Unspecified Location, Jordan My Day at the Iraqi Police Training Facility

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If you’re wondering, that’s my "This clearly isn’t really happening" face.

Made the flight out of Aswan, spent the night in Cairo, missed my flight to Amman, Jordan the following day.

Turned out my taxi driver didn’t have a license, so he had to bribe the guards at the airport to get past. He wasn’t too happy about that. He dropped me at the wrong terminal. It being Cairo, I had to take three separate buses to reach the right one. Once there, I had to run the length and back with all my bags, getting useless directions from every guard along the way.

I reached the check-in counter as the flight was closing. Threw a tantrum, but it did no good. They put me on the night flight. Business class, so there was that, but I had ten hours to kill.

The airport in Amman has an interesting visa policy. It costs 10 Dinars to get one, and you can only pay in Jordanian currency. There are money exchange desks, but if all you’re carrying is a bank card, this is a problem, because the bank machine is on the other side of immigration.

When I presented my problem to a guard, a number of them huddled together to discuss it. There was passionate yelling and long, ponderous head-scratching. It was as if, with flights landing every hour, I was the first person to run into this dilemma.

Still bitter over the Cairo debacle, I had little patience left. I marched past the guards to go get some damn money out. This threw them into a panic.

"No no no! You cannot do that!"
"Why?"
"You must have visa."
"Yeah. We covered this. I don’t have money for a visa. I need to go get some."

Looks of anguish and worry, as if their jobs were at stake.

After several more minutes of deliberation, at last a ranking security officer escorted me to the ATM. Problem solved.

On returning, he asked the burning question. "Excuse me, sir. You are American?"

"How did you guess?"

He gave an awkard laugh and I got some insight into what their long discussions had been about.

I recently got an email from an American named John who is living in Jordan. He said if I ever planned to visit, I should let him know. I wrote back with "How about next Sunday?"

I get emails like this from time to time and rarely take people up on their offers, mostly to avoid…ya know…hole drilled into head, acid poured in the brain, chained in basement as zombie sex slave.

It happens.

But the timing was close enough and the region intimidating enough that I decided to take a chance.

Fortunately, John isn’t into that kind of thing.

Having missed my flight, we weren’t able to meet up when we were supposed to. I got in super-late and found a hotel in the downtown area. In Jordan, "downtown" is a euphamism for "hive of scum and villainy," but I didn’t know any better.

There are no street addresses in Jordan, so the directions I gave John to my hotel were useless. We finally met up later in the morning and rushed straight out of the city for Petra.

John had taken the day off work and stocked the car with drinks and snacks. Thoughtful guy.

It was great being around an American again. For as much as I criticize my countrymen, there is a certain way of seeing things that is uniquely ours. He had much to say on Muslim culture — stuff that’d been bothering me for the last week, he’d been dealing with for over a year.

The endless deliberation I endured at the airport; it’s a thing. Nothing is done without a long period of negotiation. As an American, I’m very action-oriented. And for all the places I’ve visited where the pace is slower, I still have trouble down-shifting.

For some reason I had it in my head that John worked at the US Embassy. Turns out he’s an instructor at the Iraqi Police Training Facility.

That Iraqi Police Training Facility? The one the White House is always going on about? The one they’re betting the farm on? The linchpin in their effort to get us the hell out of there?

Yes. That one.

"When are you leaving again?"
"My flight is tomorrow."
"Too bad. If you were staying an extra day I could take you to work with me."
"Did I say tomorrow?"

So we got to Petra. Neat place. I neglected to do any reading on it beforehand…and you know what? I still haven’t bothered.

No history lesson for today, folks. Just some pictures.

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That’s John on the right.

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You may recognize this image from…come on, you know it…

Here’s a hint: "We named the dog Indiana."

That’s right. This is where the Knights Templar hid the Grail of Christ, and where an aging Indiana Jones removed it.

Turns out there’s no Grail inside — no nifty decapitating buzzsaws either. It’s pretty much just a facade.

They call it the Treasury, but I find it hard to believe anyone would go to all that trouble decorating a treasury.

