4 Things You Need To Know About Traveling In Jordan
Jordanians Don't Hate Westerners
In fact, reality is quite the opposite. They love talking to people who appear to be foreigners, ask them where they’re from, and even invite them to their place for tea. One of my favorite encounters thus far has to be when two Jordanians asked if I’m French.
“France?” one said in muddled English.
“Ána min Amérika,” I responded in horrific Arabic.
“Good!” both responded with their thumbs up and smiles wide. “America good. France… No.”
Though the American in me appreciated the random Franco jab, I’m almost certain he would’ve said the opposite if I did say I was from France. See? Jordanians are so welcoming, they’ll make a joke about a country your nationality would likely already make jokes about.
Jordanians Feel They Need To Explain Themselves
This has been a sad truth about traveling in Jordan. Jordanians feel they need to explain themselves, because we’re basically terrible people.
After landing, a gentleman introduced himself as “Jihad” and immediately explained that his name is incompatible with the way terrorists use it.
“It means, ‘to fight for justice,'” he explained.
It certainly beats the poetry of, “Joe.”
There have been at least several other encounters in which Jordanians, unprompted, felt the need to clarify that they are not part of Daesh or any other terrorist organization. They, rightly so, blame portrayals of the Middle East by western media.
For example, when something bad happens in Iraq or Syria (Jordan’s eastern and northern neighbors), the news runs something like this:
“Terror strikes again in the Middle East!”
When Brussels was tragically attacked, the coverage was limited to Brussels — not Belgium or Europe. Nobody (at least since maybe the Crusades or the Inquisition) has said you shouldn’t travel to Europe because Europe is dangerous for something that happened in one specific place.
I do sincerely hope we can stop being terrible people who paint with a broad brush and embrace the fact that Jordan is an incredibly safe country worth visiting.
The Hospitality Is Nuts
We’re traveling on an organized tour by Bestway Tours & Safaris. We did, however, find a free night in our schedule while in Petra, so we accepted a last-minute invitation from A Piece of Jordan to join the founder’s family for dinner at her home.
Basically A Piece of Jordan’s aim is to give visitors to Petra a cultural experience as well as historical. They know the ancient ruins of Petra are phenomenal. (Seriously, it’s like a U.S. national park-sized playground among the ruins of a large, ancient city.) But they also know that Jordanians are pretty phenomenal, too.
Over the course of a few hours, we had the opportunity to chat in the comfort (and I’d like to emphasize comfort) of a Middle Eastern style parlor room where everyone sits on the floor on comfortable cushions as the kids run themselves in circles. (There’s no furniture to obstruct them, so they really do go in circles.) Then, we had the opportunity to eat a traditional meal outside on a perfectly balmy night with the whole family.
We did, of course, touch on the aforementioned topics of Jordanians feeling the need to explain themselves to foreigners. They reiterated much of what we had heard before, but it was particularly touching with those kids running around in the middle of it all. (This was probably the first time I truly enjoyed a room full of children.)
To hear this family responding to Islamophobia and Arabic racism in the presence of children who appeared to be having more fun than any American kid glued to their parent’s iPhone made me sad and angry. How could anyone back in the States say the things they broadly say about the Middle East when families like this are much more likely the norm, especially in Jordan?
In any event, I would certainly consider A Piece of Jordan a necessity on any itinerary for traveler’s with the good sense to visit Jordan.
The Tourist Attractions Are Touristy Because They're Awesome
Despite a downtick in tourism (thanks to western media portrayal and “bad neighbors,” as I was told), Petra and Wadi Rum remain the touristy hotspots of Jordan. Now I know there are those who hold their nose up at touristy destinations, but some places are full of tourists because they’re simply incredible, must-see places. Petra and Wadi Rum are exactly that.
First, neither destination appeared “touristy” in the negative sense of the word where people envision an avalanche of tour buses and groups clicking their cameras. (There are some, but it’s far from overtly obnoxious.)
Petra is still very much a Jordanian city and the ruins easily run at the top of my personal travel favorites. I went into it thinking I’d just go see the “Indian Jones” thing, but like I said before, it really is basically a UNESCO national park. I hiked over 20 miles in two days and didn’t even hit all the trails they have available, and they have ongoing digs for new discoveries. How many places exist where you can do some honest to God hiking in the remains (and some reconstruction) of an ancient city?
Then there’s Wadi Rum, which is most recently famous for offering the red backdrop to The Martian. Here I experienced “glamping” for the first time with SunCity Camp. My preferences would still lean toward hiking, but I did enjoy the more traditional sight-seeing from the back of a pickup truck and a sunrise camel ride. Even more spectacular (and unplanned) was seeing Mars in the night sky while sitting on Earth’s version of the red planet. I even felt compelled to rise at 4:30 in the morning to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way — a personal first.
I’ve still got a couple of days to go with stops in the seaside town of Aqaba and the Dead Sea, but I’m already feeling like Jordan will sit comfortably near the top of one of my favorite countries to visit thanks to the history, culture, and most importantly, the people.
Disclosure: I’m traveling with Bestway Tours & Safaris as a guest blogger. Book your own tour of Jordan with Bestway Tours & Safaris using the code JOC16/JB and save $100. As always, all opinions are my own.