8 am check out Corp Executives Suites – what a hotel! Definitely NOT our place – very stiff and business like – just like “official Amman” wants to be seen in the West. But to be fair, the beds were extremely comfortable, the shower provided WATER, even hot water and WiFi was speedy;-)
Ramsey connected us the day before with a Hossein, an extraordinary friendly and nice man who picked us up on time and drove us to the border. He really was a wonderful host!
The border to Syria is only 80 km north of Amman. It’s a very good road – no traffic at all. It’s like driving to the end of the world. The tristesse was in the air, extreme silence – no life. On our way to Al Mafraq we went into a store to buy cookies. The owner, surrounded by friends, offered us a strong Arabic coffee … wonderful. Their faces tell everything I assume …
From there we went to the largest Syrian refugee camp Zaatari. This camp opened a little over a year ago – and so many stories about the camp are out there. In July 2013 The Guardian did an excellent reportage: “Syria refugee crisis – a day in the life”, pointing out the tremendous problems and the long term implications for the people and the region. The camp today is the 4th largest “city” in Jordan.
Besides the “regular problems” mentioned above we’ve been told from Syrian citizens and from people in Amman – they don’t want to be mentioned by name – the following facts about the camp:
- most of the refugees fled because the insurgents took over their houses
- they didn’t stay inside Syria (4 million Syrians are living in camps there) because they feared the backlash of the insurgents
- horrible backlash even inside the camp!
- brutal rapes of young girls and women
- young girls being sold to Saudi Arabia
- high prices need to be paid to leave the camp towards Jordan
Again you can find some proof of evidence on the web. Here and here – just to link two of the sources. Of course no word about this when you talk with the officials of the camp. The PR manager, a major of the Jordanian army, and the head of security, a colonel, told us that the camp is calm and safe and that the supply of water and food is O.K.
They need 3.3 million liter water/day!
The atmosphere inside the colonel’s office was friendly, but cold. He himself was decorated with many medals and the royal family was smiling from multiple pictures on his huge desk. We left the camp heading 7 km north towards the border in Jabir. Dead end. On the other Deera …
We decided to drive along the border through the cities of Ar Ramtha and Irbid. It’s dessert – and the 3 km stripe between the border and the cities is truly what one calls nowhere land! Along the road sporadically we saw bedouines selling tomatoes. The cities themselves were very busy and lively. One could almost forget about the camp and the war which is only 5 km away. We stopped in Ar Ramtha, bought anise bread (actually the man in the store gave me the bread for free) and grapes and enjoyed a simply but good lunch.
We turned south in Irbid heading straight to Sheikh Hussein Bridge, the northern border between Jordan and Israel.