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. If you are interested to learn more about living in Jordan see my Ultimate Guide to Living in Jordan as Expat.
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 on 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 “mainstream” 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 borderline! :-). We are equally astonished by how little our Jordanian relatives know their own country. Two conclusions shall be drawn from this statement : (1) Jordan is absolutely gorgeous, and (2) its cool places need to be more publicized so that tourism can expand, even for its own inhabitants! 🙂
- The cultural and historical immersion in the middle-East. It is just vertiginous. Think twice about it: in which other areas (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 Nabataeans, the Ammanies, the Byzantines, the Acadians, the Sumerians? the Ummayads, the Abbassids? the crusaders? Plus, we enjoy discovering and (try to) understand all the subtility of a tribal society, where the religious aspects are of course of the utmost importance. This is why we spend a lot of time documenting ourselves on just every cultural subject that seems relevant to us. And there are actually quite a LOT of them: why is the kingdom called the Hashemite 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 to 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 downtown 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. Insecurity 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 a dozen 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 on 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, no need to mention that it could also prove itself very useful when it comes to negotiation..:-). 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 cosmopolitan megalopolis..and still a village. This means that everyone can English, German, or even Russian if he wants to…And 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 forgetfulness of sustainable development are just a nightmare in Jordan in general, and not only in Amman. We hike a lot, and we find a lot 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. The water situation is properly dramatic in Amman, and it is worsening? (and please visit RSCN 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 weekend, the path I’m used to running is full of plastic bags and trash left by the local families having a barbecue. Here, a big effort should be done in education, but also in sanctioning. 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 of 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 amazed by 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, whereas 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. Alright, Amman is neither Cairo, nor Beyrouth, and the road traffic is not as frantic as in those 2 cities. But one still has 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, but it is also when you do your evening run in the streets when you go cycling when your kids cross the street…My personal 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 of 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 (wadi rum 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 a 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 Cafeteria. Still hungry? alright! 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 a 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.