Kidnapped by prophet's followers

Nov. 22, 2011 (day 188) Jordan

In the morning I could find a break in the rain and pack the tent reasonably dry. Changing inner tube of a muddy wheel was not so pleasant, though. This was one of the problems in Syria. The quality of car tyres there is particularly low, and they tend to blow out very often. The roads are littered with pieces of rubber and lots of tiny steel wires, which easily pierce any protective layers of the tyres. This time I too out two of them, and soon I would learn that it was not the end.

Hoping for more calm atmosphere than in Syria, in the first town I stumbled upon... street riots. It was almost finishing and the traffic had been redirected to minor streets, but there were still traces of roadblocks and few tyres burning out. Having the morning repairs in mind, I cycled over them, feeling like I was doing it with bare buttocks.

However, the country soon showed me it's better face. Cucumbers and tomato given to me by roadside sellers, a mug of good hot soup I received at a shop, free bread brought to me by the shopkeeper from his own home, when I wanted to buy some in the evening. Just before Jarash I turned into a forest, and while clearing ground of stones, in order to put a tent, I was spotted by two foresters. Having explained quickly what I had been doing, I was accepted and asked to call them in case of any problems. Fortunately, I did not have to.

The city of Jarash is famous for it's Roman ruins. A big part of the old city is well preserved, and I was going to see it. Just before reaching the historical center, I was stopped by two guys in a car. They had huge beards and the driver spoke perfect English. He introduced himself as a retired air force pilot and invited me for a lunch with his friends. We agreed to meet in one hour. That left me very little time to see the ruins, but the company of live people seemed more appealing that of a dead city. The decision was made when I approached the ticket office and saw the price. Even if I wanted to be relieved of 8JOD, they did not accept cards, and I still had not passed by any ATM since the border.

In Jerash ruins blend with the new city

In Jerash ruins blend with the new city

Soon my new friends appeared. The bike landed inside of the car and I was carried to some house up a hill. Stopping by a mosque to talk with someone, Emad, the pilot and a happy father of nine, let me guess a bit what kind of people I was going to meet.

The lunch was delicious. For long time I had not eaten good rice and chicken. During the conversation it was confirmed that those men were a group of religious people, involved in some related activity. Soon I was carried over to a mosque to understand what was going on.

The activity they were undertaking is called خروج في سبیل الله, which roughly translates into "effort in the path of God". For few days they lived in the mosque, sleeping in one room, praying five times a day and living together, trying to follow the example of prophet Muhammad as closely as possible.

They called me a brother and made feel as one. I was given food, a mattress to sleep, and the night I spent in the deepest, safest corner of the room, kept safe from any intrusion by my new brothers. We also visited some other religious people, who had not chosen to live at the mosque. That included one brand new Hajji – a man, who had just returned from the pilgrimage to Mecca. Sincerely, I had seen very few people as radiating with happiness as he did.

Of course I received a lot of religious speech, and even though it was sometimes too much, I did not feel pressed. I was taken care of, to the extent that I had often to refuse things being given to me or favours being proposed. Out of curiosity I offered to attend a prayer at the mosque, and tried to follow the movements. As it happens on Fridays, beside prayers there were religious speeches taking place, all of them translated for me into English by the brothers.

With my new brothers

With my new brothers

"We are showing you how the Muslims should really behave", said Emad. I did not, however, receive full answer to the question why they could not live as the prophet every day, instead of doing it occasionally. Perhaps it had something to do with their wives, staying at home with children and preparing meals for husbands, while they enjoyed the religious activities.

On the next day I had to cycle away. First I did not want to abuse the great hospitality, second I have cycled so little during the last rainy days, that I felt not OK with that. After goodbyes and reassurance that I can come again at any time and even with friends, I left towards Ajloun. That was quite special day, exactly half a year since I had left home.

Into the clouds!

Into the clouds!

The road over mountains was demanding, and the rain came back again. Covering up changed only the temperature felt on my body, because under the clothes I was also completely wet from the sweat. Fortunately, soon after crossing the pass the rain stopped and even first rays of sun appeared. Despite that, I was going into the deepest depression in my life. I mean the Jordan valley, of course.

Being welcomed by a loud "fuck you" by some kid is not the most pleasant thing when one descends into fertile valley, filled up with greenhouses and showing no chance for wild camping. A ride well into the night confirmed the worst, and the only hotel I found had both the rooms and campsites available, both for ridiculous price.

Instead I decided to try the trick I had last done in Romania. I turned into a gate of some plantation and asked the guard if I could put a tent behind the fence. He, a man probably in his late fifties, agreed, but pointed to more important thing than some tent. In an old oil can a fire was burning, and my host quickly prepared a delicious stew from tomatoes, onion and oil. I pulled out my food and together we had a great meal, sharing it with another guard from the other side of the street. The guys became satisfied quickly, so I cleaned the plates, and I must have looked very funny to them.

"No tent, it's raining", said my host when I asked about a place to sleep. Instead he pointed to his own bed in the tiny shelter. "And you, where will you sleep?", I asked. "I don't sleep, I'm at work", he replied, but I felt it was not all the truth.

And it was not. In the early evening many cars were passing the gate and he really had some work, just using the time in between to call all his friends and tell them what a strange guest he had. Later on, however, the traffic almost stopped, and when I woke up at some late-night truck, I noticed him sleeping on a concrete floor covered with single blanket. I protested loudly and demanded to swap the places, but he replied with "No way" in such manner, that any discussion proved impossible.

