Jordan is a global treasure that everyone should visit once in their life. It is a great Middle Eastern destination that feels friendly yet excitingly unique. Whether it is Amman, Petra, or The Dead Sea that brings you to Jordan, expect an experience unlike anything before.
The relatively small country provides a sense of city, history, and nature all in one place! If it is your first time visiting the Middle East, this post gives a heads up on what to expect.
1. Culture Shock
I've never been to the Middle East and it felt like a different world from the moment we landed. The Muslim call to prayer was blaring in the Amman airport where not a single woman (except me) was uncovered from head-to-toe. This was my first experience with the call to prayer where it blared on loud speakers throughout the entire city 5 times a day (even 4am!).
Petra has blown up from tourism dating back to it's appearance in Indiana Jones. So be prepared to fend off other tourists for pictures, especially in the afternoon. The earlier you get to the tourists attractions like Petra and The Dead Sea, the better!
3. Friendly People With Strong National Pride
Jordan is a friendly country that is both peaceful and "free". As an American I expected to feel discomfort in the Middle East but actually felt welcomed with open arms. The Jordanian people were thrilled to show their beautiful country.
4. Gender Inequality
Yes the people were friendly but, as a female, I felt disrespected. For example, even though I repeatedly informed our guide of my name, he would only refer to me as "Kyle's wife." I'm not Kyle's wife, I'm his girlfriend, which I said a number of times to the guide that refused to address me directly. This seemed to be a common trend throughout the country that annoyed the hell out of me. Not to mention the vicious stares I got without a burka/headwrap at the airport.
5. Burkas / Headscarfs / Full Body Coverage
Most women are completely covered with nothing but their eyes showing. Headscarfs are a sign of modesty and faith, but of course are a form of female suppression.
To avoid unwanted attention, I covered my head in Amman and dressed conservatively - and I suggest any female travelers do the same. I just used a regular scarf from my bag! There was no need to cover in the touristy areas of Petra and The Dead Sea, however.
6. An Unforgettable, Unique Bucket list Moment
When you get past the slight stress of getting through places like Petra, Amman, and The Dead Sea, you will no doubt be absolutely blown away. Ancient treasures and starkly different cultures like this leave an imprint on you forever.
7. Tons Of Walking In Heat
Jordan gets hot - like 90-100 hot. Petra involves a lot of walking so wear tennis shoes, bring a hat, and drink lots of water.
8. Really, Really Delicious Coffee
Jordanian coffee is brewed with fresh cardamon pods and is utterly delicious. You will see hundreds of questionable shacks along the road but don't be put-off... they all have incredible coffee!
Expect extreme heckling. Whether it is for a camel ride, a post card, or other colorful trinkets, you will be hounded to by a ton of crap.
When we visited the Dead Sea, we somehow got swindled into a "natural" shop with dead sea products. I've never been so pushed to buy stuff and all the products were gross with a hundred creepy ingredients I couldn't pronounce.
The shop keeper was the type of person that would say anything to get you to buy something. I could have said "I'm deathly allergic to this ingredient", and he would assure me it isn't there even if it was. Nothing was natural and no pure sea salt was anywhere to be found. Avoid this trap!
10. Beige, tan, nude, kacky, and eggshell
These make up the many shades of beige in Jordan. It is a government mandate that you can only build with a particular white stone so all the buildings have the same off-white color. They blend into the desert landscape to create a sea of beige.
11. Syrian refugees
An unfortunate reality check are the Syrian refugees fleeing to Jordan in hopes of a better life. The refugees form a line around the block at the Syrian consulate in Amman as early as 4am. It was a wake up call to see this from the petty issues we often deem important in life.
12. Clean streets
Jordan has strict regulations for cleanliness in the country. Our driver told us that if he threw a t-shirt on the street a camera would capture it and he would be found and fined. Yikes! I guess it is nice to have no trash along the road...
13. Long Transit Time
If you are squeezing in a lot in one day, expect to be in the car for many many hours. The airport is an hour from the city center, Petra is 3 hours from Amman, and the Dead Sea is another several hours away after that. We had a long day of driving so be sure to take any snacks or things that you might need.