Reflections on Jordan

January 26th, 2009 by scott and becky

We spent 17 days in Jordan: 3 nights in Amman, 8 nights in Aqaba, 3 nights in Wadi Mousa, and 3 nights in Madaba. We left our bikes in Syria, so we cannot comment on riding in Jordan, but we can say that the hills on the Kings Highway are steep and there are significant distances between services, so be prepared.

The entire time we were in Jordan, Israel was bombing the Gaza strip. That definitely influenced our impressions of Jordan and the entire region. More than 50% of Jordanian citizens are Palestinian refugees. Every store that had a TV was showing the constant news reports showing blood soaked children. This led strong feelings of empathy for the people of Gaza, which could not help but wear off on us.

We met Egyptian hotel owners who were very friendly and provided great hospitality and yummy breakfasts.

We met an Egyptian trained doctor who was more than happy to give Becky more medication than she needed and possibly did more harm to her health than good.

We met Egyptian store owners, restaurant owners, and vendors who were more than happy to charge exorbitant prices and to see just how much money they could extract from tourists.

We met Jordanian Bedouins who were very friendly and welcoming. They were happy to share their culture and provided what felt like genuine hospitality.

We met Jordanian Christian hotel owners who provided hospitality that felt familiar to us.

We met Jordanians of Palestinian descent. One of them made some comments that we still find disturbing. His view seemed to be that no peace was possible while Israel existed, and he made several comments in favour of the Holocaust, including “Hitler did not kill all the Jews, so they would remember why he did what he did.” If this is a common sentiment, (and from what we understand, it is), there’s little hope of peace. Until Palestinians and Israelis can feel empathy for one another, and view each other as neighbours and fellow humans rather than faceless enemies, we don’t hold out much hope for the future.

We experienced a Jordanian state hospital whose staff gave the appearance of cleanliness but the bed sheets did not. We were later told that the private hospitals are much better.

We laughed at the story of a Jordanian tourist association who printed 50,000 copies of a brochure on desert tours in Arabic while only printing 20,000 copies in English. Do they really think that Arabs would come to Jordan to see the desert?

We enjoyed the stark and yet varying landscape of the Western Jordanian deserts. We spend many hours soaking in the sun and enjoying being alone in the desert.

We spent two days taking in the atmosphere and the awe inspiring vista of Petra. We rode camels and donkeys along the streets and pathways of Petra. Becky was given a gift of a necklace by a Bedouin girl that is one of her great treasures of this journey. Petra is a special place.

We saw the Dead Sea and enjoyed picnicking on one of its many cliffs. For 12 JD each (about $20 CAD) we enjoyed a brief float in the Dead Sea followed by a very cold shower!

We saw the rustic site of Jesus’ baptism and the construction of a tacky “baptism resort” on the Israel side of the River Jordan. We came within 5 or 10 meters of Israel, but never crossed over.

We drove through many police checkpoints with young men holding machine guns, smiling, and welcoming us to Jordan.

Overall, we very much enjoyed our time in Jordan although are wary of Jordanian health care, but were also very happy to return to Syria where you don’t feel ripped off every time you go to the market to buy vegetables. The influence of Egypt is strong (a country where poverty and tourism meet – such that tourists are constantly bombarded with scams and overinflated prices), but the friendliness and genuine hospitality of the native Jordanian’s provide a balance. It is definitely a country at the crossroads in the Middle East and is influenced by its various neighbours.

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