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PTR - A month in the Middle East


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I’ll be spending the next month in the Middle East for work! SO! Trip report!

 

I wanted to create a space to share some of my experiences and park reports. I’ll be in Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, with convenient layovers I managed to finagle in Abu Dhabi on the way in, and Istanbul on the way out. There isn’t that much in the Levant, in terms of big, good rides, but I do plan to hit up a few of the [relatively] larger parks, as well as Nefeskesen at Vialand on the way out. Unfortunately, the spinner at Habtoorland has been SBNO for a while now due to Lebanon’s decreased tourism numbers, which is a shame.

 

Abu Dhabi -

Abu Dhabi is a wonderful city for those of you who love a little barrenness/rubble/construction/shabbiness mixed in with your landmarks of ungodly affluence. Unfinished sidewalks and barren patches of desert connect one monumental entertainment complex to another, inconveniently spread out just far enough to put a gaudy and unfinished apartment complex in between them.

 

I was here for a day in 2011, 6 years ago, right when Formula Rossa was new. I was super excited to be able to get back to the park now that they’ve added Flying Aces.

 

I actually didn’t even make it downtown - the airport is rather close to Yas Island, and as I had less than 24 hours and I’d seen the city before, I opted to just camp out there. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera in my checked bag, so I have just a couple pictures from my phone, and mostly words.

 

I got in late, after midnight, buzzed from drinks on the plane and chatting it up pleasantly with the swarm of Pakistanis that were clearing immigration at the same time. Really, I was just happy to be back out of the country, especially in a place where they use the butt sprays - God’s gift to man. I stayed at a really nice and surprisingly affordable hotel within walking distance of Ferrari World (although walking is hardly a thing here). Regardless, I got a combo ticket from the hotel at a substantial discount, and made the 40 minute or so trek out to Yas Waterworld in time for a 10 am opening, which is important because you have to beat all the people. And by people, I mean person. Literally, 1 person. As the morning went on, a few others found their way to the park, but for the most part, the place was beyond dead. Like, staff to guest ratio was 4:1.

 

This was actually convenient though because I was on somewhat of a tight schedule. My flight out was at 5:00 and I needed to get over to Ferrari World too.

 

The park is just incredible. The theming is impeccable, all Sinbad-y and exotic. And the way the structures weave around and through each other is just remarkable. It’s enough to have no idea what the staircase you start climbing is going to lead to. Which is fun, albeit, horribly exhausting when you choose wrong.

 

Speaking of stairs, there were a lot of them. I’d already walked quite a bit to get there, and I often found myself out of breath at the top of each slide. Getting old, I suppose. Some of those things were high! I did a full lap of the park in under an hour, probably climbing up some 40,000 flights of steps (just a guess), mounting each oeak progressively more laboriously as the morning went on - and then I cherry picked a few slides for repeats. Despite some areas of construction, the place looked spectacular. The staff was incredibly friendly. In fact, everyone here was incredibly friendly. The UAE is something like 90% immigrant workers, many from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Philippines - and it was a lot of fun talking to everyone, at least so I could delay the descent long enough to catch my breath. I’m fairly well-traveled, and if I haven’t been to a place I probably know someone who was just there - so conversation came very naturally and was quite enjoyable. For most of them, just to know that you've heard of their home country meant a lot.

 

Some of these slides were aggressive! Man, between all the walking up the mountains of stairs, and tumbling back down in typhoon-ic, waterboarding-levels of pummel-your-body-and-drown-yourself intensity, my body was taking quite the beating. In fact, as I write this, it feels like my calves are about to detach themselves from my legs entirely.

 

The floor-drop loop slide was new for me, and made me squeal like a little girl. And the 6-person raft coaster-esque slide (master blaster?) was a first as well, perched up high on a giant Rok nest from Sinbad’s voyages. I very much enjoyed it.

 

Bandit Bomber was actually quite fun. The water cannons don’t work anymore, unfortunately, but it is quite a pleasant little float through and around the slides and stairways. The restraint was very open, which was fun, and it felt very long, despite being not very long at all in actuality.

