Dead Sea H.O.G. Rally photos by Abrar Asfour
Wadi Rum desert photos by Mohammad AG
My biker’s journey to the beautiful country of Jordan begins way back in 2000. In Lyon, France’s gastronomic capital, biker and chef Claude Abry moved to Jordan and began cooking for King Abdullah II who, like his late father, King Hussein, is a motorcycle enthusiast and Harley owner. Claude was the youngest pastry chef with Bocuse and spent years as the chef at Jordan’s royal palace. Still a biker at heart, he decided in 2010 to become a dealer for Harley-Davidson in Amman. His three children, Lucie, Jad, and Nour, all learned to ride when they were around six and Lucie and her mother Martine worked in the dealership. They all believed the motorcycle business would be good for Jordan, with the roads and climate great for riding.
For the next six years, Abry was on a mission to share his passion with Jordanians. He says the toughest challenge is to change the way people view bikers and motorcycles. “In Jordan, bikes are linked to old movies, gangs and things like that. Motorcycles are not just a means of transport. It is love,” he said. And for the next six years love is what he spread. It was a challenging project in a country where bikes were banned for more than two decades for reasons of “public safety.” Claude also set up the Kingdom of Jordan Chapter of the Harley Owners Group, which now has over 300 members, including 24 women.
I began looking towards the Middle East where the Harley experience had been growing in strength over the past years to bring my brand of Harley-riding music and my cameras to shoot an episode of The Savage Roads, my new biker adventure series. The Dead Sea H.O.G. Rally was my first opportunity to do both and was quickly secured by my good friend Mayssoun El Shamaa, a Harley nut originally from Lebanon and a music agent in Dubai. With a performance contract secured it was off to the ancient land of Jordan to introduce my Harley-themed music and show the world the beauty of the country on the back of a Harley!
I had been working on a film score for the upcoming film Homeless Ashes in Mexico so had flown in to Spain then on to Amman. Jet lag had the best of me when I arrived so, after a warm welcome at the registration room by many members of the Kingdom of Jordan H.O.G. chapter in the luxurious Mövenpick Dead Sea Resort, followed with an amazing Middle Eastern feast, I returned to my suite.
I awoke from a deep slumber by Mayssoun calling my room to tell me I had less than 20 minutes to pull it all together and join the riders already assembling in the parking lot. I had slept through breakfast so I quickly wolfed down a cup of Arabic coffee and strapped on my gear to do our first run up into the mountains surrounding Amman. A black Fat Boy was waiting for me, courtesy of Claude Abry, and we set off for an amazing ride.
One of the first things I saw on our climb up the hills was a sign for the road to Ibilin; I just shivered to think that 1,000 years before knights had ridden these same hills on horseback. And the beauty of the area is amazing. We stopped at the top of the hill and took photos from a lookout point high above the Dead Sea. We stopped at the first church ever built by Moses himself and had some lunch. After the ride a huge spread with Middle Eastern delicacies was ready for the now-hungry hundreds of guests from all over the Middle East and North Africa region and the world.
Later in the evening some lovely ladies go-go danced on stage, albeit tastefully with clothes on, and were followed by entertainment from a Lebanese pop group which had everyone dancing. I met an interesting biker, Sameh Khatib, a Bedouin warrior who has a hunter falcon and who spent his teenage years living in the desert raising camels and sheep. Now riding custom Harleys, I had met my co-star and host of my episode of The Savage Roads. We became hard, fast friends and after the rally was over started filming out trip to the Wadi Rum Desert.
The second morning I joined the ride out and this time as we were riding I saw a sign to Karrak where a castle still stands and, again, I shivered thinking of the scene where the Knights Templar and crusaders in the tens of thousands met with Saladin’s forces to battle. We spent hours riding and had another amazing day.
After dinner a concert followed, this time with a local artist who also rides H-D. Then, I hit the stage and played my heart out with Mayssoun, also a great singer, joining me for the classic Eagle’s tune “Hotel California.” I made many new friends that weekend, lots of whom I was already Facebook friends with from Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, Dubai, Saudi and more.
After saying goodbyes at a fabulous breakfast Sunday morning it was time to rest as Monday morning bright and early we would set off on a journey south to film my Kingdom of Heaven episode. The Wadi Rum desert has been the location of many films such as Star Wars, The Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark and many more. Mystical, spiritual and magnificent are three words to describe its pure beauty but it was a much more powerful than words can describe.
We checked into a camp for the night and I slept like a warrior. Waking up very early to avoid filming in the very hot desert sun we enjoyed a traditional Arabic breakfast then took the bikes into the desert. That evening we enjoyed the most famous dish representative of the Bedouin culture: Mansaf which is lamb cooked with a sauce of fermented dried yogurt served with rice. “Arab” cuisine is so much more than shawarma, hummus, and falafel!
On the second morning I went riding on the original motorcycle, the camel! A lot slower with not much horsepower, these animals are amazing and can live in the arid desert without water for days. Again I highly recommend all H-D riders try riding on a camel; it will give you some historical perspectives as well as one fun day!
We rode the bikes to Rum, a village nearby where we met, quite by accident, one of Sameh’s nephews, about 10 years old, and some of his buddies just out of school for lunch. We took some photos with them and headed back to the city of Amman.
I was so warmed inside by the experience of Jordan I decided to stay another month to continue recording my film music and doing some more riding. In fact I loved it so much I returned in October for two months more to adventure and film segments in Petra and all around the Dead Sea. I look forward to sharing with you the Kingdom of Heaven episode so you too can share the experience and see the warm, generous Harley folks in Amman and Jordan. They have invited me to join the Kingdom of Jordan H.O.G. Chapter and I am most honored to do so.