So this past weekend, as previously mentioned, Boyfriend and I decided to show my brother more of Jordan. Besides the already familiar sites that are Petra & Aqaba (we actually stayed at the Radisson at Tala Bay – which is pretty sweet – but drove into Aqaba for the evening), we wanted to drive down the legendary King’s Highway or King’s Way, pretty much one of the most ancient roads on earth.
We decided to try and take it back in the direction of Amman after leaving Aqaba on Saturday morning, figuring that we could drive a stretch on the main desert highway, and then take a detour. After climbing back up away from the Read Sea, I took a left turn where the sign said “King’s Way” – I had driven this stretch before, after leaving Petra the previous day, so I was certain we’d be alright. The fun started when we decided to begin asking locals how to get to Karak via the ancient back roads. Most people flatly stated that this road doesn’t even exist, and suggested we get back on the highway. Boyfriend’s dad confirmed that the road does, in fact, exist, but painted a grim scenario wherein our car would inevitably break down on the most desolate part of it imaginable, at which point we would all be humped to death by sheepdogs, or something like that.
Finally, we or, rather, I (since I was driving) screeched to a halt next to the local Marriott, nearly getting killed by a pissed-off family in an SUV in the process, and got confirmation from a desk clerk that we can take a rural road toward Tafila after driving out of Petra. When we finally made it to the crossing, my brother was asleep in the backseat and Boyfriend and I exchanged a look – “Get back on the boring highway? Or see the local wonders and risk humping by sheepdog?” It was no contest.
I love driving on winding roads. I don’t even mind the precipices next to me so much, for as long as it’s daylight and the brakes work. The car I was driving was exceptionally nice, and the brakes worked like a charm. I rolled down the windows and on we went – waving at the shepherds and the little boys and the old women who peered into the car as we drove past and said “hello.”
We got lost outside of Tafila, but a man in a pick-up truck was headed in the same direction and was nice enough to show us the way. It was grand to drive through the little towns, creeping down the main road, the boys asking me to honk my horn, while trying to keep up with the flying pick-up. I’d forgotten how much I love driving. I’m going to say that again – I’d forgotten how much I LOVE driving. Especially in a car that has an engine that can roar up a steep hill with no problem. The nice man in the pick-up invited us for tea, but we sadly needed to press on.
Between Tafila and Karak, we drove through a mountainous valley the colour of acacia honey. I can’t for the life of me think of its name right now (if you know it, please pipe up in the comments). The valley is dominated by a huge rock that’s completely dark, and looks like a lump of dark chocolate in the sea of honey. For whatever bizarre reason, my companions protested at the idea of pulling over on the (nice and wide) shoulder and taking pictures, so I was not able to snap the lump of chocolate. Another view from the acacia honey valley, however, is as follows:
I only wish I had a better camera than the one on my Nokia. However since someone *cough* BROKE my camera this is the best I can do at present. Trust me, it was even more lovely than it looks.
Pressing toward Karak, I was surprised to realize just how many hours had gone by – and how that didn’t matter. We made the decision to get back on the main highway after the town, since the afternoon was slowly bleeding into evening, and we needed to have the rental back before 8 p.m. It was a hard decision to make, since the King’s Way winds itself through more of Jordan’s landscape, with more beauty to behold. Next time, I keep telling myself. Next time.
I had never seen Karak before and was surprised to realize just what a big-ass castle the crusaders had up there. Although only a portion of the thing remains, you can see just how far the wall reaches. Boyfriend and I spent the rest of the drive quoting “Kingdom of Hotness,” erstwhile known as “Kingdom of Heaven.” I like to think that I, in particular, do a great impression of Salahuddin:
“I am not those men. I am Salahuddin. Salahuddin.”
I also do a good impression of Sybilla when she sort of hornily gasps Salahuddin’s name out loud when she sees him riding toward the walls. Say what you want about that movie, but it sure is entertaining. I wanted to stay behind and see the castle up close but, once again, we were pressed for time.
On the highway back to Amman, we had the bonus entertainment of a little Hyundai loaded up to the gills with bored young men who kept trying to challenge me to a racing contest, or else attempting to pass me so they could gaze backward in my direction and wave. I got annoyed, but it was hard to stay annoyed in a nice car that could accelerate faster than they could say “habibti.” You know, I’ve decided that nice cars rather agree with me. And while I don’t really mind breaking up the monotony of a long drive, it should go without saying that flirting at high speeds could be more than a little harmful to your health.
Other things that agree with me – sand, sunscreen and horses. And sweating little cups of tea. And the long dark night. And the eyes of dogs. And the following conversation:
– “Oh my God, what IS that? A dog?!”
– “No, habib, it’s a baby donkey”
*cue baby donkey braying with indignation*
Everyone I’ve talked to since is extremely surprised that I buckled down and drove all the way from Amman to Petra, then down to Aqaba, then back again to Amman through Tafila and Karak. For some reason, people get all shocked when I mention the fact that I’ve had a license for, like, the last 8 years. I guess I really do give the impression of a shrinking violet who needs a man to chauffeur her around.
Perhaps a tattoo is necessary. Or a mohawk. I could go for a mohawk, in the heat.