Jordan is unlike any place I have ever been to. It defies the image that most Americans have of the Middle East. It is not in a dessert and camels are very rare. Oil is very scarce in this country, and there is lush vegetation all around. It rains infrequently, and a week before I arrived it even snowed. The traffic here can only be described as pure chaos. Walking the streets is akin to a high stakes game of Frogger. Lanes are optional and there are no such things as stop or yield signs. Cars will regularly jump the median and drive on the wrong side of the road. Honking here is its own language that is somewhat similar to Morse code. The streets are incredibly packed, with brand new luxury sedans and 40 year old pick-up trucks all cutting each other off and generally driving in the most reckless manner possible. Despite the anarchic quality of travel in the city and the complete absence of any traffic police force, there are few accidents and traffic moves at a fast pace.
The food here is delicious, incredibly cheap, and natural. Interestingly, American fast food costs 3-5 times as much in Jordanian dinars and tastes horrible. People will only frequent these places because it is seen as a cool place for the area youth. The variation in local cuisine is incredible and I never find myself bored of a particular dish. Despite my limitations in Arabic, I have learned to order food in Arabic very quickly. And the service is fast. Even at sit-down restaurants I never wait more than 10 minutes for my food and since tipping here is not based on a percentage of the meal, that is cheaper here too. I have discovered that smoking is very common; nearly everyone seems to smoke. There is no such thing as a non-smoking section anywhere. In addition to cigarettes, hookah or the water pipe is very popular too. I have found the taste to be quite pleasant and mild. Lounging in hookah bars for hours on end is a national pastime. Perhaps this comes from a term my fellow Americans and I have termed “Jordanian time”. Jordanian time is the idea that there is no such thing as being late and that estimates for time are exactly that. “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” actually means the person will leave in 30 minutes and arrive 30 after that. Cab drivers regularly stop during trips to make a quick grocery run or to say hi to people. Jordanians are by far the warmest, friendliest, and hospitable people I have met. It can get borderline excessive at times when I am offered dinner at a man’s house five minutes after meeting him, but I won’t turn down a free meal. People are incredibly welcoming to Americans and why we are here. I have never felt anything but respect from Jordanians. Anti-American feeling is entirely absent from my experience. The question of safety has never entered my mind. So far, I like Jordan a lot.