A difficult country for me to get excited about, as I have to admit I didn’t love it here. An expensive destination, yet no evidence of where the tourist money goes. Littering is a national hobby, as is charging exorbitant fees irrespective of quality and service. With so many historical sites and biblical drawcards on offer I feel Jordan can up its game to deliver a great visitor experience complete with bells and whistles.
Nestled between several countries who are experiencing tense political turmoil, Jordan has been labelled the “Oasis of Stability”. This is ironic as it’s the second poorest country in the world in terms of water resources per capita and at current usage levels it will soon run out. The Dead Sea is living up to its name and rapidly shrinking. Luxury resorts originally built on the shore are now a walk away across muddy sands, with cheap plastic chairs scattered along the salty waterline.
Predictions alarmingly state that the population of Jordan will double by 2047, due to high birth rates and welcoming Arabic speaking refugees with open arms. Already consuming more water than they are collecting Jordan is in strife! Real strife. Can they overturn this drought predicament? We can but hope.
So what about the good parts of Jordan? Petra. Definitely Petra. An ancient city in the Jordanian desert; known to most by featuring in the film Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Wandering along the siq, a narrow rock gorge, you start to wonder when you will first glimpse the sight you have flown to Jordan specifically to see. Then rounding a corner magically a slither of the façade of the treasury appears in view. Carved into the sandstone rock some two thousand years ago, the tomb looms over you resplendently basking in the bright morning light.
What surprised me about Petra was the enormity of the site, and how everywhere you look there are carvings in the rock. Whether it’s the grandeur of a tomb, an amphitheatre or a series of caves. A colonnaded street runs along one area with remains of Roman temples either side. Being in a rocky desert there are plenty of opportunities to climb to majestic heights and peer down on the city below. I spent two and a half days exploring and loved every minute. Well, except for the painful walk back up the steep hill to the new town and hotel epicentre.
One last point, I want to shout out the generosity of locals. Whilst people were very reserved and conversation was stilted, they demonstrated hospitality by continuing to surprise me and pay for things on my behalf. This could be your bus ticket, or a cup of tea. I was even invited to a home cooked dinner with a family I met in the main square in Amman. I felt very welcome by Jordan where it matters most – at grass roots level.