 

Around 11:30, an hour and a half after opening, I booked it out of there having completed everything I wanted to and given myself a nice leisurely lap in the lazy river. And by booked it out of there, I mean contorted my face into a grimacy smile when told the easiest way to get to Ferrari World was a short walk across the [barren desert] intervening area as the shuttle could take a while, and slowly made my way towards the giant red building an age away.

 

At this point, my legs were practically shaking with exhaustion, but I put on my big boy pants and made the 10-15 minute walk to Ferrari World. It is remarkable how standard “luxury vehicle parking garage” is, and yet how foreign of a concept “fully paved roads and intact sidewalks” seemed to be.

 

Ferrari World is absolutely enormous, and it was cool to see the new coasters adding quite a bit more chaos to the inside of the building. It is enough to get lost in there. The new shuttle was testing. It looks great, rising through the middle of the building. I made a beeline for Flying Aces, all giddy and excited.

 

The queue is stunning. But it’s very long, and by now my legs felt like logs, my knees incapable of deep bending, and a lovely blister had developed on one of my feet. As I hobbled through, I was blown away by the completely immersive theming. I was blown away, each time I walked through it. Which was four times. Oh boy, legs, you can do it.

 

Oh man here we are. At long last. The lift hill is laughter-inducing fast. The seats are very comfortable, and the restraints very freeing. The thigh-crushing SkyRush models have been rectified, and the first drop just disappears from under you. The briefest third-world-bus-ride of a rattle awaits you at the bottom of the first drop on the back outside seats, but the rest is pretty smooth. And the giant non-inverting loop tosses you up directly into the blazing sun. Literally, the sun is right there, causing your vision to be a fiery white hole of non-existence right when you’re tossed into the roll. It was totally disorienting every time. Very cool, if you’re into that sort of thing - blindness.

 

The airtime was ample without being hallmark level, and the layout was quite long and very enjoyable. It does meander a tiny bit (kind of like ispeed does in my opinion - some of the layout just seems very unfocused and all over the place), but the forces are for the most part enough to keep you laughing and happy, with several good ejector pops and twistiness, and the PERFECT rolling inversion at the very end. Just scoops you right into it. Like your whole body just says “take me”. I think though, there were a few spots of 'wasted space', or areas that could be a tad more interesting. Which I don't love.

 

It’s right around Maverick level for me - not as intense as Sky Rush per se, but definitely a lot more rideable. The length and more relaxed pace makes it very enjoyable without being an effort, with just enough extreme intensity and moments of disorienting uniqueness to stand out. I put it below Goliath (Walabi), Megalite, Skyrush, Millennium Force, Atlantis Adventure, and Storm Runner, on par with Maverick, and better than all of the Superman models, I305, Volcano, Xcelerator, and iSpeed.

 

I rode it three times in a row all in the back (the front always had a line), and liked it more and more each time. Although at this point, the length of the queue line became quite the obstacle. I was seriously considering detaching my legs at the knees and using them as canes to drag myself forward - ‘must… ride… Flying Aces… again”.

 

The most interesting thing about having Flying Aces in the park, is that Formula Rossa is somewhat exposed. Back in 2011, Formula Rossa was able to make such an impression on me in its singularity and uniqueness - The launch was just stunning, and the experience of the whole thing was very impressive. Now with Flying Aces, Formula Rossa feels much more like a one trick pony. I didn’t have the best seat - second to last row, so I also didn’t have the advantage of the extra height of the tiered seating, which left the experience to be very underwhelming compared to what I remembered. The launch didn’t feel as out of control, the hill didn’t have as much insane airtime as I remembered, the rest of the layout was very dull - I don’t know. There’s something about having Flying Aces as a reference point that really deflates the Formula Rossa experience. One lap was enough for me as the line was building, and honestly I’d rather spend my limited time over at Flying Aces. Assuming I could make it back there. I rolled myself back across the park one final time, and took one final lap before dragging my exhausted, beaten, broken body out of the park and into a cab for the airport.

 

Everything was wonderful. Next, Lebanon.

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Walking past Ferrari World on the way to Yas Waterworld. This thing is great. Definitely worth the trek

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The first half is truly great. The second half can meander a tad, but it's all redeemed by that lazy roll at the end.

