Jordan is a lyrical country where music
filters within routine daily chores as often as it wafts across
landscapes both lush and dry. Listen as you wander.
Lyrical voices drift over archeological
sites giving in-the-moment invitations to accompany musings
about ancient cultures. Connect the eras with intention.
The alphabet is graceful too, offering
intriguing sight lines to accompany the sounds. Gaze at signs
with or without translations to feel the flow of local writing.
Arabic letters in Jordanian handwriting and
printing appear calming, soothing and artistic.
travel to Jordan?
History was born here, so say Old
and New Testament scholars. Perhaps that’s reason enough to walk
where Jacob and Esau struggled over their birthright or Moses
looked toward the Promised Land.
Reports about the Ammonites and Moabites
might swirl in your head, but Jordan gives life to the places
the Biblical stories represent. See the statue some say is Lot,
mother of Moab and Ammon, near the Dead Sea.
Moses viewing the
Promised Land can be channeled by visitors to Mount Nebo in
Sing “There Is A Balm in Gilead” more
heartily after being in the plains of Gilead. Contemplate
baptism with more depth after a dip in the now-shallow River
Reading the names of modern-day
places while standing where Moses once did is humbling.
Camels call Jordan home, and
opportunities abound to make their acquaintance. Admiring
doleful eyes and knobby knees in a western zoo pales by
comparison with up-close experiences in Jordan.
Hail a camel as if a cab in Manhattan and
negotiate your price.
In the ancient city of Petra, where the
Nabataean people carved buildings in massive sandstone of rose,
purple and yellow hues in the first century BC, camels now
provide the transportation system for visitors not relishing a
walk of five or more miles.
Balancing as the camel stands
or sits is an affair for gasping.
Call up the fine documentary on public
television’s Nova website, but also go yourself. Linger in the
spice shop called Rosemary Petra to sniff the same aromas and
sip some tea.
Camels carried spices in huge caravans
during Petra’s heyday; shapeshift to imagine this ancient city
once accommodating a dozen caravans with 600 – 700 camels in
Entering a spice shop in Petra
connects travelers to the purpose of ancient camel
When you are really in Jordan, join a
caravan to traverse the vast Wadi Rum for a richer desert
experience. Reading “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” first to be
steeped in the Lawrence of Arabia history deepens the time on
that gentle, forward-lurching ride.
Black goat hair tents mean home
to nomadic Bedouins in Jordan, and overnight lodging for
Time is endless in this desert created by
shifting Tectonic plates but visitors can control their camel
time arranging rides of 10 or 15 minutes just for the encounter,
45 minutes for a specific journey connecting two overnight camps
as I did or longer in consultation with Jordanian tourism
Archeological sites beckon
throughout Jordan’s Rift Valley, showcasing rediscovered
cultures within ancient geology. Visit Rome for its ruins if you
like, but take a picnic to Jerash to find a concentration of
excavations inviting immersion in Greek, Roman and Byzantine
communities. All day wouldn’t be enough.
Layers of passing time are clear in Jerash.
Gazing toward an olive
press is reasonably interesting, but clearly distinguishing
different stone formations built on top of the previous
civilization is monumental.
Experience holy places from
ancient civilizations in the Jerash archeological site.
So is musing about the meaning of holy
places in the midst of excavations. For me, being quiet in front
of the Temple of Artemis, daughter of Zeus, provoked profound
gratitude. Had I lived then, instead of visiting now, I would
not have found access to this holy of the holiest spaces.
Choose travel to Jerash in late July any
year because the arts can piece together understanding as
enormous as these Tectonic Rift Valley plates. Hope I can return
then, with intention.
Here’s why: A Festival for Culture and Arts
happens within the archeological site for two weeks! What a
Jordan invites engagement in
archeology through arts festivals within historic sites.
Poetry, song, folkloric troupes,
symphonies, ballet – in the Greek, Roman, Ottoman Empire
theaters, colonnaded streets, plazas, columns and
yet-to-be-excavated grassy hills where Bedouin sheep graze.
Sounds like an avenue for understanding: my
reason for travel.
