A lot of people don’t know much about Jordan beyond the Dead Sea and Petra, but there are an insurmountable number of places and experiences to uncover in the country. It wasn’t just the surroundings that blew my mind, however – without a doubt, the thing which struck me the most, and will stay with me forever, is the people and their unwavering hospitality.
As I travelled the country filming My World to You, I was in awe of how welcoming the Bedouin people were and their openness in sharing their history and traditions with us. They welcomed me as if I was one of their own, and explained their culture to me openly, allowing me to cook with them, and sharing their personal stories. They were undeniably shy at first, but they became more comfortable and I could sense a real human connection, which really struck me on an emotional level – it was a glorious feeling.
The locals added a real depth with their welcoming nature, guiding us through some of the most incredible varied locations – from lavish green mountains, to deserts and historical cities.
Each new area seemed to have a personality (and climate) of its own; it was so interesting to explore each of the individual characteristics and refreshing to experience many seasons in one day. We’d often begin the day dressed warmly for cool mornings, enjoying the heat of the day before a refreshing evening temperature would set in- apparently quite typical for Jordan during October and November, making it a wonderful time to visit.
On my travels, one of my favourites locations was Wadi Rum. It was an ethereal place, where we were just completely overcome with this divine sense of being one with the universe.
Bustling Amman, on the other hand, offered a contrasting experience. The capital city showcases a perfect blend of rich heritage and refined elements of modernisation, yet which don’t overshadow the established culture, particularly within the walls of the city’s Old Souk.
In an area called Salt, there is a beautiful street called Share’e Hammam where we learned the history of architecture, which had been inspired by the people of Nablus who had fled to the area decades before.
The Red Sea is a whole other world just waiting to be explored. The underwater paradise is unbelievably rich in a rainbow of colours so striking that I didn’t want to surface from our dive, whilst Umm Qais boasts an extraordinary castle with unbelievably beautiful views over-looking Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.
To complement every stunning location was a lavish feast of deliciously irresistible food, an area in which Jordanian hospitality really shines. Even though we did a lot of walking and exploring, I definitely put on weight in my month of filming, with locals taking real pride in the delicious food they serve and constantly encouraging you to enjoy more.
Further showcasing the tradition of Arab generosity, the Jordanian people will welcome you with a smile and a coffee, which I urge you to accept and enjoy, returning a thankful smile. There’s a rich history of coffee in Jordan – which runs so deep in tradition that offers of marriage can be accepted or declined by a simple act surrounding the beverage – so it’s an important part of the culture; declining a cup when offered can be considered rude or offensive. It might be thicker or richer than some people may be used to, but it’s delicious and is often brewed with cardamom for an added burst of flavour.
Some of my top tips when travelling to Jordan are:
Embrace variety – there’s so much on offer, try and see and do as much as you can and visit as many different locations as possible – they’re all so different, with each having its own character and experiences to offer.
Take social cues – observe others in the area to gauge if there are certain expectations for conservative dress or behaviours.
Eat, eat, eat – all of the food is so delicious, try everything!
Push your limits – one of the most amazing moments was when I overcame a fear to experience the weightlessness of paragliding.
Interact – the Jordanian people are so welcoming, kind and hospitable; when you show that you have a real interest in their history and culture, they’ll open their homes and help create the most heart-warming moments.
Drink coffee – if you’re offered a coffee, it’s considered rude to decline, so embrace the roots of the country and enjoy every rich sip.
Maximise – embrace every opportunity you have in Jordan, there’s something captivating around every corner, so make the most of it and enjoy memories to last a lifetime.
* The writer is format creator and host of travel series My World to You, which airs on TLC, exclusively on OSN channel 212, throughout January