Adventure Road Trip through Jordan

jordan-map

October seemed like a great month to take a trip into the amazing neighbouring country  Jordan. Above you can see the route we took by bus, private drivers (pretty cheap in this country) or taxis. After crossing the border in the north of the country we saw the vibrant city of Amman with its almost 3 million citizen, visited Jarash with its impressive roman ruins, took the Kings highway down to Petra and made several stops at Madaba the Mosaic city, Al Karak an old Roman castle and a few smaller stops with interesting sites. Spending 2.5 days in and around Petra IMG_7899visiting the amazing buildings and tombs carved into the enormous mountains. We spend two nights at a Bedouin camp in the desert what was more than amazing and then went on to Aqaba at the Red Sea where we went diving in the coral riffs and met up with some Swedish friends who happen to be there at the same time. We went to Wadi Rum a part of the Jordanian desert where we were riding Camels and took a tour with a Jeep. On the way back home we crossed the border back to Eilat in Israel and took the bus through Israel’s desert back to Jerusalem.  All in all it was one of the most amazing trips I have done so far!

IMG_6292Crossing the border in the north of Israel turned out to be quite the adventure and wouldn’t have worked out so well in the end if we would not have met a really great guy named Charlie who  is from the UK , works in Amman and speaks Arabic. We met him after getting out of the bus trying to find the actual border crossing. After arriving at the Israeli border facilities we first had to get an exit stamp and actually pay money for leaving Israel and go through a security check, after that was done we were finally at the migration office where it turned out that we need1383238_10201597765579281_1776064152_n Jordanian cash (dinars) to pay for getting our visa (20 dinar). Problem was we had no Jordanian money. In fact we didn’t have any cash which we could have exchanged and an ATM does not exist at the border. The people at the border where not the most friendly ones and their English was rather bad. Thankfully we had Charlie with us who first lend us some money and tried to help us with his Arabic knowledge sadly we were still 11 dinars short to be able to cross. After a lot of talking and thinking we found the solution a taxi driver would come and lend us some money and takes us afterwards to a ATM in the next village 😛 Charlie stayed the whole time with us to help, what a great guy ! My Arabic is still very basic and I would not have gotten no where without his help. So NEVER go to a border crossing without enough cash in your pockets!

Finally on our way in the cab, with a stop to get some cash, we arrived around 22.00 pm in Amman. There we had to learn that Amman downtown is huge and google does not necessarily know where our hotel is 😛
Again with Charlie’s help we found our hotel after all. It turned out the be very nice and we finally could rest……Until 05.00 am when the Muezzin in the neighbouring Mosque started singing every 20 min for an hour since we arrived while the Muslim Eid holidays. Believe it or not IMG_6208over the time we spent in Jordan I started to enjoy the singing in the middle of the night. I would wake up listen to the sounds floating through the silent city and then fall asleep again. Last night I woke up at 5 waiting for it and then realized I am back in West Jerusalem where no Mosques exist.
The first day we explored Amman by ourself which was really nice and a little confusing as the city is very big and included a Hammam bath or ‘Turkish bath‘. A very interesting spa experience which makes you feel slightly tortured while they scrub, massage , beat your body but afterwards you feel like reborn and then enjoying a tea and a shisha makes you really feel with the world at peace. In the evening I had my first teargas experience which was rather unpleasant as it slipped through every crack into the hotel and made the eyes, nose and throat burning. Holding my head out of the window was not the smartest thing to do (oouuchhh) and I saw all people walking around with their shirts over the face or rubbing their eyes. Apparently there was a IMG_6090demonstration close by and the police is not very picky in using teargas….. Nice was as well that our room had all windows open…… so after fleeing from the lobby we got IMG_6987another full load entering the room. Oh well you gotta experience some things in life 😛

