Jordan: THINGS TO KNOW (1)

Jordan: THINGS TO KNOW (1)

You will get the picture of how impatient I was to visit Jordan if I tell you that I was actually waiting for few years for the trip to take place. I knew that I shouldn’t travel on my own, not around Middle East and not for the first time at least, and local agencies back home were still not doing trips to Jordan. After I have seen photos of Petra, I have read all I could find about this ancient city, and I was just waiting for the opportunity to pop up!


Coming to the capital

And it did! It happened in 2008 when I have finally packed and went to the Middle East for the first time. I traveled all over Syria and Jordan, and this trip turned out to be an introduction to many more travels around the region in years to come. So, Jordan! Here are few guidelines on things to know about the country, just to prepare you for what’s yet to come in this series!


Bustling Downtown Amman

There will be more about Jordan history in future posts, but I should mention that the city of Amman was proclaimed the capital in 1921, the same year when king Abdullah I founded the country of – Transjordan.


Traditional Old Town

Turbulent region

The country developed rapidly after the World War II, but that was also the time when Palestinian refugees came in serious numbers. Jordan people often refer to Palestinians in a positive manner, saying that they are extremely diligent and hard working. As the situation in the region got seriously turbulent given the fact that the Arab Spring began at the end of 2010, there was the huge impact on Jordan population. A lot of people from Libya came after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown. Some of them stayed for few months, while others moved here permanently. Refugees camps that were inhabited by families from Palestine and Iraq for decades were now not enough to take in the unfortunate people from Syria who started to come in 2011.


People from other Arab countries in Amman

Not only that the population was influenced by the new situation, but also the whole economy of Jordan, including tourism. Although Jordan is a peaceful country (it’s one of the Arab monarchies that didn’t allow almost any Arab Spring demonstrations), it cannot avoid the impact coming from regional turbulence. Bear in mind that Jordan borders with Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia!


Stroll around the city

Jordan stretches to the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aqaba, along 27 kilometers of the coastline. (More about Aqaba in one of the future posts!) There is a desert to the East and the great Rift valley of Jordan River to the West, which is also the Israeli border. Jabal Ram is the highest point of Jordan, while the lowest is the famous Dead Sea. (There will be more about the Dead Sea, of course, stay tuned!)


Flags and posters of the king

Arab tradition

The official currency here is JD – the Jordanian Dinar, almost the same worth as a Euro (1 Euro – 0,80 JD). According to Arab tradition, you will find king’s posters on every corner. His name is Abdullah II, he was educated in Great Britain and United States (his eyes are blue), and he is married to beautiful queen Ranya. Jordan is considered to be the ally of the West and in close relations with Sunni Arab monarchies in the Gulf region.


King Abdullah II book

Although Amman is one of the modern Arab cities with vast quarters in the Western part of the town with skyscrapers, wealthy mansions, large business centers and a lot of foreigners from the West who work here, you have to remember that this is first and foremost an Arab country. Sharia law and Bedouin tradition are far greater here than any democratic or secular society rules. So, it’s always good to know few things before you go.


Waiting for the taxi

What to wear

No matter how hot it gets in the summer (and it can get seriously hot!), don’t wear short skirts or sleeveless tops! It’s not forbidden in Jordan, not officially, but it might turn out to be pretty unpleasant. When it comes to Jordan women, there are those who are covered from head to toes, but also those who dress like any other woman in the West. Still, most of them cover their hair with scarves, while at the same time they often wear tight jeans and shirts, and walk in high heels. Men are usually in long white jalabiyas or in „ordinary“ clothes. The only thing they don’t wear ever (not even in the summer!) are bermuda shorts or short trousers of any kind. (This goes for the whole Arab world, not just for Jordan.)


Scarves and high heels

Here are few more things to know about Jordan. For instance, did you know that Amman is one of the Arab cities that you cannot send a letter to! It’s true – there are no street numbers, not the way we used to at least. If someone expects to get any mail, he has to have a PO box. There is no postman to knock on your door every now and then. If you are in a taxi, he will know the street and you will just point to the building. This is not an issue if you are in a hotel, the name of the hotel would be sufficient.


Cafe terrace in the Old Town

Put the blinds down

You should probably know that non married couples are not really welcome to stay at the same hotel room or to hold hands in public. Like in any other Arab country, you shouldn’t show any affection in public. It really is rare that tourists have problems because of sharing the hotel room, but still – try to come with the group of fellow tourists or get a room at slightly better hotel (if it’s just the two of you), and find yourself a local guide. These are just things to know and consider, since some of them are against the local law and tradition.


