Tag Archives: Jordan

Dead Sea. Bikini Won.

22 Aug

Yes, boys and girls.  The big-bikini won. This “shocking white” gal sported a bikini in the Dead Sea.

Wearing a bikini was NOT a big deal but when you are sitting in Wild Winter Park decisions on what to wear seem monumental.  One would think — Muslin country equals cover up.

Not the case.  Tourons (Tourists + Morons) are exempt.  Though, I should have covered up b/c the sun was a bazillion and one degrees and hurt my pasty, white skin. Yes, I wore the anti-cancer cream.  But, it still hurt.

One more comment about my bikini.  The bottoms turned into soggy diapers because I bought a size too large at Wal-Mart.  I should have listened to my sister.  Yes, I looked like I was carrying a Dead Sea mud-load in my drawers.  Once again, this Tall Pasty Girl was a fashion STUNNER.

Everything you know about the Dead Sea is true.  It’s salty.  It’s salty.  You truly float.  You can only last about 10 mins.  Our group inhaled an All-You-Can-Eat buffet prior to squeezing into our small “swimmers” to float.

Our goal was to see if we gorge ourselves, would we really float.  Normally, the answer is NO.  We ate desserts, pastas, fish, beef, pita, hummus…everything.  And, guess what?  We floated.  Amazing stuff.

The mud was the interesting part.  There was an area off to the side where you took heeps of bacteria-filled mud and rub it all over your body.  “They” say it scrubs away your wrinkles and exfoliates skin rot.  I can only attest to the exfoliating b/c if you rub anything with sand on your body, it will take off skin.  I don’t care where you are.

We rubbed.  I turned a dark color.  And, for the first time since I can remember, felt FAB in a bikini.  I was tan! Hot baby…

This is probably the only time that I feel good about posting a bikini picture – ever.  All inspired by the Dead Sea.

The mud caked on – dried in seconds – and we all sprinted for the 100-degree SALT infested water to cool off.  The water was HOT too.  And, it is true.  You can only stand being in the water for 10 minutes and then every little scratch, knick or chapped particle on your body starts to sting.

We sprinted from the Dead Sea to the chlorinated pool, which was about 90 degrees instead.  Nice and cool for the desert-land.

It was an experience.  But, we opted to take a pass at it a second time in Israel.  Once you’ve done the Dead Sea, you don’t need to go back.  Been there.  Done that.  Exfoliated everything.

Puttering Around Petra, Jordan

21 Aug

Petra is one of the 7th Wonder of the world, voted by the world in 2007 according to the Jordain controlled tourist agency.  It truly is breathtaking.

As I walk through the granite mountains, I ask myself could I be a Petra woman?  Well, it’s better than being a Celtic Viking woman.  Like the heat.  Abhor the cold.  Ok.  So, let me share with you the 411 on Petra.  Because before I stepped foot here, I had zero knowledge of the place.  I did not even know Indiana Jones and Terminator 2 or 3 were filmed here.  Talk about being out of touch.

The place was built in 6 BC – that’s BEFORE Christ.  The Nabataeans – today’s  Bedouins who will NEVER be a contestant on Biggest Looser – settled in Petra because the porous rock held vast amounts of H2O. These folks built an empire on trading spices to Egypt, Greece, Indian and the rest of them.  At one point over 30,000 folks lived in Petra and from I can tell, were obsessed with building tremendous tombs to rest their heads forever and ever.  Tombs are everywhere.  The question I had was where in the world did they live.  No Days Inn Hotels or roach motels from what I could see.  Death ruled the day.

Next, on the block were the Romans.  They came in and classed-up the joint with their oversized arches, columns with curly-ques and dynamic drainage systems.  The Christians (Bad-Ass Byzantines) took over   management around 500 AD and converted all of those tombs into churches. How appropriate.  Down with the dead!   Fast forward a few hundred years and the Arab’s invaded and converted the lot to Islam.  They built an important Muslim shrine for Aaron, brother of Moses, on top of a very, very tall mountain. Which, I’m still confused about why Aaron get’s a Muslim Mosque…thought he was Jewish… but anyway…  And according to the Arab tradition, this was the prime place where Moses struck a rock and water sprang forth.  Petra has it all baby –

Next up were the barbaric Crusaders rolling thru around 12th century.  They came.  They conquered. They left. Petra became  a “lost city,” hidden from the Western world for more than 500 years.  Archeologist rediscovered it and now it’s teaming with tourons from all over the world. That is Petra’s back story.

