The Only Way is Amman
‘Let’s go swimming!’ Screamed Ali like a ten year old who has just found out he is going to Disneyland.
The lads from the local mosque had rented out a school swimming pool for two hours (sixty dinars), split between twenty or so of us.
It is an interesting sight to see men of early to mid-twenties turn into little children by the mere mention of swimming. Understandable perhaps with the heat and general lack of water. But with the fact that the majority can’t actually swim, a bit unnerving.
We crammed about ten guys into a medium sized car, all screams and giggles, phones in hand snap-chatting our progress whilst urging the driver to go faster in the hope we would take off from one of the hills.
My first impression of a Jordanian swimming pool was that they had somehow managed to find a way of using sweat instead of chlorine to clean the water.
Ali was one of the non-swimmers and so he was laden down with various flotation devices and would occasionally bob over to me, asking for tips.
‘Try kicking your legs and moving your arms in this motion,’ I’d say before giving a small demonstration. But on my return I’d inevitably find him floundering somewhere in the depths trying to chase a ball someone had thrown at him.
The lifeguard worked overtime, blowing his whistle to stop people running, throwing in the odd buoyancy ring and even giving a gentle push with his stick to anyone who had mistakingly drifted into open water.
An Iraqi guy, Hakeem, regaled me with tales of swimming in the Euphrates river. It sounds wonderful, I replied. At least the current washes away the sweat.
We spent the two hours racing widths, having breath-holding competitions, and taking group diving photos. Waterproof cameras I hear you ask. Don’t be so soft, just dry your hand with a towel and tread water with your iPhone.
Due to the heat and an interesting diet so far I have been a bit bunged up, so hit the hay for the remainder of the afternoon, only surfacing at around 10pm with Ali imploring me to go out on the town. I wasn’t really feeling up to it. I could do with a bit of me time, I said. Which involved a few treasured hours getting more acquainted with my iPod and my pillow.
Later on Hamooda and I chilled on the sofa, eating falafel sandwiches and watching a Spanish cartoon about a boy and his dog, Sebastian and Bill, dubbed into classical Arabic. We passed several joyous hours pointing out various flaws in the plot, over a plate of farfaheen (spinachy like dish), which we devoured with a very salty glass of laban (something I still haven’t gotten used to).
I went to bed with eyes still red from swimming, a mouth green from spinach and a suspiciously yellow glean on my skin, presumably from the sweat-treated pool.