We were not prepared for the Middle East. Our western education taught us to look at history as linear. But, Jordan taught us otherwise. We were not prepared for the continuous layers of human stories, with some places feeling very modern, while others feeling that they had not changed for centuries. Camels saddled and harnessed with handwoven blankets and reins parked next to a brand new Land Rover. Lunch prepared over an impromptu wood fire. Remarkable feats of engineering and dazzling works of art from past millennia.
Above all, Jordan is a crossroads – an intersection of peoples and ideas and religions and time. It’s evident in the art, the architecture, the culture, the ever-present welcoming cup of tea. Rather than building walls to keep others out, they have built roads and oasis’s and places to shelter for the night.
Originally, we had planned to drive ourselves, and had a rental car reserved. We had asked our hotel in Madaba to arrange for a driver for a day in Amman, and then we would take it from there. Our hotel manager reviewed our travel plans, and encouraged us to consider hiring a driver for our entire trip. We weren’t sure about this idea, as we spending several nights in each location, and had local plans already arranged at each location. After considering time and cost, hiring a driver was the best idea. Our driver was able to give us more of the local flavor for Jordan. He dropped us off and picked us up as arranged all along the way. He introduced us to the little Bedouin coffee stops along the way, and he helped interpret small conversations with locals who spoke no English. We highly encourage a driver.
Locally, we did not hire guides, except where required, or when traveling near the Syria/Jordan border. At the time of our trip (March 2018), Damascus was under heavy bombing attacks – our connecting flight from Istanbul to Amman took a wide arc to avoid the Syrian airspace. Despite the conflict just to the north, Jordan seemed to be a safe haven.
The best investment is the Jordan Pass. If you are staying at least three nights, and there are several options, depending on how many days you plan to visit Petra. Even if you only visit a Petra, it’s a worthwhile investment.
We met few Americans along the way. That’s fine. We prefer the company of fellow travelers instead of vacationers skipping across the continents to collect passport stamps and add another notch in their travel belt.
We skipped the Marriott’s and the packaged tours. We found the friendly and welcoming people and the incomparable landscape, as have millennia of visitors. Welcome to Jordan!