FROM CAIRO TO AMMAN: A JOURNEY TO THE PAST
Each trip is special and different from each other. It doesn’t matter short or long one.
Location, time, people, culture, and history. So many new things I learn during the trip. When I think I have the most memorable trip … the next trip is the most memorable of all I had ever done.
But the trip does not just happen. Everything should be plan as detailed as possible. I work hard to make every aspect of the trip really well-planned.
A plan is going to be only a plan if the timing is not right.
The greatest part of this trip was a religious journey
Time played the main part.
I could not do this when I was working in the Turks and Caicos Islands. My vacation time was only a month, usually from September to October. Always busy taking care of personal affairs and getting together with family. Too short. In addition, it was difficult to combine with trips to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. Too risky.
Another thing that May – June are not the tourist season in the Middle East. Especially during Ramadan. Not too busy to travel and the price is quite competitive. I could add more time in Jordan to visit some destinations.
Lastly, May is a special month. I ‘treat’ myself with different gift this year. If I do not do it to myself, who can give it to me, right?
After months of research for this trip, I decided (with a heavy heart) to join a group tour. I thought I was enough with a group tour after a trip to the Galapagos.
I was Reluctant to Join a Group Tour
The other religious journey I have done was to the Vatican and Lourdes a few years back with the family. The trip was fantastic. However, this trip was different from the others. A long history that happened with the ruins, old buildings, and other sacred places. Only local guides can help us understand why, where, how, and what happened in the time of Jesus Christ was born until death. There are also stories that spice up the story of the Bible. Only local people will know all these stories. It’s not easy to find in a guidebook.
It was also difficult to navigate Jerusalem if I traveled solo
I would be like any regular traveler. I would explore the old city without understanding every building and see the value behind the hundreds-year-old ruins. Especially for traveler who get lost easily like me.
My job just ensured being on time for every activity.
Joining the group is also easy to navigate the laws of different areas
There are many stories where tourists are detained by the authorities for photographing or going to a forbidden place.
Many times the guide from Egypt (when we were in Egypt) shout “checkpoint”. That meant we should not take photos.
When we were in Egypt, we had smooth travel from checkpoint to another check point (more then 10 checkpoints). We did not have to get out of the bus and opened our luggage for inspection.
Usually, when planning trips, I am always busy doing all the research plus months of preparation. Busy finish work project, delegate tasks, and overtime for days. Then search for the best ticket prices on the internet, apply for a visa, accommodation reservations, and more.
Obviously, exhausting and stressful moment.
Sometimes when I am going to start traveling, I am tired. Not to mention the journey itself also requires concentration. Lack of concentration caused me to enter the wrong gate (as I experienced in Singapore before).
My previous trip to Ecuador was a group trip with transport and accommodation plus three free tours. I had to arrange my own tickets to Quito, Ecuador and proceeded the next day from Quito to Baltra Island. I had to arrange accommodation at Quito (pre and post trip to Galapagos), returned ticket, land transportation and insurance. All must be done correctly, so there was no problem in the journey.
When I joined this group, I was very relieved that the travel organizer arranged everything. From flights, transportation, meals (three times a day), accommodation, daily trips, and all the trivial things on the road. Seriously, I felt very pamper.
I just searched for a travel agent and bombarded with all sorts of questions I usually look for myself. Since I travel a lot and worked in travel agents for years, I was nervous with so many (mostly bad and worst) scenarios in my head. It was difficult to surrender it to the professional travel agent’s hands.
Group Tour Bad impression
It’s like a flock of ducks guided by a farmer holding a stick. I get annoyed every time I meet a big group that rushes to the next destination. Rushing like a flood. Sometimes they do not care about the people around them. They force the others to step aside to give them away. They speak loudly and do not care about the silence of the church.
I feel sorry for the group members who can not hear what the local guide explained because the location is too narrow or too many people around. Upset with group members who are busy talking to other members when the guide explains something. Not to mention the members of the tour who took pictures in front of the statue or building without knowing what the building really is.
I had to Make Difficult Choices
I like to linger watching paintings or statues even just hanging out on every trip. I compromised when I chose to join a group tour. I did not have much time to enjoy the various places we visited. When I had just enjoy a place, the tour leader or guide began waving their hands and said, “Let’s go”. I tried always walked in front or behind the tour guide to ensure that I stayed in the group and not get lost.
A great and famous travel agent does not guarantee a great travel experience. I wanted to get an impressive pilgrimage experience with a small group (as I did for a Galapagos trip). I often saw large groups along the way, I could guess that chaos (will) happen in every corner.
In short with a small group easier to socialize and develop friendship (like we do now). For me the important balance between enjoying the tour and the pilgrimage.
No free time.
The group schedule was jam-packed with places to visit and things to do. We woke up at 5 – 6 am and checked in at another hotel around 6 pm. Enough time to find room, dinner at hotel restaurant and then sleep. We did the same thing every day.
There was no relax time. No time for a nap (for me).
While on the bus, the guide explained a few things about what we would visit or saw along the way. Especially the history and the story behind all the mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ. I looked forward to this moment when the tour guide told stories in the Bible with combination of customs and history thousands of years ago. Nevertheless, several times my mind wandered in different directions.
