This is my first time in the Middle-East since February of 2016. As I have wrote in previous blogs, I left Bahrain early last year, after a long breakdown in mental health.
But that’s not what this post is about.
Jordan has been on my list of countries to visit since my friends (read family) moved here from South Africa.
As I worked my way back to the U.S. from New Zealand, I had two weeks to fill (lucky me right?) between Australia and the U.S. by the end of July. What better way to spend that time than to catch up with close friends in a new country?
Outside of Petra and the Dead Sea, I had zero idea of what the Hashemite Kingdom had to offer.
Honestly, I was scared shitless when I first arrived. Here I was, back in the Middle-East, spending a week on my own (during the day), no idea of where I was in the country, nor what was safe to do on my own.
Regardless of my friend’s encouragement and constant reassurance that, indeed, Jordan was a safe place, I was still apprehensive to leave the house.
But, I took the first step.
Day two on ground was a short trip to Taj Mall, via an Uber.
Yes, Uber exists outside of the U.S.. In fact, it’s really no different here than what you would find almost anywhere else in the world. Use the app, plot your to-from, and a car shows up.
The difference in Jordan is, it’s not quite legal— yet. When I went to get in the back of the driver’s car, I was told to sit up front due to police checks. I guess a large bearded Sasquatch sitting in the back of someone’s car is a bit suss.
I won’t go into detail on why it’s illegal here, as this Jordanian Times article does it a better justice.
Once arriving at Taj Mall, I was quick to get in and out of the heat. Immediately upon entering, I was funnelled through a metal detector and patted down to insure I had no funny business on me or in mind. This, I later discovered was pretty standard around Jordan’s landmarks.
The mall itself offered all the high-end stores I was accustomed to in Dubai and Bahrain, such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, Armani, etc. etc. Though, unlike Dubai and Bahrain, the idea of locals purchasing high-end fashion makes sense, as the dress here runs the gambit from relaxed Westerner (lack of better words) to conservative Al-Amira (women) and Keffiah (men). (Check this link for what I’m talking about)
After roughly an hour of going in circles around the three floor mall, I reached my fun limit for the day.
Once again, I used the [il]legal ride share app to find a ride back to my host’s home and plan the next day’s adventure.
So ended day two on the ground.
In an effort to limit the length of this blog, I’ll share my list of places visited and notes taken.
Before that, I wanted to quickly summarise my experience here. I am greatly appreciative for my host’s, full stop. They were accomodating, had taken time to drive through villages and towns that seemed really sketch, at the time, and helped bridge the gap into Jordan. Additionally, having lived, worked, and travelled through various parts of the Middle-East and Gulf states, I believe Jordan to be a place where you can get a feel for the culture, language, geography, and art in this region, without the crippling fear of terrorism. Finally, I would recommend visiting to anyone looking for a 1-2 week adventure, and as a jump-off point to the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Israel, Jerusalem, and Egypt.
- Hashem’s (Amman): Excellent food; no menu, with a standard of pita, hummus and falafel; 4-5 JOD (Jordanian Dinar) for two people. Apparently King Abdullah II, ruler of Jordan, occasionally eats here. Side note: As a tourist, you may be seated with other foreigners, as had been my experience.
- Trinitae Soap House (Amman): Expensive, yet quality locally made soaps, as well as Dead Sea salts and mud.
- Amman Citadel: Multiple era ruins atop one of seven mountains in Amman; 1-2 hours recommended to visit; be prepared for tour guides to approach as soon as you enter (guide not required); can be reached on foot or by car; suggest visiting in the spring or fall as there is limited shade; café located at the entrance for snacks/water; no pedlars.
- Amman Roman Amphitheater: Roman half-circle amphitheater offering views of the Hashemite Plaza and surrounding hillsides; 30-60 minutes recommended; bring your own water and expect pedlars trying to sell water.
- Ola’s Garden (Amman): Local female run art and jewellery studio.
- Love on a Bike (Amman): Another local female run art and pottery studio; small shop with limited works; great conversation with a fluent english speaking local.
- Karak Castle (Karak): 8th century BCE castle with loads of history; offers winding caves, rooms, and towers to explore; suggest bringing a flashlight if you want to go castle spelunking; 1/2 day visit; plenty of shade; wear shoes as it is gravel/dirt once inside the compound; very well in-tact for its age; no pedlars seen inside.
- Jarash (Jarash): Acient Roman site with long stretching grounds to explore; suggest visiting in spring/fall as there is limited shade; expect pedlars from the time you enter the visitor center to the time you leave– including throughout the grounds; suggest 1/2 visit; wear shoes as it is mostly dirt/dust throughout; bring water or pay one of the many pedlars.
- Dead Sea: Of course, it’s the Dead Sea, why wouldn’t it be on my list? We stayed at the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa, as it was one of the top rated joints and had a more affordable rate to the Kapinski and Hilton, at the time. Beyond the four pools that descended with the terrain, you reached a steep sloped walk to the Dead Sea. The access was sloped and we did have to crawl over a few rocks before being able to get our bodies in the water. It’s a pretty surreal experience to say the least. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but let’s just say if you ever wanted to float like a complete idiot without the worry of breath control while looking at the West Bank, then this is your spot.
Final note: Why isn’t Petra on the list? After my host’s personal account of the cost for tourists (non-locals) of 90 JOD ($126.97), vice the 1JOD for locals, plus the overwhelming nature of pedlars, the thought of driving almost 3 hours each way from Amman, seemed to be a waste of my time. But again, that’s my personal opinion.