Connecting some dots of culture and history
America’s quite excited about the
centennial of the National Parks, but 2016 means a lot to
Jordanians too. A well-prepared traveler might have already
known this 100-year Middle East connection, but I figured it out
in the seaside town of Aqaba.
Great Arab Revolt began there and Jordanians are proud to
explain how that signifies change a century ago from the
oppressive Ottoman Empire to the much-revered Hashemite Kingdom.
Evidence of local love for King Abdullah II
and Queen Rania abounds. Their formal, obligatory photos hang in
many places but fanciful pictures do too, showing daily
Relationships with Kingdom
leaders abound throughout Jordan.
Just ask the sidewalk bookseller in the
capital city Amman.
His poster-sized photos document the King and Queen as readers,
supporting indy bookstores and visiting his! Of course, stop in
at Habiba just down the street, too, because that’s the 24-hour
place to get the delectable pastry known as knafeh.
Pastries rank high on favorite Jordanian culinary
bucket lists. This is knafeh.
Check out involvement with the royal
Hashemite family on Twitter because Queen Rania maintains active
dialogues on many social media feeds. It’s the way I’m staying
current with initiatives along the Jordan River and within
Syrian refugee camps.
What a contrast to attitudes elsewhere. In
Jordan, people seek ways to help refugees in crisis, thousands
of them, organizing to provide every Syrian refugee child with
access to an education.
Adjusting my western reactions to the look
and the sounds took a few days, and that’s curious since I
traveled so far on purpose,
differences. Why do judgmental attitudes arise?
|Respectful travelers do not
photograph Muslim women.
This painting suggests the
curiosity visitors feel.
Fashion was a jolt, starting with the
12-hour flight on Royal Jordanian Airline. Most of the women
were going home, dressed in a chador, covering their heads like
a shawl, and many in an abaya with only face, hands and shoes
showing. Comfortable, not burdened seemed to be their
My seatmates in a row of three were
Palestinian sisters. Babies
and toddlers were admired and assisted all night—no grumblings,
just gracious family support from flight crew and passengers.
Take advantage of the long flight instead
of waiting for wheels down to begin the journey.
Books on tape in the entertainment system
include the Quran. Conversations across the aisle indicate the
widespread Jordanian hospitality and reaffirm the sense of
safety and security in the Kingdom.
in the sounds of language through the flight softened my ear to
embrace the lyrical invitations to prayer five times a day,
everywhere I traveled: wafting through my window in a downtown
hotel or floating across archeological excavations from a mosque
I could not see or merging with the bleating of the sheep in a
Simply absorbing the sense of place
with wayfinding signs can be powerful in Jordan.
The repetitive beauty of the call to
worship provided a balance I had not anticipated when planning
my visit to the Jordan River site of the baptism of Jesus.
In this land where many say history was born, many
Petra in all its rock-carved magnificence
also speaks to the ever-prevalent talk of peace in the Middle
East. That’s because the Nabataean people credited with shaping
this economic hub embraced diplomacy, not war.
Notice multiple languages carved in the
buildings, and architectural styles reflecting as many lands as
the camel caravans passed through.
Petra was not an isolationist economic power.
Almond eating at home is routine,
but Jordan travelers find raw nuts to munch in roadside
Light-hearted experiences abound all
through Jordan too, tasting raw almonds from a street vendor and
keeping track of how many ways you can eat eggplant.
Strolling the commercial souk in every
community means touching luscious, fresh produce because shops
are close and pathways narrow. Hurrying would be silly because
shopkeepers trigger a cadence one with another as they tout
Marketplaces are lively,
colorful, musical in Jordan. Stroll slowly to soak the
ambience in the souk.
Slathering your own body or a stranger’s
with Dead Sea mud creates laughter, and then serenity since
everyone floats languidly as the 21 mineral properties provide
their healing touch.
Sharing coffee with a Bedouin family, in
their goat-hair tent, and then bread called shraak just out of
the fire, opens up yet another deep connection to this land and
Spending the night with the Bedouin deepens
the relationship even more.
Those details need to wind their way into
another story, another day.
American Roads and
Global Highways has so many great articles you may
search it for you favorite places or new exciting destinations.