My mind wandered thousands of years ago. Wondering how ancient people communicate and perform daily activities. Otherwise my mind wandered because tired, sleepy and sometimes tired to concentrate.
When the tour guide gave time to rest on the bus during a journey from one place to another, I was busy taking photos or making videos.
I Love to Travel Overland
Each place has a different story. Legend, history and tales amazed me.
A landscape that I have never seen before. Rocky mountain and barren land. The shape and color of the unique stone fascinated me. Food crops with advanced technology are grown in barren land.
Not to mention the thrilling border stories.
I never imagined that we were escorted by a police officer with a gun on a bus during a long journey across Mount Sinai. I did not take a nap during a bus trip. Scary.
Every Step on The Via Dolorosa is History
Daydreamer like me can barely concentrate with so many questions on the head. Especially when we did Station of The Cross on Via Dolorosa with the tourist bustle, winding roads, market sellers shouting to pedestrians and Israeli soldiers everywhere.
What’s more, I really wanted to devote every moment with the camera.
When I was still trying to get the right angle, my group had gone a long way. It was a situation that frustrated me. Again, I had to make a choice. I was lucky to get some photos here and there.
One moment I concentrated and recited Mary’s Prayer, other times my eyes wandered tracing the meandering alleys, mysterious-looking alleys, old doors (what’s behind them) or where all the women in the unique outfit rushed away.
Sometimes when I prayed the shopkeepers shouted “two for ten dollars …”. Oh no. Funny thing was when one of the traveling companions opened one of her eyes and looked at the merchandise … hahaha. I saw her eyes shining. She gasped when she realized I was staring at her, she quickly closed her eyes.
Madam X complained, “Why should we take the Via Dolorosa route with all the shops along the way? We can not concentrate and pray!”.
I told her, “This is the same place since ancient times when Jesus had to go to Golgotha, he had to go through uneven roads, shops along the way, merchants offering merchandise on the market and passers-by. “
However, she still shows her very upset face.
Buy, Buy …. Shopping and Shopping Again
When I worked at a travel agency, I knew all the fun at the end of the month when commissions from our partners came to our office. That meant we got a little extra to spend.
Now I was on the other side. I was a prospective buyer who got all the sweet talks from the seller to buy their goods. Totally pampered with a good greeting in Indonesia and delicious tea with a variety of flavors.
Then the show began.
The shop owner gave a brief history lesson on the origins of oil, paper, mosaics, and other objects. Where and how their ancestors used all the material around them for their daily lives.
Aahhh…..ohhh…then laugh or giggle here and there. This was the highlight of our trip. Shop and hunt for unique items from the countries we visited.
“Madame, I give you a special price, just for you,” she whispered in my ears. The seller started off with a trick that thrilled the money bag.
Not sure if this was just for my ears or she also whispered to other members with ‘just for you’. Really a smooth sales trick. They sounded like giving special rates to our group but in the end, they still got a big profit.
In addition, the tour guide helped was very helpful. In addition to taking us to a place of good quality, they also gave directions where to buy good and cheap souvenirs. Even from vendors who came to our bus.
Especially for me who was looking for something valuable from the $$$ I carried. Not expensive and did not make my little suitcase become heavier.
It was so hilarious when one of the members boasted the goods they bought for the lowest possible price. Two dollars for a shawl or five dollars for 15 refrigerator magnets.
At the end of the tour which was only 9 days (minus the journey), tour members mocked each other who brought the heaviest cabinets. Ha ha ha ha…
Selfie, wefie and group photo
Okay.. this is a complicated subject. Often I annoyed, amused even laughed out loud with the behavior of my friends.
When we just got off the bus, one or two of the group members stole the opportunity to take a photo or selfie in front of the building or statue. Though they were told that there was time for the photo after the guide’s explanation.
Stunned to see a friend who walked casually into the middle of the road just to take photos. He did not even care about his safety taking pictures from dangerous angles.
On the first day of the trip, I joined the group photo. After a while, I avoided the group photo. Several times they called my name, then (maybe) they got bored and understood if I did not really like group photos.
A serious and quiet atmosphere could change drastically if one or two friends initiated to take a photo. It did not matter whether the tour members were young or old, all wanted to take part. The guides were not surprised by our behavior and even gave us (pilgrims from Indonesia) nicknamed photos mania with different abbreviations of each country. They were not exaggerated because my friends were really serious about this photo business. Nothing could shake the joy in front of the camera – selfie, wefie or group photo. Even members who complained of tired and sick suddenly took pictures with cheerful and bright eyes.
If other members were busy posing, I became a photo stylist. When the other members were busy setting up the camera setting, I instead volunteered to take their pictures. Then, not sure when and why happened, I’d rather take a photo of another friend than participated in it. I just feel that I already had enough photos.
I love to see their humor when taking photos. Then I interested to see what kind of photo pose they liked.
Actually, this habit does not just happen with my group (from Asia) it also happened with other groups from Europe or from America. They posed with a handshake in front of the peace plaque. Dramatic!.
This post is also available in: Indonesian