I had always wanted to visit Jordan. Maybe it started as a kid in elementary school when I found out there was a country with the same name as a girl in my class. Then when I worked in Qatar I had the pleasure of working with some incredible guys from Jordan, one being my boss. I didn’t get a chance to visit then, but as the Happy Nomad I knew I had no choice but to come and visit.
I was lucky to be welcomed into the home of a friend from business school. Lara invited me to stay with her family and her wonderful dog Saki and I was powerless to refuse such wonderful Arab hospitality. Her dad is a man of few words, but I learned so much from our conversations and he seemed to know everything about Jordan and the Middle East.
My exploration of Jordan started in a funny way. My friend dropped me off in front of the country’s most important mosque. It was on her way to work, there was a bank across the street where I could exchange money, and it was a good place to start exploration from. I went to the bank and exchanged some money. I asked the teller if I could enter the mosque across the street since there was a lot of police surrounding it. He said I couldn’t right now since the king was currently inside.
Not deterred by royalty, I went across the street to the mosque. I saw many police and asked one if I could go in and he said “now, very difficult..” He didn’t speak much English. I walked around to the other side and then saw two busloads of men with machine guns get out. I asked another one and he politely told me to come back in an hour. I never did go back there, actually. The king was there to pray on what was New Year’s Day in the Islamic calendar.
I did visit the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches across the street though. Yes, there are Christians in Jordan. Apparently they made up 30% of the population in 1950. Now they make up a much smaller percentage at 6%, though I presume it’s hard to measure. Recent geopolitical events (1990 Gulf War, 2003 Iraq War, Syrian Civil War) have pushed millions of refugees into Jordan and completely changed the demographics of the country. Early on, however, Palestinian refugees probably changed the demographics in the period immediately after 1948.
Jordan was far richer in culture and historical places than I ever could have imagined. I’ll share some the places I visited in future posts. But having just heard of Petra and Wadi Rum before coming, I realized how ignorant I was about this amazing country. Moses saw the “promised land” from Jordan. Jesus was baptized here, in the Jordan River no less. There are Islamic and crusader castles, Roman ruins, and the Dead Sea. Yes, it’s the lowest point on earth, a sea so salty you can’t help but float unnaturally. And the vegetation in the Dead Sea area is so different from the rest of desert-like Jordan (though the north of the country is somewhat green). The constant water supply from the river combined with a much warmer climate (since it’s so far below sea level) gives it a semi-tropical climate able to grow fruits like bananas, papayas, and more. I was amazed to see this!
Jordan was an incredible experience. Stay tuned to read more about it..