Number four in this series of guest posts is a Family in Jordan. Nicolas, Agnes and their 3 kids have nearly explored every corner of this small country and enjoyed it so far. Here is their summary of what they experienced and felt up to now. Merci Beaucoup for this guest post. If you like this one, make sure to check out the other posts in this series of guest posts.
A French version of the below article is available at their blog.
After more than half a year of presence in Jordan now, it is time to make a short assessment on it. We don’t have much feedback yet, but here’s how we “feel about Jordan”, using our 5 pairs of eyes, scrutinizing every place and every people crossing our path of life here 🙂
4 THINGS WE LIKE ABOUT JORDAN
- The landscape. It certainly lacks in originality, but it is equally, certainly true ! 🙂 We basically spend all our weekends cruising the country, by car or by foot, either following recommendations or trying to make our own path off the beaten tracks. What we liked it most until then? Of course, the “big 3” (Wadi Rum, Petra, Dead sea) , but there are so many different ways to visit them that one can easily avoid the “maintstream” tourism flow. Just to mention two examples: how to reach the Monastery in Petra by an alternative walk, or how to find fossilized shark teeth in Wadi Dahek , next to Saudi bordeline ! :-). We are equally astonished on how little our jordanian relatives know their own country. Two conclusions shall be drawn from this statement : (1) Jordan is absotuley georgeous, and (2) its cool places need to be more publicized so that tourism can expand, even for its own inhabitants ! 🙂
- The cultural and historic immersion in the middle-East. It is just vertiginous. Think twice about it: in which other area (let’s include the neighboring countries..) can you equally find the origins of the 3 main monotheist religions and the existence of unaccountable civilizations? Let me just state a couple of keywords to illustrate: the greeks, the romans, the nabatheans, the ammanites, the byzantines, the acadians, the sumerians? the ommeyads, the abbassids? the crusaders? Plus, we enjoy to discover and (try to) understand all the subtility of a tribal society, where the religion aspects are of course of the utmost importance. This is why we spend a lot of time documenting ourselves on just every cultural subjet that seems relevant to us. And there are actually quite a LOT of them: why is the kingdom called the Hachemite kingdom? And what is the difference between the keffiyeh and the shemagh?
- The (proper) way the family is considered in Jordan. It is completely opposed of what we used to deal with when we were in Paris. It seemed such a long time ago, and we really, really, really really don’t miss it. Hey, friends living dowtown in big cities in France : would you consider letting your kids play outside in the street after the sunset? Not really? hmm… Well, here in Amman, this is hardly an issue. Unsecurity or bad behavior towards the children looks like Sci-Fi around. When you go to a shopping mall, the last floor is usually ENTIRELY dedicated to food and entertainment for kids and family. In arabic culture, the family is the core of the tribe, the elementary nucleus of all the society. A couple of months ago, my 5-years old son was invited by a friend in her house for a “small” birthday party downtown. When we showed up there, it just looked like DisneyWorld: inflatables attractions, 70 kids invited, candy shops in the garden, clown show… Overall, it is very nice to walk around with kids : people just like people with kids !
- Linguistic whereabouts. When you go to Jordan, you expect people to speak arabic. Fine. You can learn and speak arabic here. There are dozen of schools. After beginning to learn fus7a arabic in Paris, I followed some courses at the french Institute in Webdeh. There are 6 different levels, depending an initial proficiency test. The courses are just fine, if your group has a reasonable size (mine had 7 students, it was just perfect). Also, remember that Locals are more than happy to speak arabic with a foreigner. Also, noneed to mention that it could also proves itself very useful when it comes to negociation..:-). I also recommend MSA and a very useful MOOC called Nassra Arabic Method (syrian dialect, close enough to the amiyeh). But not only ! Amman is at the same time a cosmopolit megalopol..and still a village. Which means that everyone can english, german, ro even russian if he wants to…Adn it is also VERY fruitful for the kids to have english and arabic courses..Again, it is very different compared to what we used to know before…
4 THINGS WE DISLIKE OR WE MISS IN JORDAN
- Pollution. Pollution and trash situation and forgetness of sustainable developpment are just a nightmare in Jordan in general, and not only in Amman. We hike a lot, and we find a a lot a wild garbage it just about every place we walk in. Less in the remote places, all right, where the trash appears to be more of an ancient issue. Would you imagine that in a capital city, there could be no way of recycling glass? Well, it is possible in Amman. Water situation is properly dramatic in Amman, and it is worsening ? (and please visitRSCN Azraq wetland reserve if you don’t believe me 😉 ). Nevermind ! Just let the doormen wash the cars every morning, wasting dozens of gallons so that the cars can appear nice and shiny. But unfortunately, there is no reason to be optimistic. After each week end, the path I’m used to running is full of plastic bags and trash left by the local families having barbecue. Here, a big effort should be done in education, but also in sanctionning. Otherwise, I’m afraid that all the best initiative would quickly reach their limits. And big up to ecohikers or ziadat4recycling, just to mention them.