Now, let’s get on with the fun part. Hiking 14 km in 110 degree heat and heat index of a bazillions degrees.  Yes, I consumed gallons of water and only used the temple of relief (bathroom) once.  I tell you this to give you an idea of the sweat factor.  Mom got upset with me about talking about my bathroom escapades, so I’m trying to keep it clean.

I still feel zapped, so bear with me here.

RANDOM thing happened while puttering around Petra. Our group was sauntering  through the siq (split – entrance into Petra) and Eric – recent UCLA graduate – asked me if Senator Scott Brown from Mass. was standing next to us.  What? I swear I heard him say Dan Brown, author of DiVinci Code.  Crazy child.

I ignored him.  Imagine that.  Then, he asked again.  I looked over, this time for real, not for fake.  This Brown fellow played the part of an athletic looking American male – golf shorts and an izod polo.   I observed security, ear pieces and eyes darting.  This fellow is “someone” but is it really the dude who took down a Kennedy?  And, he is in Petra?  Our group walked on and Eric became annoyed.  I just shrugged him off.  I just can’t be bothered, right?

I reached down and got the Goddesses out for a photo opp.  I looked up and guess who is standing there?  Tall, athletic looking dude.  He reached out his hand, asked where I was from and introduced himself as Senator Scott Brown. WHAT!  And, I’m not even wearing lipstick! Instead, I’m sporting another sweat mustache and pity arms.  I introduced myself like I’m someone just as important and I thought Eric was going to pee in his pants.  Senator Brown wanted to know all about the Goddesses.  He died laughing.  Brought is wife over and we all had a nice giggle. The Jordanian security teens seemed uneasy, like the Goddess fan was disguised as an free-wheeling, arsenic shooting weapon from a Bond movie.  Serious threat here. I wished him luck and ventured on.

Moments later, he came upon our group again.  I asked him – what in God’s name are you doing in Petra?  He went into detail about his trip to Afghanistan, meetings in Amman and his next stop to Israel.   I told him, we’re heading that way and maybe we will run into at Jesus’s place.  He did not understand my humor – and he quickly said that he will be in meetings.  JOKE!  He probably thought I was some scary stalker….   who carries a laminated fan of her BFFers in her backpack?  I was happy to see that he was inhaling, touching, feeling and seeing Afghanistan and the other countries first hand.  The WSJ, NY Times, Foreign Policy Magazine and pre-pubescent Capital Hill staffers only can tell you so much.  (I worked on Capital Hill so I can say that…)

Next stop, hiking 14 km up and down Petra mountains… I won’t go into details about the heat, sweat, dirt, grime and joy felt when scaling the Petra.  I’m zapped and verbs and adjectives are not floating freely.  Let’s just go with American slang — AWESOME.  By the way, that’s our resident Ausie, Rhonda, doing some push ups on the cliff. AWESOME!

Oh, I do want to share this.  Along the way, we rested in a Bedouins’ tent.  The woman was 55 and looked 95 – slightly weathered and in need of a strong moisturizer.   She had a lovely generator powered fridge filled with water and diet pepsis.   Perfect.  Her grand kids covered with packed dusts served us our drinks while asserting that they do attend school – sometimes.  They are the few that are allowed to live in Petra and have yet to be booted by the harmonious government.  AnyHOW, the breeze was delightful and it was the perfect pick-me up.

Our afternoon “45 mins” hike or 600 stairs saunter led us to the monastery.  Petra folks say it was the “best view in the world.”  Well, 2 hours later, we understood what they meant.  The stone, tomb-like structure loomed over us like ants.  Some crazy people found there way to the tip-top of the monastery structure. (I could not get it in my photo if that tells you something….)

You could never scale something like this in the States.  Lawyers would have a field day.  Our group was hedging bets on what country the rule-breakers were from.   After much discussion, we decided it had to the Italians by process of elimination.  For the French, it was too boring.  Germans, too law-breaking. For the Ausies and Irish, it lacked a pub. Brits, too unpractical. For the  Americans, why bother, you can’t sue. Award goes to Italians.

