I left Austin with my two boys on Monday afternoon and flew to Chicago. We left Chicago that same evening, spent only about ten hours in the air, but somehow it was late Tuesday afternoon when we arrived in Amman, Jordan. The Sudanese tradition is that a bride-to-be stays sequestered at home for the entire month leading up to her wedding, and gets pampered and beautified by all the women in her family. However, Areej was still in school, so they had to settle for a mere two weeks. She left a week before us, which worked out great since she had lots of useful travel tips to share with us. Had it not been for her, we would have spent our eight-hour layover in Jordan sitting in the airport. Instead, we knew to approach the Royal Jordanian Airlines desk and request a day room at the airport hotel. They bused a group of us over there, gave us two rooms in which to rest and freshen up, then fed us a lovely buffet in the hotel restaurant, all at no extra charge! Boy, were we ever surprised when we arrived to find this guy in the lobby, complete with piped in Christmas carols.
I began the trip in jeans, but in Amman I switched to a skirt and pulled out a scarf with which to cover my hair. When in Rome, do as the Romans do!
At 10:30 PM a shuttle came to take us back to the airport for the last leg of our journey -- the five hour flight to Khartoum, Sudan (pronounced more like HAR-tume, with a very throaty-breathy H). It was 5:00 AM Wednesday when we arrived, the sun not even up. When we came down the steps onto the tarmac, Areej's oldest brother (Amin - the doctor brother in the UK) was there waiting with another gentleman. Instead of heading into customs with our fellow passengers, we were whisked through a quick carry-on scan and led into the VIP lounge, where Areej was waiting to greet us. I'm sure she broke protocol just being out of the house, so she was very cautious and greeted Austin and John with a brief handshake. (No PDA between the sexes in most of the Middle East - not even between married people.) I got a nice hug, however. They brought us beverages, assisted us with our paperwork, went to collect our luggage and cleared it through customs for us, and promised to deliver it to our hotel. Wow. A girl could get used to this kind of service!
Once that was taken care of, we went out to the parking lot where Amal (Areej's mom) was waiting to greet us, then she and Areej went off in one car, while Amin drove us to the 5-star hotel that Areej's uncle had arranged for us. It was a doozie, I must say!
John thought he was getting away from the incessant Christmas carols back home by leaving the country, but I was tickled pink to discover that he was wrong, wrong, wrong!
|A Genuine Gingerbread House in our Hotel Lobby|