The second day in Amman we spend with my old friend Yunis. He was my very first friend when I came to Malmö the first time in 2010. He left Sweden and moved back to Amman about two years ago and it was really really nice to see him again. He showed us Amman more from a local perspective which was amazing and a little exhausting as we were 12 hours  non stop on our feet. We met his family what was very nice and I got to meet his wife and his super sweet little daughter, we went up to Jarash to see some amazing roman ruins, went IMG_6812to an Amusement park  where we were the only tourists which gave us a slight IMG_6767advantage since Jordanian people really like to show off their country and traditions to foreigners and therefore let us skip very long cues at some rides 😀 We ended the day with at a “shisha-drive-in” on a hill with the view over the whole city no tourists again as only locals know about this place. All in all we had a great great day ! Thank you Yunis !

Our trip went on with a private driver along the Kings Highway which is a common route to take down to Petra as there are many amazing sites along the road. As you can see on the map we stopped at Madaba where we visited a church with amazing mosaic art and Al Karak where the main attraction is a huge crusader castle which is very good preserved. We also had a few smaller stops for example at the village Dana which is one of the oldest village in the country laying at the edge on a mountain providing an amazing view over a valley and mountains. The ride ended after a full day of driving in Wadi Musa which is the village next to the Petra sites. After having dinner we decided to IMG_7744go for the Petra at night experience by the light of 1,800 candles you walk through the Siq (a big canyon) a candle-lit path and enjoy the amazing music of the Bedouins at the impressive Treasury carved into a big  mountain.

This night and the following night as well we spend at a the  Bedouin Camp 7 Wonders around Petra which was absolutely amazing !!! The pictures speak for themselves…. People were amazingly nice and watching all the lights in the mountains while sitting around a fire enjoying a shisha and listening to bedouin music was just priceless. The tent we had there was clean , had a huge bed and for a about 4 hours a day even electricity 😛 Warm water was available for a few hours in the evening what was quite the luxury as I had a few cold showers on that trip 😛IMG_8244

Next day we went to Petra thanks to the very nice (and kinda hot 😛 ) Bedouin boss we were able to take the back entrance to Petra what meant we could walk the whole day down the hills and not up like all the sweating other tourists 😛 Especially funny was seeing fat American tourists which had giving up on walking and were sitting on donkeys or camels. They looked either frightened to death, extremely uncomfortable or just mega exhausted …. 😛 We took our slow way down and were actually able to enjoy the amazing carved buildings, tombs, theater and caves in the mountains. One more night in the Bedouin camps was as amazing as the first night, even a bit more fun since we smuggled Vodka in a water bottle in the camp and enjoyed it with a shisha ( alcohol was strictly forbidden in the camp and any other hotel/hostel we have stayed at…. well…. no one found our 1.5l bottle of “water” suspicious 😛 😉  )

IMG_8182Next day we had a few more hours in Petra where we had a look at one more place there the “high place” which was amazing as it was one of the highest mountain there.IMG_8191  We left our luggage at a cafe where we were the day before and met a really nice guy who worked there. They had a monkey pet – Monica. Monica was leashed but he told us  they let her free quite often and then she disappears for a while and always returns on her own will ,let’s hope they really do that…. she was adorable and really touchy!

Rickard the haggle master got us a taxi from Petra to Aqaba which lies at the Red Sea for a really good price and we moved on. We didn’t IMG_8484book a hotel in advance so we just drove to the center and had a look around for something looking cool . We found the Amer Hotel right in the center next to a beautiful huge white mosque.  The guy working there did not really speak English but was really nice and showed us a room with an amazing view and a great balcony for only 65 dinar for three nights. So we went for it and did not regret it . It was a good day and our IMG_8577“water” bottle wasn’t empty jet 😉 In the evening we met up with Henric and Josse some really nice Swedish friends and had dinner together, later we went on drinking “water” and playing cards at our hotel room  😛

