If you follow along on social media or on this site, then you no doubt noticed that I recently spent a week exploring Jordan. It wasn’t my first time visiting this beautiful country in the Middle East. No, I first visited in 2011 and almost immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of the country, the warmth and hospitality of her people and of course the food. I don’t often return to countries after I visit them, so my second visit made me really think about my experience there and whether or not my opinion of the country has changed in any way; for better or for worse.
EVERYONE I know, from the most learned on down asked me if I was sure that Jordan was a safe place to visit. Intellectually, I can understand where they’re coming from. Currently in the U.S. there are only two news stories: Ebola and Terrorism. The truth is that Jordan lives in what can be called a rough neighborhood, but I knew before and I know now that yes, Jordan is without a doubt a very safe place to visit.
Jordan and the U.S. have had strong ties for decades. Many of my own countrymen may not realize that Queen Noor of Jordan was actually an American before marrying King Hussein. Partnerships of all kinds, social, tourism and military have existed for a very long time. Of course that doesn’t at all address the question of security, but I do think that it’s important to understand that visiting Jordan isn’t like visiting some other countries in the Middle East.
Given its size and the strength of tourism in Jordan, getting around is easy, particularly if you hire a guide. The main tourist sites are extremely easy to navigate and even if you want to get off the well-worn tourist trail (which you should do) you won’t have any problems. Almost immediately you’ll notice what I did back in 2011. Jordanians are amongst the kindest and most welcoming folks in the world and will help you if they can.
Anytime you visit a destination more than once, you start to pick up on smaller, finer details. My first jaunt around Jordan felt like a whirlwind, dashing from one site to the next trying to absorb it all. This time I had the same frenetic pace, but I wasn’t as disoriented and I was able to pick up on nuances I completely missed the first time. I began to understand the large capital city of Amman a little bit better and out in the countryside, I further refined my appreciation for the beauty of a seemingly endless desert terrain. It was in Wadi Rum though, the vast, UNESCO recognized desert, that I had the most important revelations.
No, it wasn’t the orange sunset over the ancient mountains or even the 4X4 ride across the dunes. It was lunch. Invited in to the home of an extended Bedouin family, I sat on their sofa, drank their tea, and chatted about how the iPhone 6 differs from the 5S. It was the hot topic of discussion, and I could see they were disappointed I hadn’t upgraded yet. Then I sat on the floor with them, ate the national dish of Jordan, mansaf, and laughed over bad jokes and even nothing at all. Leaving, I asked my guide how often they did that. He looked at me confused and so I repeated the question. On trips I’m used to visiting tourist sites and so I just assumed this was how the family made some extra money. He said they almost never do it. He was friends with one of them, mentioned he’d be in the area and so they invited us over. They all got dressed up and shared a favorite meal. Not because we paid them. Not so I could take some photos. They did it because they are proud of their country, their food and their way of life and they wanted to share it with us. That’s special.
What I’ll Say
To be honest, even before I left home I knew that I’d be visiting some of the same places I first saw in 2011. I went back to Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea. But along the way I had brand new experiences, met new people and enjoyed a completely different experience. Those are the stories I will tell this time. Sure, I’ll share pretty pictures of the Treasury at Petra, but I’ll also tell you more about those Bedouins in Wadi Rum and about the hippie expats in the Dead Sea. I want to share the story of Jordan not only through her monuments and pretty places, but the people who make those places so very special.
In the meantime, sit back, relax and let me know if you have any questions about what it’s really like to travel through one of my favorite countries in the world.
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