It looks like I will be seeing a lot of King Abdullah.
On Christmas Day I crossed the border from Syria into Jordan. It was a pretty uneventful crossing but had the typical incidents of confusion and head scratching. I passed by the initial booth and stopped but was waved forward by the guard who told me to go to the building on my left to obtain the exit stamp. I arrived and was told that I first had to pay the fee which was of course; at the booth I just left. I returned and the same guard told me I had to pay the approximate 10 dollar fee. I reminded him that a few minutes ago he waved me forward and responded with a "yes I remember you" and then proceeded to process my form without comment.
It's always a relief to get through a border and after obtaining a 30-day (it is stamped as 30 days as opposed to the 15-day stamp for the 30-day Syrian visa) Jordanian visa was on my way into the 9th country of my trip.
As I biked south from the border city of Ar Ramtha there were clear signs of a country with more wealth than Syria. Many of the buildings were painted and neat in appearance, something that was rare north of the border. I was on the outskirts of town and a man in a pin-striped blue suit standing beside his black Mercedes waved at me and asked me to stop.
Mr. Fayez Al Zoubi warmly greeted me and asked if I would honour him with coming into his home to share a breakfast. After thinking about it for 1 second accepted and entered the gate to his mansion. It was a home every bit as opulent as the finest homes in Bermuda and I was escorted into the living room, complete with a beautiful chandelier, comfortable pillows and a large flat screen television. The maid from Indonesia served us a breakfast on the floor and we sat down in a square to enjoy the eggs, a meat dish, bread, olives, cheese, various fruits and tea.
In the Muslim custom, you eat with your right hand only so use the pita bread to scoop up the eggs or other dishes, no utensils. It was a great experience to share a breakfast in a Muslim home and it was definitely the best breakfast I have had on my trip. I noted to my hosts that it was Christmas day which was a little ironic as the large television that dominated the room was showing the pilgrimage in Mecca. One thing that struck me while watching was the devotion that the Muslims have to their religion. The men and women of all ages, including the often rebellious youth, show complete devotion to their faith, something that is quite rare in terms of religion in the West. Fayez told me that he has been to Mecca 30 times and says it is always the highlight of his year.
I asked Fayez what line of work he was in and he responded by telling me that his brother is one of the top men in the Jordanian parliament. He never really answered my question as to what he did but I left it unanswered. I thanked Fayez and his friends for their hospitality and he provided me with his phone and e-mail and said if I have any difficulty in Jordan, to give him a call. It's nice to have friends in high places. That is one Christmas morning I will never forget. No presents, no shopping, no mad rushing around to get things done just a simple breakfast with a complete stranger.
I arrived in the city of Jerash in the late afternoon. Jerash is one of Jordan's major attractions due to the remains of a Roman provincial city. The remains were discovered in 1925 but since they were buried in sand have been well preserved. The ruins include an entire city including 2 theaters, temples, churches, a market and baths.