By Louie Bell, Investigations Correspondent
The Croft Magazine // Louie Bell celebrates Halloween with a travel horror story.
Beginning a trip with disaster has become a tradition. The Nepalese government gave me the wrong visa upon arrival, I was evacuated from a German train whilst interrailing due to one of the largest storms of the year - and don’t even get me started on my flat tyre when cycling to Holland.
As one for tradition, my arrival in Jordan this February began with a semi-arrest and interrogation at the border.
Some background: since starting University, my friend and fellow Geographer Ben had been travelling throughout Europe in an effort to see as much of the continent as he could before the heaving gates of Brexit closed it off forever.
But his traveller’s gaze had begun to reach further afield. We were both fans of David Lean’s 1962 epic Lawrence of Arabia, so we agreed to pop to Jordan, where much of it was filmed, for a weekend.
I brushed aside concerns from my mother - ‘Darling, you do know Jordan shares a border with Syria don’t you? You do? All right. Text me when you get there then’ - and on a damp Bristol evening, we caught a train from Temple Meads to Essex (God’s own county) and from there, set off for Aqaba.
Tired to our bones upon arrival, we were jolted awake by the border police. The trouble? An analysis of Ben’s bag. He was ordered to open it up and, judging by their attitude, present the weapons of mass destruction he was so obviously stashing in his bumbag. They pulled out his GoPro.
Here follows an excerpt from that day’s diary entry :
Saturday 1st February 2020
...The border guard then said the fateful words “Policeman will take you away.”
Well, fuck. He took our passports and GoPro and led us to - an interrogation room? It looked more like the shittest, tackiest travel agents in the world: all rickety chairs, mucky glass doors and dusty photos on the wall.
We sat in silence whilst the officer thumbed our passports and gave us the most intense, unreadable side-eye I’ve ever received. I almost laughed - but then remembered that this could genuinely be our arrest, and piped right down.
He told us in fragmented English that it was illegal to film underwater with a GoPro, in case we were planning to surreptitiously film Jordanian women underwater.
Glancing at each other, suspected camera sex pests, Ben and I wondered how we might film underwater in a country noted for being almost entirely a desert.
Thankfully, he let us off with Ben’s GoPro and I shook his hand in an attempt to seem… Respectable? Genuine? Not a pervert? Do suspected submarine camera perverts shake hands with their accusers?!
I must now take a moment to emphasise that Jordan is - despite slightly flustering first impressions - a wonderful country. The sheer expanse of Wadi Rum, the ancient majesty of Petra and the stars that illuminate the utter stillness of the desert night mean I’d recommend it to anyone looking to see some impressive sights and meet some fantastic people.
In fact, it’s so good, you might even forget that you’ve been banned from doing all your favourite sneaky underwater filming. Whilst in a desert. How about that!
Featured Image: Epigram / Louie Bell