We had one very long day left. Very long because we had to check in to the airport at around midnight, so we would be staying up late. Margaret and I met Ezat in the lobby and we checked out of our last hotel. Margaret had only a carry on, but I planned to check a bag, so I became the designated carrier. I had spent an hour carefully packing my little rollerbag to hold all of our liquids and suspicious items, like powders – which I discovered is a newly contraband substance on airplanes. We had pomegranate syrup, Haddad family wine, Margaret’s gigantic can of hairspray (you’ll have to ask her for the story on that!), and big blocks of Halawa, a sweet breakfast treat that we decided to bring home with us, bags of spices, etc. I packed carefully and crossed my fingers that nothing would get smashed during my 28 hours of travel time ahead of me.
We decided that for our last day we wanted to explore more of Amman. Possibly see a museum, the King Abdullah Mosque, a coffee shop, and Rainbow Street. At Rainbow street we got to tour a gorgeous four-story restaurant before it opened for the day. I bought a silver rooster and did some of my best negotiating skills to get the price from 240 dinars ($347) down to 90 dinars ($130). The trick is: seriously for reals give up and walk away. Then the price really goes down.
Margaret recalled from earlier in the trip that we had seen a set of stairs with colourful umbrellas and asked Ezat if we could go there. We parked nearby and we walked through the city streets to find it. On the way we did more shopping and I marveled at the idea that I was in the capital city of another country. Again and again, I feel so fortunate to have such a wonderful life. We stopped for falafel at a place Ezat told us was King Abdullah II’s favourite place for falafel. Margaret and I already knew we liked falafel, so a stop at Al Quds was an easy choice. It was a tiny shop, people were super crammed in, and food came out efficiently and deliciously.
On one sidewalk, Ezat recognized some of his Mormon friends and stopped to say Hi. They were all Americans, so Margaret and I got to chat with them in an easy manner for a change. Not being able to easily communicate becomes a strain after awhile, and it was good for the brain to chat with the young men. Then we found a real coffee shop and ordered coffee. Every single hotel for our entire trip provided instant coffee in the room and most of them provided instant coffee at breakfast. Commonly breakfast buffets have a pot of hot water, and a basket with little packets of tea, coffee, creamer, and all the things you might want to put into a cup. Never fresh. *sigh* But we knew this area was known for good coffee actually, so we were determined to taste some of it. We ordered Turkish coffee.
I was still curious about how the coffee was made and when we left, we stopped by the kitchen to watch. The man agreed to show us, but said no one had ordered a coffee, so there was nothing going on at the moment. I ordered another coffee, to go, so I could put the man to work. It’s an interesting process that I have been fascinated with ever since I read a description of it in Memory For Forgetfulness by Mahmoud Darwish.
We found some spices so I could bring them home to a friend who had made a request. Margaret bought a scarf and a thobe! She had been trying to decide for a week whether or not to get a thobe, and then suddenly it was time. She had fun negotiating, and though I don’t know the beginning and ending prices, Ezat was impressed at how well she did with the price.
Ezat wanted to expose us to another treat. He described it as pasta and cheese and unbelievably delicious. Margaret and I said “Mac n cheese?” And he nodded yes, to be agreeable, and we all started calling it Mac N Cheese while we went in search of. The tiny shop selling it was mobbed and we got in line. There were two different kinds and we got them both. I dug right into my portion and almost immediately spat it out. It was very sweet. All this time I had been imagining buttery, cheesy pasta and got a mouthful of chewy sugar. It is not remotely like Mac n Cheese. I couldn’t really tell there was cheese on it, and the base material didn’t seem like pasta. It is a flat, crumbly dessert pancake and I don’t remember what it’s called. Once I rearranged my mind about what to expect, I tried it again, and it’s definitely a yummy treat.
Out on the street, a couple of women stopped Margaret and asked to get selfies with her. Margaret told us this had already happened once or twice in Jordan, but I hadn’t seen it because they are after her, not me. But when we travel, people just can’t resist Margaret’s great California Girl look! I was happy to hide behind Ezat and let her glam up the selfies. We were near a shop where one of Ezat’s cousins worked, so we went there next. It is a whole section of town with gold shops. Maybe twenty different shops, side by side, selling gold jewelry. Margaret negotiated for a little while to get a ring, but eventually didn’t buy it. Of course we were served tea while we were there, and we had a lot of fun joking around with Ezat’s cousin and the other guy working there. He told Margaret she had beautiful eyes, and again, our Cali girl was Queen of the day. She beamed with pleasure and it was so great to watch her shine. I was tired of attention. Ever since Wadi Rum, Abdullah the guide had been begging me to marry him via facebook messenger. I got three marriage proposals while in Jordan. I sure wish I had this effect on American men!
