We had a filming break over the summer and started up again in early autumn for the last four cities. The first of these was Amman, in Jordan.
Nose up to the window, Bobby the dog waved his little paw as I hauled my bag into the taxi. Although the days were due to be a sunny and warm 29°, we’d been told (in capital letters on the call sheet) to pack warm clothes for the near-freezing nights.
Back in the groove, I met up with Steve and Mike at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 to catch the 17.05 into Amman. Of course, travelling to the Middle East adds a couple of hours and we didn’t get in to the hotel until very late - so we didn’t have a chance to take in the surroundings until the next day.
I’d never been to Jordan before and didn’t really know what to expect (and when we were met with airport-style X-ray machines to get into the hotel lobby, I did start to wonder…). But actually, the mood of the city is vibrant, lively and very relaxed – there was nothing to worry about. The hotel was just being ultra-cautious, which I guess is no bad thing these days.
Amman is a fabulous city – I’d recommend it to everyone. Much of the city is new, with tall buildings and wide, car-friendly roads. Here, people dress up, even if they’re just popping out for an ice cream! Many of the hotels are full of very glittery, fashionable people. I’d say that the wealthy are not afraid to display their wealth.
As you’d expect, the older parts are a bit decayed – but it still looks very charming. Mind you, I’m not sure how easy it would be to get around in a wheelchair. One moment the pavements are a foot high, the next, they’re half that! Much of the older city is a sprawling, hilly, jumble of white, low, flat-roofed houses and is dotted with mosques. Everywhere there are lots of honking cars (I’d say the average car is a good ten years older than we’re used to seeing in the UK – but then, with all that lovely sun, they never rust!) and there’s an amazing, charcoal-filled atmosphere from the hundreds of fabulous kebab shops.
The taxi drivers have developed a speedy language for refreshments on the go. They pull up at a hole in the wall, make a couple of signs with their hands – with cream, without, one sugar, two – and out comes their coffee, exactly how they like it, without a single word being spoken.
We did some filming in the desert and, because it was such a long day, we couldn’t get back that night. Tents were arranged, and a peaceful night under the glittering skies awaited me…I wish! I’ve never heard so much noise. The wild dogs, the birds, the chattering bugs … it never stopped. Exasperated, Caroline, our development producer got up and screamed for someone to shut the dogs up – but that just made everyone more awake and more aware of each other in the neighbouring tents. Inevitably, we all got the giggles. What else can you do?
You should have seen the stars though. I understand now why they often put observatories in deserts. It looked as though someone had shaken a bag full of gold dust all over the sky. Breathtaking.
Anyway – watch the show. And then go to Jordan.