04 July 2012

Rest day

Ok, today is a bit of a boring blog. After the days at Petra and party night with the bedouin, we decided to do nothing today. We slept in, had a nice breakfast from the local bakery, worked on the blog and watch a bit of television. Boring, but we need a day of rest every now and then. When David and Sophia came back from Petra, they joined us for dinner (falafel sandwich, cheap and easy) and then some arabic coffee and cards at the downstairs coffee shop.

As there is nothing else to report for today, we thought we might write a bit about Jordan in general.

First up : We advise everybody to travel to Jordan.
It is a beautiful country, especially if you like an arid landscape. But the countryside is a lot more varied then we expected. Besides the desert there’s forest, oases, agricultural land, canyons and mountains galore.
And the best thing about this country must be the people. In Amman we ran into a couple of nasty characters, but we have almost forgotten about them, as we have met so many nice people since. And every time we tell someone about our bad experiences, they always tell us “those people are not Jordanian”. That can well be, as true Jordanians are a minority in their own country. Out of the 6 million or so, about 2 million are Palestinian and there are also lots of Egyptians, Iraqis and Syrians living in Jordan. Jordan is very welcoming to refugees from this region, and with all the unrest, there are plenty.
Overall the people here are some of the most welcoming and hospitable people we have ever met. Every Jordanian knows “Welcome to Jordan!” And you will hear it all the time. It even gets yelled to you out of cars when walking down the road. Off course many countries are welcoming to travelers,but in some cases there is always a price tag attached at the end. Example : “Come sit and have a tea with us”. In Thailand the bill comes afterwards, in Turkey you are shown all the carpets afterwards and are asked to buy one. In Jordan it is just a friendly cup of tea! No strings attached. It took some getting used to for us, and in the beginning we passed up quite a few cups of tea, not wanting to buy goods, or the tea. But now we are getting into it, and can spend whole afternoons going from one tea to the next. A lot of Jordanians speak decent english and with our three words of arabic we can have some interesting conversations.
The only thing is : Most of the conversations are with men. The only times we have been able to talk with women is when it is a group or family setting. Women don’t seem to go out by then selves, or in groups of just women a lot. Most of the time they are with husband, cousin, uncle etc. I guess that’s just the way it works in a Muslim country, it is still hard to except the inequality. Jordan is a liberal muslim country and the king has put many rules in place to help liberate women, like education and quotas for female participation in different fields of employment. Many women are highly educated. Socially there doesn’t seem to be much freedom though. Gossip seems to control the people and you don’t want neighbours talking. This does work for men too though, as we were not allowed to leave a house in Ajlun untill after dark, as the neighbours could not see our host with two foreign girls. (See The blog 220612) Even though Jordan is liberal, it is also a place where honour killings are still fairly common, and not punished. The king has asked for harsher penalties, but parlement is blocking this.
Wearing the headscarf (our full facial covering) for women is not dictated by the Koran, and women here have a choice. Most women do wear the headscarf though, and we are not sure if this is because of religious conviction, or because it is just easier in this society. The full facial cover is rarer, but more traditional women wear it. A lot of the younger girls seem to have a lot of hair under their scarf and create massive buns under there. We are starting to wonder if this is the arabic version of the push up bra..
For the rest, women are supposed to be covered from wrist to enkel. Only the face, hands and feet can be shown. Again, women can choose whether or not they want to do this, but most follow this rule. That doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable. We have seen many different styles, from skin-tight dresses, cheap prostitute type make up and 10 inch stiletto heals under conservative coats. Also looking around the shops, we wonder if the ladies here have a completely different wardrobe for inside the house, as there are a lot of shops specialising in little flirty summer dresses, hot pants and kinky lingery.
The men have their own rules too and one of them is about hair. As a moslim man is supposed to able to recognise men from women from a distance, the men do not have long hair. Andrew therefor stands out a bit. Some people have been negative, but the fast majority loves his hair and in Petra everybody seems to know him as “Rastaman” after just a few hours.
The bedouin living there are a bit more relaxed in their dress codes though, and some men have longer hair. Not that you can see that easily as most wear a keffiyeh (checkered arabic scarf).
Tonight we found out that there is a bit of conflict between the different bedouin tribes, on who is a real bedouin. When having dinner a local men from Wadi Musa joined us and gave us his view on the bedouin living in and around Petra. So far we thought they were the true bedouin from this region. Some still live in the caves in Petra, and some have moved to a village close by, that everybody calls the bedouin-village. According to our local man though, the Petra people are not bedouin at all, but Gypsies. Their town is called the gypsy-village and Wadi Musa is the bedouin-village. The Petra people supposedly rip of tourists and have no generosity in their hearts, therefor they are not true bedouin. (also something about their dress sense and attitude to women, but that seems to have more to do with being a good muslim or not) We can’t agree with him, as we have met some of the greatest people there and they have been wonderful to us. Interesting to hear a different side anyway. And he did have a few good points. About the treatment of the animals (donkeys and camels are being beaten) and the damage the animals and people living in a world heritage site is doing to the ancient structures.
The people living in little Petra again have a different view. They are the original bedouin from this region. When a group of new bedouin moved into the region, they gave Petra to this group. This new group was/is called the Bedul. Everything was fine, until Petra became a big tourist site. The farmers then built Wadi Musa to make money of tourism. When their income was effected by the Bedul living in Petra, the farmers called in the government to move the people out. The government tried to do this a few times with help of the army. It didn’t work that well and eventually the government built Bedul-village (bedouin village) to try to move the people there. In the mean time the original Petra people living in little Petra were not getting anything. Not the big tourist dollars or free houses. Off course they got upset and in the end also got a separate village.
Gypsies do live in Jordan, but most seem to be in Aqaba. They are instantly recognisable, as they dress differently, look kinda european and are holding up their hands.. They are begging for money, but at the end of the street are being picked up in a very expensive car..

A different topic : Food. Food is pretty easy here. There are bakeries for bread and incredibly sweet desserts. And lunch and dinner can easily be found and even recognised.. Falafel sandwiches/ hommes, babaganoush, fool and other dips with bread/ Kebab and off course Swaorma. Then there are many more veggie dishes and some meat if you go for a full buffet style dinner. A bit more expensive, but can be very good. Not light meals, but filling and yummy.

Traveling Jordan : This can be a bit frustrating if you don’t have your own (rental)car. A lot of places can only easily be reached from Amman. So you tend to keep going out for day trips and seeing the same bit of highway over and over again. Accommodation can sometimes be hard to find, or there just isn’t a bus from the town you are in to the site you want to be, without first stopping by Amman again. You then have to rely on taxi’s which (like everywhere in the world) can be great, and can be horrible ripoffs. But overall it is just not a cheap way to travel. We have been lucky that we found two travel buddies to split the costs with. Otherwise there are a few places we might not even have visited.
Also a lot of public transport just doesn’t run at all on Fridays. If you don’t keep trek of the days you can get caught with no way to go anywhere, but be forced to have a rest day.

So far for our views on Jordan, we might add more in time.
The gallery is just a selection of people we have met here. Unfortunately we are shy about taking photo’s of strangers in the street, so we really don’t have that many photo’s for this gallery.. Hopefully we will again add more later.



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