Jordan is lucky when it comes to tourism, after all it is home to Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. That alone is worth millions, if not more over time, in tourist revenue. But with this accolade has come a problem, most people don’t know a lot about the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
A shocking number of tourists visit Jordan for less than a day, usually as an add-on to a tour of Israel, Egypt or combination of the two. Petra is on EVERYONE’s bucket list, and one would be foolish to be so close to this Wonder without visiting. But few, very few actually, consider what other wonders exist in the rest of the country.
I was recently invited to visit Jordan by the Jordan Tourism Board along with several other bloggers, in order to see for ourselves what makes this great country tick. Yes, my trip was sponsored, but if you’ve read my writings in the past, you know this means nothing in regards to how I relate the experience. There were some tremendous experiences, and some experiences I am ok with not doing again. And the fact that my body is now the site of 40 mosquito bites is the result of yet another experience. On the whole though, the trip was not only educational for me, but I hope for everyone who reads my stories about it.
Jordan’s tourism problem doesn’t stop at the fact that most people only visit for a day, the recent troubles in the Middle East have turned an annoying, but lucrative tourism anomaly into a crisis. People from around the world, people without any understanding of the region or the complex politics found there, are canceling tours at extremely high rates.
Some of these cancellations are absolutely rational, I certainly would not travel to Syria or Tunisia right now. I’m on the fence about Egypt, to be frank, but given the feedback of people who have been there recently, I’d probably be ok with visiting. That doesn’t mean that the entire region should be avoided, quite the contrary. An image though has been created and Jordan’s tourism has suffered greatly from this false image of a riot-ridden region.
I can’t speak for the politics of Jordan, I don’t know them and I won’t pretend that I do. All I can relate is how I felt while in the country, which was safe. In fact, one quality that struck me almost immediately was the incredible friendliness and hospitality of everyone I met, regardless of who they were. I never experienced any tension or anything even remotely uncivil. Instead, I was constantly offered enough food to cater a family of four for at least a week.
On the second day of my trip my driver, Mahmoud, said to me, “You know, most people in the Middle East think we Jordanians are very angry, but that’s not true. Just because we don’t laugh while walking down the street doesn’t mean anything. We really are very friendly. ”
And you know what, he was right.
Over the coming weeks and months I will be relating my experiences in Jordan, the good and the bad. I am happy to report though that the good times far outnumber the bad and I can’t wait to share this beautiful and exciting country with everyone.