This journey, initially, was only a dream. My dream of going to see the great things of the past, but it’s just too unreal to be there. The place was so far away and very few companies have ventured out to that part of the world. As remote as it had been, I kept my dream alive by buying books about the place—the great al hambra of Andalusia. I wanted to see and be in the place that was once the center of civilization. What makes it so great is that the artifacts are still there, preserved at that place. From the history books, the narrations are diverse and sometimes biased. A lot of people have dug into the past of this magical moment in the history of humankind, but the stories seem incomplete and I could feel that there is more to it than what we could have imagined. Well, the past is in the past and it is gone crumbled away by the changing season. So when a group of my friends organized this trip, I knew right away that I was meant for it.
I pledged not to be fussy for this trip. I was not going to expect anything just taking in as it comes. Whatever happens, I will face it with a wide smile. Nothing would ruin this trip and will enjoy every step of the way. We endured a long flight to Madrid via Jeddah. We arrived in the afternoon and it was in the middle of winter. The sun was out but the wind chill made me scrambled for a winter coat. I did not have one. I just hate dragging around the thick winter clothing but when the cold air started to run you down, you wish to think better next time. A bus was waiting for us and by no time we were driven out of the airport and into the metropolitan Madrid. It was Sunday afternoon and the streets were quiet. I was told that Spanish people are very religious and would rest and do nothing on Sunday. We made a pit stop at a stadium home for the Real Madrid football club. I just could not care less about this football club and know no one of its players. But they say this is one famous club and home for a famous soccer player—Christiano Ronaldo. Apparently, he is no longer here and after a few pictures, we were off again. The next stop was the Islamic Center of Madrid. A very impressive building but when I went into the toilet it was littered by a pile of poo. The toilet was not working and no hot water. But as I promised myself not to be fussy. I let this one pass—aargghh how could someone do that? There were plenty of working toilets in the place. Anyway, forget it! We are going to Toledo next.
Alexandria is an ancient city; opened by Alexander the Roman Emperor. The city is blessed with beautiful sea and endless beach.the long history of Alex makes it rich with cultures and traditions; Greek, French, British and Turkish. The sea breeze made the walk by the seaside a cooling experience. Complementing the scorching summer days that they are having in this part of the world. We stayed at an apartment subletting from the students who were away for the summer. It was a few blocks from the seaside. Sounds so nice and pretty; it was not, however, as pretty as it sounds. This part of Alex seemed to be old and crumbling down. The sunshine rarely reached the front gate which made the street dark and gloomy most of the time. The rubbish from yesterday still littered the roadside; made me so frustrated with the ugliness of human attitude. But one thing is good though, the smell of fresh bread from the bakery made the morning so tasty and refreshing.
I always love fresh-from-the-oven bread especially Arabic; it tastes so simple but fulfilling no matter what gravy you dip it in. I walked the beach despite the fact that it was dirty and not well maintained. The sea breeze was unique here when you expected the sizzling heat but all of the sudden the wind brushes it away leaving your face feeling calm and settled. I just could not get over the fact that I was in this great city experiencing great scenery as Egyptians have been for thousands of years. This is a resort city, I supposed, people come here to relax and have fun. And in those few days, the crowd was crazy. The night cafés were packed with people talking and drinking; they seemed to have fun. The noise was unbelievable even as you passed by, it was deafening. The summer night was awesome; I wish we could go to the beach and look up the stars. Only if we could cross the road safely (hahahaaha!). The traffics were mad and I just could not risk my life just to get to the other side of the road. It was so unbelievable but somehow or rather the locals just stepped into the traffic, put up the little fingers and rush over to the other side. But the car never seemed to slow down. A lot of cars on the road and at night that number had doubled(so it seemed).
