So, since we are nearing the end of our stay here in Amman, we've had to do lots of last minute errands, which involve travel all around the city. When we first got here in May, that was easy; taxis were plentiful and traffic wasn't bad. This past Thursday was completely opposite from back in May. The word of the day was the title of this post - mustaheel, or impossible.
I drew a really simple map of Amman so you can follow along in my long adventures.
My after-school plan on Thursday was to go downtown to the 1st circle to the Wanadoo/Jordanian Telecom building to pay for our last month of internet and tell them to cancel our account after we leave. Then I was going to go to the Abdali bus station to ask about the special Airport Express bus (which, by the way, is a great deal - it leaves every 30 minutes from 7 AM to 9:30-10 PM and costs 1.5 JD per person - way better than the 20 JD+ taxis). On a normal day, that trip should have taken 20 minutes max.
So, after school, I went across the street to my favorite falafel store for a quick lunch. Then I began my adventure. I went out in front of the UJ to get a taxi to go to the 1st circle. It was pure chaos. Hundreds of students were fighting to get on minibusses and whatever taxis stopped. I fought for a taxi for 15 minutes and then decided that was mustaheel, so I squeezed myself on a minibus and decided to take it to the diwar al dakhliyya, or interior circle. This is the point where the bus route diverts from my desired path - the busses continue on to Abdali, but I wanted to go the 1st circle first before Wanadoo/JT closed (government buildings close at around 1-3 PM here...I had a time limit). Usually hundreds of empty taxis drive around this crazy traffic circle. My plan would have been perfect....
...had everyone else not thought of it too. Half the minibus got off with me and we joined the literally hundreds of people trying to get a taxi in front of the Ministry of the Interior building. The atmosphere was a lot tenser than the UJ - people were running around, swearing at each other - one guy actually pulled another guy who stole his waved-down taxi out of said taxi.
I walked up and down the street, trying to find the most strategic spot for getting my own taxi. Unfortunately, everytime I moved to a better spot, a taxi came to my former spot and picked up a person who came after me. Grrr... I was tempted to walk down to the 3rd circle and then walk over to the 1st, but there was no sidewalk. I was trapped. (PS - two of the hotels that were bombed back in November are on the road between the Interior and the 3rd circle, the one I was trying to walk down.)
I was stuck down there for 45 minutes, playing the taxi game. I got so frustrated that I decided to just go home and try it a different day, or never pay for the internet and skip the country. However, I ran into another problem: getting home. I couldn't get a taxi to the first circle - how could I get one home!? Mustaheel!
Luckily, there are minibusses, like the one I took to get the the black-hole circle, that go between Abdali and the UJ, passing conveniently in front of the Destour - my house. So, I crossed the deadly chaotic traffic circle and found the bus stop. Once again, literally hundreds of people were there, waiting for the same bus I was. I waited there for another 15 minutes as busses passed, packed as many people on as possible, and drove off. I finally forced myself up to the front of the crowd and forced myself on to the next bus and was hanging out the door all the way up to the Destour.
I made it home - mission failed. Not 2 minutes after getting off the bus, I saw an empty taxi. Mustaheel! I immediately changed my plans and waved it down. Whew! I finally got my taxi, after over an hour of trying and backtracking all the way home!
We drove back the the interior circle and I secretly laughed at the hundreds of people still fighting for taxis.
During the taxi ride to the 1st circle, we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, so I asked the taxi driver what the heck was going on. Apparently, every August, Jordan gets a huge influx of tourists from Saudi Arabic and the other Gulf states because their temperatures during the summer get up to 50 degrees C (122 F!!!), so they come to Jordan where the weather's great! A very common thing here now is the giant, gas guzzling SUVs with Saudi and Emirate plates - there are tons of them.
In addition to that, hundreds of thousands of refugees from Lebanon have come to Jordan, with and without cars, adding to the traffic and taxi strain.
I finally made it to the 1st circle and got everything taken care of in 5 minutes. I waited in front of the building for another 15 minutes until an empty taxi passed (ugh) and went to Abdali to ask about the aforementioned airport bus.
I then fought my way onto another minibus to the Destour - another chaotic struggle to get on the bus. I then finally made it home, after over 2.5 hours of wating and fighting and frustation and heat and everything!
It's probably a good thing that we're leaving now, when taxis are impossible to find and the traffic is horrible.
Especially since last night we had a drunk taxi driver. It was the scariest taxi experience we've had here in Jordan.
If only all taxi drivers were nice and available and there was no traffic!