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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

This is a simple equation to assist everyone who hangs around in Egypt for any amount of time and then goes to a nearby country. Losely translated, it means that Egyptian pounds are worth about the same as Monopoly money, especially in Israel. Jordanians will blink at you a few times when you start talking about EGP, but they know the exchange rate and can work with you if needed. Israelis will look at you like you’re from Mars and/or, in the case of a certain cab driver, get really angry. I would have understood his anger if I’d actually been trying to pay him in EGP, but my first words upon getting into the cab were, “I need to go to a place where I can change my money.” Obviously, since I’m white, the only kind of non-shekel money that I could possibly posess is USD, British Pounds, or Euros, all of which pass for legal tender in Eilat. When I disabused him of this notion, he responded in exactly the same way as if I had told him that I had no money at all. Also, asking a cab driver to wait 3-4 minutes while you duck into an exchange place is NOT OK, as he repeatedly informed me. However, since he had no choice other than not getting paid for real, he did wait and then charged me an extra 10 shekels once I had them. I was too tired to argue.

Once I actually got to Jordan, everything was fine. Some people I met on the bus from Cairo told me about a cheap, awesome hostel (Valentine Inn) that wasn’t on It’s 5JD (about the same as 50 EGP, but that’s the cheapest thing you’re going to find in Petra) for a very comfy bed in a very clean, even attractive, dorm-style room. There is hot water from 6-11am, and every bed already has 2 blankets on it. (I’m sweating as I write this, but at night desert country magically gets freezing cold.) The Valentine also provides a decent breakfast and a dinner buffet for a few extra JD. AND, best of all, when I arrived everyone in the hostel was hanging out in the common room, watching….wait for it….Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!

*cue Indian Jones them music*

After logging about 12 hours in my bed and consuming some breakfast and coffee, I walked down the road to the actual tourist attraction of Petra. It’s a long walk through a really cool canyon, and then, between two jagged, close-looming cliffs you glimpse…something big…something ornate…something that couldn’t be anything else besides…an ancient temple!

Except it’s not an ancient temple, it’s the Nabean treasury building, circa sometime in the middle ages. Still, it’s really, really cool, and it’s only the begining of the Nabean ruins. There are miles of them, mostly much more modest than their movie-star cousin, but still pretty cool. I even found a real temple, uncovered fairly recently by a Brown University dig. After several hours of walking around, taking a million pictures, and dodging the speeding horse-drawn carriages, I became suddenly grateful that the 2-day pass was only 5JD more than the 1-day pass (38 instead of 33) and that I had purchased it. Which is a grammatically convoluted way of saying that I’m going back tomorrow.

If I hurry back to the hostel, maybe there will be time for the entire IJ trillogy (it’s a VCR, so no chance they’ll have the 4th) before my screaming back muscles force me into bed.


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