I'm a blogger living in Wollongong, NSW Australia. I enjoy travelling and exploring my hometown.
Published March 29th 2019
An unexpected trip to the Middle East
Last year, I received a call from Mum asking if I wanted to go to Jordan. She had found a half price tour. Without hesitation, I said yes, Jordan was not on my list of places to see but has been on Mum's for a long time and I would not go on my own.
So within a month, the whole family was booked on a 7-day Globus tour to Jordan in March 2019.
We immediately started researching the customs and expectations of the country knowing that it was 95% Islam.
The problem was there was not much information out there, for example with clothing, what people were writing was not matching their pictures. To put it simply you just need to wear loose clothes and cover up a little. As a female, just take a scarf everywhere with you as well.
On our trip, we stayed in Amman, Petra and the Dead Sea but made day trips to Jerash, Umm Qays, Wadi Rum, Wadi Mujib, Karak, Madaba, Mount Nebo and Bethany Beyond the Jordan.
After 18 hours on planes and longer in airports, we finally arrived in the capital of Jordan, Amman.
At the airport, we were greeted by a Globus representative before getting our visa and going through immigration. He told us what we needed to do to get our visas and then where to go. It was a fairly easy process and the longest wait was for our luggage.
We soon left the airport and quickly realised that there were no road rules - people were making their own lane and cutting in and out.
As we drove along the highway, we had doubts about our choice of holiday destination. It wasn't just the driving but there were people walking along the highway, people selling fruit and vegetables on the road and a lot of unfinished buildings. Then we got to our hotel the Kempinski and had to go through a security check.
We soon found out that our first opinion was wrong and that looks really are deceiving. The hotel staff could not do enough for us.
Our first day exploring started off with a failed attempt to walk Amman. The problems were most streets have no names, we had to cross a few big highways (say six lanes full of traffic), there were no apparent road rules and none of us had roaming, so no internet.
Without realising these were problems, we headed out to the end of the street and realised our phone GPS would not work without internet but we decided to continue and see what happened. We walked to the first highway and said we can't cross this. So we trudged the three blocks back to the hotel and asked for them to arrange a taxi to the citadel, thinking it would be easy from there.
The concierge arranged for a car to take us with a detour to the blue mosque known as King Abdullah I Mosque. Our driver, Waleed, was great, he talked non-stop about anything and everything. The Mosque was beautiful, Mum and I had to wear robes to go into it.
Then onto the citadel, which hosted spectacular views of Amman.
From here, we decided to get a taxi to the start of Downtown, which are the street of market shops. We had kababs from a shop tucked away in a lane and made plans for the afternoon.
We headed to the other side of town to the King Hussain Mosque only to be told non-Muslims were not allowed in. So we wandered down the garden to the main road in search of a taxi home.
The next day, we headed an hour and a half north to Jerash, an old Roman city.
We saw a shepherd with his herd roaming through the historic site. You would see them scattered over the landscape as we drove around but I did not think we would see them inside a historic site.
Next stop was a two-hour drive north-west to Umm Qais, where we saw the Jordan Valley, Sea of Galilee and looked into the neighbouring north-west countries.
We took the four-hour drive south-west to Wadi Rum, where we attempted to outrun the approaching storm in 4wd utes. The utes took us for a drive around the desert valley. However, the rain caught up to us after our Bedouin tea which was made by the Bedouin people on a fire pit in their tent. It was amazing.
Driving through Karak, we saw the most Jordanians, women, men and children. Being a Thursday, everyone was out preparing for the weekend, as Friday is their holy day of rest. Most women were either accompanied by a male or in twos and wearing the hijab and some had a burka. It was a very busy town with many shops and market stalls
After that, we made the one and half hour journey to Wadi Mujib which has walls 1000metres high.
Then on to Madaba, the city of Mosaics. Where we walked through the archaeological centre to look at some mosaics and peaked inside the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George the map of the holy land. This is a more Christian town and also busy with locals.
Then we were off to the Dead Sea
While staying at the Dead Sea we made an excursion to Bethany Beyond the Jordan which is about a 15-minute drive from the Dead Sea.
It is where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist and now has around 6 churches near the site. It was a simple place but very moving
We went into the Greek Orthodox Church to look at the mosaics and the Church while small was amazing. Across the Jordan River was Jericho in Jerusalem with many people getting baptised.
We also took the drive back up Mount Nebo, which is a mountain on the Arabic mountain range with amazing views into the Jordan River Valley, Dead Sea, Jericho and Jerusalem.
It is believed to be the site where Moses saw the promised land and we went into the church. It's all run by the Franciscan monks.
We also checked out the Handicraft centre of Mount Nebo where young people and people with special needs are employed and trained in mosaic making.
We spent the afternoon relaxing by the Dead Sea, some people went for a float but we were happy to explore the resort and rest up before the long flight home.
When we started telling people we were going to Jordan, people would ask if it was safe and why. Yes, it is safe otherwise why would Globus be running tours in that country. Actually, this tour was the first in five years for Globus and it was great. As a young female in an Islamic country, I felt safe, in fact, safer than I felt in New York.
Most people speak English, in fact, everyone we spoke to spoke perfect English. The people were very friendly and helpful.
The conflict in the Middle East has hit Jordan hard in many ways and they are only starting to come good again.
As a country Jordan does not have any major natural resources, however, they do export limestones, olive oil, fertiliser and vegetables among others.
Their unemployment is at an all-time high of 18% mainly because of all the Syrian refugees. They have attempted to provide and cater for the influx but the Syrian's are not the type of workers they need, they are more farming people and Jordan needs construction workers.
The landscape of Jordan varies greatly, we have driven past wind farms, solar farms, valleys of sandstone, granite and limestone not to mention red dirt and sand. They also grow a lot of vegetables and are self-sufficient in producing chickens and the majority of all their food.
In terms of food, buffets are very popular and range from 7JD up. They usually have a range of salads, pasta, rice, chicken, lamb or beef and sometimes fish with homemade bread. All of our dinners were supplied and eaten in the hotel buffet and most lunches were spent at other hotel's buffets - the food was excellent everywhere.
Jordan allows one million tourists a year as that is all its current facilities cater for. The people seem very forward thinking and one example is that they can see that they need tourists to keep coming. This is shown by the way they go out of the way they help you and at most tourist attractions, you can have a guide to take you around who speaks your language.
Overall it was a great experience, beautiful country and people. Seven days was not long enough, but it gave me a taste of a different culture and we were extremely surprised by the whole trip which was way better than expected.