On the Road with Samer. My trusted driver, Jordan.

It’s the people you meet along the Journey. Samer was my driver in Jordan. He picked me up in a pouring rain storm at the Amman airport, it was late, and he had just returned from a weekend of visiting his parents – he takes his 6 kids to see the ‘ancient’s’ every weekend, a family ritual practiced by generations. Polite questions about his family and our whereabouts were met with some reticence, he said tomorrow we have your guide with us, she can answer all the questions.

If you think of the assets we can attribute to travel, trust and resilience come to mind. My global travel is frequently by myself, I love it and am never lonely and rarely afraid. It’s provided terrific survival skills, although my Journey itineraries include every important detail, once I arrive in a foreign country I am in the real world  —where real time and real situations can present themselves. Good or bad situations. My drivers and guides are my link to security.

Samer and Oria picked me up for our day trip and true to form, Samer let the guide own the conversation. It was at restaurants, where Samer began to warm up a bit – he was determined to eradicate my mostly plant-based diet and introduce me to their wild chickens and goats! It was incomprehensible to him that I would pass up roasted goat! One mid-morning stop, in the all-purpose petrol, bathroom, coffee, gift and buffet dining palace – I admired a colorful keffiyeh, Samer fashioned the scarf like, keffiyeh, around my head and I offered to purchase one for him if he agreed to wear it for the remainder of our Journey…we were twins for a few days.

The Art of wrapping a keffiyeh- Samer.

In the vast Jordan deserts you pass three types of businesses: road side coffee huts – as you pull up, you hand signal to the man – never a woman, serving the coffee, your preference: black or with sugar. You barely stop, roll down the window, drop coins on a tray and carry on. The other shops consist of tire huts – there were more large trucks than cars on the freeways, enormous stacks of huge tires surround the hut, shredded tires and new tires, they repair and sell tires and nothing else. The huts were marginal in size and comfort, practically every other shop was a tire hut, dotting the roads all through Jordan. For miles and miles, the only real type of store includes a petrol station – they invariably are also gift shops and many have a restaurant attached with buffet dining. I’m not one to sit in the car, not wanting to miss any photo opportunity and a chance to see how people live their lives. It is usually the only place for a bathroom break as well. Jordanians drink an inordinate amount of the bitter black Arabic coffee, so I was afforded a few ‘store’ stops!

Look the part and practice at least ten worlds of the native language, it’s a sign of respect and is appreciated by locals, no matter how you mangle the please and thank you!

The art of wrapping a keffiyeh, fully wrapped and ready to go!

After a long day of sightseeing outside the city of Amman, my end of day visit to the Vintage Car Museum was scheduled at 6 pm – I told my guide she didn’t have to tag along if she didn’t like cars. Obviously relieved, Samer took over! When he was stimulated about a subject, he was childlike in his eagerness, his voice grew louder, and his hands waved in enthusiasm, (he could have been part Italian!). Vintage cars were a passion, he insisted I sit in cars despite the no touching sign, the guards ignored us, he was a trusted expert. Strangers would have thought he was shouting at me.

One morning Samer surprised me with a candy apple red walking cane – miles of desert sand, the multiple Petra treks and the uneven ancient steps were pretty challenging to my fairly recent knee replacement.

One long driving day from Wadi Rum to the Dead Sea, dark was approaching and Samer mentioned how many restroom stops we might encounter –  there were few. We made a rapid u turn along the truck filled highway, he pulled into a large petrol shop. I dutifully followed and Samer said we will have dinner here – it’s a long drive. Who knew I would have the opportunity to dine in one of the roadway buffet palaces!?  Think old Las Vegas style buffet palaces, dim lights, no one else dining, the staff uncovered enormous pans of un-recognizable casserole dishes. Jordan actually has an abundance of delicious mezzes and vegetables, I avoided the goat one more time!

Traveling alone, my drivers and guides become my local ambassadors and ultimately trustworthy friends. It’s one reason I interview several guiding teams when I travel. Eventually, our clients will depend on these reliable guides and drivers.

Samer, the ultimate driver in Jordan!

It’s always a test and Samer passed with an A+!           Choukran, Samer.

Taking Tea with a Bedouin, Jordan

‘Vast, echoing, and God-like’ are the famous words that Lawrence of Arabia used to describe Wadi Rum in Jordan. One of the most magnificent vast desert landscapes, enormous red, pink and sandy brown sandstone cliffs rise from the desert floor, Wadi Rum, the largest of Jordan’s many valleys, is also known as وادي القمر (Valley of the Moon). Camels and colossal red dunes dot the horizon. In a protected overhang, we came upon the traditional, long, black Bedouin tent, woven from goat hair. Never to miss a personal experience, I of course, wanted to take tea and barter with the Bedouin shop keeper. Heated by an open fire pit, it’s a bit smoky but intriguing, sharing tea is an accepted form of hospitality.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Drinking un-bottled water is potentially tricky in any foreign country; I mentally debate, is the water boiled, will I offend if I don’t partake? Taking the proffered tea, I rest it on a stone wall to explore his tent shop.  Bedouin tea ingredients are typically water, black tea, and sugar. The Bedouins also add cardamom spice to their coffee, which creates a unique taste.

I’m as fascinated by the tent as I am the contents, absorbing the scene, I’m captivated by every detail; the length of the tent, the low roof with gaps between the textile walls, the bed of colorful raised blankets at one end, the open fire pit in the center and his array of goods lining an entire side of the tent.  A mound of my collections is ready for negotiation…who knew the soft green scarf is a higher quality material than the brown scarf I rejected, higher quality scarf is more expensive, of course! What will fit in my already bulging luggage? I would purchase the tent if I could figure out how to transport it home!  What about the little goats running freely outside?!

Taking Tea with a Bedouin, Jordan

I mentioned that the little hand painted bowls look like they are from Turkey, he assures me everything is local. Organized Virgo girls always carry a pocket full of local cash which aids negotiation; the olive-green scarf decorated with camels and small hand painted bowls are prized possessions. A day later, my suitcase reeks of smoke, the lovely scarf is permeated with the smell of the smoky tent, plastic bags capture it until I get home.

The whiff of the Beaudoin tent will accompany me for two more weeks. The experience is still etched into my memory.

The word Bedouin comes from the Arabic badawī, meaning “desert dweller”.

شكرا\يسلم إيديك šukran/yeslmu ideyk Thank you for the memory!