Saturday, August 9, 2014

Impressions of Jordan

Jordan: A week in the Middle East
Jordan: Petra and Wadi Rum

Overall, I had a great experience in Jordan and have only positive things to say about the country. There are tons of varied things to do, even though its such a small country. And its easy being a tourist, as everything is pretty convenient.

The country is mostly a desert, so most of the tourism is also related to that. Miles and miles of yellow sand and mountains. The country is not too rich, but not too poor either. The surprising thing I found was that houses in Amman looked run down, while the houses in the villages and countryside looked a lot more richer and better maintained. Very surprising…

Jordan is surrounded by countries all around. Syria, Lebanon in the North. Egypt, Israel on the West. Iraq on the east and Saudi Arabia on the south. Being such a small country, it just feels you can drive into any of these countries within two hours!

Tourism is expensive here though - not as cheap as say South-east Asia. Of course, to be fair, as a tourist we were staying at the chain hotels and eating at their restaurants. The local eateries in the city centres were very cheap, but any touristy place we went to was as expensive as the West. 


People were overall friendly and helpful. English was a problem sometimes as not everyone spoke the language, but it did not cause any major problems. The people were very soft-spoken and looked just like us - so it was good to blend in for a change:).

The Jordanians in the south of the country are mostly Bedouin - they stay in the desert, are sometimes nomadic, mostly farm animals and have a pretty hard life. They drink a lot of tea which I found surprising as its pretty hot. But apparently the tea keeps the heat away. Also, Jordanians smoke too much! Everywhere we saw people smoking which was a bit irritating.

When chatting with Talal, I got interested in the people of the Middle East. Apparently, the Arabs in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, West Egypt and Jordan were all similar culturally. They were all Arabic Bedouins. However, Iranian people are different - the Persians as he called them, and the Turkish are different ethnically too.

He also was proud of the fact, that people in Jordan were much more educated and open minded than a lot of people around them. Interestingly, Jordan is one of the few Arab countries in the region on friendly terms with Israel now. Aqaba borders Israel, and a lot of Israelis come every weekend to dive at Aqaba. Funnily enough, Israelis do not need a visa to visit Jordan, while Jordanians need one to go to Israel!

Another thing I noticed is that the rich people have the same lifestyle and standard of living everywhere in the world. And ever in Jordan. The people we saw coming to the 5 star hotels were dressed the same as in the West (including the women), drove the same cars and had the same air of luxury around them as elsewhere. Its always just the middle class and poorer sections of a country that the difference in lifestyle comes about.

Also, a question couple of my friends asked and I would like to answer it here. Jordan is a Muslim country but it no way made the travel uncomfortable for us. It seemed like a pretty modern and open place. Yes, some women wore burqas and the traditional scarf, but none of it affects tourists like us. In fact in Amman, we saw a woman driving a cab which I thought was pretty open! Tourists can be the way they are, and they could be anywhere in the world - the Muslim or the non-Muslim world.

One thing I had read was that it is advised that women walking in the cities need to be appropriately dressed, but I saw loads of tourists not following it, and it did not cause any problem for anyone. So honestly I think the attitude in the country is - this is our religion and this is how we live our life. You can do whatever you want with yours, we don't care.


Its hot! There is no other way to say that! We went in May which is supposed to still be spring, but temperatures everywhere other than Amman were between 35-40 degrees during the day. At night its a lot more comfortable but I can easily say Jordan is not the place to travel to during summers. Amman was a lot more pleasant - 15-25 degrees during the day. But other than the better temperature, there were no respite from the heat at all - no clouds or rains at all.

Driving in Jordan 

It was easy. Roads were good, markings were in English and Arabic. People also drove in a disciplined way, except one thing - they just stop their cars wherever they want to! In the middle of the road, middle of the highway, or the opposite lane! If you can live with that, you wouldn't have any problems.

Travel on the Kings Highway is slightly difficult though - there are no markings and Google maps is terrible too. A lot of times, we were on the Kings Highways just hoping we are on the right track.

There are plenty of police checks too on the main highways. We got checked 5-6 times - simple though, just checking of the car details and passport.

Important tips for travel 

1. Hire a car and drive if you can
2. Don't use Google Maps
3. Go on the Kings Highway - worth it if you like scenic routes and have time

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