Reading about the Middle East, it’s easy to imagine violence on every corner. But even small distances can be significant, it seems.
Last night: Tel Aviv. Front page headlines reported on four dead in strife in the Gaza Strip, 90 minutes to the south. Yet the newspaper’s entertainment section outlined activities for the week to come: a Shakespeare festival, a body movement celebration in the desert, walking tours of Old Jerusalem. Cafes spilled comfortably onto the sidewalk, and even at midnight, young women walked easily across the square in front of my stylish hotel.
Today, I crossed into Jordan. This proved to be a simple process. Pay a $17 exit tax on the Israeli side of the border, have your passport checked. Grab a shuttle bus ($1) to the Jordanian side. Get your visa, then hand in your passport for processing. The Jordanians snap your digital photo and fingerprint you, leaving me with the thought that I’m now in “the system.’’ After 30 years as a journalist -- having covered presidents, kings, queens and premiers -- I’ve never been fingerprinted before.
Tonight I am in Amman, Jordan’s capital. Jordan has become the Switzerland of the Middle East – on good terms with everyone. It’s not an easy role to play, but the young king and his countrymen appear to be making smart work of it. Iraq and Syria seem a million miles away. The country is hoping tourism will provide a future.
“Things are very different now even than they were 15 years ago,’’ said Bashir Daoud, managing director of Hermes Arabia, the tour company that has ably handled my arrangements in Jordan. “People are much more open now.’’
Terry Brechtel and Patricia Practhett of San Antonio, Texas, were touring the spectacular Greco-Roman ruins at Jerash after attending the International Women’s Forum held recently in Amman. “It’s very safe. We haven’t had any problems at all,’’ sayd Brechtel.
Kenes International: Arranged my journey from Tel Aviv into Jordan
Hermes Arabia: Jordanian tour operator
PHOTOS BY JANE WOOLDRIDGE / The Miami Herald
Top: The spectacular Greco-Roman ruins at Jerash, Jordan.
Center: Terry Brechtel, left, and Patricia Pratchett of San Antonio, Texas, at Jerash.
Bottom: Former members of the Jordanian army play bagpipes -- a traditional instrument here as in Scotland -- and drums for tourists at Jerash.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Posted by DARCOS CRUZ at 1:36 PM