Following the news can be both informative and misleading. For example, the media publishes a lot of news about war and conflicts in the Middle East. As much that may be true, it is also that much misleading. Why? Because of Jordan. Take a look at the map.
Being surrounded by countries that are fighting someone, Jordan is a peaceful oasis and a safe place. Little do we know is that the Middle East is beautiful, it is where civilization began and that is why its history is very rich and detailed. Unfortunately, many discoveries, monuments and traces have been shattered by war.
Instead of almost copy-pasting articles about „top 10 things to see in Jordan“, I will focus on breaking stereotypes. Not only does Jordan deserve more attention, but I also hope that a couple of nice words can positively affect the conflicts in the area.
But first, let`s start with some useful basics and facts or things you should know if you decide to visit Jordan.
Before arrival, make sure to buy a „Jordan pass“. It’s a package that includes a visa and tickets to many sights all across the country. You can purchase it online and it will save you a lot of money. Everything you need to see can be easily found online. All the articles about attractions are basically the same and all of them summarise the most important sights. Eat everything.
Make sure to stay at least one week. Prepare cash, not everybody accepts cards and ATMs cannot recognize all cards. It is not expensive, yet not as cheap as I expected. Respect tradition, don`t uncover yourself too much. It`s very warm. Fly to Aqaba and sleep there. Everything is closer to Aqaba than to Amman. Read the reviews about accommodation carefully. The only bad thing about the whole trip was the hotel where we stayed.
Turn off your phone, put your camera away and meet the locals. Renting a car is necessary. However, due to the problems we had with our cards, we ended up staying there without a rental vehicle. I think it was the luckiest misfortune that could have happened to us.
Having no option but to use public transportation, taxies and to walk around, we met a lot of people. And trust me, the people of Jordan are what makes Jordan the greatest country ever.
AS THE SONG SAYS – YOU GOT A FRIEND IN ME
I went there with Luca. Before the trip, we tried to find some information about the country. During the process, he came across a Jordanian girl on Instagram – Duha. A short conversation later, we ended up with the idea of meeting up in Amman.
The night before departure, Duha and her husband Laith invited us for dinner. They took us to an amazing restaurant with traditional food. They were incredibly friendly and we had a very nice evening of pleasant conversation.
We told them that we were going to Aqaba the following morning. Laith called Tareq, his best friend who lives in Aqaba, and asked him if he could take care of us the following day. Tareq picked us up from the bus station and gave us a short tour around the city as well as his workplace – the 7-star Hyatt hotel. After that, he took us to his apartment for lunch to meet his wife Diana and kids. Luca mentioned he loves to cook. Diana gave him a gift – a special spice for food that cannot be bought in stores because she made it.
Later in the afternoon, Tareq gave us a ride to the airport. He even called his friend, who is the boss of airport security, to notify him of our arrival. The boss welcomed us and we went to our gate.
We sat down staring at each other thinking „what did we do to deserve this?“ We have never been treated by strangers so caringly. None of them had any reason or need to welcome us into their home in such a warm way, to find time in their schedule for us, to treat us and ask for nothing in return.
There are no words to describe our gratefulness and their kindness.
KILL THE WORLD WITH KINDNESS
„I saw tourists before I saw my mother“ – he said. And I felt it. A lot of small stories made Jordan the greatest country ever (sorry, USA).
After the first post on Instagram in which I tagged some accounts based in Jordan, I got followed by one specific account dedicated to warning people about „scammers in Petra“. Being curious, I took a look at the content. There were many accusations, voice messages, Facebook transcripts, faces…
I did not stop there. We met a lot of people in Amman so we asked them is there any truth in the warnings. Some people confirmed, saying that inhabitants who call themselves bedouins and claim that they live in caves are mostly con artists, rapists, wanted by police, they rob tourists, seduce women, invite girls to their caves, talk about dead camels… Full of disbelief, I ignored everything. It might have been the truth and it might not have.
We went there without any prejudice or negative thoughts. Bedouins offered us a climb up the rocks to have a great view and take amazing photos. As much as we like getting a good view and taking photos, getting to know people and culture is far more important.
The climb took 10 minutes. It was not so easy but it was definitely worth it. At the viewpoint, there was a tent made of carpets, rugs and scarves. There were a few boys inside welcoming everyone with a cup of tea. Tourists refused and ran to the „Instagram spot“. Isn`t it a bit rude to ignore people who helped you get „the perfect Instagram photo“ without even saying thank you?
We accepted the tea, sat in the tent, smoked a cigarette and asked them their names. I had many questions but not enough time. The tea was great, we even got some water. After the tourists moved away, we went to see the view.
One of the boys offered to take my camera and climb the higher rock to take a better photo. Many heads turned back, feeling sorry for not saying „thank you“.
Going down was hard for me because I`m short. The kid, who was showing us the way, carried my jacket and held my hand while I was doing my best trying not to fall down.
Besides us, only 3 more people express any kind of gratitude. Two women from Korea shared their fruit with others and one older guy sat down telling jokes instead of taking photos. This short visit and an honest conversation made it clear that we should go offline and travel more. Kill the world with kindness.
BEFRIEND A STRANGER
Walking down the street in a city you visited for the first time can be confusing. The best way to find the right direction is to ask the locals. Almost everyone in Amman speaks English!
If they didn’t speak English or they couldn’t answer our question, they would stop another random passer-by until someone helped us. Sometimes, we would stop one person and ended up being surrounded by a few people because the whole group wanted to help.
Getting souvenirs was unplanned. Thinking about what we could bring home, we got stopped by a guy who was selling Arabic perfumes.
That was it. A perfect gift suitable for everyone is a small bottle of perfumed oil that can be bought only in the Middle East. Trying to choose the best, we took an hour of his time.
He was smiling and putting a lot of effort into helping us. In the end, he gave us 2 bottles for free. In the following days, every time we would pass his shop, he would stop us and put perfume on us. My leather jacket still has a wonderful Arabic scent.
Going through the streets, the smell of food comes out of everywhere so you get hungry easily. At one point, I made eye contact with falafel and we stopped to buy it. With a big smile and sincere greet, we asked for a bit of it. For reasons unknown, we got the food for free. It was the best falafel I’ve ever tasted.
Our driver to Petra was a sweet 45-year-old man who knew just a few words of English. However, he liked music in English. It was adorable to listen to his interpretation of the song „Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle“. Not understanding the words, he was saying „Lego, lego, lego“. The 3-hour ride was fun.
If you make eye contact with someone in the street, they will say „hi“. Pedestrians are literally walking around acknowledging each other. It is absolutely normal to greet strangers. I`m just curious, what reactions would you get if you did it in your country?
THE TOP OF THE BUCKET LIST
Tourism in Jordan is drastically decreasing due to the events in neighbouring countries – it has dropped by over 60% since 2010. Bad stories have a wide reach. Bad news travels fast. There have been more situations in the past when I was told not to go somewhere because of bad news.
The urge to travel was bigger than the word „stop“. After I visited certain places and found out that those places are nothing like presented in the media, I decided to contribute to society by telling the truth and spreading the word.
If you do a bit of research about travelers who visited Jordan, they will all say the same – the kindest people, great food, beautiful historical sights and that it is a safe place. I usually recommend places to put on the bucket list. As far as Jordan is concerned, you won’t regret putting it on top of your bucket list!