Jordan without further hassle.  We don't expect to return for more in the future.

Coming Up
The final country we'll be visiting on this trip into the past is Israel.  We'll be there for nine days before a couple of days in London on the way home.
TUESDAY, 23 APRIL—MONDAY,  29 APRIL, 2019
Chapter 7 Stats
    •  Started in:  Barcelona, Spain
    •  Ended in:  Amman, Jordan
    •  Air Miles:  2,587
    •  Road Miles:  613
    •  Gas Cost for Road Trip:  $86.04
    •  Foot Miles:  39.53
    •  Weather:  43° to 90°, sunny, hazy, windy
    •  Potholes on Roads:  too numerous to mention
    •  Unmarked speed bumps:  1,261
    •  Goats & sheep in road:  1,908
    •  Foreign tourists at Petra:  92%
    •  Foreign tourists at Jarash:  18%
    •  Local hitchhikers:  1.3 per mile
    •  Bottles of water we drank:  31
    •  Cars driving wrong way on highway:  24
    •  No littering signs:  1
Loved:  The massive geological formations.  Jordan is mostly rock and desert and the spectacular landforms in shades of brown and red are fascinating.  The area has much in common with the deserts of Utah and northern Arizona.

Lacking:  
Road signage—intersection right-of-way indicators, street names, speed bump warnings, highway designations.

Learned:  You can't always believe what others say.  Of course, we knew that already from our experience in Albania. 
No Gas Buddy Needed Here

Fuel prices in Jordan are set by the government.  They are reviewed and adjusted on a monthly basis to reflect international oil pricing.  Prices during our week in the country were equivalent to $3.785 per gallon, significantly less than we paid in Spain and Greece.
Blanketed with Security

After a series of coordinated bomb attacks at Amman hotels in 2005 killed 57 and injured more than 100 others, Jordanians take hotel security very seriously.  Before entering hotel car parks, vehicles are searched, swabbed for traces of explosives and have their undercarriages inspected.  Airport type security screenings with walk-through metal detectors and baggage x-rays are required before guests can enter the building.
What's Odd Here?

We've become so accustomed to the practice of smoking being prohibited in hotels, we find ourselves surprised when we see an ashtray provided, as it was in our Aqaba suite.  When we asked an agent at our Amman hotel whether smoking was permitted there, she replied with a smile, "Of course!  It's a Marriott!"
Now You Don't

Jordanian streets and long-distance highways are fitted with frequent speed bumps.  When installed, they're painted red with yellow and white stripes on either side, making them easy for drivers to see.  Apparently, this explains the lack of signage warning drivers that they're approaching a speed bump.  Unfortunately, the next time the road is resurfaced, asphalt is applied over the speed bump, covering the colored indicators.  If you don't know the road and you're not driving behind another car, you will definitely be unpleasantly surprised by these nuisances.
One of many Bedouin vendors selling wares in the ancient site of Petra.









Dijinn blocks throughout Petra are believed by locals to house spirits.
Camels were saddled and waiting in front of the Treasury for tourist photo ops.
Two of Petra's workers (one resting) among the camel-colored stones.
Lots of these little guys were working hard in Petra (and often being beaten to give more).
Ancient theater carved into the sandstone at Petra.
Sand art is alive and well in Petra.
The Temple of Artemis towering over Jarash was dismantled to provide materials for churches in 386.
The huge Nymphaeum was the main water fountain of Jarash with water cascading through 7 carved lion heads.
The one and only sign we saw addressing litter, but it's only an offense if you throw it from your vehicle window.
How did the driver get that car up on that rock to picnic?
And we thought we had picnicked in some odd places.  Never on a bridge...yet.
Along freeways in Amman, vendors selling fresh produce are a common sight.
Livestock should be seen and not herd. 
Same familiar shape and lettering, but here with a yield sign.  Does the driver get to choose?
Numerous Crusader-era castles such as this one at Shobak can be found around the country.