I like the morning best in Alex,along the sea side road as the waves washed the rocks tirelessly. The sea was calm and quiet as though trying to keep the secret of last night. The sun was gentle and we walked by the sea side for miles and miles.There were a lot of people but we just could not strike any conversation. First because we do not know Arabic that much and second the Egyptians are a bit scary. Yes I am sure they are nice people but being close to a stranger in Egypt made you scared to even ask a direction. But everything was okay; I enjoyed my trip there tremendously.
Cairo (Al-Qaherah) is an awesome metropolis. Vibrant and breathtaking. The city that has painted a colourful life for thousands of years. The glorious past from ancient times can still be traced and seen on site. The day was unbelievably hot at 41 degrees. And under that grilling heat we decided to go on a tour to Giza to see those amazing pyramids. I just could not wait for another minute to get a closer look of the magnificent structure—one of the seven wonders of the world. it was awesome and I do not understand how the whole thing was possible; I still don’t. But whatever your belief towards this impossibility, the proof is there mounting up a few kilometers up, width and length. The stone blocks as big as twice of your big refrigerator stacked up high into the sky. My mind was blown away as I sized up the stone blocks up close. So huge and those square things are really stones. I was speechless as the heat kept burning my face. I did not really care of the surroundings; annoying people trying to sell stuffs and what not, I stood there looking up into the sky to find the tip of that thing. Maybe Fir’aun was really trying to reach the heavens and fought with Moses’s God. And this thing has been there against the wind and the sun for thousands of years. It was unbelievable. There are three of them ; the other two are smaller ones but as magical as the first one. Then there was this statue of lion headed creature around that area as well.I wish I could stay longer there to feel the long history of the place. The nearby villages seemed as ancient as the pyramid itself; as if the time stood still for the people to come and see this magnificent structure from the ancient civilisation. The donkeys still use the dusty street to pull the cart, that old lady looked beyond the time…I mean so old but still managed to sell us something. We drove on to escape the heat and the guilt for feeling sorry to this great community that live to make the history stays alive for many more thousand of years.The traffic in Cairo was mad as they drove like crazy people with rules of the jungle and used the road as he is the only in a hurry. Ironically, they managed to maneuvre through the rough traffics and small passages. I mean you would get from point A to point B; no matter what.
The great Amr Al-Aas Mosque
Buying fruits in Cairo
Being in this great city makes you realise the cultural diversity of the Egyptians. The many foreign invaders had left the cultural footprints that exist among the city folks and can be seen as you stroll down the busy streets of Cairo. The western lifestyle in fashion ,food and youngsters make you realise that Cairo has gone through many transformations. I was indeed blessed to be able to witness and experience the current and modern Cairo.
We entered Petra at around 8:30 am when the sun was about to warm up this hilly landscape. Breakfast was superb with delicious tomatoes and cucumber. I think they were better than the ones we had in Japan: juicy and tasty. Petra is a huge archeological complex that was discovered in the 1960s and later on in 2008 was recognised as UNESCO world Heritage site.
As we leave Petra, my whole body was aching and I could hardly move. But the feeling was wonderful to be able to witness the display of ancient history and verified the many tales and stories about the people once lived here. I glanced back through the car windows and saw from a distance a civilization from the past that would sit and wait for someone like me to come by and being swept away by the magnitude of the whole thing. It would be there as it has been for thousand of years. The car dwindled down the hill fast like a roller coaster ride but I could barely raise a voice to slow it down. Let it just rolled down the hill, I need the time to nurse my tired feet and painful back. I closed my eyes and smell the air conditioned that blew onto my face.we were heading to our next destination– Wadi Rum
Four hours later we reached there. It was a desert camping area. We would be spending the night here.we rode on 4by4 to catch a sunset.A desert is a huge sandy and rocky landscape that you would see an Arab drives a car like a crazy man just like you see them driving on a street road hahahaha. The rock formation was magnificent and unique. A movie called The Martian was shot here. and you are right the place is like a strange place from outer space on a strange planet somewhere. We made a few stops and tries to take in all the history and moments from the past that came with the scenery. It was incredible and amazing experience just to be there. The exact answer to the question — what did you really do at the desert? nothing! just looking around. and it was enough. Then we were swoozed around to the next pont to wait for the sunset. Again the sight was breath taking which lasted for a few minutes.
