Above: Down by Masjid Husseini in the old town. Our motto at Team Pumpy is to 'blend in'. I believe we do a good job.
Above: More 'blending in' at some 2nd Century Roman ruins near Masjid Husseini. 'Blending in' is all in the mind; you must 'believe' that you are no different than anybody else, but of course, the trick is getting to the belief.
Above: One of the many alleyways around town. This one is adjacent to the Cliff Hostel, where discerning cyclists stay. It costs 6 Jordanian Dinar per night, single room, share shower. 1 JD = $1.30 US
Above: The Al-Boury Salon. My friend Mohammad, the 'second barber', is in the doorway wearing a white shirt. "I would like to get my hands on your hair, Felix," he says, and laughs.
"No way," I reply, not laughing.
I drink tea here every morning.
Above: Munir, the head barber, works his magic. "Your hair is very beautiful, Felix," he says.
"Thank you, Munir," I say, and go back to my tea.
Above: Out and about around town. The St. Sophia Coptic (Egyptian) church, near the large King Abdullah mosque, about 3 km out of the centre of the old town. There is a large Egyptian population in Jordan.
I wandered in to take a look.
"Welcome, welcome!" said the laughing man at the gate. He was about 70, had a very hooked nose and was dressed in white robes with a black head scarf. I nodded, and walked past him across the small stone courtyard into the bookshop.
The bookshop contained a plethora of religious paraphenalia, including a life sized picture of a smiling Jesus in red robes and holding up a large golden orb. It was pretty good.
"Hello, my name is Dina," said a smiling face that had crept silently up behind me. "I will show you the church!" Dina was no more than 14 years old, had jet black hair, almond shaped brown eyes and a lovely aquiline nose, in the Egyptian tradition. I was immediately charmed.
"Well, that's very kind of you, Dina. My name is Felix, and I come from Australia," I replied.
"I love Australia!" said Dina, lighting up in genuine appreciation of, I guess, kangaroos and all things furry antipodean.
She bounded up the winding stairs that led into the church proper, and I followed.
"Here is the church!" she said, pointing out the obvious, but what the hey, this isn't a professional tour. Or were we experiencing a language problem? Maybe 'show you the church' meant 'show you where it is', and not 'show you around'.
"So it is..." I said, while Dina stood mute, as only teenagers can. With no accompanying 'This church was built in 1927 blah blah...' I figured that was pretty much the end of the tour, if it was a tour.
Dina remained mute, but held her gaze. For a 14 year old, this girl was intense! What on earth was she on about? Not knowing what else to do, I nodded and moved off, going from icon to icon around the entrance under my own steam. I could feel her eyes on the back of my head.
Over by the stained glass windows on the south side I came to a small shrine to the Blessed Virgin, and paused. The shrine was inset into the wall, and contained a decorative head and shoulder view of the Virgin. She was dressed in deep blue robes with silver edges, and there were seven shining stars on the wrap around her forehead. It was exquisite, and it disarmed me.
"I might just go inside and say a few prayers, Dina," I said, after a little while. "I'll catch you later." Dina nodded, and I went into the church and settled down in a pew for some quiet contemplation. Ten minutes later I walked out feeling measurably more whole, and Dina was waiting on the stairs.
"Did you have a good prayer?" she asked, brightly.
"Yes, Dina, it was good," I said, exuding wise post-prayer vibes.
"Oh, that is good," she said. "Please give me one JD!"
(A JD, or Jordanian Dinar is worth about $ 1.30)
"What?!" I replied, genuinely taken aback. "Ah, is this for the prayer or the tour, Dina?"
But Dina, being a true professional, wasn't about to get into obfuscating mental eddies with a tourist who was already over committed.
"You give me one JD, yes?" she repeated.
I sighed. "OK, what the hell," I said. "You got me." I handed over the money and gave her a smile. She grinned back, and then went skipping off down the stairs with flashing eyes, never to be seen again.
As I climbed on the bike I reminded myself that money is the oil that moves the hearts and minds of men (and young Egyptian girls), and it's a wise man who prays before he leaves the house.
I thanked the laughing man at the gate, climbed on my bike and rode away.
Above: After my encounter with Dina, the Egyptian child sorceress, it was time for a freshly squeezed juice at one of the many juice stalls around town. The conversation usually goes like this...
"Welcome to Jordan, sir! Where are you from?" says the man.
"Ah, cheers, AUS-TRA-LEE-AH," I say.
"I love Australia!" says the man. "What juice you want?"
"Ah, something cool and refreshing, thanks, mate," I say.
"Ah, then I will give you BLAH-BLAH-BLAH!" says the man, 'blah-blah-blah' being Arabic for some fruit or other that I have never heard of, nor can I decipher the name.
"Yeah, that's my favourite," I say, attempting to sound like I know what I'm talking about, so as not to lay myself open to more sorcery.
"Very good, very good! Welcome to Jordan!" says the man, and goes about making up my blah-blah-blah juice, which of course, turns out to be radically tasty and refreshing, and cheap - about 50 cents. 'Nothing like a good juice in Jordan!' as we say at Team Pumpy, and being a forgiving kind of guy, I'll probably forget about Dina in around five days, a week at the outside.