There was a sign we encountered that said “view the end of the world.” We asked, “what does it mean?”  And, we translated…Israel is righ over there… Well, that sums it up, huh?

After investing over 8 hours of walking, it was time for a cold, cold, cold beer.  But, it was damn Ramadam.  UGH. As we trekked the last few miles, Natalie and I decided to try out Oprah’s Secret.  You know, “throw it out to the universe and the unvierse will grant your wish.” Well, Allah certainly was not going to help us on the beer front.  But, we Oprah can. We chanted “beer.”  We visualized “beer.”  We tasted “beer.”  We knew there was a bar in the parking lot area.  The question… was it open?  If it was open, then the Secret had two new converts.

Guess what.  The CAVE was open. Cave is the name of the bar.  They served beer, in secret too.  Perfecto!  The whole group gallaoped in – finding our last bout of energy – and ordered LARGE pints. The Cave Bar is serioulsy the oldest pub in the whole wide world.  How do I know, because those dudes in 6 AD used it as a tomb.  Drinking beer with the dead works for me.

I will end it by saying, Natlie, Eric and I hitch-hiked back to the hotel and made it in time before the buffet closed.  Keeping in line with our German and American culturals of consumption.  The next day, I could not move.  Those IB Profin came in handy as well as a pot of Turkish coffee.  I’m still zapped.  And, I’m not hung over.  It truly is the heat people.  I promise.

PS. Spell check in Polish. So, forgive me… Kate!

Jordanian Delight

21 Aug

On a bus heading going to see the “first” map of the holy land.  Everything is a “first” around here.  The bus driver is all over the road.  We bump, we sway.  We feel sick.

Today is a rough day – we are all spent – physically.  The traveling group of Australians, Brits, Americans, East Germans and New Zealand-ers are hung-over from the heat and hiking around  one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Petra, Jordan.  FYI: Indiana Jones and Terminator II were filmed in Petra for those of the more sophisticated set.

I’m operating in a fog trying to remember these last few days.  Ok.  Bear with me here. After camel trekking and desert dining in Wadi Rum, we heading North or South to Petra.  Our first afternoon in Petra, Natalie – my new East German  living in Dublin BFFer – and I cruised around the booming Muslim metropolis in search of food. That’s what good Germans and Americans do — consume food & drink. Yes, Cleopatra restaurant called our name.  We asked to be seated outside for the delightfully parched ambiance.  They reminded us it was prime-time Ramadan.  No food outside.

Quick not to loose a $, they ushered indoors, and propped us in a corner, behind a curtain.  No matter.  If they had anything edible, they could put us in a cave at this point. Of course East German girl and American girl inhaled  – white beans, white rice, random meats – possibly camel, veggies, pita, soups – the works.  A cold beer would go nice with the moistureless dust.

Damn, it’s that Ramadan thing again.  Sad to say, but we were itching for Israel at this point.  There’s beer in Israel – year round.  We kept our mouths shut.  You don’t say the “I” word in Jordan.

Moments later, Natalie whip out a cig.  They reminded us the third time – Ramadan.  I felt like the character in Scrooge where the Angel of Death was trying to show us our sins until we finally “get it.” We got it.  We settled for the legal drug, caffeine and polished off our meal with some Diet Pepsis. Coca-Cola is seen as “too” American.  Whatever…

Earlier in the week, Natalie had hiked Mount Sinai in Egypt in her Birkenstock sandals.  Not a good move.  Her precious feet welcomed a family of open sores.  For her to”do” Petra, finding closed-toe tennis shoes was a must.

That night, we ventured out after the last Mosque music-call summoning folks to prayer.   As we sauntered down the hill of kitty litter, I noticed shoes – mounds of them – organized on racks. 

“Look Natalie!  A shoe sale! I’m sure you can find something in your size over there.”