I had experienced many kinds of hospitality, but a man, perhaps older than my father, offering me his own bed and sleeping on the floor... it was too much for me. In the morning he just asked me for a dollar. It occurred to me that he probably wanted my national currency, but during the evening talk we had misunderstood each other, making him think that Poland uses dollars. Fortunately, I had few one-buck bills and handed out one of them, bringing a broad smile to his face. Then I gave him some coffee, which he quickly prepared and shared back with me. I left, stunned.

The road to the Dead Sea was easy, though sometimes crowded with cars. I had passed along the expensive hotels at the northern coast and after some time I found the free bath site. Few springs, some of them being quite warm, bring fresh water there, giving an opportunity to wash down the salt after swimming in the sea. The guidebook warned that the place was littered. This is not accurate word, however. It looked like one huge garbage dump, consisting mostly of plastic bottles, plates, spoons and cigarette boxes. I recommend everyone stopping at the hotels strip and paying few dinars for access to a proper beach.

How to swim in the Dead Sea

How to swim in the Dead Sea

The bath itself was funny. Swimming is impossible, as with every thrust the limbs jump out of the water. Instead one can lay on the surface with no effort. Although the rains have finally stopped, it was still cloudy and windy, and even there, few hundred meters under the sea level, it felt cool. I finished quickly and camped few kilometers after, on a cliff.

Natural disinsection of cows

Natural disinsection of cows

The next day I had to repair the rear inner tube again, and pull away a number of steel pieces again. Doing this, I noticed some cyclists going down on the road. Soon I met them at a roadside stop. A group of about 20 Britons was cycling to the same destination as I did. They were doing it without baggage, with support cars and food supply. This was, however, not a plain commercial trip, but a fundraising event for charity. For a five day trip many of them brought more money than my entire budget for the journey.

It was nice to cycle with someone, and to hear proper English finally. Although it is no fun to compete with people who cycle only occasionally or not at all, I had the baggage, which slowed me down on that long 25km climb to Karak. That was enough to keep me close to the middle of the group, and to make me exhausted as never before. Perhaps it was bad idea to skip the breakfast on that day.

When I entered a shop in Karak, still soaked in sweat but feeling cold already, I grabbed two candies and a can of coke, just to hear the typical calculation: 3 items, 3 dinars. I laughed loudly and started walking away. It reduced the price, but not enough to make me stop laughing. The price dropped again to acceptable levels, but I already knew that I had entered a tourist trap.

The Britons invited me for a dinner, and left to Petra by bus. I started looking for a hotel, just to realize quickly that there were only two operating at the time. The cheaper of them offered cold room with bathroom for a ridiculous price. Haggling brought little effect and I had to pay 12JOD, perhaps the most since the beginning of the journey. The idea of a lazy day was dead, and the next morning was set as the evacuation time.

Comments:

mama
mama
7 years, 6 months ago
Tylko nie daj się zwieść tej gościnności! Ani sie obejrzysz i będziesz miał nową wiarę i kilka zon!!!
xmk
xmk
7 years, 6 months ago
Dobrze, że udało Ci się w jednym kawałku przejechać przez Syrię. Jordania to kraj przyjazny dla turystów, choć oczywiście w niektórych miejscach (np. Petra) ta "przyjazność" przeradza się w uciążliwość i nachalność. Ale nie ma co się dziwić, bo ludzie żyją z tego, co zarobią na przybyszach.
Na mapce w profilu wysokości nie starczyło chyba skali, gdy zjechałeś nad Morze Martwe :)
Ania
Ania
7 years, 6 months ago
Dżizzz, tak ludzi straszyć tytułem, to niehumanitarne ;)
magda
magda
7 years, 6 months ago
Czyta sie jak dobra ksiazke!
Trzymam kciuki za dalsze podboje :)
tbe
tbe
7 years, 6 months ago
a skąd wiedziałeś jak napisać "خروج في سبیل الل"???
jerzy
jerzy
7 years, 6 months ago
salem alejkum Bracie!

zaprawdę powiadam Ci-nie strasz nas tytułem opowieści.Azaliż mogą wyznawcy proroka stosować przemoc?
Pozdrawiamy Cię z wdzięcznością za ciekawe wpisy i dobre zdjęcia
Średni
Średni
7 years, 6 months ago
Odkąd Kaczka wrzuca linki na fb czytam z wytchnieniem. Szczerze mówiąc to spokojnie możesz zastanawiać się nad wydaniem książki.
Pozdrawiam i czekam na kolejne!
pigiel
pigiel
7 years, 6 months ago
a ja nie mogę już tego czytać! szlag mnie trafia że siedzę na dupie przed kompem gdy ty masz tam taką 'jazdę' :) pozdro z kraju man!

majlo
majlo
7 years, 6 months ago
Każdego dnia przygodę rozpoczynasz od początku! Podpisuje się pod komentarzem Średniego - może być z tego dobra książka - przyznaję, że tytuł wpisu chwycił mnie momentalnie;) Powodzenia!
wojciech Dryjański
wojciech Dryjański
7 years, 6 months ago
Michał trzymam mocno kciuki jak zawsze
krewniak z Przemyśla