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Thar she blows. Old faithful

Edited by coasterer
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Really great TR, thanks for sharing. I get that it's hot in the UAE but I'm always surprised by their lack of sidewalks in easy walking places! Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your adventures in the Middle East.

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Really great TR, thanks for sharing. I get that it's hot in the UAE but I'm always surprised by their lack of sidewalks in easy walking places! Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your adventures in the Middle East.

 

Oh, Elissa, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Wait until you come to Saudi Arabia. Sidewalks here in Jeddah are pretty much non-existant!

(Except for the seaside and a few places here and there)

And those that are there have really messy patches of vegetation on them, which makes them pretty much useless.

 

Anyhow, this TR looks great! I wish the UAE wasn't as expensive as it is, so I could head down there more often!

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Oh man I've really missed your updates. I'm so glad to see you're back and posting more crazy adventures in the Middle East. Please keep sharing!!! Still waiting for the "hands in the air" jump photo for this TR.

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Oh man I've really missed your updates. I'm so glad to see you're back and posting more crazy adventures in the Middle East. Please keep sharing!!! Still waiting for the "hands in the air" jump photo for this TR.

 

Agreed! Appreciate the post. Both parks look stellar and can't wait to real more.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for the nice comments guys!

 

Lebanon

 

My wife and I work for an NGO that sends volunteer teams all over the world. Typically, my work consists of doing big picture logistics, trip set up, and internal administrative processes. Every once in a while, however, we get to go check in on teams and see how they’re doing. So the actual ‘work’ part of this business trip was pretty ‘non-worky’ by most standards. Also, conveniently enough, my wife and I were able to take some time off before, and add some time in Lebanon to what was originally going to be a Jordan-Israel trip.

 

We have a really great friend there in Lebanon that we got to see, working for an NGO near the Syrian border, teaching English in the camps. Happily enough, a couple more good friends surprised us while we were there, and the 5 of us rented a car and saw just about everything.

 

Lebanon is amazing. It’s got an enormous wealth of geographic and historical diversity in a tiny area. It has a rich history and culture, the food is great, the people are incredibly generous and well-educated, the conversation is always top notch with anyone, the country is very well-developed and unabashedly Western, and the whole experience can be had without seeing another tourist outside of Beirut. In the span of a single day, we could go from 2000 year old coastal ports with clear blue Mediterranean water and bustling Arabian souks, to snow capped peaks, deep gorges and crashing waterfalls. There were mountain villages and sea castles, spectacular Roman ruins and glimmering Shiite mosques. Not to mention the Bekaa Valley vineyards and the free tastings, and the warm hospitality of Lebanon’s bulging Syrian refugee population, and the political discussions with strangers over shisha and tea.

 

At times we were literally the only people in some of these spectacularly preserved sites. We didn’t see another Western tourist outside of Beirut.

 

In terms of coasters however, the landscape is preeeetty bleak. The country doesn’t have much more than a handful of small funfair-esque parks. As previously mentioned the spinner at Habtoorland has been SBNO for quite some time now, unfortunately. I remember stumbling across that coaster mentioned somewhere in the journals of Richard Bannister, and it has always stayed with me for its dramatic location perched on the Lebanese mountains (at the time I had very little concept for what Lebanon was, just knew I’d likely never get there). I had half a plan to check out the park and see if I could get any good pictures, but we had a busy 10 days and the thought slipped my mind.

 

This makes the largest coaster currently in operation a Galaxy model, located at Dream Park in Jounieh, about 10km up the road from Beirut. It’s perched on a hill and offers decent views of the Mediterranean below, but the park itself is nothing to write home about. They also have a wacky worm and a powered coaster. We were kind of told the park was closed and wouldn’t be open til later in the evening, but with a little persistence, they let us in and sent us for a lap without problem. I’ve found in my travels that rarely will a coaster stay closed for long in a developing country if you just stand there for a while with money in your hand and refuse to leave.