She looked at me like I was smokin’ crack.  “Have you gone mad?  That’s a Mosque, not a bloody shoe mart.” My word.  It was the shoes, not the little butts raised to the ceiling, that caught my eye.  Natalie did score some black and white pleather SkyWalker sporties at a Muslim men’s shop.  They don’t carry large sizes in women’s…. Talk about discrimination.  NO BGs (Big Girls)  in Jordan.  Julia?  Kate?

Before going into Petra stories, let me tell you something about this Jordan.  She’s a dusty, barren, parched country with little resources, little water and little crime, yet reeks with respect and royalty.  You get a sense she is managed via a benevolent king instead of a dick-weed dictator.

Sandstone buildings rise up in what appears to be miles and miles of untouched kitty litter.  I mean, this place put the D in dusty.  There appears to be distinct classes – the haves and the haves not – which are based on locale and religion.  Christians have been fleeing the country for years – probably just thirsty – so the majority of population is Muslim.  She houses hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.



And, thousands and thousands of Iraqis, who landed here during the war.  Both have formally set up shop.  And, from the “drive-by” it appears the Iraqis are fairing much better than their Palestinian brothers.  This is based on observation alone.  Oh, our Jordanian tour guide did say that everyone in Jordan lives in harmony and peace.  I did not want to dispute it but from my other drive-by – did TWO drive-bys people – I would aruge the statement was issued from Cinderella’s castle by Mickey Mouse himself.

I would like to relay an interesting conversation with our Jordanian tour guide, whose family fled from Chechnya in the 1920s, about his take on Lebanon, Jordan and the Middle East in general.  He agreed that the Lebanese do have the BEST cuisine but are completely off their rockers.  He sees Lebanon as a ticking time bomb. (You will later find out that every country is a ticking time bomb…)  So, his solution to Lebanon’s issues, which we still have not defined, included booting this democracy notion and allowing Syria to rule the country. I said, “didn’t they kick Syria to the curve a few years ago, why would they want them back?” I really, really willed my eyes not to bug out of my face as I tried to listen.

From where he sits, he sees having one ruler in charge is better than the three stooges – Lebanese Christians, Sunnis and Shiites.  Corruption, in his view, would cease and civility would emerge.  The Lebanese, he asserts, would know what they are getting with a Syrian dictator, unlike the nuts running the place now.  Has a point, but….

It flies in the face in what we – Americans – believe in.  Freedom to vote in or boot out political leaders based on performance, beliefs, sleeping arrangement or hair color.  Our system is far from perfect but at least we have repercussions for political dudes and dudettes not up to snuff.  With a king or dictator, you don’t have the freedom to boot. Instead, their friends are the ones with the freedom to boot you from your home – let’s sum it up by saying boot you from life – possibly in 30 mins or less.

But, to my tour guide’s credit his reasoning was based on two things –  at least you know what you are getting and years ago – like 500 – all of the Arabia (Middle East) was under one rule and seemed to be “just fine.”  It wasn’t until after a couple of world wars that the Brits & French – with input from yours truly – sliced up the region like a 2-year old trying to slice up a meringue pie.  So, I can empathize and see where he is coming from, though I completely disagree.

One other little “ahh haa” moment came when our Jordanian guide made a comment about how we have to pay to get into one of the orthodox Churches to see the “first” map of the holy land drafted by our fellow Bad-Ass Byzantines.  Of course, I could not let that slip by.  I asked innocently, “How do Mosque’s keep their doors open?”  His response,

the government funds all the mosques in the country.  We – the people – are not forced to give them any money.  If we give anything, we will pool our money together and buy a flat screen TV for the Mosque or give food to a family who is struggling.  But, it is the government who pays the salaries, funds Mosque expansions, installs Temples of Relief (bathrooms)….”

Ahhh.. That makes sense.  So, I followed up, “So, Christian churches are on their own? They need to find resources to keep their doors open, right?” Response, “Yes.  Their people give money and they charge money for admission to see holy artifacts.”

I wanted to respond – Damn Straight baby.  State does not tell us what to do…. Don’t worry Dad, I kept my mouth shut and smiled like a lady.

That being said, it makes sense since religion and government are one in the same, unlike the US.  Can you imagine our tax dollars going to fund churches, mosques, synagogues, Scientology centers, temples, meditation retreats…the works?  Are we talking about unionizing priests? Long lines at the confessions?  Closed on govt holidays?  Solve issues by increasing taxes to spend more?  Hmmmmmmmmmmm

Just something to think about.  The more I travel, the more I love my country.  Thank you God!  God Bless America!