The next day we had booked a dive in the Red Sea. Around Aqaba it is supposed to be one of the most amazing area for diving so we were brave enough to try it  😛 I have never been diving properly before and I did not regret that I have tried it now . The guys from the Dive Center where awesome and our DCIM100GOPROinstructor  Jimmie was just the best. We had an awesome dive around the coral reefs, I saw many fishes ( I found Nemo!) and corals. Bumping in something like a Jelly Fish was probably necessary as I am always super ‘lucky’ so since then I have a hurtin left wrist with a funny looking rash , still totally worth it 😀  Rest of the day was finally just dedicated to being lazy , naps, eating  and a little shopping and hanging out on the balcony.  🙂

I bought a new book “Married to a Bedouin” telling the story of how Marguerite van Geldermalsen—a New Zealand-born nurse—became the wife of Mohammad Abdallah Othman, a Bedouin souvenir-seller of the Manaja tribe, and lived with him and their children in a community IMG_8608of 100 families in the ancient caves of Petra in Jordan. Marguerite and a friend were traveling through the Middle East in 1978 when she met the charismatic Mohammad and decided that he was the man for her. Their home was a lofty 2,000 year-old cave carved into the red rock of a hillside. She became the resident nurse and learned to live like the Bedouin. I haven’t finish it jet but so far it is really good especially when one is interested in Bedouins and have been to Petra before or simply likes a good book 🙂 .

The last day we had in Aqaba we went to Wadi Rum which is a part of the Jordanian Desert together with our friends. We were riding on Camels and had a tour with a Jeep through the desert guided by a nice local Bedouin IMG_8758IMG_9062showing us some awesome sites in the rocky desert. The tour ended with watching the sunset over the dunes of the desert and driving back to the visitor station and getting a cab back to town. This night we went out to a restaurant which was actually serving alcohol . So we had a few glasses of local wine and really good food.

Next morning at 07.00 am (baaahhh) the cab was waiting for bringing us to the border between Aqaba and Eilat . I really wasn’t in the mood for another border experience and justifying why I want to get into Israel. On the Jordanian side everything was typical middle East no signs where to go or what to do. We knew we need an exit stamp and need again to pay to leave the country (way less than leaving Israel though) after finally figuring out where to go everything took forever because the guys working there had to first enjoy their morning coffee. So we invented the border dance. You know some do a rain dance , we do the border dance to get things started 😛 so after all we had a lot of fun and eventually got the attention from the border police and were able to get the things required to leave.IMG_8490
THEN last time our passports where controlled before we could walk our 200m through no ones land to the Israeli facilities a border police guy, not much older than me, starting talking to us (again) only in Arabic in a very arrogant and unfriendly tone. I told him (again !!!) we do not speak Arabic and that he has to talk English . Suddenly he said in pretty perfect English : are you angry or something ? ( I was!) No I said, but I think it is very inappropriate to work at a border and noticing that someone does not speak Arabic but still goes on EVEN THOUGH you actually speak English.  You could see he was not really used to a women speaking up to him like that . So he started arguing that Arabic is his language and that it is his right to speak it . Well I said German is my language I still speak English to you so you can understand me since we are at a BORDER CROSSING where it happens that people are speaking different languages. If he simply would not be able to speak English and would have been a little nicer all would have been well but that was just ignorant and stupid. I don’t know why I got so worked up on that but it was kinda fun to argue with this arrogant f***er 😛
After all he let us through. I would have never dared to do that at the Israeli side but there I felt like I had to let out what I was thinking at least once to a man since women in Jordan are not really supposed to do that……….

IMG_8351The Israeli border police took it not easy on me as I had to explain three or more times why I want to enter Israel again and me wanting not to say to straight forwardly that I work for an Palestinian NGO did not make it easier……. Well after a long time we were finally through with the order to go to the Ministry of Interior to finally fix me as an ‘appropriate visa’ since I actually should not go on a tourist visa and it will expire anyway before I wanna go back to Sweden. Apparently it is not allowed to leave the country and enter shortly afterwards again to get a new three month. I got three more month anyway but if I don’t fix it properly I might have problems at the airport in Tel Aviv in January… Silly bureaucracy. Finally in the bus back to Jerusalem we were driving many hours through the desert and arrived safely back home.

