Sunday, October 14, 2012

My take of Jordan

No, I didn't get to do the Dead Sea or Petra. I made it there for work and had to rush off after that to Montenegro.

As we were about to land in Jordan, what really struck me was the vast land of flatness. As far as the eye could see, you saw nothing but brown land.

Reached the airport and followed hubby's advice to change some money there - for taxi and visa. It was visa at arrival for Malaysians. Lining up for my visa, I was struck at the truth of how men in this region (generally) overlook women. I saw a whole bunch of women sitting at a corner seemingly waiting for their men to call them to the visa line when they were due. The men, one behind and one in front of me also talked to each other like I didn't exist. They just simply talked above my head and through me. While lining up, I was very irritated with the fact that they took it for granted it was ok to cut queue. Like 1 man would line up and when he was up, he would not only call his women, but also call his friends to join him. It was a good thing the immigration officer read into my frowns.

That was my first bad impression of Jordan. And it continued when I was getting the cab. It didn't help that I was with another man (another resource person for the training going to the same hotel). So the administrator for the taxi as well as the cabbie himself considered only the man's directive.

The journey from the airport to the hotel took about 45 minutes. And again and again I was struck at how dispersed the buildings were. How dry and hot Jordan was. And yet how majestic each building can be. Initially I was un-impressed with the brown-ness of all the buildings. Only to realise that they were all made with marble/stone block by block. Thus really there was not much need to cement and paint.

I also saw camels at work and at rest along the streets of Jordan. As well as street vendors selling beet and grapes and some other fruit along the way. I also saw petrol tanks being filled up. Oil after all is a common thing in Jordan.

I also saw signs for universities. And even saw a student (presumingly) waiting to cross the street. But when I looked left and right, I could not see any building that looked like a university or any place that resembles a town for which the student may be heading to. I gathered my assumption of how it should be (campus ground or university building) is very different from what the reality in Jordan is.

When I reached the hotel, I was dismayed. There didn't seem to be any shops nearby for me to wander into. And I later realised that shopping in Jordan is not like anywhere else. You really can't NOT take a cab to move around. The place around the hotel were streets and streets dotted with an occasional worth while shop PROVIDED you knew which road to turn into. Seriously.

However, a cab ride round a corner or two, and you may come across an oasis of restaurants or shops. And then emptiness or nothing worth while in between.  You would really need to go into down town or areas which you KNOW to get things which you want. So, you really would need a tour guide or a local to bring you around.

My colleague, a local took me around. I would say down town in itself is a mix of 'Bangsar like' streets. Well landscapes, beautifully lighted, almost boutique like lots with their own grounds. Then further away in nearby suburbs, you have single-storey shops in rows, still boutique liked for some but joined with 7-eleven like shops. And then further away still you have small town like shops, some occupying only half a shop etc.  

I had 2 great meals in Jordan. Both in a group so the cost of the meat and vege platters were shared out. It also came with their bread and side dishes like humus etc. Each meal cost about JOD25. Which is quite cheap considering a Western meal in an unassuming restaurant can cost the same as well. Service charge and tax is quite high going at about 15-25%.

I bought baklava and some other sweets from Jordan.  I also got smoked nuts and some Arabic coffee. All local delights. The coffee is NOT from Jordan but Jordanian coffee places roast the beans themselves and then add in spices, which you can buy seperately. The beans are lovely and roasted at high, medium or low heat which affects the taste, aroma and colour of the coffee. Spices usually added are cardanom. Spices are also a plenty in Jordan.

A muslim country in majority, I was so thankful I was surrounded by minority Christians in my every day dealings. And it was great that there was a kindred feeling in that we were together from different countries even as a minority.  

I made some great friends while in Jordan. The comfortable space they grant you while talking is about the same as in Asia. The Jordanian professionals are very friendly and very open.  My wonderful colleague Yazan even made it a point to wake up at 4 am to see me off.

So, although I didn't really get to see Jordan, I felt their local culture and experienced some other side of it too. I also learned to love their food. Will I be back? Prayerfully yes and next time with more free time to spare.

1 comment:

LittleLamb said...

Do you have to put on a veil?