“I love you, America!”

My short stay in Amman is coming to an end. During my brief 36 hours here, I have really come to appreciate this city and its people. There aren’t many sights in the city itself (other than the ancient citadel and Roman theatre, both of which I can see from the hotel’s roof deck), but there is an amazing energy here. And the people–I’ll say it again–are absolutely wonderful.

This morning, the hotel arranged a private excursion for me to Jerash, a massive ancient Roman city about 45 kilometers north of Amman. (I saw a sign pointing to the road toward the Syrian border on the way and briefly reflected on the situation there. The world should be ashamed of its failure to react last year, when a swift response would have eased tensions, if not solved the problem completely. Now, it’s much more complicated, and that situation has devolved into full-on civil war. I believe that all UN member states should be subject to UN military intervention if they are found to be in violation of international law. I know that law is never black and white, but surely massacres of one’s own citizens qualify? A country should lose its sovereignty if it blatantly and directly violates the sovereignty of its own people. But the UN “military” is pretty much ineffective, and the UN itself, with its antiquated Security Council and American calls to withhold funding, has, sadly, grown impotent. So much for cooperation amongst nations.)

But I digress…

Jerash was remarkable. The ancient streets are rutted with paths carved by chariots racing past millennia ago. The city had a forum, a circus (racetrack), a theatre… I sat for a few minutes on one of the upper levels of the theatre, facing the stage, and imagined myself watching a comedy or listening to Cicero delivering an oration. It was even better than being at the Colosseum in Rome, because I had the whole theatre to myself!

The taxi driver who took me there, Joseph (Yusuf), waited at a nearby restaurant as I wandered the site. I told him when he dropped me off that I would only be an hour, but I grossly underestimated the size of the place. I returned 90 minutes later, because I didn’t want to keep him waiting (or, worse, return to find he had already left). I could have spent all day there.

When I finally met him, he joked about me being late and then asked if I wanted more time there. At this point, I was getting hungry and the midday sun was blazing down. A return trip to Cafeteria Reem was in order. Again, we ate our shawarma (my treat) in the car and made our way back to the hotel. A 2.5-3 hour excursion with private taxi was only 30 JD. A similar trip in the Boston would have been $100, if not more!

On the way to Cafeteria Reem, we were talking, and, approaching Amman, he suddenly exclaimed, “I love you, Amman! I love you, America!” At Jerash, I spoke with a young Jordanian man who kept saying, “USA is great! Obama great man!” I didn’t want to get into this election cycle and the fact that every four years we are subjected to the most farcical, absurd, comedy of errors as we start to choose a new leader. (Yes, debate is good, but none of what has been said by any candidate in the past twelve years truly lends itself to the art of debate.) Maybe there are merits to monarchy, or at least a European style run-off election… It was heartening to hear that Obama still enjoys support somewhere. Now, if only I could find a way to register this young man and his friends to vote in the US…

But my point is that Americans ARE welcome. We just have to put ourselves out there more. Sadly, my stay in Jordan is brief, but I will be back. I didn’t make it to Petra… and I would love to spend more time talking to strangers in Amman.

An early morning taxi ride will take me to the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge on the Jordanian/Israeli border. After crossing, it’s a short ride through the West Bank and on to Jerusalem. I still can’t believe I’m going to Jerusalem!

(On another note, I will eventually write a post about women in Amman. Suffice it now to say that they drive by themselves, haggle with the best of them in the markets, and have no problems telling men what they think. They also wear whatever they choose, from the full-on niqab to t-shirts and jeans. Not every Muslim country restricts the freedom of its women citizens. I’m looking at you, Saudi Arabia…)

Until next time, peace and love.

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