It was dark by this time and we decided to visit the King Abdullah Mosque. We dutifully wrapped up our heads and made our way there, to a park-like area on top of a hill. We walked up to the gate and were denied entrance. We were astonished, since all the websites said that tourists were allowed in. The guard said absolutely not. He explained that the King no longer allows non-Muslims on the premises. Ezat argued long and persistently (though politely because he’s a super sweetheart), but there was no ground given. The guard even told Ezat that while he is Jordanian, as a Mormon he is not allowed to visit the mosque. We asked for permission to photograph it from a distance, and were granted that.
We were then invited back to Nashat’s house for dinner with the family. We again had a fantastic meal and a good time with everyone. We had six hours to kill and I spent much of that time with Nashat’s son. We watched funny videos and played games on my phone, and we played with all the toys in his room and he played drums for us. Then it was time to go to the airport and say goodbye. Hugs all around. I had loved my time in Jordan, and had pretty much fallen in love with the Haddad family, who are all so wonderful.
Then M and I went through security. I was disoriented (and tired since it was midnight) and accidentally brought my carefully packed luggage through the security line to enter the gates. It took me a long time to realize what was happening, as I watched a man unpacking my entire bag and confiscating EVERYTHING. I nearly cried when he took the bottle of Haddad wine. Finally I realized what was going on and expressed it outloud in English to the Arabic-speaking security man. Luckily, the man behind me in the security line was able to translate. I was told that at this point, all these items had been confiscated and they couldn’t just let me have them all back and turn around and go back out again. So they called the Chief of security over and after some begging, I got special permission to have all my stuff back. I grabbed everything and tossed it haphazardly into the bag and zipped it closed. I also got a personal attendant who never let me out of his sight as he led me out of security and back to the Lufthansa counter. They wanted me to check my luggage quick! quick! But I complained that nothing was packed carefully anymore. I would have to repack. No one understood this, and they kept reaching for my bag but I refused to let it go, to the consternation of several airport employees. I realized I would have to show them, so I found a spot to open up my bag right there in front of the Lufthansa counter and started pulling out the wine, the hairspray, my camera, etc, and all the clothes I had used as packing material. I think they finally got it and left me alone. I repacked as quickly as I could, and to their relief, finally handed over my bag. My excellent attendant didn’t make me go through the security line again, but rather took me through the employee entrance, past surprised people with raised eyebrows.
I was so grateful to finally be on the other side of security with only my carry on bag, I touched my head and said, ‘ala rasi! He got a big kick out of that and insisted that I have to say it to the Chief, who had given his permission for all of this to happen. A week earlier, Nashat had explained to us that ‘ala rasi is something you say when you really appreciate and respect the person, but that’s not a complete explanation. Turns out, it’s more like a response one would give to a request, as in “anything for you.” So we had been using it wrong the whole week, but people still got a big charge out of hearing us say it. So my attendant took me up to the Chief and I dutifully touched my head with a slight bow and said ‘Ala rasi! (Literally it means “on my head”) and was rewarded with laughs and faces filled with pleasure and I was sent on my way into the Duty Free quagmire without any frustration or hard feelings from airport security. Let me make a second plug for the amazing Amman airport. Those people are friggin amazing. Efficient, polite, calm, friendly, and professional. Most of all, everything in the Queen Alia International Airport is fast, fast, fast.
What was not fast was the next 28 hours. We boarded at about 1:20 am October 31st, Halloween. We flew to Frankfurt and then had a SIX HOUR layover. When we got onto our next plane it was still Halloween, and 11 hours later when we got off that plane in California, it was still Halloween. Like Superman, we had flown backwards around the globe and turned back time. I waited four awful hours to catch my next plane in San Francisco, which had been delayed due to mechanical problems in some other city. Finally finally landed in Oregon at 9 pm on Halloween. An hour’s drive later, I was finally home, and it was still almost early enough to trick or treat!