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Old 02-03-2004, 11:05 AM   #1
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I posted this way down at the bottom in the Middle East section but I thought I'd put it here too.

I have a couple of friends living in Cairo and one of them just recently took a trip to Lebanon, Syria & Jordan. She sent me this email that I thought you might find interesting:

*******************************************

Well all,
I am now safely back in Cairo having had a great time travelling through Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.
My last couple days in Lebanon were just as great as the first couple, and much less shopping oriented. Johanna, Safya and I checked out the fabulous club scene in Beirut on Saturday night. We managed to get lots of free drinks and a few photos taken of us for the social section of some Lebanese and Cairene magazinese (who knows if we'll actually make it in). The next morning we went off on a day trip (wake-up call at 7:30, ouch) to see the Jeita cave (natural cave with lots of stalagtites/mites, really beautiful, even with a hangover) and then up a Gondola for a great view of the sea and the Beirut skyline.
I left Jo and Safya in Beirut on Monday and headed on to Damascus, where I spent about a week seeing the city and making a few day trips out to other towns. I loved Syria, the people were really and genuinely friendly and made you feel very welcome. When they said "hello" and "welcome" to me on the street I felt like they really meant it, as opposed to Cairo where it comes off more as harrasment than anything else. The only thing I didn't really love about Syria was the weather, it's the middle of winter and it felt like it. It rained the whole time I was there and was in the high 30's and low 40's the whole time. I made a day trip to see the roman ruins in Palmyra in the desert. The guide books say it can go 2-3 yrs without rain there. Ha, ha, it sleeted the whole day. But it was still absolutely beautiful even with the rain.
I stayed in this great hostel with lots of other budget travellers and we wiled away the cold rainy evenings talking about where we'd all been and where we were going. (I met a few crazy people who were planning on heading to Iraq after they finished with Syria). My last day in Syria I decided I was going to kill two birds with one stone and go to the ruins at Bosra about 30 min. from the Jordanian border and head out from there in the early evening for Amman (theoretically about a 2 - 2 1/2 hr drive). If you ever go to Syria and want to do this, don't, it's practically impossible to get from there to Amman, you pretty much have to go back to Damascus and catch a bus from there. But, live and learn. I was determined to do it and just couldn't believe it would be that difficult. I eventually found a service (shared taxi) that would take me over the border where I would then have to take a taxi to another town and then hopefully be able to catch a bus from there to Amman and if there weren't any more running I would at least be able to find a not too sketchy place to sleep. But, one of the men I shared the taxi with, who was going to guide me through this whole process, then invited me to stay with him and his wife and 8 kids in Madaba, just outside Amman. So, after a bit of deliberation I said OK, thanks. This turned out to be a very interesting evening. His wife, his oldest son, and the 3 youngest kids came and got us at the border in their old, beat up car and we headed out. They lived in a small 3 room house (kitchen, tv room, living room) near the center of the town of Madaba. When we got home, Jamila his wife, made dinner which to be perfectly honest was less than appetizing, and they kept forcing me to eat more. It was fun, but also very challenging, sitting there talking with them all evening. Between all of them they only knew a few words of english so I was forced to use my Arabic and try and work through their heavy accents in order to recognize words that sound different in Eygyptian arabic. The sleeping arrangements consisted of mats layed out in two seperate rooms. I shared the living room with the 3 daughters, the two youngest sons (about 4 and 5 yrs) and the mother. And I kid you not, about 45 minutes after the lights went out I heard mother talking on the cell phone having phone sex!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! with the full range of sound effects!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And most definatley not with her husband who was asleep in the next room. I'm not kidding, and yes I was extremely uncomfortable. I'm not really sure what she was thinking. Maybe she thought I was asleep, mabye she was trying to shock me, maybe she was taking the opportunity of sleeping in a different room from her husband for some quality phone time with her lover, who knows. All I know is I wish she hadn't.
For the most part staying with them was great, they didn't speak any english so I was forced to use my Arabic, I got to spend time in the home of a typical Jordania, they fed me tons, I drank tons of tea etc. The negatives; the phone incedent and I came away from it with $90 less in my bag, I discovered this in the morning as I was trying to figure out whether I should give them a gift, or offer them money or what, I don't know what the etiquette is in this sort of situation. But, discovering the money was gone solved that. (I think it was his wife, not him, who took it, she was just all around sketchy and she had a very guilty look the rest of the day). This has left me feeling a bit jaded, but I figure they definatley need the money a lot more than I do. And, as a result, when they showed me around the town and took me to Mt Nebo (with a view of the dead sea), I didn't feel guilty about using up their time, or them using their car and gas to take me there.
I only spent on day in Amman, there's not really much to see and it's hard to get around cause the taxi's are expensive and it's super hilly. I got there planning to spend two days, but just didn't get a very good vibe from the city and my hostel, recommended by a girl I met at the hostel in Damascus, turned out to be totally crappy. So I headed out to Petra which was the perfect way to end my trip. Once again it rained all day (and was freezing), but Petra is so amazing it just doesn't matter what the weather is like. I met this Australian girl Debbie, also travelling alone and we decided to see the ruins together. We got there at 9am and explored all day, getting back to the hotel at 5:30, totally exhausted. For those who don't know, Petra was a Nabateaen city built a little before and a little after Christ and it is really famous for the building-like tombs carved into the many-hued walls of the mountains, featured in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
And then I headed home to Cairo where it was a glorious 70 degrees (after the previous two weeks of cold I spent the whole day in a t-shirt, 70 in Cairo is usually light sweater weather for me, my blood has thinned. In the past couple months I've considered anything below 65 freezing and put on my wool coat, so most days in Syria and Jordan required two pairs of pants, a shirt, two sweaters, my wool coat and a wind breaker over that in order to stay warm).

*******************************************
I emailed her to find out the names of the good & bad hostels but she can take a while to respond, I'll let you know as soon as I get the info.

Good luck!
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Old 01-06-2006, 06:44 AM   #2
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WOW.. I would love to do that! One veryy SCARRYYY mother though!

I am really wanting to go to Lebanon after watching a really interesting doco on it. Beirut (or some other town there which was on the bay) looked really pretty and NOT dangerous. It is supposed to be very safe for its citizens as theres always someone they know on the streets... but.. what about the average traveller? i mean, i dont know much about their civil war but supposedly it was foreigners who caused it..

anyone know more about travelling into it? oh.. space virgin.. did she eventually send you those details? thanx! It would make a nice side trip into Tukey then Lebbanon and Israel! just wanna be able to return..
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Old 01-06-2006, 06:47 AM   #3
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oops sorry.. just saw CD has alot on this
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