- The wrong perception on the country. Almost all of our friends living in Jordan really enjoy it. ALL the family and friends visiting us in Jordan basically fall in love with this so charming country. Despite that, the tourist number is not that high. Also, we are always amazedon the wrong perception people have on the country up there in Europe. Let’s give you a short anthology of it :
- “hmmm, do you think it is secure enough to visit you in Jordan? (forgetting that we’ve been “surviving” with 3 children not that bad for a few months now);
- “I don’t speak english that well, and I can’t speak arabic, how could I cope here in the country?” (hey dude, like everyone else here: by smiling !)
- “Aren’t you afraid of the syrian conflict and what about the terrorist situation there?” (reminder: France has known 20 (yes, twenty) terror attacks since 2014, where as Jordan has known only 4 actual attacks in 4 years…But people are still afraid of finding the remains of Daesh in wadi Rum desert)
- ….(sigh :-))
- (mis) driving. Allright, Amman is neither Cairo, nor Beyrouth, and the road traffic is not as frantic as in those 2 cities. But one still have to be very cautious when it comes to driving in Amman. Forcing the way, forgetting the priority, using his phone on the road…I’ll stop the list here. And the worst is , that after some time here, it is very easy to behave the same way as they all do on the road… And the danger is not only when you are inside your car, it is also when you do you evening run in the streets, when you go cycling, when your kids cross the street…My personnal heroes are the valorous cyclists, trying to train every friday morning on the airport road. Respect to all of them ! 🙂
- And I’ll stop the list this is it, because we want to show that Jordan deserves more liking than disliking ;-). There would be no 4 negative aspects in our life here:-) .
PLACES YOU NEED TO KNOW
Let’s keep the list at 7 pieces of advice, randomly:
- go to Disah (wadi Rum northern village) and attend to the annual camel race in November. It is really fun. Stakes are high for the locals (wadirum and disah villages), as the winner of the race gets 3000 JODs and a golden sword !
- (try to) visit all the wadis on the eastern bank of the Dead Sea. There are lot of them. Even if you’re not fond of walking, make sure you visit the wadi Numeira, our favorite so far (video in the article) ;
- Hungry in Amman : go to the second circle in Amman and have a delicious shawarma for 1.25 JOD in Reem Cafetaria. Still hungry? allright ! Then go to Tamryeh Omat, and get some awamehs or zinab fingers !
- Enjoy the sunset at Amman citadel…Not that it is original, but the moment is just magic, especially when you hear from all around the muezzins call for the last pray of the day, before it’s dark (al maghrib);
- L’institut français de Jordanie – IFJ” proposes various and numerous cultural activities :theater, movies….Last month, a big event called “la semaine de la francophonie” was a very good occasion to discover french culture…often for free ! Please save the date for march 2019 !
A good french restaurant in Amman? sure ! …”la Maison Verte”, in Shmeisani. A little more expensive than a kabab, though;
- and finally….the french “baguette” : as far as we know, the bakery “Foron Rex” in Swefieh (opening hours : morning only) has interesting french homebaked bread…and croissants !
If you like this one, make sure to check out the other posts in this series of guest posts.