|Dead Sea Post Script|
I have just left the bus returning from Petra. A man asks me if I want a taxi. I do. He pushes a very large man my way and I ask him how much. International? No, I correct him, Amman International. Yes yes, he says impatiently, International, 3 JD. Ok, I say, and get in. The fat man is nice. Where you from? Holland. Ah Holland! Very good. We are travelling a route I am not familiar with and I tell him so. Yes, yes, no problem. We arrive at some other “international” hotel. and I say: No, Amman international. I give him the card and now he is ever so slightly disappointed. That would have been a bigger fee, I see him think. But maybe that is my unkindness. We carry on and soon the roads become familiar again. So, you been to Petra? Yes, today I went to Petra, Very beautiful. OK Ok, he said. Dead Sea? Well, I would like to go there maybe tomorrow and.. He cuts in: I take you Dead Sea, I wait, you swim... take you back.... 50 dollar. I say: No, I am by myself, too much. Anyway I only want to go for an hour or so. Hour? Just hour? Ok I make deal: 40 dollar. Well, I said, I'll think about it. You see I also need to go to the airport tomorrow. Airport? Ok Ok I take you to the airport. You call me, I take you. Airport from hotel... 20 dollar! Ok that's a deal I said. I need to be there in the evening. Evening? Ok wait, he said, You go to Dead Sea at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, I take you, you swim, I wait... then I take you straight to airport... 50 dollar? Ok I said. I think that sounds good but I want to think about it. He gives me his mobile number and his name, Arafat. The next day after a long walk around Amman I return to the hotel where they have kept my luggage for me and I call mr Arafat. Ok, yes I come. And indeed he does. We get into his taxi and settle down for the drive to the Dead Sea. Spectavular drive. My ears pop as we descend into the valley. Arriving on the floor of the basin we see the distant mountains of Israel. Palestine he says. Are you Palestinian? I ask. Yes he says. That... and he gestures with his hands, Palestine, not Israel. We drive on to a fork in the road, left is towards the Dead Sea, right is towards the baptism site. Of course, Christ was Baptised in the Jordan. I have the image of Piero della Francesca's statuesque fresco before me. How I love that picture. The Jordan flows into the Dead Sea. How come no one has ever, at least to my knowledge, picked up on the latent symbolism here? Christ was baptised in a river doomed to spill its precious water into a salty trough that is completely dead! Think of it, it could have been used by the Christians to denote the baptism of Christ for a cause that would lead to His sacrifice on the Cross or something. And it could be used by all others to show it was a religion leading nowhere but death. I suppose on second thoughts, one can sort of understand why not too much was made of it by the Christians themselves. It doesn't look very promising. We get to a checkpoint. Soldiers want to see my passport. They are not overly concerned with Arafat. We drive on. There is a healthy tourist trade here. We get to Amman beach where I have to fork out 15 Dinars for the privilege of using their horrible facilities. and again Arafat gets in free as my driver. Anyway, I get into the water and feel the feel. But I feel annoyed at the cost of it all and feel a little strange at being chaperoned by my taxi driver. He wants to take a picture of me in de Dead Sea. I don't really want one. He wants to push the button of the shower after my swim. He walks in front of me half turned towards me. Ok, if that's how he feels.... After my shower I sit and dry myself in the sun near the swimming pools on the upper terraces. They are filled to the brim with bodies; lots of fat men standing around in groups and pneumatic ladies in special swimming burca's like little Michelin men in black, chatting happily in the fresh water. The sea is almost empty. We drive to the airport. In the car we chat about children, the cost of life and meat. He likes meat, he says, with a kind smile.
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