I recently visited Jordan, pretty much on a whim. Or more to the point, once it was in my head, I couldn’t shake it. I had to go. I think it was a reaction to Western media’s portrayal of the Middle East over the course of my entire life – that is, generally negative or nothing at all – which piqued my interest in the country when it floated onto my radar, and I couldn’t shake it. In March 2016, I found my excuse: why don’t I look at Jordan as part of my masters dissertation? Sorted. In fact, my supervisor was delighted with the idea – looking at the effects of Syria and Iraq on perceptions of terrorism risk in Jordan. So that part was easy. Flights? Skyscanner and what remained of my student loan had me covered. “Mum, Dad, I’m off to Jordan in September”. They tend to trust my judgement, and if they had reservations they didn’t show them. I had been sold by Petra (of course) but also the chance to learn more about the Middle East.
If my family had concerns (about my eleven day trip, let’s not blow this out of proportion, much as I would have loved to go for longer), they didn’t show it. Friends were sometimes another matter entirely. Responses ranged from ‘Sorry, where?’ to ‘Is it safe?’ to ‘Why?’ to ‘That’s such a random place to go’ to ‘Ohh, you really need to be careful, you’ll stand out’ to ‘Don’t die’ to ‘Don’t get kidnapped’ to ‘You are f-ing mad’. All expected, but not 50 times in a row. It got to the point that I only told people if I saw them AND they happened to ask if I had any trips planned, to avoid re-asserting that Jordan was safe, as I was beginning to doubt it myself. Thankfully, those few friends who had visited were quick to exclaim ‘you’ll love it!’ Everyone else, even some close friends and my boss (sorry guys) only found out I was going when I put a photo of myself at Amman Citadel on social media. Cue several texts saying ‘what the **** Chris’ or words to that effect. But by that point I was basking in 30 degree sunshine and strolling contentedly around ancient ruins, happy (and safe) as Larry.
I did not once feel unsafe in Jordan. I spent the first few days exploring Amman alone, walking around downtown, sitting in the Citadel having one of those life affirming moments that come with travel (more on this pretentious statement later!), staying up late exchanging stories in hostels, eating street food and exploring museums and design exhibitions. Oh, I did get chased by a group of teenage boys at one point…for a selfie!
Afterwards I joined a tour led by G Adventures to cover the main sites – Petra, the Dead Sea, Aqaba, Jaresh, Madaba, Karak, Mount Nebo, and Wadi Rum, all of which I will cover in later posts, and all completely safe, as well as pretty empty. Emptiness obviously is not good for Jordan’s economy, but it is good for tourists who want to feel like they’re doing something unique. In Peru, you get up early to see Machu Picchu at sunrise and join coach load after coach load of tourists doing the same. In Jordan, you get up early to see Petra at sunrise and it is just you, your small tour group and a couple from Ireland gazing at the Treasury for as long as you want. This means a significant lack of beggars or petty crime near touristic sites probably because it’s not worth their while – which is great for us!
Furthermore, Jordan are fully aware that just one incident could completely ruin their already fragile tourism industry. There is a large police presence across the country, with roadblocks charting the movement of vehicles and ensuring that tour groups get quickly and easily between their attractions. I am sure that the recent incident in Karak has only served to strengthen security measures even further.
Jordan is beautiful. I was only there for eleven days and I feel an overwhelming desire to return, and I’ll definitely be talking about it more. A diverse, stunning, friendly, fun, adventure-filled, unique, fascinating and safe oasis of peace in a turbulent region which should be high on any bucket list.
More ramblings coming soon!