 

We passed a few other parks around the country, but nothing more than a few wacky worms, none of which we rode. There were a few parks/fairs that aren’t currently listed on rcdb - one north of Zakhle, and one southwest of Zakhle near the Cedars on the road to Jezzine. And there’s a park down south, just north of Tyre with another credit, as well as a funfair in East Beirut.

 

Lebanon set a veeeerry high standard for our time in the Middle East. You could pretty much drive around with your eyes closed, shout “Roman ruins!”, and only be wrong as to whether they were Phoenician or Umayyad ruins instead. Baalbek itself was one of the more spectacular sites I’ve ever seen, and what was more, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, and could climb on just about anything without consequence. Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre, were all worth a look, and we were literally the only people at Aanjar, making for quite a memorable time. There are some gorgeous towns in the mountains - Jezzine, Tannourine, Bcharre, and the Bekaa Valley is an awesome little secluded world unto its own. And Beirut’s cafe culture is just fantastic. Seeing fully covered women smoke hookah along with their morning coffee really sets the tone for the whole day. The only thing we didn’t really make it to was Tripoli up north.

 

We had an amazing time, and would strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a little grittier, more visceral, and less-traveled corner of the Middle East.

 

We’re in Jordan now and I’ll try and post about our time here soon-ish!

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The grand mosque in the center of Beirut. I'm a sucker for big mosques.

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My wife and I on the shore near Byblos - you might be able to make out Beirut on the horizon

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Byblos - an old Phoenician port city

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Old town in Tyre

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Cliffside village - Jezzine overlooking the valley. There was an impressive waterfall at the drop off too, but it was hard to get a good picture of it due to the angle.

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On the road - headed off into the mountains for an alleged "food festival on ice"

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"Souk el akel" or roughly, "food market" is a weekly event, typically held in Beirut but this week on tour up in the mountains. It was the middle of nowhere, it was freezing, music was bumping and fires were blazing - and this was one of the best steak and cheese sandwiches I've ever had.

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Lebanon is almost entirely mountains. There's barely a flat spot of land in the whole country.

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At the port in Tyre, near the Christian quarter

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The Mediterranean from out here was just stunning. The water was beautiful

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Another Phoenician port city, in the bustling souk - in Sidon

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Our friend Hannah, the one that lives here, has been trying to get out to this gorge slash sinkhole slash waterfall for ever, but the roads have always been closed due to snow. I honestly don't even know the name of it. But it was one of the most surreal places I've ever been

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The famous Cedars of Lebanon. This tree is 1500 years old

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There's a story here. One of our friends that came and surprised us is part Lebanese, and had a great great grandfather that was somewhat famous in this town. We asked this old man, the first person we asked, if he knew him - "Ferris Karam", and he ended up taking us to this memorial that was donated by a Ferris Karam. A long day and a few odd instances later, we eventually came to found out that this was actually a different Ferris Karam who was actually a famous Christian artist in the country, lived in Jezzine, and invited us into his house and chatted with us for a while, completely taken aback that we weren't actually looking for him, but someone 100 years ago with the same name.

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That's our friend Hannah on the left, who lives here, and our friend Geena (who surprised us along with her husband, Tommy) on the right - Geena is the one with Lebanese heritage

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This is a small part of Baalbek, up in the Bekaa Valley, one of the most spectacular sites I've ever seen. I'm not easily blown away, but this place was awesome

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My wife on the corner of the Temple of Bacchus. The Temple of Jupiter that I was standing on to get this shot has the largest columns ever constructed, and BASE PLATFORM some dozen meters tall. Man, I love me some good monolithic architecture.

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Baalbek with the columns at the Temple of Jupiter in the background

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The ruins at Anjar. We were literally the only people there.

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These double high slender Ummayad arches were spectacular

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And now for the park. Dream Park

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Located in the hills above Juneiah, some 10 km north of Beirut

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They had a Galaxy and a worm. They opened exclusively for us, the official opening time being about 10 hours later that night haha.

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Tommy and I getting tickets THRILLED TO BE HERE

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The Galaxy was actually pleasantly smooth.

