North American travelers know more about Jordan than they think. That is, if they’ve seen a movie or two.
Cinematic classics and modern favorites alike have counted on Jordan to serve as their respective backdrops, namely the country’s famous desert, Wadi Rum. We’re talking everything from Lawrence of Arabia to 2015’s The Martian where the aforementioned desert played the role of Mars. Not coincidentally, Wadi Rum has stepped in for the Red Planet on at least two other occasions.
More memorable for me is Jordan’s presence in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You know where they find the Holy Chalice, and Indy needs to take “a leap of faith” and “choose wisely“? The exterior is Al-Khazneh in Petra, the most popular tourist attraction in Jordan with Greco-architecture carved out of the sandstone rock face.
Soon, cinephiles will see Jordan on the big screen yet again with December’s release ofRouge One: A Star Wars Story.
This is all my braggadocio way of saying I’ll be heading to Jordan next month on a cultural and cinematic tour with Bestway Tours & Safaris.
Here’s a snapshot of my itinerary. First, I’ll arrive in capital Amman before hopping around Jerash, Ajloun and Umm Qais. Then, I’ll start making my way over to the aforementioned Petra with Madaba, Mt. Nebo and Karak en route. After a day in Petra, we’ll head over to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Wadi Rum. To top it all off, we’ll finish at the Dead Sea before heading back to Amman for the flight home.
There’s nothing about that itinerary that doesn’t leave me positively giddy for this trip. It’ll be my first time in the Middle East and I don’t think I could’ve picked a better country to start.
Now to address the inevitable raised eyebrows of some North American travelers.
“Jordan? Isn’t that, like, where ISIS is?”
First of all, call them Daesh.
Second, Jordan is a U.S. ally who hates Daesh just as much as 99.9 percent of the world. Their king even went to school in the United States and did some of his military training in the States. Queen Rania, for her part, appears to have many similarities to our own First Lady Michelle Obama with a passion for advocacy work in education and health.
Scary people, right?
None of that is to say Jordan is without its problems. It is, after all, a country on Earth. Of course they have problems, like the influx of Syrian refugees they’ve been left to care for near their northern border. Estimates range from 630,000 to 1.27 million Syrian refugees in Jordan, according to Patrick Kingsley of The Guardian.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t travel to Jordan, just as our apparent American indifference to gun violence and car-related fatalities shouldn’t necessarily discourage foreigners from traveling here. Traveling to Jordan has been (and I’m sure will continue to be) mostly safe. At least anecdotally, I’ve often been told it’s a favorite among my traveling colleagues.
I’ve touched on this issue of traveling to places with an inflated perception of danger on numerous occasions, so I’ll be brief this time around. Still, it bears repeating that the world is a better place when people from different backgrounds can meet face-to-face and shake hands. It’s naive to believe that things are better off when we hunker down in our respective corners of the globe.
Now back to the headline. How exactly am I preparing for the cinematic sights of Jordan?
In many respects, I’m treating Jordan like any other foreign country. I’ve researched a number of books that I’ll try to read beforehand, such as Yoav Alon’s The Making of Jordan: Tribes, Colonialism and the Modern State and King Abdullah II of Jordan’s own, Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace in a Time of Peril.
On top of those reads, I’ve also been dabbling with some Arabic using Rocket Languages, though English (I’m told and have read) is a widely understood second language. Still, I’m hoping to get down some pleasantries just as I did before with German and Japanese.
Luckily with this being a cinematic-inspired trip, one of the easiest ways I can prepare for Jordan is by watching some movies. Perhaps a repeat viewing of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is in order, because lord knows that I’ll inevitably be humming the theme song as I approach those gorgeous columns of Al-Khazneh in Petra.
Disclosure: I’m traveling with Bestway Tours & Safaris as a guest blogger. As always, all opinions are my own.