Trucks chase me all day. Not a minute passes without the air around me being sucked from my safe place, waste oily air thrown into the desert to dirty something trying to grow. Or maybe this air, unable to be breathed is thrown against anything else moving, including the heat. Truck breeze is chilling. On Highway 15 from Amman to Ma’an, I feel my body pull then compress, minutely because road life is a warped reality. In that moment of passing the mechanical road strips humans of everything including its shape.
Spiky grasses stand motionless when we are both free from passing traffic except at head height the northerly wind blows me along. I’m riding without batteries and the bike is heavy. In Israeli the war has combusted so completely I know I need to distance myself from the border. It is a situation that has compounded an already difficult transfer process for the power train which me and my bicycle relies, but it is a bicycle, and it has pedals and now I have stronger legs.
All day I ride. For 14 hours I push through gaps in what turns into a cross wind when the road starts to climb what are endlessly long slopes that cross endless dry wadi’s. So limited is my conversation my words come out like cracked nuts, a brittle hello against a thousand ‘welcomes to Jordan’. So far removed from the tourist zone, here ordinary people are proud to show me how deeply they wish me well. Away from Amman, from the temples and petroglyphs of Wadi Musa, of Wadi Rum, away from the rest houses where the coaches pull in it is apart the buying of food and cold drinks it is no longer transactional but by nightfall I am still riding. My pathetic little lights a beacon of hope against an onslaught of trucks and cars rushing in the night I know don’t care to see me. The first thing I hear is the call to prayer as I ride into town.
Ma’an they say is a hotbed of Isis sympathy but I don’t see it. I find the one hotel in town, leave the bicycle with the owner, wash and go find somewhere to eat. Ma’an city centre is a crossroad of car washes, the Habib Bank with its ATM machine glistening as if it were on stage and in way it is. How money comes out of it must be a gift from God to some but there are eateries and a giant palace of a place selling fruit salads and ice creams so prominent and brightly lit you imagine it could be seen it from the moon.
The Fruit Salad Palace
Here people think of themselves as living In Palestine. Someone said to me that If I were Israeli l would be killed. It’s an historical oddity how Palestinians have no truck with people from Britain. ‘Ah, London good,’ they say, but is it our football teams in Manchester that keep me safe and take their interest onto another level. The fruit salad palace serves me my orange juice and the chicken parlour my breaded broiler and chips after which I return to my room, the clean white walls my brief respite from my world where your thoughts can be wiped clean.
In some strange way I am never happier than when I am journeying, alone, vulnerable but open to forces only partially in my control. How I respond is what keeps me safe. Amongst all things in Arabia humanness is key, things from the heart are what makes life tick. I know this. In fact there is little else to know.
On the television the Haj is in full swing. Wrong metaphor. Devotees make a genteel procession around the black Kabaa, so tightly packed it looks like they don’t use their legs. Torso’s and arms and heads appear locked in some unearthly meditational swaying stumbling movement around what to me is like a black curtained obelisk. Perhaps it is the shape that reminds me of something as if floating in space but it is a metaphor for a mystery.
Map of the Day
Note - missed the first 5 miles, forgot to switch the app on and maybe due to a loss of GPS signal at between miles 40 & 46 it was not recording, so mileage is