John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Sunday 14 September 2014

[Saturday 13 September 2014]

Edom Hotel, Petra–Region Hotel, Amman
DAY 6: Petra & Amman B/L/D
Today you will head further down to southern Jordan to explore the Wadi Rum Jordanian Desert on a one and a half hour jeep safari. Described by T. E. Lawrence as ‘Vast, echoing and god-like’, the locals refer to the untamed sea of red sand as the ‘Valley of the Moon’. Touring around this beautiful desert by jeep is the perfect way to appreciate the unbelievable rose sandstone mountains, canyons and dunes. Return to Amman for an overnight stay.

Day 257 Hosea 1-2; Romans 9
The joint between right thumb and metacarpal bone had become swollen, with restricted movement of the thumb.… “Up just before 7am,” Janet wrote. She packed the suitcases, then went out to a nearby shop for some water. We didn’t go down for breakfast. When we went down to check out I left the key in the room. The clerk was about to activate another key, but when I stressed that we were checking out, that was the end of matters. We all met up in the lobby at 8.30am and boarded the “dolmuş”. Despite being jolted about on the road I managed to photograph the mountain Ashraf had pointed out yesterday as the burial-site of Aaron.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 08:37:36
Passing the burial site of Aaron atop Mount Hor

I wasn’t able to do justice to the quite spectacular mountains and valleys shortly after that. When we got to the rolling desert hills, with sand the colour of very slightly orange-tinted straw, dotted with tufts of coarse vegetation, we passed a number of black-tented Bedouin camps, and from time to time flocks of sheep, of goats, and one herd of camels, each with its herder.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 08:56:16
Passing a Bedouin camp

The desert air became hazy, or perhaps I should say “more hazy”, and only the summits of distant mountains could be seen pushing through. The words “misty mountains” came to mind from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 09:19:06
Passing misty mountains

We had a stop for toilets on the way at a souvenir shop, where I bought a tourist map of Jordan. On the approach to Wadi Rum there was flat sand and “inselbergs” (isolated mountains poking out), as well as more extensive mountains. The sparse vegetation in clumps here and there was a surprisingly bright shade of green: “almost emerald green”, Peter commented later when I pointed it out to him. We crossed a single-track narrow-gauge railway, built by the Ottomans and only used nowadays for tourists and some freight, which ran parallel to us for some way. At one point we passed coaches and locomotives, diesel and steam, presumably on a siding. They were small like the rolling stock on the Ffestiniog Railway, though the track-gauge seemed to be wider, perhaps 3ft or a metre. On such railways that I’ve previously encountered, e.g. the Sóller train (3ft) and the Circumvesuviana (1m), the coaches haven’t seemed much smaller (if at all) than those of standard gauge. We reached the cluster of buildings that marked the beginning of the four-wheel drive trail (i.e. tyre-tracks in the bare sand), and we boarded two of the vehicles. Janet and I, and Peter, were in the open back of one. The Indian lady couldn’t make it up, so she sat in the saloon part. Her husband chose to join her. There were the driver and Ashraf in there as well. The rest of the party, except John who had decided to remain in the “dolmuş”, boarded the other vehicle.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:23:34
Approaching the parking place of the all-terrain vehicles
Background: The so-called “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:27:06
About to board one of the all-terrain vehicles

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:32:28
Wadi Rum

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:32:34
Wadi Rum

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:32:44
Wadi Rum

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:37:20
Wadi Rum — “emerald green” vegetation

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:39:04
Wadi Rum

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:39:16
Wadi Rum

There was a stop not long after we set out for us to mount a low, flat-topped hill (“rise” might be a better word). Scrambling up the dry-sand gradient wasted much energy in slipping back, till we got to the firm, rocky part of the rise. It reminded me of Dune, struggling to escape from the fast-approaching worms by getting onto a rocky outcrop.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:41:10
A brief stop for a scramble up a hill for a panoramic view

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:43:06
A brief stop for a scramble up a hill for a panoramic view

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:43:18
A brief stop for a scramble up a hill for a panoramic view

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:48:30
“Eddie Lizzard”

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:49:52
Panoramic view

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:50:00
Panoramic view

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:50:12
Panoramic view

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:50:26
Panoramic view

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:50:38
Panoramic view

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:50:48
Panoramic view

There were many tracks in the sand: mostly birds’, but there was the odd small mammal’s, and one or two lizards’ the footprints of which were bisected by a wavy groove made by the tail.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:53:50
Lizard track

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 10:53:50 (detail)
Lizard track: footprints and a dragged tail

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:06:22
Wadi Rum

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:06:34
Wadi Rum

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:09:14
Wadi Rum

When we stopped again for Ashraf to show us some petroglyphs on the cliff-face, Jacqueline and Christine elected to go for a camel-ride. They rejoined us after we made our next stop.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:10:50
Another brief stop

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:11:58
Ashraf points out petroglyphs

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:12:14

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:12:24

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:13:00

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:15:24
Camels to ride…

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:19:26
…of which two of our party availed themselves

