As my fourth day in Amman, Jordan unwinded I felt a strong desire to reflect upon my time thus far in this dynamic country. Though a self-proclaimed “Global Citizen” my experience with international travel is quite limited. I was born in Kinshasa, Congo and my family moved to Dallas, Texas at age six, but I have yet to travel outside the continental U.S. until now (well there was this one time in Mexico, but I don’t really count that).
This might explain why I’ve left the states with two full-size suitcases, a carry-on and a backpack which are both at capacity (partly due to inexperience; partly to last minute panic). In fairness to myself this stop in Jordan is the first in my 14-week graduate semester abroad (i.e. experiential learning quest) to see international development in action in two very different parts of the world with completely opposite climates–hence the luggage overload.
Officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, many characterize the country as a “good country in a ‘bad’ neighborhood of countries.” Bound by Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, Saudi Arabia to the east and south, and Israel & Palestine to the west it is no surprise why one might hesitate to willingly venture to this part of the world due to its entrenchment in cultural, political and religious conflicts.
Nevertheless my edge to want to gain international field cred and desire to experience life in a part of the world that is beyond my comfort zone both led me to sign the dotted line with little hesitation. Since we’re only in Jordan for ten days (the rest of my time will be spent in Dili, Timor-Leste) our program is making sure we waste no time in meeting our learning objectives while creating ample space for us to explore the sights and culture that make up this relatively stable country cradled in the hotbed of the Middle East.
As a recap of my four days in Amman thus far, here are my eight blog-worthy takeaways from Jordan:
- Snow happens in the Middle East: My arrival in Jordan happened to correlate with “Huda,” a blizzard that took the Arab world by storm just a few days before and delivered a royal police mandate of no-driving-after-6:00-PM-or-get-license-confiscated-for-not-adhering-to-mandate. So much for escaping winter.
- Jordan has been a safe haven for Palestinian refugees for many years and is now continuing that role for other refugees of the Arab world. Within five years, the country’s population has gone from 6 to 13 million due to its hosting of refugees. The Hashemite family policy of receiving refugees is based on respect for humanity.
- Criticism of the royal family is not liked by citizens because that is a symbol of criticizing Jordan’s stability. The Hashemite Kingdom is a relatively modern state, carved out of the desert in the aftermath of the great Arab Revolt and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. Its present King is only the fourth generation of his family to occupy the Hashemite throne.
- Honor killings are a real thing that families do for their daughters if they engage in premarital sex and/or infidelity. In Jordan, honor killings are more common among Christian families, hence it is important to pay attention to what the media presents as Islam vs. what else it could be, because people are driven more by culture than by religion.
- Male-female PDA and homsexuality are not legal nor culturally welcomed — though neither illegal public displays of affection between males and females and same-sex couples are vehemently unacceptable.
- Jordanian women are highly educated yet very underemployed. Relative to other countries in the Middle East women’s rights are better in Jordan–however women are still disproportionately employed compared to their male counterparts with the same level of education.
- Not all taxi drivers plan to take you away and never return you, contrary to popular western paranoia, even if they kid that they will just to see your reaction. This is because Jordanians, as informed by the same “jokester” taxi driver, are particularly kind and welcoming people.
- Conservation and water resources are desperately needed. The country’s water supply has severely decreased since the 1970’s due in part to influx of refugees, the Gulf War, and recent wars in neighboring countries.
Though a small country with limited resources, Jordan is said to be the heart of the Middle East. Given the country’s progressive policies, cultural diversity and its strategic location in the region, I’m not surprised why the Hashemite Kingdom is a leading advocate for cohesion and stability in the Arab World. I look forward to digging deeper and further processing more of my experience here in Amman and the road ahead.
Mariel Kanene is Founder and Editor of TheArtOfPersptive.co and lead storyteller with a focus on music, startups and travel. His passion for storytelling was born in Kinshasa, Congo and bred in Washington, DC where he resides. By day, Mariel spends his days slowly trying to change the world—one meaningful interaction at a time. He loves reading factual-fiction, good podcasts, traveling, health and fitness, foreign languages and good conversations over good coffee and even better rum. He hates talking about himself in third person.Thanks for stopping by. Always appreciated. Find me on: Twitter | Instagram | Linkedin | Website.