1. Safe and stable so far – The reverberations of the 2011 Arab Spring have been felt throughout the Middle East, and they’re not over yet. The instability in Egypt especially has had a lasting impact on tourism not only in that country, but surrounding nations including Jordan. In response to this tourism challenge, Jordan has rallied and launched an aggressive campaign to show people not only that there are many great experiences and adventures to be had, but that the country is safe. And indeed it has been safe. (Please note, I’m only writing about my experiences and can’t foretell the future, yet) Throughout my stay I felt safe and secure, enough so to wander around the sometimes hectic streets of Amman in the evenings hunting for culinary treats. No matter where in the country I visited, at no time was I concerned for my safety. Realize though that I’m writing from the point of view of a white, thirty-something American male and that my experiences may not be the same for everyone. Of course, that goes without saying no matter where you travel.
2. Food – I enjoyed the sites and the natural wonders, but personally the star of the show was the food in Jordan. I think it appealed to me so much because I, like the food, am not a fussy person. I detest haute cuisine and instead find a certain comfort in simple, street food. Bread forms the backbone of Jordanian cuisine, it’s everywhere. For a dollar or two you can buy kilos, yes kilos, of freshly made bread to take back and savor alone or with any of the small dishes that comprise the rest of Jordan culinary tradition. Hummus, ful and falafel are common dishes served in huge quantities to share with friends or guard miserly for yourself.
3. Amazing sites – Most people are familiar with Petra, thanks in large part to Indiana Jones. And while, yes, Petra is amazing, not to missed and remarkable, there are other things to do and see in Jordan. A week is not even enough time to fully explore just the highlights of the country, two weeks would be best if possible. To capture the brilliance of the desert, an overnight stay in Wadi Rum at a Bedouin camp is something everyone has to try once. It’s bizarre, but standing in the middle of a flat desert plain, gazing upwards at the millions of stars, I felt more connected to the world around me than anywhere else I’ve been. For something a little less dry, spend some time in Aqaba and the Red Sea. A hugely popular resort area, the Red Sea is famous for its snorkeling and SCUBA diving, both great ways to escape the desert heat. No matter what your interests are, there is plenty to do and see in Jordan.
4. Impress your friends with baby camel photos – Who doesn’t love baby animals, especially ones that look as cute as these baby camels? Of course your friends will be impressed that you got to hang out with these cute dromedaries, but more than that they’ll be impressed that you actually did something out of your comfort zone. That’s important when we travel, to push ourselves even a little bit to accept things that at first may be uncomfortable. What this means depends on the person, for some it’s going overseas for the first time and for others it may mean traveling alone in a foreign city. No matter what your travel comfort zone is though, always be sure to push it a little bit and see what adventures arise as a result, because they always do.
5. Hospitality – People are strange. I haven’t seen many outwardly negative people while traveling, most of the time everyone is happy to see a tourist and a welcome of some sort is extended. Some people are better at this than others and a much smaller percentage are actually sincere about their welcome. Jordan is such a place. In fact, not only was the hospitality and kindness I encountered in Jordan effusive, I think the Jordanians may be some of the nicest people I’ve ever met traveling. Thailand usually wins this contest, the citizens in the Land of 1,000 Smiles can’t be beat, but Jordan has given them a run for their money. Simple gestures, like giving me a cup of coffee or a loaf of bread were noteworthy, but it went beyond that. The people I met really wanted me to learn more about them and their country and went out of their way to educate me. Yes the food was great, yes there’s tons to do and see, but for more than anything I would return to Jordan just to be around the people again.