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  • Four capitals in four days

    Posted on June 3rd, 2009 Sheila Yair 5 comments


    The thrills and frills of cheap travel




    borderSo we got a ticket to Nepal with air Arabia for $250. A great price though it required a departure from Jordan and a few hours in Sharja (United Emirates). Under different circumstances, this would not have worked, but traveling without an itinerary dictates a different set of rules and priorities. Any detour if spent wisely is a blessing.

    We left Jaffa early in the morning, after a hearty shakshuka breakfast in the flea market area. We went up to Jerusalem (the first capital) and from there took a bus to the Alenby crossing (also called the ‘King Hussein’ bridge), where according to an official Jordanian web site we should encounter plenty of busses and cabs to Amman. Coming up to the crossing something seemed wrong. The desolated abandoned feeling reminded me of a scene from the movie ‘Paris Texas’. We got off the bus and started walking the 500 meters to the crossing. It is one little guard both with a big gate in the middle of the desert. On our way we saw a cab driver sleeping in the shade of his car. As we approached he woke up, telling us we will need to use him to cross. He also said there is no crossing without a visa at this bridge, all this while quoting some high prices all in $$. I told him I want to talk to one of the guards first. As I started off towards the crossing one of the guards yells to me “Stop- only in a vehicle, only in a vehicle!” so I convince the driver to take me the 200 meters to the crossing so I can ask the guards about crossing. Sure enough there is no crossing here and the only place you can cross is Sheik Hussein bridge (the king bridge would not do).

    Now I have a thing about finishing a country’s currency before I leave it. It is a little game, a test of precision you might say. A few days before I leave a country I will start taking less money out and calculating my exact expenses. So having 15 of the local currency and taking a cab for 10 and buying a sandwich for 4.5 right before I leave is a great success. The less money left the higher the score.

    So here we are in the middle of nowhere in the occupied territories with only 5 shekels (a little over $1) and no water having to somehow get to a different crossing 110 kilometers to the north. Not the best situation. Our only real option is to hitch-hike. Luckily after about half an hour someone stops and takes us to the town close to the crossing.

    Never judge a country by its border crossing. We cross into Jordan and are greeted by very unfriendly officials who speak very little English. All they are interested in is the entrance fee. They refuse to stamp my American passport claiming I left Israel with the Israeli one. I wanted to enter Jordan with my American one since we are flying with Air Arabia and stopping at the U.A.E. which does not allow Israelis in. We start thinking of heading back to Israel but decide to continue as planed. Getting out of the crossing we find that there is no bus and we will have to take a cab to Amman, basically going back south the whole distance we hitched-hiked. The trip is beautiful going through lovely little villages and amazing landscape. We see a beautiful sunset and I wonder if it is a going away present from Israel or a welcome gift from Jordan.

    We arrive in Amman (the second capital). It is late and dark now and all we have is a name of a hotel we found on The driver spends 20 minutes trying to find it with no luck. Nobody seems to have heard about the place. We finally find it and it turns out to be a really nice hotel with very friendly staff right in the center of the bustling shuk in the old city. We go out and have a great jordanian dinner. We regain the upper hand.

    Even the Jordanian tourism board will admit that Amman does not have many sightseeing attractions. We do two out of the three official ones. We go to the Citedal, a hill top where Amman started, an archeological site with Nabatian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins. We have a great lunch at the busy shuk and see the coliseum.

    We go back to the hotel and take a cab to the airport which is about an hour away. Now is the real test, will they let me on the flight with my Israeli passport?

    At the airport they ask me twice to take out the Israeli passport but the airline ticket counter doesn’t seem to mind and we take off to the east with me as an American.

    We arrive in Sharja (the third capital) at 11:30pm and find out our connection flight has been canceled. The agent at the check-in desk says the next flight is at 1:30pm and no worries we can get seats on it, yeah thanks and what about the 13 hours we have to spend at the airport? I wanted to be one of the first Israelis to be in Sharja but 13 hours is really stretching that achievement.

    Sheila immediately puts on her “I am very disappointed” act and scores us a complimentary stay at a 2 star hotel. We are now on our complimentary cab riding in to town. Now I thought I would be the first Israeli to visit Sharja airport but now I am going the whole way in, stamp on passport and all. The hotel is very nice, by far the fanciest we have been in this whole trip, and definitely beats even the finest benches back at the airport.

    In the morning after our complimentary breakfast we decide to take a little walk. It is like walking in a frying pan and all we see are long highways with palaces on either side and dunes for as far as the eye can see. Needless to say we are the only people outside and every fancy air-conditioned SUV that passes us has a puzzled face looking out at us. It is amazing what a little oil can do to a country that is all dunes. We stay out for only 30 minutes and return quickly to our hotel.

    We go back to the airport and board the delayed flight. Air Arabia is one of those air lines that pretty much sell you only the seat, nothing else is included. You can buy some basic food at airport prices and they will show you a movie in the destination country’s language, no subtitles. Maybe it is some sort of preparation they give you.

    At 6:30pm, four days after we left Israel, we arrive in Katmandu (the fourth capital). We are greeted by a sign warning of swine flu. It has four countries in print and then just about all other countries in hand writing, the sign says you should go to the health desk if you came from one of the countries. Sharja does not appear there, so we say we came from there.

    All in a days work…