Monday, 2 May
The little Embraer, which felt more like a private jet than a commercial flight, swept into the air from Aqaba (King Hussein) Airport’s long runway, paralleling the border fence with Israel. Low haze prevented me from seeing the views of Petra, Dana and Karak that I had
been promised on the half hour flight to Amman. The three hour connection at the capital’s Queen Alia airport was remarkably dull, the terminal’s low claustrophobic low roofs reminding me of Heathrow Terminal 1, but with Islamic-inspired windows. The airport swarmed with white-robed pilgrims, connecting on their way home from the Haj. Five hours on a Royal Jordanian Airbus followed, thumping our way over Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Austria, German and Belgium, cloud obscuring the ground below for almost the entire jouirney, until we suddenly broke clear as we crossed over the Lorelei Rocks in the Rhine Valley and undertook a long approach to Heathrow straight down the Thames Estuary, stacked for half an hour over Romford and then arrived from the west, almost brushing the rooftops of Windsor Castle as the first cricket game of the summer got underway on the playing fields of Eton.
Soon enough, I was in the queue for immigration, reading of the death of Osama Bin Laden on my phone, before heading for home on the Piccadilly line. As I passed under Westminster, I realised I had come full circle. The return journey had been easy, uneventful, fast and dull. It had crossed ten countries, and I hadn’t experienced anything about any of them. From the outward leg, I had got 800 photos, a sun tan and mosquito bites. From the return leg, I had got a pack of peanuts that says ‘Caution: may contain traces of peanuts’. I’d gone looking for an air-conditioned desert, and I’d found it, four miles above central Europe. It wasn’t a patch on the real thing.