Jordan and a USD 165 document
Day: 1,660 since October 10th 2013: 145 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country.
Sometimes “home” is really far away
Among well traveled people it is commonly agreed that visas suck the fun out of everything. I tend to agree but I have to say that it’s a little more fun in the Middle East.
I would really like to have a multiple entry visa for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and permission to travel overland. And I’m working on it in cooperation with several people. It’s a bit elusive...however not unobtainable. We will see. For the time being I’m also looking at crossing Iraq? Admittedly I shiver a bit when I hear the countries name: Iraq. Because after all I do not come from a part of the world which is busy telling good stories about Iraq or the Middle East for that sake. It’s just interesting how everybody I’ve ever met from Iraq has been kind and calm. It’s also interesting how Iraq historically is known to be the cradle of civilization. Much the same as with Syria although the cultures are different. Furthermore I find it interesting that everyone I’ve spoken to here in Jordan tends to believe that I would have no problems traveling overland to Baghdad (Iraq’s capital) and spend a few nights. I could then continue overland to Basra and stay there for a while if I could stand the heat. Apparently it’s really warm in Basra. Basra is fairly close to Kuwait so I could continue that way. Imagine if I did that?
Waiting with my back against the Saudi Embassy...
They were really nice at the Iraqi Embassy. The Ambassador is a woman and as it turns out I might be well connected. The only concern at the Iraqi Embassy was that I am neither Jordanian nor a resident in Jordan. For those reasons I should apply for my visa in Denmark. However, although I’m a citizen and hold a Danish passport, I’m not a resident in Denmark. I was signed out of the Danish Central Person Register when the Saga began 4.5 years ago and since then I’ve been in constant transit between countries. On a few occasions I have been able to receive a letter from Danish Consulates stating exactly that. And the Consulates have always been happy to assist in support of the Saga. The last time was in Tunisia when I needed to apply for a visa to enter Algeria. Algeria had the same “residents only policy”. As my situation is different from most other people I can submit the letter as proof for that I’m not a Danish resident and along with my story I get to apply - even when I’m not a resident in the country I’m applying from. I think this will work for the Iraqi visa because they seem really reasonable and we have yet to see if this will make a difference for the KSA visa.
I reached out to the Danish Honerary Consul in Jordan in order to get the letter. They kindly asked me to liaison with the Danish embassy in Lebanon, which I then did. In Lebanon they advised that they could make the letter and that it would only cost USD 165.00! WHAT?!? 165 dollars to create and stamp a document containing information which I already provide over? A document which takes less than 10 minutes to create including a coffee break? How far am I from home right now? I’m already paying twice the price for my passports at Danish embassies and in Zimbabwe the Danish embassy even had the nerve to charge me a USD 30 collection fee when I came to collect it. The Great Kingdom of Denmark is already one of the highest taxed countries in the world and the embassies are governmental institutions so am I not paying for it through my taxes already? Being charged USD 165 as a Danish citizen at a Danish embassy or consulate is flat out outrageous and in stark contrast to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan where hospitality runs like a river among the population. To put it in context I can buy 351 falafel sandwiches in downtown Amman for USD 165!! In many ways I am doing Denmark a favor with the Saga as this project is from end to end positive and will give Denmark good publicity. Furthermore at a successful completion of the Saga Denmark will have yet another adventurer to boast of in its national archive. Well...business is business. Alas...for all of you people asking me how you can obtain a Danish visa or how you can go and visit Denmark I would just say: remember to bring enough money. It's certainly a nice country however it comes at a price - literally ;)
That's about USD 2.85 per written word. No wonder the danish economy is doing well.
Now, after that rant I should try to turn it all around again and it’s not to hard. Because I can’t at all blame the kind staff at the Danish consulate in Amman. They are operating under directives from the Danish embassy in Lebanon. And I can’t blame them either as they are under directives of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affaires. I can however gratefully thank the Danish consulate in Amman for tea, kindness and the extra copies. They even invited me to attend the celebration of Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark’s 78th birthday, which takes place at the Consuls residence next week. To top that off they also offered to assist regarding getting me in touch with the Iraqi and Saudi ambassadors in Jordan so at the end off it all I’m smiling. And speaking of birthdays, earlier this month, my own mother turned 70 years old. That’s another remarkable woman in my life...and literally the woman responsible for me writing you right now. In more than one sense. My mother is directly responsible for my love of nature. She is likely responsible for my adventurous side as well. She taught me to care for all people no matter ethnicity or language. She was there for me when I was bullied as a child. She taught me how to ski. She developed my imagination. She’s my mother and I love her. I’m sorry this project continues to drag on in length and I dearly hope I’ll be there to celebrate her 75th anniversary of not leaving this planet and going swiftly around the sun.