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I love a ride with a view. "Doura" appeared to be the Arabic translation for "Credit Whore"

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Good friends ride wacky worms with you in abandoned parks in other countries

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And per request. This trip report wouldn't be complete without a jumping shot

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Wow, that is incredible. Vacation of a lifetime right there, and this is only one stop on the trip. I've always wanted to go to the Middle East--such history. The only thing that's stopped me is the violence. So awesome that your organization would give you a path to visit these cool places.

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Glad you had fun here! Lebanon is really an underrated country, you would have loved Habtoorland if it was still operating. For me Freij Entertainment in Dora is slightly better than Dream park maybe because it has more thrills and constantly changing the rides. Make sure to visit the lady of Lebanon Harissa on your next trip if you haven't already. Great report!

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You got some serious air on the jump!!! Well done 10/10 A+

 

I concur! Amazing journeys and photos in this update. Your TR's are always packed with personality which I think sets them on a higher bar than most. As always many thanks for sharing a part of the world I will probably unfortunately never get to visit!

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Wow! All those places look spectacular and I didn't know Lebanon had all those snow capped mountains. There's little most people here know about Lebanon besides what they hear on the news so its nice great another perspective.

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Danny - great to see a report from you. They are always just a treat and you and your wife both look GREAT! Thanks for taking the time to share with us.

 

David

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Jordan & Israel

 

Our time in Jordan and Israel was not as open as our time in Lebanon, due to our work commitments, but we did have some time to explore. Additionally, timing and park schedules led to me missing all the major [*eyeroll* “major” *airquotes*) credits I had planned on hitting anyways, so I’ll bang this one out two in one.

 

Jordan was great in the way Costa Rica and Thailand are great. It is a very accessible and a somewhat more gentle introduction to the region, well-paved and well-traveled by many. For these reasons though, it’s a very easy country to enjoy, but it wouldn’t be our first choice of travel. That being said, both Petra and Wadi Rum are two of the more spectacular things we’ve seen anywhere. Jordan and Lebanon differed greatly in this way - where Lebanon doesn’t have the big-name stand out attractions, the in between is so fantastic. For Jordan, at least for us, it was all about Petra and Wadi Rum.

 

We did do other things but our time was somewhat more busy and thus constrained. We had a few days outside of Amman and Mafraq (near the Syrian border) where we were visiting teams, and took a car down the country to the Red Sea coast and back.

 

The first sights of the treasury at Petra are breath-taking, mostly because you have to walk in a pretty good distance to get to it, and you approach it through a narrow canyon, where it sort of looms out at you through the crack. It’s nice to have to work for your world wonders. The real reason the Treasury is so spectacular however, is its scale - most notable when you’re standing right underneath it. Some things look more impressive from far away, and less-so when you’re up close. The Treasury at Petra, however, was the opposite. You are absolutely dwarfed by the pillars and the double-decker facade. And what’s really amazing is how crisp and precise the detail work is, none of which was ever restored. Just amazing.

 

Beyond the treasury, crowds start to fill in really quickly (get there early), but the site is massive, easily requiring a full day if not more to explore, and a replacement pair of knees and hips as well - and you can dart off the main path, scrambling up cliffsides and exploring caves and hidden tombs on your own with nobody else around. Did you know you could actually Air B&B a spot in a cave actually in Petra??? Who knew. We met a few girls who were doing it - only downside is you have to head back by 3 pm otherwise you can’t find it in the dark - and then I suppose you’re stuck in a cave all night.

 

We then spent a good two days in Wadi Rum, which is heaven. Deserts are so beautiful. It’s the perfect time away from it all, in your little Bedouin camp with endless cups of tea and late-night hookah under the stars. I’m all about lounge life, and the Bedouins have it down pat. Explore the dunes and towering rocks in the day, watch the sun go down at night, and let the crackling fire lull you into another world, lounging around on intricately patterned cushions, the evening feast sitting heavy in your belly.

 

Honestly we could have stayed there forever and are half-tempted to go back and settle in to Bedouin living for a while. It was unimaginably charming. But there were other things to do. We spent a day in Aqaba and snorkeled in the clear blue waters of the Red Sea, across from the barren jagged rocks of the Sinai. Saudi, Egypt, Israel, and Jordan all converge at this point and were all visible, which was cool.

