Jordan continues to be a country full of fun and surprises. As I have grown more accustomed to the culture, I only appreciate it more. As hilarious, and annoying as “Jordanian Time” can be, I can appreciate the more relaxed approach to things. There are no strict timetables like back in the States. Jordanians tell me that in America people don’t have time for social lives because they work so much, and that Jordanians don’t have time to work because they have social lives. Jordanians put a premium on social interaction and act accordingly. There are no college kids in sweats at Ahliyyah University or the other colleges I frequently visit. The idea of face or honor is still very strong here and insults to the character usually do more harm than physical fights. There are also many linguistic differences between the various regions. People from Amman speak differently than rural communities, and the Bedouins have a dialect entirely of their own.
I have learned that Jordan is a place of paradoxes. People are some of the most skilled drivers I have ever seen, yet can’t seem to parallel park correctly. Jordanians as a whole are not very fond of American foreign policy, but I have heard nothing but praise for American culture and our system of government. Jordanians have a higher opinion of Americans in general than most Americans have of themselves. One description I hear constantly is that Americans are very responsible and their sense of independence is strong.
While Amman is the central hub of Jordan, there are many others places I have visited in my time here. Jerash contains the most complete ruins of a Roman provincial city in the entire former territories of the Roman Empire. The town still contains running water pipes underground, which is not something all regions of rural Jordan can say they have. I have also had the immense pleasure of visiting some of the world’s most legendary locations: Wadi Rum and Petra. Wadi Rum or the Valley of Sand is a desert in the south of Jordan that is every bit the profile of the Middle East that Americans picture. It contains massive rolling red dunes with huge jutting mountains that stretch toward the sky. It is at once inviting, romantic, foreboding, and dangerous. Sipping tea with Bedouins under the desert night sky is an experience unlike any other.
Petra can only be described as epic. With the theme song of the third Indiana Jones song on loop within my head as I entered the legendary ruins, I could not help but be awed and humbled by the works of the ancient Nabeteans. The iconic Treasury, which has stood the test of time, greeted me as I exited the labyrinth passage to the city known as simply as The Siq. The city is a major tourist attraction, and every language is spoken in the canyon of this ancient city. Merchants constantly hassle the visitors with trinkets that are ridiculously overpriced. Bedouins, who are fluent in 10 languages, chat me up on every topic imaginable, but I don’t mind since they have some of finest purebred dogs on the planet. Climbing the mountains to take a few pictures is a lot of work, but the reward is well worth the effort. The simply epic view at the top is a scene that would be at home in any Lord of the Rings movie. Jordan somehow retains both the cosmopolitan and modern atmosphere that we Americans love, but preserves the ancient culture on which it was founded.