Window view in West Amman

Since I was fortunate enough to visit Jordan on several occasions and to stay in Western Amman flats, I have noticed few more things. As the dusk falls and you have to turn on the light in your apartment, all the blinds around are being put down immediately! During the daylight you close the heavy curtains, but as the night falls you use all you have. Here’s why! If you don’t do that and you allow people to see inside because of the artificial light and your „naked windows“, this might be interpreted as a permission or even an invite for your windows to be looked at. So, if you don’t want a group of young Arab guys to maybe whistle and cheer from below, just put your blinds down and close those curtains at the very site of dusk.


Wide boulevard

Gas tanks and drinking water

Also, I couldn’t get used to some song coming from the street, funny music that I have heard every day, several times a day, to be exact. It was a little colorful truck coming to the neighborhood numerous times. It even reminded me of those ice cream sellers from old American movies. I was explained later that the music was the way to notify people that the truck with kitchen gas tanks is near by. So, you pull out your empty one, rush out, stop that small truck and get yourself a new one, filled with gas!


US fast food

I was confused by the water issue as well. You get used to buying drinking water when you travel. But never before have I encountered the situation with water tanks placed on the top of the building which gets refilled from time to time while the water is to be used by all the tenants. This is for bathing and washing dishes. Never the less, the country lacks in water and so, when it’s hot and there’s not enough water for everybody, people tend to rob those rooftop tanks. Regardless to say that water bills get pretty expensive.


West Amman little mosque

It’s like you have the drain pipes in the building, but not those to supply you with water. The same happened with washing machine – there was no fill hose! Okay, you get the idea that water is to be taken care of here, it’s not to be wasted etc, but this was a bit odd. I took a big pot filled with water which I then poured into the washing machine. The drain hose goes into the toilet. After a while, you get used to these things, of course. And you can always ask a janitor (who also serves as a doorman), who can be found in almost every building in West Amman…


Modern part of the city

Okay, this is probably enough for now. You got acquainted with few interesting facts about Jordan and we should go around Amman in the next Glimpse. There’s so much to see, believe me!


The full Jordan SERIES


36 comments on “Jordan: THINGS TO KNOW (1)

  1. It’s so interesting to read something about Jordan other than Petra! I totally agree about the dress etiquette in the Arab world; I was recently in Morocco, though not Arab, still is very conservative in clothing (women I mean!). I really hope to visit Jordan one day!

    1. Well, there’s going to be Petra in the series as well, of course. I mean, how can you go to Jordan without visiting the ancient city, right! 🙂
      But, I’m glad that you might like reading a lot more about the country than just about Petra. I did try to cover the whole of Jordan, from Amman to Aqaba! 🙂

  2. I’ve always been curious about Jordan. These photos are so real and raw its made me want to go all the more Would you consider it safe for travelling with kids (mine are not Disneyland kids and are pretty adventurous)?

    1. Hey, so nice of you to drop by. 🙂
      Yes, it is safe. Jordan is one safe country all together. One has to hire a local guide, so that detail comes even more handy when coming with kids. Accommodation is usually nice, the food is good, you only drink bottled water.
      You just need to be aware of the fact that you are in the Middle East! But that goes for everyone in general, with or without children. I bet they would love “swimming” in the Dead Sea or camel rides in Petra! 🙂

  3. I love the idea of the musical truck coming to replace your gas bottles. These are all little things that we do not notice when staying in a big hotel so I did not pick up on these things when I was in Jordan. That story reminds me of the truck coming to replace your pop bottles when I was a kid.

    1. I know, right! There’s no way to notice these things when you’re spending a week or two while rushing around to see as much as you can. I wonder how much we actually miss when we travel to foreign countries on limited time.
      And yes, those trucks were one amusing detail – all colorful and noisy. 😀

  4. Your post reminded me how I tried to plan a visit to that area (starting from Syria) a few years ago when I was living in Turkey. I didn’t make it as I could not get the visa on time and didn’t have flexibility with my dates (I was studying) and a trip to Bulgaria was easier and attractive as well… So much has changed since then that I regret not trying to go again at another time. Now I’m too far away to plan a trip soon, but I still dream of seeing Petra and the Dead Sea one day. Thank you for sharing all this useful info. There are so many important things to know not to shock locals and get in trouble.

    1. Yes, so much has changed throughout the years. But Jordan is still doable, it’s safe and hopefully it will stay as such.
      I know what you mean though. There are places I still didn’t get to visit, and I’ve just missed my chance since they are not going to be the same for many, many years to come.
      We’ll just have to hope for the best, and discover the rest of the world in the meantime, right! 🙂 And then one day, who knows…

  5. Such interesting facts! It’s always nice to learn new things abouta city/ country.. I didn’t know Jordan doesn’t use street numbers. Good thing we already have internet and emails now. Makes things easier when receiving mails. 🙂

    1. It’s much easier now when everything is online, you’re right. 🙂
      I don’t really think that this postal issue is “exclusive” for Jordan. It’s the same in Qatar, and probably few other Arab countries.

