With Andrew having made disappointingly little headway with his plans to bring peace to the Middle East, travelling companion Katy having failed to emancipate the women of Jordan and Phil still traumatised by some of the toilet facilities he was forced to endure, things are gradually returning to normal following the Whingers’ retreat from Jordan.
Andrew has not quite finished with Jordan yet, however. He will be twittering at Queen Rania of Jordan about the state of the nation which on Day One of the trip he declared to be something of a “hole”. He had been deeply dismayed not only by the rubbish which is strewn along the roadsides of Jordan but also the fields of endless, fluttering plastic bags wrapped around every stone and bush. Alarmingly there were even more bags in the countryside than Phil carried in his luggage which he rustled tirelessly (to Andrew’s intense irritation) on each unpacking and repacking as the Whingers travelled up and down the country. Phil still insists he was doing excerpts from Stomp.
Thankfully there were moments of relaxation. Phil found time to catch up on some of his favourite reading while floating in the Dead Sea. And yes, since you ask, Phil survived his night without a shower, and what he would class as a bathroom, in the desert at Wadi Rum.
Extraordinarily, given what Andrew terms his “advanced years”, Phil had never slept completely en plein air before. Andrew, of course, has much more experience having frequently enjoyed a night in the theatre dozing contentedly in the front row of the stalls with nothing between him and the stars.
Disappointingly, it turned out that there isn’t really a West End in Amman. There is a West Bank nearby but it’s not really the same thing as far as we could make out. The nearest thing to a celebrity the Whingers could find was the grandson of Lawrence of Arabia’s Bedouin friend and guide who was thrilled to be photographed with the Whingers:
But some things are constant wherever in the world the Whingers lay their (rather natty in this case) hats: disappointment. They opted for a “Petra By Night” option which involved a long candlelit walk through the Siq to Petra’s famous Treasury for something that was advertised as entertainment. It was unreserved seating of course, so things got off to a bad start as they were actually told where to rest their bottoms (mats on the floor) making them almost long for The Tricycle Theatre.
There ensued a seemingly interminable performance on a rather strange Bedouin instrument followed by a local on some sort of flute thingy. But it was the acting which followed which finished them off completely, a solo performance by a man declaiming about Peter and Arabic coffee. Could this be this Jordan’s Cottesloe? Needless to say the Whingers didn’t make it through to the end.
In their quest to find a proper theatre, the Whingers had to content themselves with a Roman theatre in the ruins of Jerash which was nevertheless much more comfortable and accessible than the New London Theatre.
And it seems Ben Hur Live! is following the Whingers round the world and that they really needn’t have trekked to the O2 after all: also in Jerash they found this show, complete with gladiators, chariot races and a permanent sand arena in the Hippodrome:
But it all wasn’t fun and games. The country has never really taken to alcohol. A beer in a restaurant costs £4.50 and a bottle of the cheapest local wine (“Mount Nebo” where Moses died) costs upwards of £21.
Even the river after which the country is named is not what it was when John the Baptist dunked Jesus into it like some holy digestive. Indeed the trickle that is left is mostly sewage and effluent from fish farms. On learning that Andrew had never been baptised Phil became quite determined to immerse Andrew into the river’s holy waters just to be on the safe side and a disagreement ensued.