Taxi Mafia

This is the story of how a taxi driver attempted to kick Matt out of Jordan…

The morning we left Sinai, we had to exit Egypt, enter and exit Israel, and enter Jordan to continue our journey to Petra. All said in done, it took about 1 ½ hours. From the northern tip of the Red Sea (at the Gulf of Aqaba), you can see these three countries, as well as Saudi Arabia, in one panoramic view. Pretty crazy. Everything went smoothly until the moment we stepped out of the customs gate and into Jordan. We were instantly confronted by a belligerent man in charge of the only taxi service that operated from the border crossing. He was charging an exorbitant price that we refused to pay.

We had planned to walk a few miles to the closest town but he informed us that it was military land and that “it was not allowed to walk” the 500 meters that would bring you to the main road. At first we were suspicious of this claim but later realized the taxi man clearly had connections with the military personnel when he summoned them when three men attempted to walk out of the parking lot and were immediately escorted back.

Next, the problematic man barked at us that “it was not allowed to share taxis” as we started to talk to two South Korean men who were sharing our uneasiness at the situation in which we’d found ourselves. At this point it felt like extortion and Matt likened the man to the mafia (whenever we told people in Egypt that we were from Chicago they’d always say, “Mafia?” with a huge grin on their faces – they loved it). Apparently this man did not feel the same way about the mafia because he got angry and denied the accusation.

Then the S. Korean men (who were in their late sixties) pulled out their cell phone and called their hotel to explain the situation. The hotel agreed to come and pick them up, at which point Mafia Man said that this was “not allowed” and that they would be forced to turn around. He further threatened to close their hotel and to take the driving license of anyone who came to pick them up. Who did this man think he was?!?!

At this point, Matt said, “You REALLY are the mafia!” The S. Korean men quietly chuckled and the mafia man FLIPPED out. “This is the kingdom of Jordan, under the honorable King Abdullah. WE HAVE NO MAFIA!!! If you don’t like it, go back to Israel!” The S. Korean men immediately quieted down and begged the man to forgive Matt. Mafia Man then marched back to customs where he told on Matt, “The American man is causing problems!” His complaints must have fallen upon apathetic ears because when he returned it was only to intimidate other travelers who had just arrived.

When the S. Koreans’ hotel driver arrived, Mafia Man immediately confronted him about arriving on his turf. For a moment it looked like the two might actually come to blows. It was confusing that not even hotels (who regularly offer to pick up their guests) were familiar with the rules, which were heavily enforced. Once again, Mafia Man had some power because the driver was taken away and ordered to produce certain papers.

We remained sitting on the curb of the parking lot, going over our options. In the end, we were left with two: we could turn around and head back into Israel, or pay the outrageous price to the Mafia Man. Had Petra not been such an alluring destination, perhaps we would have turned around right then and there in order to avoid funding the malicious man’s company. In the end, we surrendered and took his company’s cab into town.

Talk about a frightening and intimidating welcome to Jordan! We couldn’t believe it. It’s unfortunate that this negative and power-thirsty man is the first Jordanian many will meet when passing through that border crossing. Instead of kindly explaining the lack of transport options, he treated travelers as if they were little children that he could just boss around and bully.

We felt so powerless in our situation and want future travelers to avoid falling into such an ugly trap. The S. Korean men filed a complaint with the tourist board and Matt has done his best to share the word online, advising travelers to bypass the border crossing by arriving via ferry instead. In the end, visiting Petra was totally worth the border crossing ordeal. Not to mention, we will always remember the outrageously ridiculous taxi man who tried to kick Matt out of the country. For the record, we only ran into kindhearted Jordanians after that.

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