Our final destination was the capital where we would stay for two nights – one in the plush Crowne Plaza and one in a small threadbare hotel near the centre.
On our first night we decided to stay in the hotel complex where we ordered a feast and some beers. Amman was known as a place with very few opportunities to buy alcohol, a large hotel being the best option.
We were pretty tired by all accounts and decided to rest up early. The next day (Saturday) was to be the final day of what had been a superb trip.
We therefore got up early for breakfast only to be informed that today would be the first day proper of Ramadan and that we would therefore need to eat in our room. Ramadan had actually started at sunset the previous evening unbeknown to us.
For those of you that may not know, the Islamic calendar is governed by the moon, whereas the Grogorian calendar is solar. This means that although Ramadan starts on the same day every year, it moves around eleven days each year in comparison to the Gregorian calendar.
Ramadan is actually in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to the Islamic faith. The month lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon. We were now at the start of it in September 2006 and this was to have some amusing consequences.
We all know that the month means fasting during daylight hours, with non-Muslims expected to respect the faith by not eating in public. We earnestly observed this, even though it was a very hot day.
Our first site was the Roman amphitheatre in the centre of the Jordanian capital. It was in fact probably Amman’s main attraction, which compared to the riches of Madaba, Petra and Wadi Rum, was rather underwhelming.
It was here that I got my first and last Islamic rebuke. I had not realised that fasting included water and when I took a slurp from my bottle, I was well and truly told of by an elderly gentleman. His grey facial hair positively bristled with indignation as I felt the force of his invective. Lesson well and truly learned.
After scouring the souk, we had become rather hungry, that is despite my mate surreptitiously consuming a banana hiding behind a bush!
We spotted the tell tale golden M and both agreed “when in absolute need”. Thankfully it was open and in we danced to order our energy restoring fodder. The server handed over the provisions in a brown paper bag and told us to “enjoy”. We then asked where we could eat it. Not allowed of course. We were expected to eat it in private, only we were far from our new hotel and pretty hungry, not to mention starting to dehydrate.
Eventually it was agreed, we could go upstairs and eat alone. So, for the first and I have no doubt last time ever, we had a whole MacDonald’s to ourselves in which to gleefully devour our fish burger and chips. It certainly tasted all the better for it. We were tempted to buy another portion, but figured this would be pushing our luck somewhat.Fortitude restored, we sought out Amman’s main mosque and wandered the streets some more to just breath in Jordanian city life.
That night was our finale and Hamish had read in the guidebook about Amman’s only international bar. We eventually found it after two hours, only to find that the place to had long since closed down. With no restaurants open, we were forced to return to the hotel to eat. Not much luck there either unfortunately, with the kitchen now closed for a month.
That’s how our Amman party night turned out to be eating flatbread with hummus in our room, whilst drinking lemonade! Another early night them……
Next morning we left early for the airport for our BA flight. We had not realised but the time had changed due to Ramadan’s commencement and now found that we had three hours to kill.
Happily I had qualified for silver status in the BA loyalty club and this gave us both lounge access. We proceeded to stuff ourselves with cheese and croissants, undoing any weight loss that I had gained over the past few days ,