I decided to save my reflections on Jordan until after I had visited Egypt. And since the last day of my time in Egypt has sadly come to pass, I figured this was as good of a time as any to reflect on Jordan. It always seems easier to remember things and notice things about a place after you’ve given yourself a couple of days/weeks to reflect. And it was also fairly handy that in this case, I got to visit another Middle Eastern country to compare it to.
I really enjoyed my time in Jordan, I must say. Much more so than I expected. The first day in Amman was a bit of a disappointment at first, because I felt very isolated walking through the sites and streets alone. And the heckling and stares in the market were really off-putting. But once I was with Mel, and then later the whole Intrepid group, Amman started to feel a lot more inviting. It is still a bustling, loud city and dirty compared to American standards, but it is actually a really nice place to start your journey in Jordan. Being situated on the 7 hills makes it scenic, and reminds me of San Francisco with the steepness of the streets. If I could do the whole trip over again, my number one recommendation would be the cooking class at Beit Sitti. I ABSOLUTELY loved this, and consider a highlight of my whole trip. It was such a joy and a fun way to get to know the culture on my first few days.
I was really impressed by the people of Jordan. Everyone that I interacted with were very open and friendly. You could feel the hospitality of the place. It’s part of the culture that you experience right away. Store owners would ask you to come in and would offer cups of tea to drink. Although this is an obvious sales ploy, regular people did the same thing. In my cooking class, our drivers, the restaurant owners, the families that we met, people were just generally interested in talking to you. The people are relatively open-minded and their mindsets are looking to the future.
I will also come away with memories of the sites we visited. Jordan, although small, does have a lot to offer a tourist. I think it is wise to pair it with a visit to another country in the region, like Egypt, Israel or in the past, Syria. It wouldn’t justify an entire flight, but it’s well-worth a visit if you’re already nearby. Petra, of course, was a highlight. As a Wonder of the World, it’s an amazing site with so much history, but that is to be expected. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of Wadi Rum and the culture of the Bedouin people there. I am amazed that people have lived in the area for thousands of years. It boggles my mind, because there is seemingly nothing here but desert! There were other ruins we visited, which I enjoyed, but weren’t necessarily a must see. I liked our stop at the Dead Sea, and I’m glad I can say I did it. But I wouldn’t do it again; the water burned my skin and it’s a hassle to get to.
But overall, I think what I will remember most about Jordan is it’s history, and its modern role in the Middle East. I found Jordan to be incredibly safe, modern and stable. Much more so than I expected. The people seem to be pretty happy with their government (especially compared to their neighbors), and the royal family seems liked. There are pictures of them all over the place, in hotels, on store fronts, on billboards. At first it struck me as a publicity thing, like in China. But after talking to some Jordanians, it seems like its a show of respect. The Jordanian people are proud to be the rose among the thornes in this region. I could sense that from our tour leader Usama especially. He was so incredibly proud of Jordan and it’s long history. So much happened here, far more than I ever knew, especially during the Christian conquests and Islamic era, and it permeates through their modern history. Jordanians are happy about the stability of their system and are proud of their democracy. They were able to weather to storm of the Arab Spring pretty well, and made some changes to their constitution to allow for more democracy and voting. Like all governments, they understand it isn’t perfect and can always be improved. But overall, I think they see themselves as a beacon of hope for the refugees from Palestine, Syria and Iraq. A safe place, a happy country where if you are a good person and work hard, you can make something of yourself. I appreciated how open Jordanians were to talk to us about the politics of the region and their religious beliefs. This really enhanced my experience. Seeing Jordan and its lifestyle certainly helped me break down stereotypes I had about the Middle East, and I got to see a different side of that story.