Jordan, like everywhere else, has stereotypes. It’s often lumped together as part of an indistinguishable Arabic or non-Israeli Middle East, drifting through a media cloud of words like oil, camels, terrorism, sand and veiled women. Yet Jordan has a particular misfortune that sets it apart – sharing a name with one of Britain’s most notorious and definitely not-veiled glamour models.
Apologies, therefore, if you arrived here expecting to see Katie Price aka Jordan frolicking around without many clothes on. What you’ll get instead is an introduction to my first impressions of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – plus a collection of resources if you want to find out more.
Currency: Jordanian dinar (JOD)
Best way of getting around: by car with a local driver or guide
Highlight: Petra, without a doubt
Travel tip: Wrap a scarf around your head to protect from the wind, sun and sand in the desert, Bedouin style.
Dress Code: modest but not excessive. Cover shoulders, knees and cleavage and wear layers because it’s hot in the day and cool at night.
Unusual highlight: Floating in the Dead Sea
From the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum to the poetic candlelight at night at Petra, Jordan dazzles with big name sights and great natural beauty. But its real richness comes from its people, from sharing hummus, tabbouleh and pitta bread together and from discovering layers and layers of history that have remarkably resulted in peace in this otherwise tumultuous part of the world.
It’s a country that brings me great joy every time I visit – and one that gives me hope for the future.
I boarded the plane to Amman in Madrid, feeling slightly self-conscious. Aside from a young man in a leather jacket in first class, where sadly, I was not, everyone else wore white. Was over 50. And began boisterously praying as the aeroplane began took off.
I’d made an effort to dress conservatively but tugged at the edges of my sleeves, willing them to grow longer. I checked for a gap between sock and trouser and became aware of something I usually never notice: my free flowing hair. I’d brought a scarf to cover up, just in case, but had made the mistake of leaving that in my suitcase. So, I slumped into my chair, focused on becoming invisible and watched the minutes crawl by.
In Amman, only the man in the leather jacket waited by the luggage carousel, and forty minutes after that I met up with two women, Reine and Halla. They burst out laughing.
It reminded me of two, oh go on make that three, important things.
Jordan has sand, yes. It also has plenty of camels. It’s been at the centre of the world’s three main religions since each of them began and has played both hero and villain depending upon your point of view. For all the weight of history, however, Jordan, currently has good ties with Israel. It remains an Islamic nation and its newspapers use the term “occupied Jerusalem.” Yet those who feared my visit because of the sound of my name really needn’t have worried.
While violent revolts and bloody reprisals have swept through many of its neighbours this year, Jordan itself has stayed peaceful and stable. The population has pressed for reforms and King Abdullah has responded, with varying degrees of success. A different person asked, a different answer received.
Yet, away from the politics, Jordan remains a country of extraordinary beauty. Global highlights such as Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea may hog the headlines (or even in these days, the tweets) but in the brief week I was there I found other things that brought me joy.
Standing on the ruins of Amman’s citadel while birds flew by and the sun slowly set. Blasting myself beneath a waterfall while canyoning in Wadi Mujib. Learning how to make knafeh and having a good chat and a great laugh with the women of Beit Sitti about what it’s really like to live in Jordan.
Was everything perfect? Obviously not. We had problems with our guide and the stretch of the Red Sea we saw in Aqaba didn’t set my heart on fire.
Overall, though, Jordan did. Incredibly so. And for that, I’ll make no apology.
In fact, I like it so much, I went back!
Balloon Flights in Jordan – video
Jordanian Food: Sumac, Spice & Slice – Cooking lessons in Beit Sitti
The Roman Amphitheatre in Jerash – The PlanetD
Experiences in Jordan – Legal Nomads
Friday is the New Saturday – Mobile Lawyer
What Happens in Petra When It Rains? – Lily Leung
Disclosure – I visited Jordan as a guest of Visit Jordan and have worked with iAmbassador on several different projects relating to Jordan.