This was a bit odd. I went to Aqaba, a town on an inlet of the Red Sea in Jordan. There wasn’t much to see on a gloomy winter day in Aqaba. Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were all less than 10 miles away so I thought I might climb up some of the craggy mountains behind the town and have a look.
They were pretty spectacular. I had great views over the rift valley as it extended into the River Jordan. Eilat was a mirror-image of Aqaba but with more expensive boats. Egypt and Saudi looked arid and grim.
I found a challenging-looking peak and set out to climb it. On the way, I passed some abandoned military outposts. The top of the mountain had a shredded Jordanian flag and an amazing view over four countries.
I was on my way down again when I heard music ahead. I had found a road, which made much easier going than the crags I had gone up. I went around a corner and there were two soldiers, one of them with a huge radio-cassette on his shoulder, belting out Arabesk music.
I said ‘Merhaba’ and they stopped and gaped at me. One of them shouted at me. I said something and tried to slip past. The one without the cassette player grabbed my jacket and made it known that he wanted me to come with them, in the direction from which I had just come.
It was cold, getting dark and it looked as if it was about to snow. I remembered that nasty white hut in the mountains. There was no way I was going back there with them. I shook my head and tried to pull away. He yanked at me. I shouted at them and wrenched myself out of his grasp.
At this point, both soldiers started yelling and the one with the boom box lifted it over his head and threatened me with it. I think it was at this point that I stopped being afraid. I couldn’t see that he was going to risk breaking his cassette player. I spread my hands in a ‘let’s be reasonable’ gesture and we kind of agreed that I would go away, be harmless and not give away any military secrets, especially the one about these men being away from their post.
I was another hundred metres down the hill when I heard shouting and running. One of them was coming after me. I stopped and got ready for whatever was going to happen. The man ran up to me and held out my watch. It must have fallen off when we were wrestling.
I may be more careful in Jordan next time I go.