Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – Part I
Let me start by saying that my trip to Jordan was astonishing. Now, what I’m going to write about is what you’ve come to know and expect from me. There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly about group travel and my overall trip to Jordan. I’ll give it all to you because if I didn’t it wouldn’t be authentic. So here it goes…
This was my first experience with a group of travelers. There are some pros and some cons about traveling as part of a tour group: Pros – reasonable prices, well organized, site-seeing and great historical information (if you have a good tour guide & we did this time), some meals included, get to meet new people, make new connections, spend time with colleagues outside of work, feels safe, ease of getting through customs & immigration; Cons – questionable accommodations (because it’s reasonably priced), waiting on other people who aren’t respectful of the schedule, and you may run out of time to do what you really want to do. There weren’t enough cons for me to say I wouldn’t do a group tour again. However, it has to be the right trip with the right itinerary. I had the pleasure of going on this trip with 3 colleagues. It was a wonderful experience traveling with them and we hope to do some more travel together while we’re here.
Now, let me tell you about the wonderful Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (yes they do still have a king and queen and I saw the palace). I’m no history buff and didn’t really like the subject in school. As an adult, I’ve come to enjoy learning about history and have gained a true appreciation for it. I love museums and art and artifacts. So being in this part of the world with so much history at my fingertips is overwhelming, in a good way.
We arrived in Amman, Jordan, the nation’s capital. Experiencing airports in different countries is always eye opening for me. The Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan is a nice airport and it’s a nice size. We actually exited via jet way, which is a crapshoot around here. We were met by the tour company personnel and were led through immigrations without problem. I still can’t get used to people taking my passport but that’s part of the process when you do certain things. The immigration team collected all passports, stamped them, and returned them to the tour personnel. The bus didn’t leave the airport until everyone had his or her passports back in hand.
Sitting on the bus waiting to leave, I noticed a number of Mercedes Benz in the parking lot; I soon found, I wouldn’t see many more. Jordan is a poor country with a big heart. I learned about the vast number of refugees and illegal immigrants. I saw people living in tents on the sides of mountains. United Nations or Red Cross was printed on some tents. The housing structures were close in proximity and reminded me of inner city US housing. There were so many old school satelite dishes and many were rusted. I learned about the conservation of water and the guide point out to us the white barrels of water each family has on the ouside of their home. The currency in Jordan is the Jordanian Dinar (JD). $1 US = 0.71 JD or 1 JD = $1.40 US. They have beautiful currency. I’ve decided that the US has the ugliest currency. But I guess we’re starting to make ours a little more colorful. Sorry, I got a little side tracked. So when the tour guide told us it would cost 2 JD ($2.81) to take a taxi back to the hotel I was confused. That seems like next to nothing! And that’s pretty much how the shopping and spending went the rest of the trip. I’ll tell you about that in the next blog post.
Pulling away from the airport, things were pretty brown and lacked color. The roads were surprisingly good but seem a bit narrow. Perhaps that was because we were on a huge bus. The most noticeable thing for me was the amount of litter that lined the streets and highways. I’ve never seen anything like it. We asked the guide about this with no real good answer. He did mention that the more touristy locations were litter-free but the litter was a theme through the entire trip.
We settled in to our accommodations, The Toledo Hotel. Looking at trip advisor, it had 4.5 out of 5 stars! I think I would have rated it a 2 maybe 2.5. If you look at the website, it’s so deceiving. The rooms were spacious enough and clean for the most part but it felt a little grubby inside the hotel rooms. I wasn’t very impressed with the bathroom. There was some mold lining the tub and they only supplied bath towels. The bed wasn’t very comfortable but I can say it was much better than the bed at my apartment in Doha. The food was just okay. They served a breakfast buffet each morning without bacon 🙂 . I was more concerned about the cleanliness of the dishes, etc. It reminded me a lot of Super 8. There was wi-fi and that’s what’s important, right?
Another thing that I noticed immediately was the kindness of the people in Jordan. Jordanians are kind. I truly believe it’s a genuine kindness because as we gathered at the end of the days, we all had stories to share about someone’s kind gesture that we’d met. Being a black woman from the US, I noticed skin complexion too. There were darker Jordanians with jet-black hair and then there were lightly tanned Jordanians with dark hair and blue eyes. They too are beautiful people. It’s so nice to see so many shades of brown. I’m just saying.
Our tour began shortly after we arrived. Our first stop was the Citadel in Amman. Impressive structures and beautiful Mosques and Churches were explored. The on site museum held artifacts from 5 BC, the Stone Age, and the Iron Age and much more. There were ancient tombs on display as well as a marble Roman statue from 2e.d. AD. The inside of the church is what was most astonishing for me. The beauty of architectural details was silencing. You just stand amongst ancient history and it’s humbling and breathtaking.
Next, we moved on the Roman Amphitheatre. The place is just massive. The mossy stairs had great character. It was cool to see the wear and tear on the natural stones especially compared to the areas that were rebuilt (very little has been rebuilt, most is still original). I know my friends in construction would have a heart attack at the uneven steps climbing to the top. Literally, one step was 12 inches, followed by steps that are 6, 9, 5, 10, then 12 inches again. No rhyme or reason to it but you can successfully climb to the top if your are careful. I’ve never had a fear of heights but I was a bit freaked out by climbing all the way up there. I did make it though and my legs paid for it dearly the next day.
Also at the amphitheater is a museum. There was great mosaic art on display as well as samples of clothing and jewelry. I was most impressed by the jewelry because it resembles the jewelry that we have begun to wear again today: large bangle bracelets, dramatic necklaces, ect.
After that we had a great meal at a famous Jordanian restaurant called Hashem. The staff was accommodating and very nice. With a group of more than 25 people, we sat and were served immediately. It was family style and quite filling: bread, hummus, bean dip, falafel, fresh vegetables, and hot mint tea. It was delicious! And the falafel was the best!
Part II to come…Shopping, Petra, & the Dead Sea.