The flight time from Abu Dhabi to Amman, Jordan is a little over three hours, the majority of which is spent high above the deserts of Saudi Arabia. As it’s a smaller plane I cannot get an upgrade, nor is there the usual in-flight entertainment system. I get progressively full of Baileys while reading some Real Travel Writing and notice that despite the lack of other things to do, still – still – no one bothers with my magazine. When I do notice an old Englishman pick it up, I nervously crane my neck to see if he reads my Italian cooking cover story; when he bypasses it like a dog shit on the pavement, I humph back down into my seat.
I’m met at the airport by a tiny driver named M who looks a bit like a Jordanian version of Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He will accompany me for the duration of my stay. He seems alright, speaks with a slight American accent having lived in Chicago for six years and smokes like the world is ending.
Something that I didn’t know (or had forgotten) about Jordan is that it has kicked off here fairly recently: in 2005 there was a series of coordinated suicide bombings at hotels around the city. One woman was arrested when her device failed to explode and she was Iraqi; people speculated that the attack was a protest at Jordan’s friendly relationship with America.
Carlton explains this while driving me to the five-star Le Royale (which didn’t get attacked). Getting inside – into all hotels in fact – is tighter than in some airports; metal detector, bag scan and personal search, just to get into the lobby. A bit like Scotland’s response to guns after Dunblane, it only took one incident here for people to screw the nut in a big way.
I’m tired and almost completely disinterested by the time I have to go to the Four Seasons for dinner with their head of marketing. There is literally no chance I will print a single word about her hotel (let’s face it: no one would read it even if I did), but have to play the game sufficiently long enough to get a free dinner. And it’s not just free, it’s an excellent combination of sushi and other seafood that presumably costs quite a lot… In fact I know it does; the exchange rate between the Jordanian Dinar and the British Pound is virtually 1:1.
A couple of hours later I’m alone again and just about manage to watch Liverpool obliterate the pitiful Real Madrid before falling into a grateful sleep, entertained and gently amused.