Claire’s friends told her that she had gone too far this time. At twenty-nine-years-old, Claire lived a life of mystery and suspense as an adventure traveler. Up until this trip, she had convinced friends to come with. Yet, friends had begun to drop away into a dull routine. Only a single friend had joined her on the previous adventure holiday. This time, for the first time, Claire traveled solo. From her window seat, she drank in as much of Amman, Jordan as her eyes could see on an Airbus 380 as it began final approach to Queen Alia International Airport.
Her friends were frightened about the ISIL fanatics nearby in Syria, but Claire would not listen. She countered their fear with facts: The Americans and their allies had crushed ISIL there, and therefore Jordan, one of the allies, had become safe for tourism. Still, none of them agreed to go with her, so she defied them by taking an Emerates Airline flight from London to Amman. The wheels touched down on the runway with a tiny jerk, and Claire had no regret about flying with the hospitable crew of the UAE airline. However, she did feel a bit scared about getting off the plane, a young, single British woman, alone in a sea of Arab culture. She recovered her bravado after she wheeled her luggage through Jordanian customs and out to the airport common area. A young Arab man stood, holding a placard of the tour company that she had booked. He wore a lily-white thobe, a red-checkered keffiyeh, and a finely-woven agal held his colorful head garment in place. As Claire walked toward him, the man smiled at her, and asked, “Miss Claire?” She introduced herself to Hashem, her guide. Adventure on!
Other tourists joined her, mostly a mix of British, other European, American, and Australians, twelve in all, and Claire felt welcome among them. Hashem drove a small tour bus as he told his guests how he would provide the best hospitality, and he promised that no one would want the fun and excitement of his tour to end. Thus began a middle eastern eight-day adventure of go, go, go!
Hashem remained in the lobby of the Jordan Tower Hotel while his tour group checked in and stowed their luggage. Then he led Claire and the others into a total Jordanian cultural immersion at the souk (markets) where he had made arrangements with various vendors to show them gold, precious gems and pearls, hand-weaved carpets, a glimpse here, a taste their, a spritz of fine perfume, and no one pushed Claire to buy any of it. If she chose to own something, an Arab vendor quickly closed the deal with a credit card, packaging, and a promise to speed her purchase home to arrive the day after she returned to London.
The pace slowed, and the mood changed to relaxation as the sun reddened and set, gaslights bathed the streets and houses in a soft red-gold, and Claire heard the Muslim call to prayer for the first time, a hauntingly beautiful song. Hashem excused himself as he threw down a prayer rug to join the faithful in prayer to God, something he did five times each day.
After only one night and a morning in Amman, Claire and the others were whisked away in three Land Rovers to the ancient Roman city of Gerasa, located by the modern city of Jerash, northwest of Amman, close to southern Syria and the Israeli West Bank. Claire and the others chattered like birds as they walked down ancient Roman streets to behold and photograph pillars, artwork and the remains of buildings erected sometime after 63 BC. A local guide filled the tourist’s minds with fascinating facts while they visually absorbed the mysteries of the ages all about them. After six hours of it, Hashem led his Land Rover caravan southwest to the storied Dead Sea.
While it seemed only a photo-opportunity, Hashem placed them at a remote Dead Sea resort where everyone got extra attention with food and drink as they watched several tremendous storms fly across the water far away. Again, a local historian entertained the adventurers with tales of what had happened there long ago. Many stories complemented Biblical accounts. The group left early the next morning to travel to the most sought after destination in Jordan, the ancient Arab trading capital called Petra. Everyone in the tour group commented about how they were intrigued by Petra, first glimpsed as the setting of the final portion of the 1981 film: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Time and again, the group found hidden places within and about the front of an ancient building carved into a mountainside that they remembered as settings for actor Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones). While Hashem led the tour, the other drivers of the Land Rovers set up camp for the night. Claire camped under a moonlit sky in the desert!
The unforgettable experience, but a taste of the adventure to come, crept into the memories of the adventure travelers, people who want to drink life to the lees! The following day, Hashem led his expedition to Wadi Rum, located far to the south in Jordan, near the border with Saudi Arabia and the Red Sea port of Aqaba. Wadi Rum, a film location for Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, The Red Planet in 2000, Prometheus in 2012, The Martian in 2015, and Rogue One in 2016, promised to be the pinnacle of the trip. At Wadi Rum, the combined revenue of film production and tourism had tempted a normally nomadic Bedouin tribe to permanently settle there. The Bedouin became the hosts for Claire and the other tourists under Hashem’s care. They provided shelter in two of their traditional tents, authentic Bedouin meals, and they facilitated hikes, rock climbing, camel rides, and even ballooning! Wadi Rum, a gateway for travelers for thousands of years, bristled with memorable video shots. Many rock formations sported etched rock drawings that gave voice to adventure travelers from long ago.
As Hashem had predicted, Claire and her fellow travelers reluctantly left Wadi Rum for the return to Amman where a final overnight stay sealed an enduring appreciation for the culture of Jordan. At the airport, young Hashem said goodbye to each of them, the same way that he said hello: with a broad smile and a short bow. As she waited for her Emirates jet to debark, Claire sent a text to her best friend.