The time in Jordan was amazing and quite adventurous. Jordanian people are amazingly friendly, welcoming and helpful. We have felt save pretty much the whole time even though we were quite the attraction being obviously Western. Many people asked us to take pictures with us IMG_7339and were very fascinated by my tattoo and piercing 😛  It was a real Middle East experience, much more than Israel or Palestine is. The view on women by Jordanian people was in my opinion rather ‘problematic’  because even though the people we met who had concerning to their opinion a very IMG_7181‘modern view’ made me wanna start arguments a few times…. I didn’t. Cultures are very different and one has to keep that in mind. Some question I could not hold back but it lead no where as people are very fixed in their views or opinions. Let’s put it in that way I could write a whole blog post only about this topic …. 😉 No matter what it was an amazing trip !

                                                     Thank you Jordan for an awesome time !

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Over a month in Jerusalem – Time flies !

Now it has been more than a month since I arrived in Jerusalem and I can’t believe how fast time flies. So far this has been a rocking experience and I haven’t regret a minute that I came here ! I met great people, gained amazing friends and experience !

My internship turns out to be really great and interesting as well !
My co-worker Giulia (great girl!)  and I make an awesome team and we are now working on two different projects. One of the projects we are working on concerns Palestinian Bedouin communities in the East Jerusalem area and Westbank called: “Bedouin Communities in Jerusalem IMG_4833District: from isolation to better representativeness and socio-economic empowerment.”  The development of institutional representative structures is essential to enable those communities to claim for their social and economic interests. Surrounded by the Israeli settlements, endangered by the Israeli policy and discriminated by the other Palestinians, the targeted Bedouin communities are not able to represent their interests and rights as a community to both the regional and national levels.

Some facts about Bedouin community in this area:
– Around 2,300 Bedouin reside in 20 communities in the hills to the east of Jerusalem. More than 80% of them are refugees. Over two-thirds      are   children
– The communities have all lost access to land due to settlement expansion, most have demolition orders pending against their homes, none haveUnbenannt   access to a proper electricity network and only half are connected to the water network.
– Despite receiving humanitarian assistance, 55% of Bedouin/herding communities in area C of the West Bank are food insecure.
– Over 200 families were re-located from the area in the 1990s, some by force. Of these,  more than  85% report they had to abandon their  traditional livelihoods.
– More than 500,000 israeli civilians live in israeli settlements in the West Bank, including  in east  Jerusalem, built in contravention of international    law.
– Only in 2011, at least 755 Palestinians had been forcibly displaced due to demolitions  and  127 due to settler violence – some 40% of these  were Bedouin

The project we are working on  has as overall objective to improve the capacity of Bedouin communities living in the Westbank and seam zone in Jerusalem district, to implement poverty reduction and sustainable development strategies, while at the specific objective level it aims at increasing the representativeness of social and economic interests of the Bedouins communities.  I visited together with my Boss, an intern from Oxfam Italia and a local Bedouin women a community in the Westbank called ‘Abu Hindi.’ It was one of the most intense IMG_4843experiences I had since I arrived here, driving in the car through the Westbank and then onto gravel roads until we reached the camp, with religious Arabic music coming from the radio in the background , seeing how these people living in huts and tents in desert like environment under these conditions….. We had a meeting there with one Mukthar (head of the biggest family) to discuss how we will go on working on the project. The Bedouin Women who brought us there translated from Arabic to English for me and the other intern. It was a great day and I look forward working further with this project and hopefully help with improving the situation for the Bedouin communities.