 

Then we darted back up to Amman along the King’s Highway, stopping briefly at the Dana nature reserve, the old crusader castle at Karak, and the view of the Promised Land at Mount Nebo. It was a rush trip, but we saw a good bit.

 

Coaster-wise, the options were pretty similar to Lebanon. There is a larger Galaxy model north of Amman at a park called Al Jubayha Amusement City, but upon arrival we were told the park wouldn’t be open for another couple months, and were rather hastily turned away from the premises, despite google saying they were open. Determined not to leave the country without a credit however, I, along with my friend Josh, went to City Mall, where a rather unusual Zamperla spinner was located at Jingo’s Jungle, looking like a somewhat junior-ish custom wild mouse. I’ve certainly ridden far worse.

 

---

 

Israel is a world unto it’s own. It is singularly unique in a number of different ways - the Hebrew language, the diversity, the intense political and social polarization, the religious history and almost pilgrimage status, the conservativeness of Old City Jerusalem, and the insanely contrasting end-of-the-magical-liberal-hipster Jewish rainbow that is Tel Aviv.

 

As a lover of culture and religion, I will never forget the first time we plunged into Old City Jerusalem, fighting a literal river of Arab hawkers, veiled women rushing their children by the hand, throngs of Asian/Ethiopian/everything tour groups and gaggles of older white folks, conservative Christian children leading their siblings by the hand through the sea of people – and then the crowds split and you see them – 4 Orthodox Jews no more than 20 years old, floating towards you all in black, laughing at each other with their hands in their pockets, draped in baggy black coats and the black pants slightly too high at the ankle, their tassels trailing behind them at their waists, their wide brimmed black hats and the long curled locks on the sides of their faces -

 

To say I quickly became fascinated is a gross understatement. It evoked the same feeling – the stomach drop and the short, internal gasp – that I had when I saw a fully covered Muslim woman for the first time some 6 years ago. Fancy that, me, reverting to a puddle of nervous giddiness and a dramatic bent of following every Orthodox Jew I could find and trying to talk to them. Where did they come from ?? Where are they going ?? What are they thinking right this second ??

 

Oh my my my. I have never been in a country so confusing and so confused. And please don’t take that badly, here’s what I mean - Every turn I took, every site I saw, every person I talked to had me rewriting my definition of what this country was. It is a hundred different things to a hundred different people, each layer more fascinating, frustrating, and painful than the one before it.

 

The word melting pot isn’t right at all, because things don’t really mix. You have a hundred different cultures and at the surface at least the three major monotheistic religions, each one arrayed in the broadest spectrum of adherence possible, and each slight difference and disagreement magnified by the weight of thousands of years of conflict, history, and religious importance.

 

We really enjoyed Tel Aviv – it was part Europe and part NYC and part California and yet completely its own thing. Narrow streets and a kaleidoscope of entertainment/dining/cafe options at every hour of the day make it a very lively, very immersive place to be. And we just love a good beach.

 

The Dead Sea was a highlight, as were the rich bouquets of Tel Aviv’s cheap fresh produce, the Arab hookah bars for me, and for the first time in about a month, a selection of craft beers!! But yikes, this country will clean out your wallet really quickly.

 

We spent time in the north too, in Galilee and Nazareth, traipsing around the country in search of obscure places of historical and religious significance, as well as signposts of what is happening right now at the social level and hints of what might be happening tomorrow. As repulsed as we are by larger tour groups, never in our lives have we been to a place where we so badly wanted to know what it all means!!!

 

And in the end, we feel like we are no closer to understanding this place than when we arrived. In fact, I think we even understand it less.

 

There were two major-ish parks on my radar, both near Tel Aviv, though at best they were both only open on Saturdays and it just didn’t work out in our schedule to be around Tel Aviv on that day. At worst, one of them (Tel Aviv Luna Park) was listed as ‘closed indefinitely’ a few days ago, but now is not. Sigh. Another conundrum. Tel Aviv Luna Park is in possession of a boomerang, and Superland south of Tel Aviv has an SLC, both of which I somewhat perversely like to collect. Lord only knows why. So I left Israel as credit-less as the day I arrived – a fitting end I suppose, to a tumultuous and confusing place.

