Planning for the trip, we didn’t prioritize Africa or the Middle East, focusing instead on Asia and Europe. Our rocky experience in Morocco didn’t really encourage further exploration of the region either. But learning that my cousin Karen was living in Amman, I knew that I had to go. Not only would it be fun to hang out with her, but I was excited about being able to visit Petra.Flying from Romania, via Athens, I encountered the first quirk of life in Jordan before I even landed. Being a small country, flight times are dictated by their connections at the neighboring hubs, which explains why my flight was scheduled to land at 1:55AM. Queen Alia airport was built in the 1980’s in the desert south of Amman, to commemorate the spot where she died in a helicopter crash – a great way to pick the location for an international airport. The unfortunate location is also consistently foggy during the wee hours, which is why we circled above the airport for almost an hour before it finally cleared enough for us to land without having to divert to an alternate airport. So far, so good.
I spent the first day recovering from the jet lag and enjoying the comforts of home, catching up on laundry and playing with Karen’s rescue dog, Lana. My first taste of #KingdomLife was Tequila Tuesday at Cafe de Paris (nobody can explain the odd association). Other than the international crowd, it was a throwback to a college house party, with free-flowing shots and 90’s hip hop hits leading to awkward dancing and public make-out sessions (neither for me). Unsurprisingly, Tequila Tuesday led to Hungover Wednesday and I spent most of the day recuperating in bed.
I recovered enough by Thursday in order to visit Petra, one of the New7Wonders of the World. It was indeed impressive, especially when the narrow gorge called the Siiq opens up to reveal the Treasury (easily recognizable from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) in all its glory. We left the chilly mountain winds behind (Petra is at ~2500′) and descended to the lowest point on earth, the shore of the Dead Sea (1400′ BELOW sea level) where we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and 80º breezes. It was particularly interesting to recognize so many Biblical sights, especially the lights of Jerusalem just on the other side of the Jordan Valley, so close yet so far.
Being in a Muslim country, Friday meant the start of the weekend and also the black-tie 240th Anniversary Marine Corps Ball at the Four Seasons. Luckily, Karen’s driver, Mohammad, was able to help me find a dress suit for the occasion (after some initial confusion when he thought I wanted a track suit). Expats don’t take events like this lightly; it actually required a full day of activities beginning with a 3-hour brunch and a 2-hour pre-party cocktail hour before the official pre-dinner cocktail hour. It was quite the experience, patriotic and indulgent.
After finally crashing at 3AM, we took it slow and easy on Saturday, ordering in brunch (yes, you can actually do that) and then enjoying a lazy day at the Marriott Spa on the Dead Sea. The hypersaline water is famous for enhancing buoyancy and makes for fun floating, even better when you combine it with a therapeutic mud scrub.
The time had finally come to fly back to LA, but not before a requisite visit to the US Embassy for Margarita Monday en route to the airport. The nice buzz was a good start for the ~30-hour trip via Istanbul and Munich. Unsurprisingly, considering that I was a heavily bearded single male flying from the Middle East, US Customs and Border Protection was awaiting my arrival in LA and performed a thorough interview.
It’s hard to believe that it has been an entire year since we left CA. What an amazing and transformative experience, way more than we ever could have wished for. Now it’s time for the next chapter of our lives, whatever that may bring.