The second project me and Giulia are involved with  (which is in the very beginning) is the so called “Jerusalem Community Project ” which IMG_4758aims to increase participatory democracy in elven urban, rural and refugee camps communities in Jerusalem. Our organization works on this project together with the Community Development Center of the Al Quads University.  Some first objective ideas include :

1. Training for 11 groups in 11 communities, each consisting of 20 persons (gender-balanced).  Including 40 hours for each group on the following subjects:

  • 8 hours on human rights and citizenship
  • 8 hours on youth leadership
  • The rest of the hours will be spend on the topic of non-violence solutions;  information about Jerusalem and municipality structure and how to create an initiative in local communities. Each trained group will then start a project in their community according to the community needs

2. Social, artistic and cultural activities on hotspots will be carried out with focus on the topics of land confiscation and house demolitions.
3. Creation of a community lobby which will pressure the Israeli and Palestinian municipality to focus more on the rights of the communities
4. Creation of a relation with the Municipality Development Committees which are working in East Jerusalem to benefit the communities in          East  Jerusalem
5. 11 lectures will be held in 11 communities on raising awareness about community work
6. Effort on continueing the Palestinian Curricula in East Jerusalem will be made
7. Creation of an open dialogue with the active political groups in the communities in order to create a joined vision and group
8.  Develop a Jerusalem monitor body which will monitor the following:

  • Decisions of the Jerusalem municipality regarding zoning plans to raise awareness of the people about municipal laws and budgets for East Jerusalem in comparison with West Jerusalem (in all fields such as health, education, economics,  development, ITC, etc.)
  • House demolitions
  • Human Rights violations (including arrests and detention)
  • Create a system to gain geographical information about changes on the ground and develop fitting maps and an electoral gate.
  • The status of different sectors in Jerusalem
  • The cultural, psychological ,touristic and political sectors
  • Political mobilization by Palestinian and Israeli peace and anti-peace groups
  • Community stories which show human suffering of the people but also which show success stories (‘lesson learned effect’)

Giulia and I  are working right now on a proposal for funding which we will send in to the European Endowment for Democracy which is part of the EUIMG_4713. We are also conducting a range of interviews with different organizations and politicians (Palestinian and Israeli) to gather more information about work which has already been done concerning the communities and where communication and actions are lacking. I will keep you updated about the progress we make with the projects !

So much to my work…. I hope this answers some of the many questions I have gotten from friends and family 🙂

When it comes to free&fun time and weekends we have developed a really nice tradition of having a weekly dinner with some friends I IMG_4720made here, mainly from work . This week we will have a Move in Party instead, as we moved yesterday to a new awesome apartment. We have a balcony with a view over the city , a piano , a huuuuge TV and an overall really bright two room apartment 🙂

We also have been to a Oktoberfest in the Westbank (Ramallah) what was kinda hilarious as it was my first Oktoberfest in my life as a German person. A coworker of mine, who is making music, had an amazing show at this festival and we had a lot of IMG_5099fun!!!! Overall it is really easy to have lots of fun in this country at the weekends and people are awesome around here 🙂

Next week we will probably go for around a week to visit Jordan the neighbouring country. I have a friend living in Amman so I look a lot foward to see him again as I have not seen him in many years. After spending some time in Amman we might rent a car and go around the country a bit and down to Petra. We have not planned anything in detail jet but too much planning makes unhappy and the best things happen spontaneously 😉

I really enjoy my time here but I am also not too sad that I will only stay here for 5 months since sometimes homesickness hits me unfortunately in a double way. I enjoyed the time in Germany ❤ in August, and I often wish I could spend more time with my friends and family there, I miss them!!!! and also with my cat Jimmy… It is still not clear how his health status is , so when I know more I will update you…..
Also I miss Sweden. I miss my beloved Malmö ❤ even though it is probably by now often quite grey there. This year I will miss the Swedish winter and the greyness but I will also miss all the coziness and the pre-Christmas time when the whole city is shining with lights and all the decorations….. I miss my friends, some of them especially…..  BUUUT I am back in January and then it will be amazing to see all of them again and I will appreciate the people and the city even more than I already did before 🙂

Thank you Toda and Shukran Jerusalem so far for an amazing first month , with awesome people, fun & parties, wonderful nightwalks, great weather and all the other awesome experience ! 🙂

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