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