Have you had some trepidation when thinking about traveling to Jordan? After visiting more than 46 countries, may I say that your fear is unwarranted as visiting Jordan this past May was one of the best travel experiences I have ever had!
As a result of being at the junction of Europe, Africa, and Asia, Jordan has spectacularly varied terrain – from forests to deserts – as well as a long history of hospitality and culinary traditions. Easily ranking as one of the must-have countries on any travel bucket list, below are some Jordan travel tips and activity suggestions that will make your (family) experience even more enjoyable.
First, let’s address a misperception about Jordan in that its geographical location makes it an unsafe destination for travel both in terms of personal security as well as for female travelers. This notion is simply untrue. Despite lingering local problems with immigration from Iraq, refugees from Syria, unemployment, and inflation, Jordan is a very safe country to visit. The country’s King Abdullah II is very well regarded for introducing democratic reforms and for supporting the continued peace between Christians and Muslims.
Our small group (consisting of 8 women and 3 men – Millennials to Baby Boomers – from all over the world) travel experience began in the north of the country in Jerash (photo above), which is located approximately 45 minutes from the border with Syria. Tourism is thriving in this area with many opportunities to not only see historical treasures such as the best preserved Roman city in the Middle East but, more importantly, to share a meal with local families – in many cases in their own homes.
As for female travelers, there was never a time when us ladies felt unsafe or that there was unwarranted attention. Because Christians and Muslim girls go to school together (some with headscarves, some not), not wearing a headscarf while we were walking on our own through Amman, for example, was not an issue. Certainly, it helped that we dressed conservatively by wearing short sleeves and long pants or dresses, but even when we saw young ladies in shorts and sleeveless tops in Petra, there was no harassment.
Lots of Women-Managed & Empowered Tourism Activities!
One of my favorite activities while on tour was a visit to Bait Khayrat Souf, located 20 minutes outside Jerash. This local, women-run cooperative provides delicious family-style lunches and dinners, cooking classes and a shop that sells jams (they make more than 40 varieties of jams with the ginger-orange being my top pick), its unique acorn coffee (photo below), teas, and herbs. They work with local farms to source all of their ingredients and products and are also starting to offer village biking tours. It’s a great example of the emphasis that is being placed on social, economic, and environmental sustainability that has more recently led to the development of the Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan. Another example of women empowerment was visiting the Hikayet Sitti Food Basket in Madaba.
Jordanians are Genuine Hosts!
As a Greek, I grew up with the concept whatever I have to share is yours. So when Jordanians continuously opened up their homes and made sure that we felt welcome, the notion was familiar.
For example, during a Bedouin village walking tour in Dana Nature Reserve, our guide, Suleiman, was quoted as saying, “Charity is one of the five pillars of Islam, you know. It’s also a part of Bedouin life. We have a saying here – ‘give without remembering, take without forgetting’. I wish more people would think like this.” What a profound statement!
As we explored Feynan, we quickly learned that with a simple “excuse me” cough or “a-hem” as we entered someone’s land, we would be invited in to share a coffee (photo below) or quite literally break bread in an open-air living room. Our hosts were happy to share their heritage, wisdom, and smiles – and for many of us, being disconnected from social media, if only for a little while, felt freeing and peaceful.
The Food is Delicious!
Similar to countries in the Mediterranean, you won’t go hungry traveling in Jordan. From kenafeh, which is cheese (similar to mozzarella) and semolina drenched in rose-scented syrup and topped with ground pistachios to the national dish of Mansaf, which is a mixture of rice, lamb, and dried goat’s milk yogurt, Jordanian dishes are all amazing and can accommodate to vegetarian tastes quite easily.
Feynan Ecolodge is a Blueprint for the Middle East
About 7 years ago, I met Nabil Tarazi, who manages Feynan Ecolodge (noted as one of the best 25 eco-lodges in the world by National Geographic Traveler Magazine) and it became my #1 reason to visit Jordan. Nabil’s passion for sustainability is found in every aspect of operations with this special lodge. From solar panels that provide all electricity to water filtration to eliminate plastic waste to immersive experiences with the Bedouins in the community to its special partnership with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, which is a Jordanian NGO devoted to the protection of its finest natural landscapes, this 26-room lodge offers serene courtyards, terraces lit by candlelight, star gazing, and most of all, direct benefits to the local Bedouin community. It’s a true gem that offers a blueprint for what social and environmental responsibility means in Jordan.
Adventure Opportunities All Around
Whether it’s exploring the vastness of Petra or taking a jeep tour of Wadi Rum (filming site of the movie, The Martian) or snorkeling in the Red Sea or floating with a mud mask on the Dead Sea or hiking and biking sections of the Jordan Trail or visiting the Baptismal site of Jesus, there are many opportunities for adventure in Jordan.
Watch the video below for more views of what’s on offer for travelers in Jordan.