It is really easy to be in Jordan as a visitor. I sense that not all Jordanians feel that it’s the same case for them, as living costs don’t always match the salaries. However you can’t argue against Jordan being peaceful and furthermore rich in both culture and history. I’ve noticed that most tourists I’ve come across have been German, French, Danish or from other European countries. I’d say that you are more adventurous than your neighbor in the best possible way if you head to Jordan and you will never regret it for a second. Hospitality is through the roof and it’s really easy to organize your visit simply by speaking to locals, hostels and hotels. Quite often you will get invited in for tea and it’s equally common to receive a free treat before or after a meal. I’d argue that Jordanians are more true to their heritage than many other countries I’ve been too. It’s certainly a modern country and somehow Jordanians have simultaneously managed to stay in touch with their own culture, nurtured that side, while keeping an eye on the future. It’s a lovely blend of the new and the old and it feels genuine.
The "Saga Tree" received a massive upgrade from the wonderful Jeanett Louise Jul Andersen. Can you spot your flag?
Something I find weird about Jordan is there local beer. I know of Carakale and Petra which are both good beers. However many of the Jordanians I have encountered insist that Amstel is also a local beer. As such Amstel is often listed on the menu card as “local beer” which just doesn’t make sense to me as Amstel is a Dutch beer. In response people argue that there is a factory/brewery here in Jordan and that it is only supervised by Amstel. I kind of see some logic in that however there’s also a Coca Cola factory in Jordan and nobody is calling Coca Cola Jordanian? Something else I have noticed is that there is a very high amount of hybrid vehicles and fully electrical vehicles here in Jordan. As it turns out taxes were very low for hybrid vehicles (petrol/electric) for a long time and naturally people went to buy them. You get really great mileage on hybrid vehicles and the word is spreading. Now the taxes have been raised for hybrid vehicles but they are in return very low for electrical vehicles. As a result you see a lot of hybrids from 2017 and many brand new fully electrical cars on the streets boasting Zero Emission. I asked around and it’s a national phenomenon and not only in Amman (the capital). So that’s great! A few days ago I could read that Mette Frederiksen, a Danish politician, was making headlines for a greener Denmark with at least 500,000 hybrid and fully electrical vehicles on the Danish roads by 2030. I like the sound of that as the market has almost come to a complete stop in Denmark due to very high taxes. Denmark is a small nation with just 5.8 million Vikings. However as of this year (2018) there are barely 9,000 such vehicles on the Danish roads. I’m really far from home?
The black one is fully electric while the silver one is a hybrid.
Denmark is known to be a very efficient country. Most things run at a fairly high pace in Denmark and you can’t say the same about Jordan. Jordan appears to be very well developed in several ways with organized traffic, sidewalks and nationwide peace. The pace of the traffic is relatively slow and honking is far less than in both Beirut (Lebanon) and Cairo (Egypt). The slow pace of the nation doesn’t really benefit me a lot. I’d like to get moving but around here things take time. KSA is reportedly even slower and I guess the sun is a factor within all of this. Cold weather is equal to efficiency and warm weather is equal to a slower pace. That’s my theory. It is however not sunny in Amman right now. For the past two days thunder, lightning and rain has been dominant. The air pics up dust from the desert and the mix of rain and dust make the cars look horrible. It’s nothing a bit of water won’t remove. But then again...there’s water scarcity in Jordan which is one of the worlds driest countries. It’s fairly green in and around Amman where you’ll also find parks to rest and relax in. But one report I read listed Jordan as the third most water scarce country in the world. So maybe washing your car isn’t that great an idea?
After the dusty rain...
I went to the Jordan Museum which I really liked. The main exhibition is currently closed but the ticket was still full price. Try to make sense out of that? However I liked it a lot because it was really informative and honest regarding today’s situation in Jordan. It informed about the water level of the Dead Sea which is falling, about the water scarcity and what to do, about energy consumption across the nation, about women’s role in modern society, about education and to some decree also about Jordan’s past. There was also a great deal of general information such as that 95% of Jordanians own a mobile phone and that the most popular girls names in 2016 were: Salma, Jana, Sarah, Joud and Jouri. For boys it was: Mohamad, Ahmed, Omar, Amir and Yousef.
Upstairs there was a special exhibition at an extra cost. The exhibition pays tribute to Islamic scientists and inventors throughout history. Especially the golden era was highlighted. That was a special time of enlightenment which our modern world still benefits greatly from. You can even trace its significance in the English language as many words have their origin in Arabic: candy/qand, cotton/qutn, sofa/suffah, jar/jarra, alcohol/al-kuhl, giraffe/zarafa, cheque/sakk and algebra/aljabr are a few examples. Some prominent names I came across were: Al-Zahrawi (doctor), Zheng-He (admiral) and Al-Ghazali (scientist). Before visiting the exhibition I only knew the latter but would now encourage you to look into all of them. It’s interesting stuff and another pointer towards how far ahead the Middle East used to be are all the Arabic names given to stars. More than two thirds of all the stars we can see from earth have Arabic names. A lot of the remaining stars have Greek, Latin or Chineese names. It’s something to think about.
