Wild dogs monopolize Queen Alia International Airport’s parking lots. The airport itself is small, beige, with a concave ceiling at the entrance, which magnifies the faintest of whispers, and snippets of farewells, wishes and much louder reunions. A structure funded by the French over a 25-year period.
Signs in concise English and blunt Arabic direct arrivals to a modest hall for baggage claims. As possessions catch up to us, a cue of concerned faces hobble around a small opening in a wall with ‘Baggage Issues’ printed faintly under a blinking neon light.
It’s a 40-minute ride to the capital, on a road funded by the Saudi government. Windows are down. A pungent, acidic scent of residues from olive factories and sheep saturates my face. My jet lag is sharpened.
Every few blinks and eye rubs, I catch a glimpse of a tiny, beige structure with a single window lit by a dim light, promising a cup of traditional Arabic coffee for mere cents. Despite the late hour, around 2:30 a.m., men group in wall corners and around stoves. Smoking, drinking tea or coffee. Always throwing a glance our way.
We pass signs for the Iraqi border, Ma’dabah; the province of mosaics and old churches, and the Dead Sea. Streets filled with restaurants, and falafel and shawerma joints rise up from the sand. Interrupted by mosques, government ministries and embassies. Official guards gesturing and yelling at their cell phones. Men and young boys are everywhere; as if sleep is reserved for women.
We took a right at a Moroccan bath, past the Bank of Independence, and stopped at an old car repair shop. Our apartment is just greasy around the corner.
We are back in Amman.
The capital lashes out with 30° during the day, defeated by a shy breeze in the intimate hours preceding dawn.
Life here is coated with sand. Wild cats have just as much presence as tourists. The next street over is called Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq Street, after one of the holiest of the Muslim figures, who fought side by side with the prophet Muhammad. Oddly enough, this area is widely known as Rainbow Street! Regardless, it is filled with coffee shops, restaurants, and gelato sanctuaries. The aroma of Armenian kabab spices and fresh falafel on sesame bread cured my jet lag.
Amman is loud.
Women, young boys, tradesmen, school buses, gas trucks, car alarms, constant beeping of horns, traffic shouts, truckers yelling sales, tourists, and of course, the call for prayer azan.
Most men here are dressed in tight, weather appropriate clothes. Women vary: those with hijab and denim, niqab, girls in summer dresses or tank tops and athletic pants, and female tourists in low-key, baggy attire – usually with a hat and sandals.
It’s been three days since we landed here, and we’re finally ready to start reporting; two Canadian and one Venezuelan journalist for a month… in this beautiful desert.