Hilly, cosmopolitan, prosperous young hip lively Amman. One of my students, home on winter break, at a cafe overlooking the city. Reflecting on politics and history in the pan Arab world, on growing up Jordanian and Palestinian, sometimes we laugh, sometimes we shake our heads grimly, I learn a great deal, we shake hands saying goodbye until another context next semester. Trafficwise, an unexpectedly easy morning highway exit out of urbania, to a 25 mile descent from 2,500 feet to the Dead Sea, minus 1,385 feet. Requisite float otherworldly high on the water, lofted by the dense salinity. Busloads of tourists to visit what is believed to be John’s site for the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth on the Jordan River.
Another day, climb back to the top of mount Nebo from the lowest dry point on Earth, grinding desert hours on switchbacks, could be Sonora or Western Colorado but for the turbaned shepherds, camels, olive trees. But for the story of Moses surveying the promised land though going no further. Soldier checkpoints 50 cal on a humvee and their purple grey black camo is curious, look over passport, kids themselves gleeful at the imagined bicycle journey.
Days riding in familiar comforting landscapes, canyons. Demanding, constant climbing waves of road to hilltop villages with green fluorescent lit mosques and concrete homes, fortified by snickers bars or flat bread. Ascending from a deep ravine, Sammy calls out from his enormous bedouin tent to offer a cup of coffee, retired from the Jordanian air force, had spent time in Texas and Arizona being trained, now he huddles behind his flight jacket and ready sense of humor. One of the ubiquitous white pickup trucks pulls up with three of his friends who chortle in Arabic as Sammy translates the particularly funny anecdotes. The coffee is splendid and they’re all enthusiastic that I might camp there with them but instead I press on seemingly ever upwards.