1001 Inventions - discover a golden age / Jordan Museum
I have a great deal of friends that are Muslim and when they follow the five pillars of Islam they pray five times every day. But how does that work? I know about the getting down on your knees and bending forward part. And I already knew about the washing the face, hands and feet before praying. However as my friends run off to pray I usually get stuck outside the mosque having tea or going for a short walk. Yahia gave me a much different experience! Yahia works at Maersk and he suggested that we should meet up. One of the things he wanted to show me was the King Abdallah I mosque which was completed in 1989. Tourist are allowed to visit and we arrived just in time for the Maghrib (the sunset prayer). King Abdallah I mosque is the mosque from which prayer across all of Amman is coordinated. Apparently that is an uncommon feature and unique to Jordan as well as to Mecca in KSA. First “adhan” is called. That is the five calls for prayer which you usually hear from the minarets. The “adhan” is followed by the “iqama” which summons Muslims to line up for the prayer.
Begin by washing the right, and then the left hand three times, then the mouth three times, the nose three times, the entire face one to three times, the right and the left arm three times, across the head once, then the ears are cleaned and finally the right and then left foot three times.
As the Maghreb began I sat on the floor behind everyone and observed. Two men in McDonald’s uniforms entered and rushed over to the others who were already standing on a single line. The line had formed from the middle and spread out equally to each side. The prayer began and as it continued more and more people came rushing in to join. As the line reached as far as it could a new line formed in the center behind the first line. Again it would spread to each side as more people joined. On and off cellphones would ring which amused me a bit as a modern day problem. Much like in a cinema after people have been told to switch off their phones. There’s always somebody...
Inside King Abdallah I mosque during the maghreb.
It didn’t take long before it was over. A few children and senior citizens had joined in as well. Those to old to get down on their knees would sit on a chair amongst the others. There was room for everyone. After that we headed out for dinner together.
The beautiful King Abdullah I mosque overlooks the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in Amman.
Having a good time with Yahia :)
I just LOVE that color!!! (the nearest car).
I actually also wanted to tell you about the Royal Automobile Museum. Yahia and I went there before we visited the mosque. It’s an astonishing collection of old and new vehicles of many sorts. The royal family apparently has more than blue blood running through their veins. There appears to be a bit of gasoline as well. Both princes and kings alike have been keen to enjoy motorsports and the display is really something! The museum simultaneously tells the story of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I’d really recommend the museum as a stop on your visit to Amman.
My time in Jordan has mostly been administrative since my fiancée returned home. I spend a lot of time staring into my smartphone, replying to messages, researching opportunities and setting up meetings. Just yesterday I managed to visit three embassies in the morning: Bahrain, Oman and UAE. At a regular embassy you can enter within the opening hours, pass security, leave your cellphone behind and get in line. The KSA embassy is a bit different as you need an appointment in order to be let in. However across all the embassies I have visited (KSA, Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, UAE) I have been treated with a lot of curtesy and no hostility. You might wonder why anyone would be treated with hostility but I guarantee you that it happens some places. Fortunately not here in the Middle East where I get treated to tea constantly and everyone is helpful.
As I left the friendly people at the Bahrain embassy they stopped me...to hand me a bottle of water ;)
For the most part it appears I’ll be getting my visa on arrival at any entry. However KSA is the dominant country in this region as it boarders: Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman and Yemen. So the KSA visa will be important for the Saga as it unlocks the region. It’s kind of also the reply I get at the other embassies when I tell them that I will be traveling overland: “have you checked with KSA? You will have no problem with us but check with KSA first”.
In other news I was also scheduled for an interview on Roya TV’s “Caravan Show” but it got postponed. Another interview which has been pending since forever is with South African HOT 99.9 FM in Johannesburg. I can’t even remember when they first approached me, then they had technical difficulties, then I didn’t have time, then they didn’t have time and now recently it was rescheduled at the very last minute. The Saga has already had media in both Jordan and South Africa so it’s not really important. However the newspapers here in Jordan failed to mention the project name and as a result those potentially interested would have a hard time finding the Saga. The “Caravan Show” is reportedly quite popular and reaches far and wide. So it might just be the right thing to make some new important connections? Who knows?
You currently have a 20% chance to win if you enter the competition! :)
Let’s round this one up talking a bit about food. Food here is good and a lot of meals are vegetarian making it easy for “those people” to come and visit. Breakfast is included at my hotel/hostel and it consists of: humus, egg, falafel, tomato, cucumber, bread and tea. In fact I pretty much get humus for all my meals. There is plenty of humus in Jordan to go around. A falafel sandwich goes for about USD 0.40 and I eat a lot of them. That’s life on a USD 20/day budget. Food here does not tend to be spicy. Even when they ask if they should make it spicy it just isn’t. However every so often you get these small peppers on the side of a meal and a few of them have been known to burn a bit. That’s all for now folks...take care out there and keep on keeping on.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - USD 165?!?
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga