Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Neither Deep nor Wide

19 Responses

  • Emma Hart,

    I tease, of course. There will be a Capture post, I'm just sorting that with Jackson.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Excellent travel memories! I have several old browning Brownie photos of my father floating in the Dead Sea during the war years. He would also label snaps of the locals with "A Wog" and "Another Wog". Ah, the past is another country.....

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I do try to travel as a guest in a house I have freely chosen to come to; to be gracious and patient and respectful of custom. By the time we left Jordan, if one more guy took my bag, pushed my chair in, or reached around me to give my bill to my male companion, I was going to lose my shit.

    I can (kind of) identify. There was one rather odd - and awkward - moment when we rocked up to the B&B we were staying at in York, and clerk obviously though two men booked into a double room was a clerical error. (A clerical error, by the way, by the way, David obviously hadn't noticed when making the initial booking, the confirmation after paying the deposit and the call that morning to make sure they didn't cancel the booking because our train from London had been delayed several hours.)

    Really, there's a self-defensive part of you that doesn't want to raise hell when you're a very long way from home. But I wasn't really in the mood to come out to every damn desk clerk between Hong Kong and Vancouver either.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    When we did Egypt, Jordan Syria it was before the clusterfuck. So Egypt was packed, never were we at a temple with less than a thousand other tourists, it was amazing but draining.

    So for us (me my partner and our friend and great travel agent who had organised it all) Jordan came as a relief from the madding crowd. We were also lucky enough to have really good guides, except for the plonker in Petra who, yes was all touchy with the two women and who we deeply offended by eventually telling him to go away and leave us to wander by ourselves.

    I loved Jordan ... Aqaba, Wadi rum, Petra, Madaba and Jerash were all amazing enough that I could get past some of the other stuff. We accepted that my role was to be "the man" and I could fake that role as needed.

    I'd echo Emma in saying Jordan is absolutely a place to go and see. Perhaps even more so now given the mess that is the mid-east.

    I didn't feel as though Jordan was women-free, that may just have been a difference in the time we went. The Jordanians seemed particularly proud of their Queen and her work in promoting education for women and women's rights but that was then.

    And as for handing the bill to the man - well we go out to dinner fairly often and my partner has a much better palate for detecting off flavours in wine so she routinely orders the wine that we choose together. Yet about three-quarters of NZ waitstaff will a) hand the wine list to me and b) offer a taste of the wine to me regardless of who actually made the order. So that kind of mindless sexism is alive and thriving in NZ too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    clerk obviously though two men booked into a double room was a clerical error.

    Oh, my travelling companion and I were both Travelling as Straight, when neither of us is. Which in our case meant that we were sharing a room, and only correcting the assumption that we were a married couple with people who were on the tour.

    The tattoo on my arm did eventually out me to a couple of people on the Egypt leg, including the other woman on the tour who turned out to also be bi, and just having someone we could be real with was a huge relief. We didn't have that in Jordan.

    So that kind of mindless sexism is alive and thriving in NZ too.

    When our Jordanian guide did eventually work out that my companion and I weren't partners, he explained that in Jordan, everyone would assume that a man and a woman together were "together". And I explained that was true at home as well, and it makes me a bit crazy.

    I will talk about Egypt later, but we were incredibly lucky going when we did, because we didn't have to deal with insane crowds. I was familiar with Queen Rania (nom) and her work for women's rights, and perhaps that was one of the reasons I was surprised that Jordan felt so much more of a Man's World than Egypt.

    Just as we left, the Jordanian parliament was debating passing a law to allow Jordanian women to pass citizenship on to their spouses and children, the way Jordanian men can.

    Our guide was very insistent that Jordanian women can do whatever they want, work where they want, wear what they want. Then he told us about mothers going to check out prospective brides for their sons, and getting them to go and put on short skirts so they could check out their legs. Then he told us that, man, they used to take nuts with them to check their teeth, madness, what are they, horses?