In Jeddah, we arrived with Saudia Airline. Quite comfortable plane but shaking endlessly throughout the flight . This time we’re going to Jordan and Egypt. I had no idea what to expect out of this journey, not much I guess. Travelling through the Arab world has a different flavor I supposed; instead of leisure it is more of an adventure. Anything could happen and usually it happened at the least time you expected. Not much of the hospitality as you received elsewhere in the world ;welcoming strangers with open arms and warm smiles. Over here is skeptical the first time and a nuisance the second time. As we do not speak Arabic we will get the nuisance look most of the time.
After eight hours of flight and a couple of old movies my body started to ache and every joint squeaked painfully. I find no leisure in a journey like this… long and tiring. Maybe the body is not fit anymore for a long haul travelling. Maybe as you grow old you need more reasons to do things out of ordinary. People say travelling is fun; I am still searching for fun in such activity. I will keep searching. It was 2 am and the smell of the transit lounge gave me a headache. The noise from a child tells that he was tired too. Why do we have to endure this pain? In search for a fun maybe or the urge to see other people and places. so we can brag about it on FB wall. I don’t really understand the world I am living. I guess that’s why I would create my own world and roam the impossibility in there endlessly. I have a secret garden that I go every now and then. A secret beach that I can lie down under a lulling sunshine. and a never never land that I can fly and be myself whoever I want to be. The childish fantasy in me is actually a saviour from the stressful world around me. The environment that aged me by the seconds.
One thing about travelling is that you have plenty of time ….waiting. You waited for the connecting flight, for the gate to open, for your document to be cleared or for someone to pick you up. So most of the time you would sit around and see people coming and going. It is the best time to contemplate on things that you have never had time to ponder. About life for the past few thousand hours that you spent living and surviving in this mad mad world.
I contemplated mainly on my growing up years when I had nothing at all. Without physical luxury or self esteem, I waded the fast moving current of my early life with just the will to see and to know what was ahead of me. Living one day at a time and one step after another. I never had a big dream to change the world or that sort of thing. Because no one ever taught me how to dream or what to dream. I floated aimlessly for quite some time. But fate has it that I moved from one milestone to another building my own life; without realizing it. I survived, passed the exams, got a job and started a family. The time flies so fast. Before you know it, you are old and constantly in pain. I don’t want to get old and grumpy because I have a lot more things to do and to experience.
The transit lounge was busy even at the early hours of the morning. We sat and slept and waited some more. Fajr came at last and the boarding time should be anytime now. The flight to Amman was scheduled at 10.50 local time; it was on time. The flight was full and packed with big people. They made the plane looked so small. I squeezed myself into the seat and tried to relax and settled myself. Outside, the desert sun started to heat up the air, it’s going to be a hot day. I hope Amman would not be as hot. The flight was smooth and the food was good. For the first time I tasted a special diabetic meal (as ordered by my daughter who done the booking for us) and it was fantastic. At last the world understands what it means to be diabetic. We arrived on time at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. It was around noon. Ahlan wasahlan ! Welcome to Jordan—the Land of the Prophets.
Arriving in Amman, Jordan
At the QAI Airport
In Jordan, the sun was high and temperature was around 40 degrees. The barren landscape makes the air feels so dry and unforgiving. The trees are barely alive and giving a glimpse of the hard life that the people of this land have to put up in order to survive. The young man at the immigration counter gave us a cold sigh when we struggled to give him the information that he needed. Usually at any other entry points we would be yelled at or screamed at when we were not ready with the information. So this man scaled better than average immigration officer. Overall, the first impression of Jordan was good, people were friendly and the environment was relax; no police roadblock along the 200 km highway that we passed through to go to Petra.