There’s only one reason people make stuff like that: to show everybody how nauseatingly much they love God.

John’s guess seems accurate; that it was built as some kind of temple, then the Romans came in, took it, and used it to store all their cash. Sounds about right, huh?

We tried doing a dancing clip in front of it, but it was a little bland.

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I found this framing a lot more mysterious and compelling.

It took a while to get it right, so I was lucky to have someone with the patience to hold the camera through multiple attempts.

Here’s an amphitheater of some sort.

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I don’t have anything interesting to say about it.

We didn’t stick around very long once we got the shot. Lot of Japanese. Lot of guys trying to sell camel rides. Some difficult hikes, but not too much to look at.

[This post is unfinished. I’ll polish it off later.]

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16 Responses to Unspecified Location, Jordan My Day at the Iraqi Police Training Facility

  1. L

    Steve Zissou: Anne-Marie, do all the interns get Glocks?
    Anne-Marie Sakowitz: No, they all share one.

  2. Scott

    So what happened once you got to the training site?

    We were in Petra last year and the main thing I remember was being constantly surrounded by children yelling “ONE DINAR”!!

  3. Annie

    I had to laugh at your story about the Cario airport. :) I was in Egypt a few months ago and know where you are coming from! Awe Egypt, gotta love it!

  4. jose ramon caniego

    Estube en este pais el año pasado y Petra es de lo mejor de este mundo.

    Un saludo Matt y animate a venir a Madrid

  5. Anonymous

    you know blanking out that the distances didn’t seem to make sense….

    because you left them in arabic 😉

    Iraq: 220 KM and i’ll just leave it at there incase you want to edit out there two…but why would you try to erase the pictures? I have no idea

  6. Eric

    I visited Petra in 2001 and I have to say that it is really nice to see. To see how ancient people were able to carve temples in rock without real tool (power tools)is awesome. Nice to see it again.

  7. Anonymous

    I am a Jordanian and saw a compilation of your dance around the world. I thought “wow! who’s this matt and how lucky he is to be able to travel all around the world!”. so i looked up your website and saw that you kept journals of your travels. I was excited to see a link to Jordan. My smile of pride slowly faded into disdain over your poor report on Jordan.

    When you arrive at the airport, you can pay in USD, EUR, and JD. There are couple of exchange offices before immigration. And yes, it takes you only 10 mins. To get a visa to your country, regardless of gender, age and disability, we have to stand outside your embassy from 5am and wait hours in a very long line to only get an appointment for application. Process repeated two weeks later when appointment is set. And we pay USD100. I am not critisizing the American process but in comparison, I would say we welcomed you with open arms.

    If you didn’t research your trip to Jordan in advance, you are at fault because just like any country, Amman has its slums and that is where you ended up. We also have beautiful and very modern areas with 5 star hotels with the best services. And of course hotels in between. I’m sure you would’ve found appropriate accomodation had you bothered to ask.

    Petra is currently shortlisted for one of the new 7 wonders of the world. Let’s not forget that it was one of the old 7 wonders of the world. I’m thinking for Petra to receive such honor, it has a little bit more than the treasury and tourists. There is a lot to look at, in fact you would need a full day to do a quick tour of petra. And there are horses adn camels to ride if you don’t want to hike. If you were a bit more adventurous, some of the locals would take you to the higher points of petra and show you the most gorgeous views.

    As for your friend John, I don’t envy his job, i’m sure it’s not very glamorous or fun. And he is dealing with underprivliged people of Iraq and Jordan on a daily basis, and they are usually more traditional and religious. But if John has been in Jordan for a year, he will also tell you that Jordan is a very moderate Moslem country. West Amman is a very westernized area where we have movies, malls, gourmet restaurants, open markets, bars, clubs, high tech sports facilities, beautiful architecture and lots of culture. Most importantly, Jordanians are known for their hospitality and ensuring that guests to our country are very welcome.

    It is because I know all this and have lived it for the past 20 years, that I am upset at a very abrupt and bland post of yours. You did not do Jordan justice and you were certainly unfair.

