Let’s go to Jordan, I told my, then fiancée, Kristi. The discussion was about our honeymoon, a week or so before our marriage in mid January this year. We were not excited about clichéd locations in Thailand, Indonesia, Maldives or Europe where we normally see newly weds from India, including many friends and acquaintances, going to. Why? Because firstly, I have personally traveled in many countries in Europe and Asia over the years as a bachelor. And secondly, while Kristi hasn’t been all there (and in all fairness, it was a slightly selfish decision to go somewhere we both hadn’t been to), we decided that a spirit of exploration is necessary to make our honeymoon exciting. The Middle East had long been on my travel bucket list but had somehow never materialised. We initially thought of Egypt but then we came across the visa on arrival scheme of Jordan for Indian passport holders (now discontinued, but more on that below). We were pressed for time for a visa application and Kristi had a business trip to Dubai right after our marriage. Plus we read amazing articles about the Hashemite kingdom and how rich and diverse it is in history and natural beauty. So we saw it convenient to meet in Dubai after her meetings got over, and then head off to Jordan. Thus, we finalised on an 11 day itinerary of 3 days in Dubai and 8 in Jordan.
Then came the surprise at Delhi Immigration. Kristi had surprisingly been allowed to go to Dubai without being asked for a return ticket (probably as she was on a corporate trip), but two days later when I was at immigration at IGI airport for my flight to Dubai, the question arose about my return ticket. I told them I would be meeting my wife in Dubai and we would be heading to Jordan availing their visa on arrival facility. I had the return ticket from Jordan and showed them the same. But as it turned out the scheme was quietly discontinued. I couldn’t find any available information online about the VOA being discontinued (I had been to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam based solely on online VOA info), and called up the Jordan Embassy. They confirmed the same (VOA now is only for those with valid US or Schengen visas, which neither Kristi nor I had at that point) and told me to contact the Jordan consulate in Dubai to get my visa. I finally managed to board my flight to Dubai after telling the immigration authorities about this. Not a great start for a honeymoon but things at least got rolling.
We spent a few days in Dubai. I found it similar to Singapore (more expensive maybe) with all those glass and steel skyscrapers and humongous shopping malls, and the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Frame did provide some good photo-ops. We took a desert safari and got to experience the thrill of 4x4 drives, quad biking, bedouin food and evening belly dance and fire-jugglery shows. On securing our Jordan visas at Dubai, we were happy to head off to the Hashemite kingdom.