I love travelling and I would love to go around the world. But previously, Jordan seemed to be an impossible destination to me. Middle East is always interesting, but somehow I found it a bit difficult, in terms of security and mobility.
Then, my friend, Yana, moved with her family to Amman, after surviving a war zone in Syria. This family is quite interesting. Yana is married to a Turk, whom she met when they studied together in Christchurch University in New Zealand (their story was published in an anthology book in Indonesia ^_^). Yana has invited me several times to visit her, but because of my study, I had to postpone it.
Long story short, finally I arrived at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman in October 2012. It was almost midnight, so I barely saw anything on the street. As soon as we arrived at her home, I quickly fell asleep.
The next day, I had an opportunity to get around Amman. My first impression, Amman was not so well-developed. More or less like Jakarta, where some parts were well-organized and the other parts were a bit slum. There were some traffic, but not as bad as Jakarta, I guess. Using public transport? Well, I think it was not a good idea for me. However, taxi was quite cheap. So, when Serkan (Yana’s husband) was not available to take us somewhere, we would just hop on a taxi. The drivers were okay, especially when they knew that we come from Indonesia, the largest Muslim population country in the world. They would say anything good about our country. I thought they just wanted to be nice…
Anyway, surviving in Amman is not a mission impossible. And it is not a war zone anyway, but I would like to share some tips here to make your life easier there:
- Visa. For Indonesian green passport holders : we can enter Jordan with visa on arrival for 20 JD. I paid cash (there was a money changer inside the immigration gate, but I am not sure if you can pay it by credit card). They asked me about my visit (purpose, length, accommodation, etc), but since I would stay with the residence, I needed to show an invitation letter, which has been sent by my host family a few days earlier. My visa was valid for one month.
- Taxi. Taxis were quite affordable in Amman. I recall there were two types of taxis: with air conditioning and without air conditioning. The first one is more expensive, but it was still affordable. I don’t really remember the distance between the Old souq and Um uthaina (30-min driving), but it only cost us 5 JD with air-con taxi. Women should sit at the back unless you don’t have any space at the back. Men should sit beside the driver. Actually, it is their way to show respect to women, because back seat is considered safer and cleaner.
- Still taxi. It is very good to know your destination in Arabic and mentioned some landmarks. It is better to mention “Taj Mall”, instead of “Ali bin Abu Thalib street”.
- Still taxi. Make sure the drivers know your destination before you get in, and don’t compromise for something that you don’t know. Transaction with the taxi drivers can be very fluid.
- Cloth. Just like typical Muslim countries, don’t reveal your skin too much and never ever think about showing off your cleavage. Hijab is not a mandatory, but a woman with dignity is expected to be covered.
- Cloth again. That is okay if you want to wear your two-piece bikini at the beach. People just understand it. But most Jordanian hijabis (hijabi = ladies with hijab) and other hijabis from other countries will wear their burkini (swimming suit with hijab :D). For me, it was a quite interesting view of mixed values.
- Jordanians are warm people and interested in foreigners. From my experience, they would be happy whenever I tried to make a conversation with them. And they asked me to take pictures with them. They could even share some stories about their family too. Just like Indonesians ^_^.
- Yes, the people are nice, but sometimes they just want to sell something to you ^_^
- Prepare yourself with survival Arabic. We got lost on the way to Petra and did not know what to do. Fortunately, we had an Arab family with us so they could ask anybody we met on the streets.
- Always bring a bottle of water to avoid dehydration. And don’t drink the tap water.
- When you go shopping to the Old Souq, one top tip: bargain, bargain, and bargain. From this old market, I bought a beautiful Jordanian abaya for me and some Arab accessories for my sisters.
- Bank? Well, I don’t really know. I brought enough Euros at that time and exchanged it at the money changer whenever I needed money.
- At the peak seasons (September – November & March – May) Hotel price in Jordan (especially Petra & Aqaba) can be twice the low seasons. I was lucky that I had a host, Alhamdulillah.
- People respect their royal family a lot. So, saying some negative things about them can be quite offensive, I guess.
Here are some destinations to explore in Jordan (I will try to review it one by one later, Insya Allah):
- Amman : Amman Citadel, Roman theater, Al Balad (downtown), King Hussein Mosque
- Petra and The Little Petra – the magnificent ancient building
- Wadi Rum – a desert experience
- Aqaba & Red Sea – Arab Revolt memories and an awesome sea tourism
- Dead Sea – when you can float around
- Madaba – where you can find an ancient map of Jerusalem
- Jerash – a site of Roman archeology
- Many more…
Unfortunately, I did not have any chance to visit Wadi Rum and Madaba yet. Someday, Insya Allah.