  6. This is a great guide of things I had no idea about. I too long to explore Jordan, especially Petra. I feel that it would also make a great intro for me into the Middle East. But I didnt know all the rules for non married couples and women. It makes sense cause many Muslim parts of India were the same way and Darcee & I learned this and found it easy to respect their culture. But its good to know ahead of time!
    That is crazy about the lack of house numbers. I would totally be lost!

    1. You won’t be lost, you’d be surprised what few weeks there can do to a man. And then you’d just get used to it, it would become the most natural thing in the world! 😀
      Also, you’d love Petra, there’s no doubt about it. (The next post is on Petra, feel free to stop by. 🙂 ) And you’re right, Jordan is probably the best place to get acquainted with the region.
      Thanks, Eric, so glad that this was interesting to read. 🙂

  7. Looks like an amazing place to visit, with so much to see and do. Certainly a place that’s been on my list for quite awhile now. One day I’ll get there.

  8. During my Jordan trip, I mostly stayed in the hotels, so I did not get the water shortage story. Good to know it from your post. Water is the most precious and most essential thing in the world. I found Jordan and island of peace surrounded by turbulence.

    1. So true. Jordan is suffering through economy because of the crises in neighboring countries. It’s even astonishing that it stayed calm over these turbulent years, still managing to welcome tourists.
      Thanks, Anuradha, for stopping by, I can see you’ve enjoyed your trip there. 🙂

  9. So glad you had the opportunity to make your trip to Jordan a reality after having planned it for so many years. It must have been a very good opportunity to visit before the Arab Spring.

    I’ve heard that Jordan today is a very safe country for tourism, but it’s a very good reminder that it’s an Arab country and their laws and customs are different to what a tourist may be accustomed to in thr west. Interesting to hear that non married couples aren’t really supposed to be sharing a hotel room or public displays of affection – I knew about this in Dubai but didn’t realize it was a prevalent opinion in Jordan too.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your time in Jordan, and reading your posts on Syria too – I’m very interested to know what it would have been like to travel to the region before our most recent political unrest.

    1. Jordan is an Arab country, like any other, with the same laws. It is safe and easy to explore, that’s probably what makes it so popular among tourists from the west.
      Thanks, so glad you’ve enjoyed the post! 🙂

  10. This sounds like a fascinating adventure. I like what you suggested re: women dressing as the local women do to show respect for the culture. Also interesting that public affection is frowned upon! What a comprehensive guide for anyone traveling to this area 🙂

  11. Jordan has been on my list for a very long time… I haven’t had the occasion yet. But there are so many beautiful sites to visit. Your memories from 2008 are really impressive… I heard it’s a country that has been changing a lot recently.
    By the way, I like your pictures of people and street’s life!

    1. My first trip to Jordan was in 2008, but I was going to the country and back for many years afterwards. That is why I had a chance to witness few of those changes you’ve mentioned. Still, the country didn’t change that much. It’s still okay to go and visit.
      Thank you for your kind words regarding Amman photos! 🙂

  12. Such an interesting post. I can’t believe you can’t send a letter here, that is so funny to me! I am concerned as a women about visiting Jordan, given all the rules you outlined but this was helpful if I do decided to go!

    1. It’s all doable, you shouldn’t be worried much. Especially if you travel with someone and after you hire the local guide. It sounds more “serious” from afar, but once you’re there – you just get along by default. 🙂

    1. Well, you can’t really skip Petra if you come here, it would be such a pity. 😀
      But the truth is that Jordan has a lot more that’s also interesting to explore. I loved learning about the country! 🙂

  13. I’ve read so much about Petra but appreciate hearing the real, practical facts about Jordan. I had no idea about the water tanks or the music acting as a sign to people about the gas tanks. Fascinating!

    1. There are so many interesting things to see in Jordan, Petra is just the most popular. You’re welcome to read about the Dead Sea or the Mount Nebo in the upcoming days.
      So glad you’ve enjoyed the post, thank you! 🙂

  14. We have those ‘gas tank trucks playing music’ thing here too Danijela. One of the brands is called ‘Aygaz’ and when the truck comes, you here a girl singing “Ayy- gaaas” and we laugh at it so much because it sounds like “hi guys”, like greeting us all in the neighbourhood 😀

    1. Heheehe, didn’t know that. They were truly interesting to me, given the fact that I’ve seen them for the first time.
      While those gas trucks of yours sing “Hey guys”, these were playing music like the ice cream trucks from old American movies. 😀 😀
      Quite funny, you’re right! 🙂

    1. Unfortunately. Hope you enjoyed Jordan though?
      I was in better luck – visited Syria few years before the war! You might find Homage to Syria series here on the blog interesting, here’s the link:
      Hope it will be possible to go again in the upcoming years.
      Thanks, Jane. 🙂

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