Hi! I’m Ana

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hiding in the shade at the citadel

Day 18 - the Citadel, Amman

The ruin hunters are getting tired of ruins. This is a problem. After all, ruins are Jordan’s speciality. A few days ago on top of the High Place of Sacrifice, we passed a French guy who caught our eye and said drolly, “Rocks, rocks and more rocks. Nothing special here.” We have ruin fatigue.

So, we read our books, watch our movies and eat lunch. I order a latte and it’s basically instant coffee with a lot of milk powder. Oh well. This is why you stick to the local food. We don’t make it outside until later in the afternoon when we mission it up one of Amman’s very many hills in the blazing sun. I throw, what I call, one of my mild Middle East tantrums. It’s usually about one or a mix of:
(a) Where are all the women? Where are these men keeping them? or
(b) FOR ONCE on a hot day, I want to wear shorts or a skirt or a dress or 
(c) Why are the guys here such pervs. 

This Jordanian woman gets it. I appreciate New Zealand more and more, its multiculturalism, its largely progressive attitudes, the women who help run the place, and the men who support them and treat them as equals in doing so. You just do not see women in public out here. They don’t run the shops, they don’t hang out on the street, they don’t eat at restaurants, they don't check you in at hotels. The very few women you see are either shopping with a male escort, driving cars full of their family and children, or they’re tourists. Like me.   

At least entry to the Citadel is only JD$2 per person. We wander round the complex, finding the spots with the best shade and people watching. The two pillars still standing from the Temple of Hercules are pretty impressive. Other than that, “Rocks, rocks and more rocks. Nothing special here.” What is good is the view you get from standing at the highest point in Amman. We observe the densely packed city. There are no parks in sight; only mosques and low, beige coloured square buildings. The repetition is endless and there’s no relief. 

The Jordan Archaeological Museum is more interesting. It houses specimens found on the Citadel site, dating from Stone Ages until the Byzantine era. There are pottery coffins, the world’s oldest statue, the skeleton of a baby buried in a broken urn, and beautifully glazed turquoise glass.

After the Citadel, we walk down hill on broken and unfinished pavements on a mission to find Rainbow Street. Our only weapon is a hotel-drawn map. It is rubbish. Or our map reading skills are rubbish. Who knows? We stop to have juice. The man asks where we’re from and we tell him about New Zealand. He wants to know how many people and we tell him 4 to 5 million. “In the whole country?” he asks, askance. There’s 4 million just in Amman. Then he says, “Are there Arabs in New Zealand?” We say of course. He wants to know more, “What jobs do they do?”. I think of Newtown in Wellington, falafels, kebabs. I blurt, “Restaurants” because I’m an idiot. Rob is a perfect diplomat and New Zealand ambassador, “All sorts of jobs,” he smooths over my mistake for me. “Engineers, teachers, drivers. All sorts.” The juice guy makes an impressed face. As we walk out, I ask Rob, “Do you know Arab engineers?” He says, “Nope.”

We give up on Rainbow Street. We’ve asked a variety of men for directions and they all raise their eyebrows and make gestures like  Where’s your taxi? The most helpful are two teenagers sitting on the street, eating kanafeh from cardboard plates. Rainbow Street proves too far, too hilly and too elusive. We go back towards our hotel, back to our favoured kanafeh place, and back to our stoop outside the hotel with the air conditioning fluid dripping intermittently down on us. For dinner, Rob wanders back down to our lamb kebab place, mimes "takeaway" and we eat it in front of the tv. I watch Something Borrowed and all the swear words and kissing scenes are edited out.  

final ruins in aljoun and jerash

roman theatre echoes in amman