There are days when everything runs to your patterns and expectations, and then there are days when facts shatter your pre-conceived notions acting like the proverbial bull in a china shop. On Saturday, I caught up with a school friend after nearly a decade that being one of the few useful side-effects gained out of literally spending days on Orkut and Facebook. This friend works on a project for Zain, a Kuwaiti telecom company and has had to make frequent 3 month trips to Amman, the capital of Jordan. Now there's an interesting on-site opportunity, away from the oft beaten paths leading to the US and UK, to an interesting and exotic place. Another one of my seniors is working for a client out in Papua New Guinea! That is an incredible story for another day.
Oh, Amman in Jordan, I thought. A Gulf country then, a hot and dry desert with sheikhs dressed in flowing white robes, instant capital punishment and camels, is what comes to mind first. Imagine the shock when I learn over lunch that the most enjoyable part about Amman is its incredibly good weather. Winter temperatures go down to -2- -3 degree centigrade in this Arabic speaking nation and it actually snows there in the winter time... regularly. Go, figure! The king of Jordan and his only wife Queen Rania are very liberal in their attitudes and the king being a direct descendant of Prophet Mohammad, no other extremist 'maulvi' holds any authority above him. The 'burqa' is reasonably rarely seen, and a number of women do dress in skirts and suits like any other non-Muslim nation. Alcohol though not officially encouraged is available for sale legally. Just to keep those looking for the typical image of a Gulf country happy though, there is a desert portion of the country where the magnificent rock cut Roman buildings of Petra are to be found, now part of the new seven wonders of the world!
Such a huge, undiscovered world out there and it is remarkable how much ignorance we steep ourselves in by taking some things for granted without bothering to explore and understand. It makes me all tingly toed again to pick up my rucksack and just head out of the door to wherever the path may lead. One of my favourite travel quotes springs to mind, incidentally by Prophet Mohammad himself "Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled."