Over the past few years, I have been to the Middle East a few times covering Dubai, Oman, Turkey, Israel and Jordan. Given a choice to go back to only one of these in the future, I would pick Jordan.
I have been to the country twice – in 2010 and recently in 2015, both times invited by the Jordan Tourism Board. While the agenda was to produce content to boost tourism, I could not help being impacted in more ways than one. Here is how:
1. A country at peace: Jordan is literally the eye of a hurricane sweeping surrounding countries including Egypt, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq. Despite its neighbours being in a continual state of internal and external wars, Jordan is peaceful. I could not have felt any more safer than I did in Jordan.
2. Home for the displaced: Jordan does not have oil riches, or any other for that matter. It does not even have enough water for its people. And yet, a country of seven million has provided home to another four million displaced from neighbouring countries. Is there a lesson here for the rest of the world?
3. You want to love the people: Jordanians are gentle, polite, warm and friendly – ever smiling no matter their circumstances. And they are fun – always ready with smart answers and gestures. I made friends with them spontaneously – they are so likeable. City folks and Bedouins alike.
Example: When I was leaving Jordan, security asked me to open my bags for examination since I carry a lot of cameras and hard drives in them. After going through the same, he said with a smile, “Sorry to have annoyed you.” Show me a security personnel like that anywhere in the world.
4. The simplicity of it all: The Middle East is a web of political intrigue, a chessboard for the world’s powerhouses. And yet, it seems Jordan takes a simplistic view of things. They may have been at war themselves with neighbours in the past, but the country prefers to be left alone, more worried about its residents than other issues.
5. A tourist wonder in this world: Jordan is home to Petra, deservedly one of the seven wonders of the world. But that is only the brighest of many other stars. Go to Jordan for the Wadi Rum, Jerash, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, the baptism site of Jesus Christ and Madaba to name just a few. Enjoy on-road and off-road drives, hire a camel, go up in a balloon, scuba dive, float on the Dead Sea, hike, take cruises – seek an experience and you shall have it. One trip is never enough to experience it all.
6. A Muslim country embracing all religions: According to my guide, there are no reliable demographics of people’s religions in Jordan. Why? It is considered impolite to ask one’s religion – and this extends to surveys conducted by the Government. In other words, Jordan is truly a secular country, allowing everyone the freedom to practice any faith.
I know I will be back in Jordan soon – to make more friends and have them show me around their wonderful country.
Follow my journey across Jordan here. The trips were sponsored by Jordan Tourism Board but they did not influence any editorial. #AJinJordan #VisitJordan