 

We’re on the final stretch now, and will be home in just a couple days (after about 1000 hours of travel). In some ways, we had already started making the journey home yesterday when we left Galilee in the morning, dropped off the rental car in Jerusalem mid-day, got back across the border into Jordan, and are now waiting to catch our flights out of Amman later tonight. Needless to say, we, in our old age, are ready to be home

 

I should be on Nefeskesen by this time tomorrow if all goes well! Assuming I don’t pass out in the airport in a haze of dead of night G&Ts and miss it.

 

Thanks all for reading, and thanks for the extremely kind comments. I hope you enjoyed!

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Our friend Josh climbing the rock face near our camp

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Okay, here is your major Jordanian credit, as seen from the highway. We were told the park was closed for two more months, and hastily shooed away from the premises.

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Al Jubayha Amusement City - this is the only major credit in the country. A Galaxy model, from across the hhghway. This is the closest we could get.

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Our back up plan, at Jingo's Jungle in City Mall, on the west side of amman.

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A Zamperla custom spinner, with four mouse trains joined together.

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There are certainly worse things I've whored myself out on.

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In Israel - the Dome of the Rock is great, but the Wailing Wall is truly transportive, in the most sobering way possible

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Sheri got interviewed by a German TV program in the Church of the Sepulchre, where Constantine's wife built a shrine in memory of Jesus' crucifixion

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My wife doing the typical mud spa ordeal

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Our only picture from Tel Aviv, from along the coast. This city just oozes charm - none of which I captured on my camera

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This is worth the story. There is a site on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus fed the 5000 and then went out on a boat and preached to the multitudes. This site isn't marked, but this is a natural amphitheater along the coast - we trudged around for an hour before we found it, but if you go down to the center of the bay, you can literally mumble, and be heard over a hundred yards away all along the radius of the bay. It was really neat, and not a soul around.

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On our way into the bowels of Petra. A beautiful way to start the day

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staring up at the Treasury in Petra, this thing is truly massive, and the immaculate detail is just stunning

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Worth the walk. Basically pick a mountain and keep climbing

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On our way to the Monastery, way in the back of the site

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Looking down the main road at some spectacular tombs in the rock face. Petra is so large!!

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Wadi Rum is everything your most romantic self has ever imagined it to be

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The orange sand, the staggering rock faces, the charming Bedouin culture...

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And I'm realizing now that half of this update are pictures of my wife's back

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As the sun set, we scrambled up one of the rock faces (they are PERFECT for climbing) and the twilight painted everything a hazy, mystical grey

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The sun sets, a perfect day

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The view from Mount Nebo, where Moses gazed out on the Promised Land. You may just be able to make out the Dead Sea to the left if you squint.

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The Dead Sea may not look like much in pictures, but it is one of the most unique sensations! Feels like you're floating on air

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It's been a delight - one more update with Vialand (hopefully), and then I'll sign off! Thanks for reading!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Turkey

 

We had a brief layover in Istanbul on our way back to the States, and while my wife met up with a friend over coffee, I rushed over to Vialand to snag Nefeskesen.

 

Vialand is in a very residential / urban part of town - a little coaster oasis on a hill in the middle of the city. The park is nice and there are some nice things, but there are definitely a few places that are unfinished or cheap-looking. The place is a few years old now, so I was surprised to see some things still left undone. It also doesn’t feel like they have much room to expand.

 

But really I was here for one reason only, and that’s because Intamin launched coasters and Turkish metropolises are a few of my favorite things. So needless to say, Nefeskesen is my ideal.

 

I was the first one in line, despite getting through the gate about 10 minutes after opening. But there were a bunch of school groups there that charged up the entrance ramp only a few minutes behind me, and we got on our way. The station was very nice and open, and the staff were more efficient than I was honestly expecting them to be. Very friendly people as well. I am always so blown away by the people whenever I’m in Turkey. Every time I forget just how wonderful people can be, and every time I’m pleasantly surprised.