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:24:34
Wadi Rum

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:24:42
Wadi Rum

We stopped at a Bedouin souvenir-tent in a narrow valley. Ashraf pointed out the memorial to T. E. Lawrence there, before we entered the tent to be given spiced tea. Ashraf demonstrated the use of the brass pestle and mortar for the tea and spices, tapping the pestle against the mortar rhythmically as he did so. Similarly, the wooden, silver-lined pestle and mortar for grinding the coffee. I was the “model” for a demonstration of how the chequered headscarf is worn. Peter took a couple of photos of me. Janet and I didn’t buy anything, but we left a couple of dinars to show our thanks.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:28:02
Refreshment stop

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:29:42
Memorial to T. E. Lawrence

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:30:16
Memorial to T. E. Lawrence

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:30:16 (detail)
Memorial to T. E. Lawrence: ۱۹۱۷ “1917”

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:31:20
Looking back from there

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:31:34
Looking back from there

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:32:58
Approaching the refreshment tent

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:33:44
Another relief of T. E. Lawrence

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:34:56
Making tea

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:35:44
Wares on display

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:47:58
Wearing the keffiyeh

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:49:10
Wearing the keffiyeh

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 11:49:10 (detail)
Wearing the keffiyeh

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 12:01:34
Coffee grinder

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 12:02:08
Pestle and mortar for tea and spices

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 12:21:06
Journey’s end and lunch

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 12:22:14
Journey’s end and lunch

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 12:22:58
Entering one of the tents

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 12:52:58
The one opposite was more to our liking.

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 12:29:48
Blind lutenist

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 12:52:36
Ashraf and our driver

Sunday 14 September 2014 — 13:18:06
A would-be fellow lunch-guest

The “dolmuş” had come to meet us at the lunch location, and we boarded for the long, long trek back to Amman, mostly along the main route “15”. On 10 September 2014 I mentioned “a modern though cracked, worn, and therefore bumpy road”, and for at least part of the way, the tarmac of this road was similarly cracked, making for a rough ride. Ashraf at the front was talking to Robert and Christine, the Welsh couple.[i] I wasn’t able to follow the conversation in detail, but at one point Ashraf was commenting on the inconsistency of English spellings. I also saw when he showed them the Bible he was reading. It was liberally bookmarked with coloured Post-it notes, and judging by the text layout it was a KJV. As recorded in “12 September 2014” a scribbled note says, “Johnny English 2nd movie” and “Skyfall”. If Skyfall was played on 12 September 2014, then it was Johnny English Reborn that was played today, the 2011 British spy comedy film parodying the James Bond secret agent genre and sequel to the 2003 Johnny English. The aforementioned Ottoman railway accompanied us for much of the way, as I could see from my single seat on the right side. Sometimes it would go off from beside the road away into the distance and later come back again, and sometimes would mysteriously disappear. After it had disappeared and reappeared a couple of times I realised that it had passed under us to the left side. There was much discussion about how much to give Ashraf and the driver, and Janet and I continued this at a large roadside café, the second and longer of two stops. We at least made up our minds, and when each of them was alone there, I gave each a “golden handshake”. Back on the “dolmuş” an envelope for tips was passed around, but of course we’d already done our tipping so just passed it on. On the latter part of the journey Janet got talking to John (whom she nicknamed to me as “Pedro” because of his droopy moustache; I thought of him for the same reason as “Juan”, using the Spanish equivalent of his actual name) and I chipped in the conversation from time to time. It was considerably cooler in Amman than it had been in the southern desert. Amman reminded me of nothing so much as a giant building site. At one point we passed a large curved “M” in plastic wrapping, and I said to Janet, “I’ve just seen Mother McDonald’s breasts!” They were evidently constructing a McDonald’s restaurant there. On arrival, after we’d been on the road from ca.1.30pm to ca.6.30pm, Ashraf handed the keys out that he’d got from reception, and bade the final farewell. We took our own cases up in the lift to a suite on the sixth floor — yes, a suite, with two bedrooms, one with two single beds, the other with a double bed. After a short while we went down to the Venice Restaurant. It was just before 7pm, and we had to wait a minute or two till the lights went on and it was opened. I had a malt-and-hop beverage (they didn’t serve alcohol there) and Janet a Diet Pepsi, which we paid for before we left. We helped ourselves from both the cold and the hot buffet. We needed postcards, so went to the little shop to the right just as one entered the hotel. The proprietor, a French-speaking Tunisian with a little English, was keen to show us other wares, specifically brightly coloured bags. I nipped up to the room and fetched the Asus netbook. While I was up there, the man showed Janet his paintings hanging on pillars in the lobby. Unfortunately the computer proved to be marginally too wide for the bag. Nevertheless, Janet fancied one of them and bought one. We were able to buy stamps with the postcards. Set up the “little feller” in the twin-bed room, so that if Janet went to bed before me I’d not disturb her. Transferred today’s 54 photos and 35 videos off the camera (20:24–20:31). Went through the photos using Windows Photo Viewer rotating 3 that needed it (20:40–20:41).… Janet did such unpacking as was necessary. I updated this record to some extent and wrote the postcards. “It’s now 11pm,” Janet wrote. “[John]’s in ‘his study’ on his computer. I must get my head down.” And the following day she wrote, “It was ca.11.40pm when we both got into bed.”

[i] Their being Welsh is the reason why, on 12 September 2014, I described the Carak Ale as “very much a ‘British’-style beer by my taste”, i.e. not “English”; in writing that, I was unwittingly quoting from my comment to Robert, who was also drinking it.

[Monday 15 September 2014]

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