This week has been packed with travel. Last weekend, our program took us to Aqaba for two days, which, from where I sat on the beach in Jordan, I could see Palestine/Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. I thought it would be interesting to play a game of four-square from all these different countries, but I don’t actually know how that game is played, so the idea was moot. The water itself was the most crystal clear I’d ever experienced and the snorkeling was beautiful (see photos). All in total, Aqaba is a gem of Jordan and I will absolutely be returning.
Throughout the week, as we continued to push through our classes and, for most of us, grueling research papers, we also began to prepare for Ramadan. The program director, Dr. Mohammad Naser (who has been nicknamed Jalala Duktoor WasTa for his many connections throughout the country), came to each individual person to talk about Ramadan and the cultural norms associated with it. I had a general understanding of the holiday already, but I wasn’t quite sure how I would accommodate drinking water out of the public eye when, for the most part, everything in Jordan is out of the public eye. Nonetheless, Ramadan began last night and I got my first partial experience of Ramadan at my current location in Palestine.
I made the journey from Amman to Jerusalem beginning yesterday morning. To give you an idea what that looks like, I took a cab from my apartment in Amman to the North Bus Station, and from there a cab to the King Hussein Bridge. At the Jordanian checkpoint, I paid for a ticket and an exit visa, and took a bus across the five kilometer “no-man’s land” to the Israeli border checkpoint. There, I went through one security check, a second security check, then a third security check which included very detailed questions like “What time of day is your flight back to the United States?” One of the more interesting pairs of questions was “Why are you here?” to which I replied I wanted to tour the Old City, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and so on; the border security women asked me “How do I know about these places?” which was a curious question to me, because I find these locations advertised on every tourism website for Jerusalem. Nonetheless, after the security checks, I took another bus into Jerusalem, and a cab from the bus to my hotel. I spent the afternoon in downtown Jerusalem and in the Old City, which was quite an experience.
This morning I’m leaving to tour as much of the country as I can, including parts of the West Bank. If all goes well, I will finish this evening with dinner in the Old City and fresh, first-hand video of Palestine. I will upload these videos as soon as I am able to get back on my editing software in Jordan. Check back soon!