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R,

    Some friends of mine recently went to Jordan, and relate the tale of the Bedouin who after the organised activities of the tour day, took them back to their tent to meet their wives and see their satellite internet connection, to prove that they were modern, not backward...

    I think they thought they had a role to play for the tourists.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Stephen R,

    I think they thought they had a role to play for the tourists.

    We stayed for two days in Captain's Camp in Wadi Rum, which is staffed by Bedouin, and visited the Bedouin Camp at Lawrence Spring. (Pro tip; there's no spring.) There were no women on site at either camp. (We assumed they were in the village, where all the food was being trucked from.) And yeah, they were very much playing roles. Just before we left, I saw one of the guys, who'd been in headscarf and dishdash the whole time, wandering across the compound in jeans and sneakers.

    I do have a (very poor quality) photo of our Bedouin driver bluetoothing photos to one of the women on the trip, while sitting next to a Bedouin campfire.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Exponential enjoyment?
    I'd always thought of Crossing Jordan as innocuous fare...
    But it seems like you had some bad Jordan luck as well...

    Bottom line: has travel widened your world view?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7889 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Bottom line: has travel widened your world view?

    Our trip through Egypt made me seriously question some assumptions, which is awesome.

    But it seems like you had some bad Jordan luck as well…

    Man I wish I'd thought of that joke.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    My father-in-law had a brief period of leave from commanding tanks at Alamein in '42 so a mate suggested they pop over to this "rock city place in Transjordan" they'd heard mentioned. Utterly devoid of "tourism" and with no idea what they were going to find.
    I really want to see the place but hearing that story made me realise I'll bitterly resent the tourist hordes when I do...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I loved Jordan ... Aqaba, Wadi rum, Petra, Madaba and Jerash were all amazing enough that I could get past some of the other stuff. We accepted that my role was to be "the man" and I could fake that role as needed.

    Probably the only really depressing bit of moving from a heterosexual marriage to a non-heterosexual one, for me, was going through the list of Places We Should Probably Put Off Visiting For A While (inc.: most of the Middle East.) It's not that I wouldn't love to go there, it's that there's still a whole lot of places in the world we haven't traveled that involve so much less stress about our personal safety/comfort, yanno?

    And as for handing the bill to the man - well we go out to dinner fairly often and my partner has a much better palate for detecting off flavours in wine so she routinely orders the wine that we choose together. Yet about three-quarters of NZ waitstaff will a) hand the wine list to me and b) offer a taste of the wine to me regardless of who actually made the order. So that kind of mindless sexism is alive and thriving in NZ too.

    My favourite story of this type is when a friend's mother took several of us - teenage uni students at the time - to a nice-ish restaurant for lunch (in Christchurch, for context). Five people at the table, one nicely-dressed middle-aged woman, four teenagers in jeans and t-shirts, and who does the bill get handed to? The only male. No reading of social cues whatsoever except for gender. Watching him panic for a second at the thought of having to pay the bill was pretty funny, though.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    Places We Should Probably Put Off Visiting For A While (inc.: most of the Middle East.)

    Don't put it off.

    Just go with one of the tour groups like Innovative Travel etc. Heck you NEED a guide to get through egyptian airports at the very least, no really, I could never have managed to get us on the plane let alone made sure our luggage came with us, no amount of testosterone can replace one of those guides.

    Once you are part of one of those groups you should be fine. Yeah there is the casual sexism of some of the locals but it's no worse than the casual 'isms you are experiencing now the US.

    The real reason to not put it off is, it might not be there for long. We were so very very lucky to have gone to Syria when we did, we had a great time and saw amazing things. And that is no longer possible :(.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    It’s not that I wouldn’t love to go there, it’s that there’s still a whole lot of places in the world we haven’t traveled that involve so much less stress about our personal safety/comfort, yanno?

    It's comfort, but it's not safety. The Middle East is more relaxed about demonstration of affection between members of the same sex than the West is. It's, can I stand having my relationship constantly misread? Can I handle being assigned twin beds all the time? And it's okay if the answer is 'no'. But it's not that travelling as a pair of women is dangerous.

