Having spent only about five days in Jordan, I do not claim to know everything about The Hashemite Kingdom. The following are just my perceptions and I wish to share them with anyone who is planning a trip to this fascinating country.
Almost 99% of the buildings in the places that we visited in Amman and other cities are of the same colour – light brown / cream. They are built with limestone and not painted over.
The limestone helps to keep the interior of the building cool during summer months, and warm during the cold winter. Every few years, the exterior needs only to be washed with water and the building looks spanking new again. If I lived in Jordan, I wouldn’t recognise my own house!
Summer is HOT
My friends and I, who made up the delegation of Kelab Sukan dan Kebajikan Media Perak (KSKMP), were in Jordan at the end of July. The temperature outdoor was hitting 40°C and above in the afternoon.
We were all at least two shades darker when we returned to Malaysia. What can you do? Wear long-sleeve clothing, use sun block and remember to drink more water, lest you get dehydrated.
If I remember correctly, more than 60% of Jordan is considered as ‘desert’. Passing by in a coach, all I ever saw was vast expanse of land like this. Brown, sandy, with spots of stunted vegetation here and there.
The private vehicles were extremely dusty and dirty looking as well, and I was quite surprised that it was the result of not washing them every other day. Wow, Malaysian cars look OK even if we don’t wash them for a year, thanks to the rain. In contrast, the rainfall per day in Malaysia is only achieved in Jordan in a year!
Perhaps there aren’t that many Oriental (no, it is not illegal to use this word in Malaysia) people in their country, so they were curious and wanted to know where I came from. People shouted from their cars, “Welcome to Jordan.” This happened at eating places as well. When I had trouble reading signboards and Google Translate couldn’t decipher the image, there was someone asking if he could assist.
I’ve flagged down strangers in the street and asked if they could help tie my keffiyeh and they willingly obliged. One Jordanian helped me with my coins (I couldn’t tell their value), so that I could purchase a drink.
They wished to connect on Facebook but when you view their profile, everything is in Arabic, including their name. Over time, you won’t even remember his or her name. By the way, only a handful of Jordanians speak English, although most of them can say, “I don’t know English.”
Most Jordanians know Malaysia and have a positive perception of our country. This is perhaps due to the strong diplomatic and bilateral relations that both countries have established over the past decades. Moreover, both are Muslim countries. 95% of the Jordanian population are Muslims, with 5% Christians. This is why, visitors should dress appropriately to respect the culture of the locals who are still pretty conservative.
Super tight security
Although Jordan is a peaceful country, I sensed that the Kingdom is not taking chances as security is extremely tight, and I am not talking about customs and immigration at the airport. Being in the Middle East, Ground Zero for all sorts of terrorist groups, does not help matters.
Our hotel, Belle Vue Hotel in Amman’s 2nd Circle, has a baggage scanning machine and a body scanner. So does Citymall, a large shopping complex in Amman.
Weekend starts on Friday
While Malaysia’s official weekends are Saturdays and Sundays, the weekend in Jordan is on Friday and Saturday (like East Coast states). Most shops are closed on weekends. The half-day on Saturday that we know in Malaysia is also applicable in Jordan, but it is half-day on Friday, after Friday prayers. This means that these shops open later in the day, around 2pm, on Fridays.
Toilet doors can’t be locked
Of the many public (and even private) places that we visited in Amman and other destinations, we always had trouble to lock our toilet door. We’re lucky if we could close it!
The only doors that I could lock were the one in my hotel room (though in that case, I had trouble opening my room door!) and those in Amman’s Citymall (shopping complex).
Souvenirs to buy
Although the Jordanian Dinar is six times stronger than Malaysian Ringgit (MYR6.05 = JOD1), we couldn’t ignore shopping for souvenirs. Top on the list for any tourist would be the keffiyeh (chequered red and white scarf), or items that feature the classic keffiyeh geometric design in red and white.
Next on the list are camel-themed items, such as articles that are displayed on the desk or key chains. Camel leather goods are also very popular, but are usually purchased for own use. Other than the above, many tourists buy ceramics and Dead Sea products when they are in Jordan. “Lumpur Laut Mati, hilang jerawat dan gatal-gatal,” the salesmen said.
While looking for souvenirs, I did not notice any postcards. Are they not popular in Jordan?
Scarcity of water
Jordan has one of the world’s lowest levels of water resources available, per capita. It came as a surprise when drinks were not served with our meals. Even glasses were not part of the cutlery set laid on the table.
At Alqantarah Restaurant in Wadi Musa, we were charged USD3 per 1.5L bottle of mineral water. Later at Abu Zaghlel Restaurant in Amman, we were served a 500ml bottle of water per pax, without being informed that it would be charged separately. Most of us ended up having two drinks: one bottle of water plus another beverage that we had ordered.
It’s all about the money
The currency in Jordan is Dinar but USD is equally accepted. When paying in USD, merchants usually go by the rate of JOD1 = USD1.50 (when I was there). I only had Euro with me and the merchants had a difficult time converting the prices.
For those who took the trouble, they only paid me JOD0.70 per EUR1, so of course I refused to change, until I found a foreign currency changer (Khalil Alrahman Exchange) and luckily, they gave the best rates, almost at market rate. I only changed EUR50 but that meant a difference of JOD6!
Do be careful with tourist traps. To the merchants, USD1 is the same as EUR1. Oh no, no, no. My mathematics may not be good but they are definitely not the same value!
The Kelab Sukan dan Kebajikan Media Perak (KSKMP) delegation was on a humanitarian mission-cum-cultural exchange programme to Jordan from 23rd – 29th July, 2017.
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