However, Jordan is different than the standard, what-you-read-in-the-headlines perception of the Middle East. Touted as the most easygoing and liberal country in the region, Jordan is chock full of adventure, scenery and downright pleasant hospitality. Don't believe me? Read on to discover why you should be on the next flight to Amman!
A Mecca of Adventure
Whether you want to scuba dive in the Red Sea at Aqaba or hike through the surreal, unearthly landscape of Wadi Rum, Jordan is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts. Truthfully, I can't figure out why more avid explorers haven't ventured to this small pocket of the globe because it is teeming with adventure.
In addition to the more notable sites mentioned above, there are tons of lesser-known areas that should be on every traveler's list. Love the feel of towering cliffs rising above you? Definitely check out Wadi Ghwayr, a visually stunning slot canyon located inside the Dana Biosphere Reserve. The entire canyon is a 15km trek, filled with vividly patterned sandstone and turquoise blue water. Hanging gardens drape perilously over the edge, dripping welcoming droplets onto your head as you scramble and splash your way through the narrow canyon. It's a full day trip and you'll likely want a guide, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze!
It may stem from their Bedouin roots, but Jordanians are honestly the most gracious people I have ever encountered on my world travels.
Not only were they incredibly friendly and helpful, but the people I met were sincerely curious about me and who I was as a person. We met dozens of school girls at some ancient ruins outside of Amman, and they were so innocently intrigued with our group! The girls snapped photos with me, stroked my hair and held my hand, all so they could breach the language barrier and get to know me. We even spent an afternoon lunch with a local family outside of Madaba, and I was astonished at how attentive they were to our needs. The family cooked a spectacular meal and filled the water fountain with our beverages, just to ensure that the drinks stayed cold. I felt beyond welcome in their home.
Coming from the United States, I'm fascinated when I can find a building that is more than a few hundred years old. That said, the historical sites in Jordan take the concept of "history" to an entirely different level!
Of course, Jordan features its most prominent tourist attraction in Petra, aptly named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Not only is the entire city cut out of the rock, but it was also established as early as 400 BC. The city remained "lost" until the early 1800s when a European disguised himself as a Bedouin in order to sneak his way into the mysterious location.
However, Jordan is brimming with history in addition to Petra! Jerash, a Greco-Roman site located 30 miles north of Amman, dates back to 2000 BC. Of course, Jordan also flaunts plenty of religion-based history too: Mount Nebo, the Jordan River, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, and the Madaba Map can all be found within the country.
Ranging from Turkish coffee and Bedouin tea to pickled cauliflower and delicious hummus, my palate was never bored!
In Jordan, food is not only a means to stave off hunger, but is also a time for celebration with family and friends. The most common style of eating is called mezze which is a small plate, communal style of dining. It involves various plates of food with lots of bread for dipping or scooping. Our guide joked that Jordanians like to eat dessert first so that they are guaranteed to get the good stuff before they are too full to enjoy it. My favorite of the sweets was knafeh, a Levantine cheese pastry soaked in a sweet syrup. Yum!
A Safe Haven
Unfortunately, most tourists are hesitant to visit the Middle East because of the constant turmoil and strife that is seemingly rampant in that region of the world. Jordan, perhaps the most liberal country in the area, is exceedingly safe. More than anything, friendly locals want you to love their country as much as they do, and truthfully, I would feel comfortable traveling solo as a female. The people are the heart and soul of the country and their warmth is contagious. All it takes is a day or two to realize that Jordan is a special place; I know I'll visit again one day.
*Featured image by Dennis Jarvis. This image was modified.