Riding a Camel with a Purpose and with a thong

11 Aug

Quick post.

I’m in Petra, Jordan.  Just arrived a few minutes ago.  The hotel computer not only works, but has FAST Internet.  Brilliant as the Brits say…

Thought I would never be writing this one — It is rough riding a camel in thong underwear.  Who knew  this was even an option or, let alone, even possible?  It is possible.   Camel riding is some pretty intense stuff, especially when it is over 110-degrees and you have a permanent – I mean PERMANENT – wedgie.

I met up with a tour group in Amman and part of the trip was trekking Wadi Rum (think Lawrence of Arabia) and bond with the Bedouins for a night.  I was not sure what that meant, for fine print or directions never interest me.  I like “living on the edge.”  The guide told us to bring some toothpaste and a few essentials.  Our bags disappeared in the back of a 1978 Toyota pick-up truck driven by a 11 year old sportin’ a turban.    For reasons that I don’t recall, our group opted for the camel ride.   I thought — “cool, a camel ride!”  That was not just a ride around a culd-a-sac, it was a trek.

The Wadi Rum dessert bleeds in cooper.   You have your occasional gray/green shrub and amazing mountains, but that is it.  Camp was a cool 11 km, which took us over 2.5 hours on camel.  An 8 year old boy and his father walked along side of us in flip flops.  Talk about humbling.  FYI:  There are no fat Bedouins.

We were greeted at the camp by more Bedouins and more tea.  I wished I liked tea — I was just jonesing for a diet coke and some ice.  Not even possible.

We watched the sun set over the dessert and it was truly mystical.  I felt so insignificant.  Like an ant.  Or, just a spec of dust.  “Dust in the wind comes to mind…”  I imagined all the thousands if not millions who flip-flopped through the dessert before me.  Humbling.  Oh, the Saudi border was 2 or 3 km away, yet everything seemed so peaceful.  It should b/c there is NOTHING out there.

The silence is what frightened me.  The only thing you heard was wind.  That’s it.  NO INSECTS.  No, voices.  No, cell phones.  Not even camel popping.  Nothing.  You are in nothing-ness.  I wish I could write something profound.  Mystical comes to mind.   Spiritually.  Godly. Just insert anything with a superaltive.

That night, we ate random meat – possibly camel – cooked underground and rice.  This is my type of eating.  I had three servings, amazing our guests by the amount of food I can put away.  Gee..camel riding makes you hungry.  I drank vats of water but was fearful to use the “built-in” sandstone toilets.  I believe blogging about bathroom issues is set for another time.  I don’t think I’ve gone in four days now.  It is distressing me.  That being said, a Bedouin camp is not the best place to let loose either…

Focus.  We had very nice tents.  But, I decided to reject the tent and sleep under the stars.  This is the first for me to willingly sleep outside for the entire night.  It has happened before….I believe it is called “passed out” under the stars. My mattress was about 4 feet long and a comfy, soft blanket covered my chin.  It was hard to close my eyes.  Sound was deafening.  Stars brilliant.  Thoughts flowing.  I laid awake thanking God and counting the falling stars.  One after the other they fell —  I don’t think there are many  places left where you can see the stars without ANY light.  The ironic thing is I slept better outside in the dessert than at my Amman Days Inn. Maybe I was a Bedouin in another life.  I sure as hell was not a Viking.

I woke to a brilliant sun rise,  brilliant muscle spasms and more tea.  Inside, I was glad it was not coffee for my stomach would have imploded at this point.

Right now, I’m waiting for a Turkish bath in Petra.  I heard that you can wear your swim suits.  Novel concept.  When I was in Turkey in college — Katie Lou, Allison, I found ourselves in a Turkish bath naked with random Canadian boys we met only hours before on the boat ride over from Greece.   Usually, you get naked AFTER you get their name, not before…HA!  Another story.  The Petra Turkish bath should be much tamer.  It is Ramadan for pete sakes…. A good disinfecting and exfoliating sounds rockin’ right about now.