Thick as Mince

The beginning of another week in Amman. I’m sitting in my usual spot by the window, watching the cars racing by and recovering from four straight hours of Arabic before this afternoon’s language assistant session. My guy’s a professional photographer, which means we have at least one common interest, but he’s also a race car whiz – in his own words, the smell of diesel and the sounds of screeching brakes are two of the most beautiful things in the world – so in reality we’re sitting on opposite sides of the fence. But he’s keen, so I’ll give him that. I just might not be chomping at the bit to go drifting at the city racecourse anytime soon, much to Andrew’s chagrin (though I’ve told him he’s more than welcome to go in my stead).

Compared to last week’s whistlestop tour of northern Jordan, this weekend was more of a sequence of minor misadventures. We got to the citadel at last, timing our arrival with the middle of the day (not my idea). The agamas were loving it, sunning themselves in their droves atop the crumbling ruins of the Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace, but the heat was a little too intense for us. I found a relatively quiet spot in the heart of the ruined palace to sit still and meditate for a bit, but if I could find a nearer spot that doesn’t have an entry fee, that’d be grand. We also ended up in a five-star hotel in downtown Amman which was a strange experience indeed, and one that I don’t think I’ll be repeating anytime soon. There’s something about luxury that I’ve never been all that comfortable with. Oh wait, here comes Adnan. I’ll be back in an hour, folks.

Taxi rides are getting a lot more entertaining than usual, the clearer ‘Amia becomes. Most of the drivers are Palestinian, and if you can get by their thick accents, you’re in for more than one ride. On the way into town in search of reasonably-priced vegetables, we get talking about the difficulties of travel in Jordan and beyond, and because I’m in the car, talk turns to finding a way into Syria. The driver takes his hands off the steering wheel mid-speed and wields an invisible machine gun at Andrew. ‘Takka-tak tak. You die. You go Syria, you die.’ That puts an end to that matter. For now. I’m not giving up on Damascus that easily.

As for the vegetables, we found ’em. Two dinar for the lot: carrots, aubergines, tomatoes, onions, garlic, courgettes, ginger, pepper… You name it. Health in a bag and doesn’t it feel amazing! Time to rustle up something decent that doesn’t contain eggs, and none too soon neither. I wonder why everything’s five times the price in our neck of the woods?

Also, Arab DVD shops. I’d plum forgotten just how jammy they are. Seven films for a couple of quid. If we’re still uncomfortable with the idea of video piracy in the West, the Arabs got over their scruples long ago. The result? A monstrosity of a Nicholas Cage film, so indecipherable that it was actually really quite entertaining – in a watching-Inception-whilst-drunk kind of way. Still, it’s about time we had a mascot. If Dolly Parton was our Ugandan celebrity, why not tout Nicholas Cage for Jordan? (I should really get out more often…) BB x


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