    I met a lovely woman on the Egypt tour who was bi, and who'd been working in the UAE. She talked about the LGBT scene in Abu Dabi, which functions on plausible deniability. She'd been watching women twerking in one of the underground lesbian nightclubs, and she asked one of the local women about it afterwards. "Not Emirati," the woman said in disgust, at something she'd just happily watched. "Egyptian."

    And yes, as Bart implied, one of the reasons we're very glad we went to Egypt now, is that it may actually get worse in future. This might be your best chance. Pure democracy would absolutely make Egypt less safe for women.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Roberts,

    Our group was mostly fairly liberal Australians, and Jordan’s historic and current attitude to refugees made a mortifying comparison for them.

    I trust that the Kiwi contingent was not too smug, seeing as we don't even fill our measly quota of 750 refugees and the Aussies are now taking 20,000 p.a.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 93 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Emma Hart,

    It's comfort, but it's not safety. The Middle East is more relaxed about demonstration of affection between members of the same sex than the West is. It's, can I stand having my relationship constantly misread? Can I handle being assigned twin beds all the time? And it's okay if the answer is 'no'. But it's not that travelling as a pair of women is dangerous.

    Fair enough; right now, I'm probably oversensitive to that sort of possibility because the whole Being Queer In Public thing is so new, and I know that I'm living in an artificially safe space. I genuinely don't have a sense of what it's going to be like when we move somewhere that's not hyper-LGBT-friendly, let alone going somewhere that is outright *un*friendly.

    And yes, as Bart implied, one of the reasons we're very glad we went to Egypt now, is that it may actually get worse in future. This might be your best chance. Pure democracy would absolutely make Egypt less safe for women.

    Also a consideration. The situation's so volatile there it's hard to tell what's going to happen.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Dunster,

    Went Jordan and Cairo last January/February and were struck by the lack of tourists the too. Lots of snow in Jordan which curtailed our activities but completely recommend a visit to anyone. Jerash was great (Bedouin bagpiper), Petra unbelievable (and empty) Dead Sea likewise.

    Cairo was empty, more hawkers than tourists, very hard for them.

    Totally endorse the above suggestion to get a tour sorted rather than travel casually. There's a number of UK outfits that do it, we used Explore who assembled a tour for the four of us. Were able to do it a few days before we hit Amman. Removed trauma whilst allowing us to change stuff as we went along.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2009 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    I feel pretty much the same, and I've been out over 25 years. I think because I remember the insistence on a twin room back then (Raetihi in the summer - it wasn't the only room available) that I'm not eager to repeat the experiences. Yes, different cultures are different, and it's probably be fine travelling with just a friend.

    Even in places like the US and UK, I won't stay in BnB-type accommodation unless I know it's queer-friendly. I'll stick to an anonymous Ibis hotel if that's the available option.

    Regarding unreconstructed restaurants and the like, if it's a table of all females, the wine/bill is presented to either the largest or the butchest woman. Just amazing how some things persist.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Graham Reid,

    BY strange coincidence we were in JOrdan around the same time you were and as you say Petra is breathtaking I found Jerash even more so, largely because I could kind of "see" what that city must have like rather better than Petra where so much was leveled by 'quakes.
    Interesting too what you say about internet services/mobile coverage: when we go to the Dead Sea my wife got a "welcome to Palestine" message!
    Nice piece.
    graham reid

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Susannah Shepherd, in reply to Graham Dunster,

    Jerash was great (Bedouin bagpiper), Petra unbelievable (and empty) Dead Sea likewise.

    One of my treasured souvenirs of Jerash is a short video clip of a group of exuberant teenage Jordanian girls on a school trip dancing in Bedouin style to the strains of 'Scotland the Brave'.

    We also had the luck to go to Wadi Rum on a hot sunny day but shortly after rain. Flowers in the desert, creeping across that vivid red sand... just amazing.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report Reply

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