First Impressions of Jordan

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Greetings from Jordan!

I am four days into my trip here with the Jordan Tourism Board.  It’s been a whirlwind, almost nonstop trip and I feel like I should wait and let things coalesce before getting into any in-depth posts, but I wanted to share my thoughts on how my first trip to the Middle East is going so far.

I won’t lie — at first, it felt intimidating.  I’m always intimidated when visiting a new region, especially a region with a reputation like the Middle East’s.  But soon enough, I realized that Amman is a very comfortable city with a nice downtown area, cafes, coffeeshops, and lots of great markets (one of which had the biggest lettuces I have ever SEEN!).

Jordanians are incredibly friendly and so warm.  From the moment you meet someone, it feels like you’re immediately at a higher level of friendship than you would be with someone at home.  (I noticed this with Indonesians, too.)  And, by God, do they feed you!  Even after a few polite refusals, they’ll still be throwing food at you!

As for traveling as a solo female, I feel extremely comfortable.  (While I have a guide for the week, I’ve been spending time completely solo as well.)  I wasn’t sure how it would feel to travel solo in the Middle East, but the men have been no more forward, nor more creepy, than anywhere else in the world.  Jordan is very open to Western travelers, and even some local women dress in semi-revealing clothing.

I have been covering up — long sleeves and long pants or leggings.  Is that required in Jordan?  Absolutely not; it’s a choice for me, as it is for everyone.  I don’t consider it a sacrifice at all.

If you show up in short shorts and get creeped out by the men staring at you — whether in Jordan, Italy, or the United States — you have no one to blame but yourself.

I couldn’t be in better hands than with my hilarious guide, Ibrahim, and my sweet driver, Rami.  Early on, they started teaching me Arabic.  I’m up to around 40 words or so now, and they’re constantly quizzing me.  Speaking with everyone I meet is making me learn so much faster, and speaking Arabic has made me realize how much I’ve missed learning a language.

Ibrahim decided that I needed an Arabic name to go with my Arabic language, and chose “Basma” — it means “smiling.”  It’s perfect, since I automatically smile whenever anyone calls me that.

Beyond Arabic, I’m speaking more French here than I have in years!  There are lots of French tourists here, probably more from France than from any other country, and many guides, including Ibrahim, speak fluent French.

Everyone keeps telling me that I look Arabic.  Not to the point of passing as a local, but more like being the Western-born daughter of Egyptian or Lebanese parents.

Petra, Jordan’s most famous site, completely blew my mind.  I explored it all day today and was absolutely spellbound.  The most surprising thing?  There is way, WAY more to Petra than just the iconic shot of the Treasury building.

There are so many ruins, so many hikes, and the guides have been telling me that you can stay for a full week and see new things every day.  My favorite was the hike up to the Monastery, which I did on a donkey.  It was not an easy ride for me and hilarity ensued.  Yep, I got it on video.  Of course.

So far, I’ve seen Amman, a bit of nature reserve Ajloun, the ruins of Jerash, the Ma’in hot springs, and Petra.  Coming up next is camping overnight in Wadi Rum and floating in the Dead Sea before returning to Amman, from where I’ll fly to Istanbul.

Jordan is a very special place, and I’m thrilled to be experiencing this country.  Stay tuned for more in-depth posts in the coming weeks!

Many thanks to the Jordan Tourism Board for sponsoring my trip to Jordan.  All opinions, as always, are my own.