Sunday, November 27, 2011

Jordan Challenge 15: Learn about the Royal Family -- by Visiting their Cars

There's no question that Chris and I lucked out in terms of travel during his almost month-long visit.  We made the most of a month of weekends and were helped out by an extra-long holiday week to see all kinds of places.  But there's also always the unexpected bonus right in your own backyard, and one of our favorite little jaunts was the one we made to the Royal Automobile Museum.

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to get there.  The ubiquitous Lonely Planet guidebook that is constantly waved around by all ex-pats, including me, is both out of date and hopelessly vague in its instructions.  Directions to the museum are a case in point, "in the northwest suburbs of Amman, north of 8th Circle."   We finally resorted to the last-ditch of resort of choice -- hailing a cab, calling the destination, and when a person comes on the line, having that person feed directions to the cab driver (in Arabic, of course). 

Once we arrived we joined a few school groups of excited elementary school children in their uniforms filing past the cars.  And there were a ton of cars.  For me, it was a chance to learn about the Royal Family, and by proxy, the history of Jordan since the automobile.  Those not up on their Jordanian politics might not be aware that Jordan is actually the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan -- that is, a monarchy.  The current king, Abdullah II and his venerable father before him, King Hussein, are/were both huge car enthusiasts.  They shared a love of fast vehicles, and were both accomplished pilots and road rally drivers. I was, however, disappointed that the most famous car that features in the legends about King Hussein, a taxi, was not there. Even now, more than a decade after his death, King Hussein remains a larger-than-life figure, and one of the many stories about him and his amazing common touch is the "taxi story".  According to many people I've met here, the king had his own taxi, which he would occasionally disguise himself and drive in order to ask his subjects just what they thought of the king and how things were going.

My favorite car in the museum, because of the sheer novelty of it, was this Amphicar.  It could literally drive on water and the late King Hussein bought it in 1966 to take guests for "drives" in the Red Sea in Aqaba.

And my favorite picture in the museum was this one, also of the late King Hussein.  Here he is, every inch the carefree teenager, not knowing that the next day his grandfather, King Abdullah I would be assassinated, and he would become king at the age of 17.
I think for Chris it was also a chance to see some extremely fancy cars up close and personal. 

Until I went to the museum I did not know that such a thing as a Bugati Veyron existed, nor that it one of the fastest cars in the world...

...but Chris did.  Here he is in front of the Bugati and some other very fast toys in the royal collection/
But we both had a great time, and it was an excellent way to spend a morning in-between trips to more far-flung places.  If you like fast cars (like Chris) or you don't, but like modern history (like me) it's certainly worth the extra bit of effort it takes to figure out where it is.  I'd say go.

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