Well, it’s New Year’s Eve and we have to find somewhere where we can celebrate. It looks like Amman is the best bet. We tootle down from Jerash, and find ourselves hideously lost in the crawling morning traffic. I was impressed by the countdown timers at the traffic lights – they told you how long the light would stay red or green. We were looking for the Caravan Hotel which I’d seen mentioned on a website.
We found it eventually, it’s near the Big Mosque and the Coptic Church. It’s a quaint thirties building and the heating has broken down. But it was only 22 JDs for the night so we took it.
We walked around Amman a bit, and stopped to use an Internet Cafe. We had asked the hotel guys where the New Year’s party action would be and they recommended The Big Fellow, an Irish Pub at Abdoun Circle. We took a taxi there, because our driver (c’est moi) was refusing to drive in the city.
Abdoun Circle seems to be the pub soukh, but they are all closed (it is noon). A few hours later they are still closed, but we find out that The Big Fellow would be opening at six, and that tickets for the New Year bash were 48 JDs. No thank you. Offspring and I are quite ‘thirsty’ by this time (BetterArf has gone shopping). We find a liquor shop with people drinking outside. The owner says we can have a can of beer if we’re quick. We decline and he directs us to The Blue Fig. This is a ten-minute walk down and up a hill and is a quasi-Irish arty-farty cafe bar in a modern building. Service is extremely slow and when it comes they don’t have the first three things we order: Kilkenny, Jim Beam, lemonade. Welcome.
After lunch we take a cab to meet BetterArf downtown. The Palestinian driver holds me personally responsible for everything from the creation of Israel to the invasion of Iraq. We meet up with BetterArf outside the Roman Amphitheatre. She was ripped off by a taxi driver – she paid 17 JDs for a fare that should have been 1.7. Then I almost got ripped off at a stinky public loo. The guy asked for 100 fils, and showed me a 500 fils coin so I’d know what it looks like. Then he pointed at a sign in Arabic that he says details the charges. I can see it does not – I know what the numbers look like. Another customer comes in and pays 10 fils. I do the same. ‘Bare-faced cheek’ is probably the right phrase to describe what this guy was doing.
One thing that I absolutely cannot stand is being overcharged for stuff. Yes, I know that these are poor people and that paying ten times over the odds is not going to bankrupt me. But that’s not the point. If I am happy with a service, I will give a tip, if I’m not, I won’t. But if you had seen, and smelt, the state of that toilet, you too would have been disgusted.
Anyhoo, we take a cab back to the hotel and tell them that the Irish Pub was a washout, so they suggest a place, not too far away, called Canvas. It’s a gallery/restaurant in a little park, and it looks very nice. We go through the security x-ray, get frisked a bit, and then the manager explains what we would get for our 60 JDs entrance fee. We leave.
We headed back to the shopping area we had been in earlier and tried a few likely looking places at random. They all had extortionate cover charges. In the end we opted for a party at the Amman Kempinski (25 JDs including a free drink, band and DJ). We were reassured to note the high security all around, and the Kempinski x-raying, frisking and taking ID details of everyone going in. The bash was nicely un-English – no ‘Auld Lang Syne'(God I hate that song).
The walk home was fab – streets were jammed with revellers, none of them drunk. Cops we passed wished us a HNY. And we were pleased to find the unheated hotel room was plenty warm enough.