Jordan: The Perfect Introduction to the Middle East

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Dear Readers,

I know that many of you long to see the world.  So you’ve traveled a bit in Europe.  You’ve done the resort vacation in Mexico.  Perhaps you’ve done a bit of Central America or even Asia.

And you’d like to try somewhere new– somewhere adventurous, and exciting, and DIFFERENT.

May I make a suggestion?  Go to Jordan.

But it’s in the Middle East!

Yes, it is.

But is it safe?!

Absolutely.

I can give you three reasons why Jordan is a great destination for first-timers in the Middle East:

Jordan is safe.

While the Middle East may conjure up images of war, Jordan is a very safe country — most consider it the safest country in the region by far — and has been a safe country for a very long time.  You certainly can’t say that about Syria or Lebanon, and even Egypt and Israel concern people and governments more than Jordan.  While Syria is a mess right now, this does not affect Jordan’s safety whatsoever.

Has Jordan had isolated violence and terrorism in the past?  Very, very little.  Just like the United States has.  Just like the United Kingdom has.  Violence and terrorism are so rare in Jordan that its safety is on par with countries of the Western world.

Jordan is well-suited for tourism.

Jordan is chock full of interesting places to see and adventures to explore, and you’ll see some of them further down.  But as far as infrastructure goes, Jordanians have been welcoming tourists for a long time.  English is widely spoken (as is French).  There are hotels at a variety of price ranges, and while I didn’t experience public transportation, I did enjoy exploring Jordan by car.

In short, Jordan is well-equipped for tourists and there are resources for you.

Jordan will welcome you.

Whatever negative images you may have about Middle Easterners will fly out the window as Jordanians welcome you with warm hospitality.  Jordanians are some of the most friendly people I’ve ever met, and I was welcomed into their hearts and homes more or less instantly.

I should mention that Western women are welcomed, even solo travelers, and as long as you respect the local culture and cover your limbs and cleavage, you’ll be fine.

Because of its safety, its tourism infrastructure, and its welcoming nature, Jordan is the perfect destination for first-time visitors to the Middle East.

Here are some of the activities you can do in Jordan:

Love to Cook?  Learn to Cook Like a Jordanian Grandmother!

At Beit Sitti in Amman, I took a cooking class unlike any other I’ve taken.  Rather than everyone having their own cooking station, we each pitched in with different tasks to make a communal meal.  “Beit Sitti” means “My Grandmother’s House,” and that aptly describes the atmosphere — we chatted, laughed, and feasted on SO much delicious food!  I still dream of the mouttabal (roasted eggplant dip).

Love Iconic Experiences?  Float in the Dead Sea!

Yes, floating in the Dead Sea is a lot of fun, and a sensation unlike anything you’ve felt before — but it’s also the key opportunity to get pictures of yourself to show off to your friends!

This is one thing in Jordan that you MUST do.  The Dead Sea is easy enough to get to — make sure you don’t miss floating!

Love Cultural Experiences?  Have Dinner with a Local Family!

One of my most special Jordan experiences was having dinner with a family in Ajloun.  Some families in this region have been launching homestay businesses.  I spent the evening eating a delicious meal and later was climbed on by two adorable, rambunctious children.

Love Indiana Jones?  Get Adventurous at Petra!

It won’t take long for the adventurous spirit to come over you — at Petra, covered with so many different ruins, mountains, and trails, you’ll become an explorer in no time.  I loved hiking to the Monastery (by riding a donkey, which WAS NOT easier than climbing!), and it was a blast climbing through the nooks and crannies of the different mountains and canyons.

Love to Relax in the Spa?  Soak in the Ma’in Hot Springs!

There is nothing like standing in a pool and letting a natural hot waterfall run over you.  The Ma’in Hot Springs and Six Senses Spa has plenty of these waterfalls, and it’s the perfect place to soak away the dirt of the desert.  If you love spas, split your time between here and the Dead Sea.

Love Beautiful Landscapes?  Camp in Wadi Rum!

I don’t think anywhere in the world has more magnificent colors than Wadi Rum, the epic desert in southern Jordan where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed.  Try to camp in the desert if you can — that will give you access to seeing the beautiful colors at every time of day, and they’re always changing dramatically.

Love History?  Explore Jerash!

Chances are that you haven’t heard about the city of Jerash.  But if you love your history and ruins, you can’t miss this place.  The ruins are spectacular.  The hilariously cheesy chariot show is worth seeing as well.

Love Tea?  Good — You’ll Drink a LOT of It.

The tea never stops flowing in Jordan.  You’ll be offered tea wherever you go, and  it’s served in tiny glasses with sugar and sometimes mint.  Get ready to drink a lot of it.  There were days when I had seven or eight glasses!

Love Cities?  Check out Rainbow Street in Amman!

The Old City of Amman was as traditional a Middle Eastern city as you could expect — but Rainbow Street could have fit seamlessly into Brooklyn or San Francisco!  Rather than bars, you’ll find a lot of teahouses and shisha cafes with character.

Conclusions About Jordan

I’d like once again to extend my thanks to the Jordan Tourism Board for hosting me in this beautiful country.  It’s a week that I’ll never forget.

For those of you who are skeptical about whether bloggers can be objective when given press trips, I understand your concerns, as some people are afraid to criticize anything they get for free.  I am not one of them.  Let me remind you that I had no qualms about eviscerating one press trip provider when it was warranted.

I bubble over with ebullient praise for Jordan because I love Jordan.  I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know.  It’s not nearly as visited as it should be and it has something for everyone, whether you’re here for the hiking or the spas, whether you’re here solo, with your partner, or with your family.

I hope that you consider it.

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