By: Savannah Hughes
Before leaving for Amman, Jordan, my grandparents sent me a barrage of articles with alarming headlines. “TERRORISM IN THE MIDDLE EAST.” “ISIS BOMBING ARAB NEIGHBORS.” “SYRIA HAS BEEN SET A BLAZE.” According to certain American media publications, the Middle East is one giant war crime where your neighbor either wears a niqab or a Kalashnikov. While getting these links with a “Love, Grandpa” at the end was disconcerting, I knew they were sent with the best of intentions.
Jordan suffers from living in a bad neighborhood. It borders Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Israel. Despite the tumultuous geopolitical situation, Jordan acts as a safe haven for the region. Their economy is relatively stable. The King and royal family is well liked. The crime rate is low. Jordan is doing well, all considered.
For those dying to live out their scruffy, adventurous Indiana Jones fantasies, Petra is 3 hours away from the capital Amman. It’s best to arrive early in the morning; be there around 7. That way, you can miss all the tourists in Hard Rock t-shirts and puffy white tennis shoes. You get the place to yourself. You can hang out with the Bedouins, take selfies with the camels, and climb 170 meters to al-Madhbah and pretend to sacrifice your travelling companion to the Gods. If an early morning hike isn’t your thing, there’s night time hikes. The entire area is lit up with thousands of candles and Bedouins will take you on tours and tell you about the ancient siq and people who lived there.
Jordan is freckled with opportunities like this. The Dead Sea is a 30 minute drive away. The Dead Sea is amazing because you have one main activity: bobbing. There is nothing else to do but to amble over to the Dead Sea, walk in (careful not get to any salty water in your eyes) and bob. If you’re feeling fancy, reach with your toes and slather some of the dark green mud on yourself. Because the Dead Sea is the lowest point below sea level, the mud has special minerals and other moisturizing properties. Wait 10 minutes for it to dry, wash off in regular water, and you’ll be pleasantly and surprisingly soft. However, swimming is never the same again. You’ll dive into the pool and be horribly surprised to find that you don’t float anymore.
As lovely as Petra and the Dead Sea are, there’s so much more to Jordan. There’s ancient ruins throughout the capital. You can amble through open-air gold markets. You can purchase saffron for pennies on the dollar. You can get pampered and exfoliated until it hurts so good in a marble Turkish bath. You can have your own Lawrence of Arabia moment and hike through Wadi-Rum. You see where Jesus was baptized. You can swim in waterfalls and watch vultures fly overhead.
Jordan is many things. It is dirty, weird, and confusing. But, it is also kind, warm, and hospitable. Everywhere I went, Jordanians called out, “Welcome to Jordan!” While it was definitely the only English phrase they knew, the sentiment was still lovely.
Ignore your grandparents. Jordan is not filled with jihadi strife, nor is it part of ISIS’s caliphate. It is a victim of its neighborhood. Jordan is worth the 8 hour plane ride.
You should go, man.