 

The coaster looks awesome, perched on a little hill, and launching out over the rest of the park. From the station, the coaster looks a little smaller than I was expecting - very cute like, like you want to reach out and pet it. But from the rest of the park, the ride towers over everything due to its placement on the hill. I was a little worried the layout would be a little meander-y for my tastes, but was pleasantly surprised on that front.

 

The train rolls right into an impressive launch and the top hat is wonderful, a nice pop of air and a wonderful view, plummeting down the vertical-ish drop with some nice twisty action.

 

Through a tunnel and then a great pop of air, into the immelman. The ride is pure fun as you’re thrown into the overbanked turn (also some nice airtime on this element), and then a great roll into the brake run. It’s very well-paced, does a decent amount for a launched coaster, and has a great mix of air time and inversions. It’s intense without being difficult to enjoy, and overall is just a blast of a ride. I think I like it slightly better than Xcelerator, which I also love. The hordes of Turkish school children all seemed to love it as well. I love that Turkey has a few real rides now!!!

 

I rode it twice, enjoyed it just as much the second time, (rode front row and back row), and then ran down to the family coaster, which had more speed than I was expecting, and did a nice little jaunt around some low-to-the-ground turns.

 

With all the school groups, that was all I really had time for, and had to run out of the park and catch a cab back to the airport. But Nefeskesen was well worth it, and was a perfect way to end the trip. A great compliment to Flying Aces back when I started things off.

 

That’s it from this report! Thanks everyone for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

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Vialand from the drive up. Just an easy 20 minute cab ride from the airport.

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The quality level of theming is a little subpar in some areas, though the desire to go with any theming in the first place is very respectable.

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Nefeskesen as you enter the park! Looks great in the early morning sun with blue skies!

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I don't remember what this building was exactly, but this is an example of some of the cheaper looking theming throughout. Though some areas did honestly look really nice.

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The walk up the entrance ramp had a great view of the top hat, and actually crosses over the launch track, which was cool. Very i-speedy with the theming.

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Here's the view out over the rest of the park.

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It's a nice middle-sized ride - a little smaller than ispeed or Xcelerator, but larger than say Kanonen or Skycar or Atlantis Adventure. Actually, looking it up on rcdb, it's taller than I guessed it was (164 feet??) and I also realizing I am failing to differentiate properly between an Intamin Accelerator and an Intamin Blitz coaster.

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The general atmosphere inside of the station looks very similar to what I remember ispeed being.

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Here is a view from the main ramp into the station, with the queueing area mostly to the right.

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I loved this thing. It was a blast to ride. Great speed, great pacing, no dead spots, great airtime, and fun inversions.

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The last barrel roll is really fun, and it hits the brake runs without losing too much speed, but without feeling like you had a lot of wasted momentum

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Here's the family coaster down at the bottom of the park. Maceraperest.

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It carried quite a good bit of speed coming off the first hill, and then had a lot of low to the ground turns. The kids really enjoyed it.

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A la Millennium Force

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Nefeskesen towering over the rest of the park

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Here's one more example of some unfinished landscaping and scenery which I was a little surprised to see.

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This was a really nice looking area in the park, although I was short and time and had to just rush through

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One last look from the drive up on the way out. That's it from me for this trip report! Thanks so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

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I will always cherish my time in the Istanbul airport going to and from Cairo. Great people, coffee, and conversation.

 

Petra...just...gah. I'd probably shed a few tears upon seeing it.

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Nice Photo TR. I always enjoy seeing Photo TRs of these parks that rarely get covered, as well as all the cultural stuff.

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Don't worry, you didn't really miss much with Luna Park Tel Aviv or Superland! They are both fairly uninteresting, save for maybe one or two decent rides and the service there ranges from fine to deplorable.

 

I didn't hear anything about it closing indefinitely. That's weird. Overall parks here are open saturdays and holidays. They close if it's rainy.

 

I'm glad to hear you had fun though!

 

 

Also, something I found amusing about one of the pictures...

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^ Ha, no way!! We must have walked right by you.

 

Yeah, although I do enjoy a range of uninteresting to deplorable local parks (lol), I wasn't too bent out of shape about missing them. Plus, my wife loved Israel so much we're seriously considering moving out there for a while some day.

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