    If you ever want to visit Jordan again, I hope you’ll have a local person show you around and you do your homework first. Maybe next time it should be at the Dead Sea, after all it has a biblical background and is at the lowest point on earth. The Jordanian side is barely untouched and still retains its natural beauty.

    Good luck with the rest of your travels.

  8. Carla Powell

    Matt Darling…Jordan is amazing – I think you needed to get out of Petra and see what it really has to offer. I lived with the Bedouins for 4 months and really saw the spirit of the country. This is a passionate culture with lots of colour and pride. From Irbid, through Wadi Rum to Aqaba – there’s alot to see and do. And, when you are away from Petra – you see the real people, not just the beggers. For sure, after travelling for so long – you must know that to really see the country, you have to step away from the tourist traps and venture into those places that tourists dare not go. I hope you give Jordan another chance…and if you do – I know a little Bedouin village that you can stay in with some of the best people in the world.

  9. I am from Saudi Arabia and i watched your 2008 video and the video is amazing and i am really big fan and i’ve just put your videos in my cellphone

    And i am really disappointed why didn’t you come to Saudi Arabia ? please your next video please come to saudi Arabia and e-mail me and i will dance with you
    (I am talking for real)

    AND KEEP ON DANCING AROUND THE WORLD
    I WISH THAT YOU WILL GET A CHANCE TO DANCE IN THE SPACE

  10. Marwan

    Hi Matt,
    When a friend of mine sent me a link to your amazing clip, I was overwhelmed and felt so happy watching it. Then I was so curious to know more about you, so I started reading your comments on Jordan. I wish I hadn’t!
    I really don’t mean to offend you, but I have to say that I was so disappointed with your shallow comments and said to myself… just another ignorant self-centred American.

  11. just another ignorant self-centred American.
    ——————
    So true my brother nawaf :)

    i say if you are not that much open minded to other cultures .. i really dont recommend that you travel and do all of this ..plus you missed really alot of jordan .. going to tourists traps such as petra is not the best thing to do .. i would’ve recommended you going to meet real people .. not sites !!

    plus i really hated the thing about kuwait .. i mean dude !! you picked the worst places of all and went to them .. what a hindi taxi driver know about kuwait !!

    Anyways .. if you think you’re so great bro .. you proved yourself by these reports wrong .. 4 days to see a country aint enough especially if you go to tourists sites ..

    My point is .. i was hoping to see this trip as a way to prove that people is not so diffrent after all … and to see the true GOODNESS in all people .. to meet real people and for them to get u into their homes .. for you to eat the traditional foods and to get to know them better ..

    WHAT i have seen is far different from that .. you man was searching for fame and doing this for yourself not for a good cause .. so i would say as my brother nawaf said .. JUST ANATHOR IGNORANT SELF-CENTERED AMERICAN !

  12. Ariel

    It must have been exhausting to deal with all that in the beginning! It’s great that you didn’t let it bring you down. It all sounds amazing! I think that you’re doing a wonderful thing.

    I really don’t like the patronizing tone some of these comments taken.

    To those guys above who keep criticizing, (but probably aren’t going to read this post, but whatever, you guys offend me on principle): you can’t expect him to research everything. Traveling (especially the large amount he is doing) is exhausting and he clearly doesn’t have time to explore every country. The fact that he is doing all this in the first place shows that he’s clearly not a “just another self-centered American” (which is stereotyping by the way, hypocrites).

    So yeah, don’t let them bring ya down! You’re awesome and I love your sense of humor. :)

  13. Anna

    Not much to see in Petra??? huh??? wow you must have missed a lot – I spent a full day there and didn’t finish seeing everything.

    Love the dancing!

  14. Andreas

    Hi Matt.
    I have been in Jordan for few months.
    you didn’t judge the country.
    you missed a lot of things, specially in Petra.
    you should consider the difference between cultures, I never compare mine with others, because every thing is different.

    I agree with Eric, Carla Powell and Anna.

    It was not interesting to talk about the Iraqi Police Training Facility!!!

    You should make a nicer dance in Petra or Dead Sea.

    GooD LucK

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