36 Random Observations About Jordan

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Our time in Jordan was short (just 11 days) but it was our first taste of the Middle East and we got a glimpse into a new culture. There are many misconceptions about travel in the region but we felt entirely safe and welcomed.

1) Jordan is bordered by Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but it’s a peaceful country, with good diplomatic relations with the US and UK, and is safe to travel to. Unfortunately many people don’t realise this and tourism numbers have dropped since the Arab Spring.

2) It’s a small country (you can drive from top to bottom in five hours) but has a range of landscapes—pistachio and oak forests, olive groves, desert, dramatic canyons, rocky mountains, and the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea.

3) 90% of Jordanians live on 10% of the land. There’s lots of empty desert space.

4) The lowest point on earth is in Jordan—the Dead Sea is 400m below sea level.

Dead Sea Jordan

5) Jordanian currency is the dinar, but you might be quoted prices in fils (1000 fils = 1 dinar) or piastres (10 fils = 1 piastre).

6) Buildings are square with flat roofs—this seems strange to someone coming from a rainy country.

Amman, Jordan

7) Photos of the Jordanian King Abdullah II are everywhere.

King Abdullah II, Jordan

8) Driving on the outskirts of Amman we saw camels on one side of the highway and a Harley Davidson showroom on the other.

9) Camels can drink from water bottles.

Camel drinking from a water bottle at Petra

People & Culture

10) 65% of Jordanians are Palestinian.

11) Over 90% of the population are Sunni Muslims.

12) The haunting call to prayer is heard five times a day starting at 5.30am. Except for Fridays at noon when prayers should be at a mosque, the rest of the times people find a quiet place to kneel and pray wherever they are.

13) The hotel rooms all have little arrows pasted to their roof, pointing towards Mecca.

14) Weekends are Fridays and Saturdays.

15) Jordan is a modern country with a high standard of education and one of the highest literacy rates in the Middle East.

16) 1% of the internet is in Arabic; 75% of that content comes from Jordan.

17) Most women cover their hair, arms and legs. Older women wear long dresses but younger girls dress fashionably in skinny jeans and long tops.

Jordanian woman in traditional dress

Jordanian woman in modern dress

18) At Dead Sea resorts Western women swim in bikinis; Jordanian women swim in burqinis or all of their clothes.

19) Men usually wear either trousers and shirts or long tunics, often with a kaffiyyeh, a red and white headdress.

Bagpipers at Jerash in traditional Jordanian men's tunic and kaffiyeh

20) Smoking inside is allowed—a shock for us after four months in Europe.

21) Dogs are considered unclean so you rarely see them. There are plenty of stray cats though.

22) Jewellery shops are full of an extraordinary amount of gold. Traditionally gold is given to a bride by the groom before marriage as a dowry.

Bedouin Life

23) Bedouins live in goat hair tents in family camps throughout the country. They may move a few times a year to find the best grazing or shelter from the weather.

Bedouin tent

24) A typical Bedouin wedding may be attended by 1500 people over 3 days. It might take 20 goats to feed them but they are likely to get more goats than that as presents.

25) If you see a white tent by the black goat hair tents in a Bedouin camp, it’s the “jiggy jiggy” tent to give newlyweds some privacy for three days after a wedding.

26) The Bedouins are famous for their hospitality. Anyone can turn up and be housed and fed without question. Only after three days of hospitality does the host ask “how can we help you?”

27) The mobile phone network in Jordan is excellent (we had 3G in our Wadi Rum desert camp). Most Bedouin have mobile phones now so will choose a camp based on the best reception.

Food & Drink

28) Most meals begin with an array of mezze appetisers—salads, dips and snacks that are a meal in themselves and very vegetarian friendly.

Mezze, Jordan

29) All meals are accompanied by flatbread to scoop up the food. Our favourite bread experience was sampling paper-thin shrak bread straight off the fire in a Bedouin tent.

30) A cheap and tasty snack is a falafel sandwich. We had two large sandwiches and a drink for 1 JOD ($1.40).

Falafel sandwich, Jordan

31) Jordanian breakfasts are a delicious selection of mezze. Labaneh (strained yogurt that makes a creamy cheese) and za’atar w zeit (thyme and sesame seeds mixed with olive oil) are our favourites.

32) Desserts are super sweet and often feature filo pastry, cream cheese and syrup.

Warbat dessert in Jordan

33) Coffee is Nescafe or tiny cups of thick, strong, grainy Turkish coffee, sometimes flavoured with cardamon.

34) Tea is black with a teeth aching amount of sugar and often mint or sage, served in small glasses. It’s best when brewed over the fire by the Bedouin.

Bedouin tea by the campfire, Wadi Rum, Jordan

35) My favourite drink was lemon juice with mint. So refreshing.

36) Pepsi dominates over Coca Cola, much to Simon’s annoyance.

Read our Jordan Highlights for our favourite experiences while travelling in Jordan.

A big thank you to Visit Jordan who hosted us during our stay in Jordan.

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58 Comments

  1. Hello
    This is very nice blog about Jordan. I have one question, im going to visit Amman at end of November and i will stay there untill maybe 5th December, so i have no idea how weather is there, what kind of clothes and shoes should i bring with me? Can anybody help me? Thank you

    Reply ↓

    • Lego,
      The weather in Jordan varies in late November and early December. The days will most likely be moderate with highs in the mid-70’s (average of 23º C) and lows in the 50’s at night (average of 10º C). Wear layers, as you may be adding and subtracting clothing throughout the day. Although most days are sunny, there is a slight chance of rain, so you might want to be prepared for that. Close-toed shoes are preferred; it’s not sandal weather (unless you plan to be visiting the Dead Sea while you are there). The weather in northern Jordan (Amman, Jerash, et al) will be cooler, while the temperatures will warm up considerably as you head to the Dead Sea or further south (Karak, Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba).

      Enjoy your stay in Jordan. It’s a beautiful country.

      Reply ↓

      • David definitely gave you the quick sum-up; however I just needed to point out something. The South Centre of Jordan is considerably colder than the north. For example, Kerak and Tophel [Tafile], the county seats of Akarak Governate and Tafilah Governate are to the south of the capital. They are located on the Moad and the Edom mountains and they are much colder than the north. The further you go south the further you’ll see mountains that extend higher in elevation. Jordan’s highest mountain is called Ümm ad Dāmī, followed by Mount Prophet Aaron (È Nabi Hārūn), they are both located in the Mâ’an Governorate in the deep south, they experience low temperature most year.

        Despite being extremely small in size, Jordan has four distinct geographical climates: The Forests (33% of the Country), the plateaus, the mountains and the steppes/desserts. Almost equally divided.
        Most of the population resides in the capital; located on the hilly areas. A walk in Amman will quickly show you that you need to grow extra calf-muscles to adapt to walking here. Even cars have issues with some of the hills and how steep they are.

        Over all, if you’re coming to stay in Amman the advice will be completely different than if you came to stay elsewhere. The north cities will be around 5°C (40°F) to 15°C (60°F), The capital will have highs in the 60s (15~18°C) and lows in the 40s (5~8°C) and the Aqaba City, the gulf of the country in the deep south is exceptionally warmer than the rest of the country, with highs in the late 70s, early 80s (25~30°C) and lows in the 60s.

        Be advised that precipitation can affect the capital any time between September and April. Extreme weather is observed more frequently lately. Since November 1st, we’ve had two flash-floods, damaging winds, a hailstorm, sleet, light snow in the suburbs and three thunderstorms (none damaging).

        Snow shouldn’t become an issue, at least not until mid or late December.

        Reply ↓

  2. your 36th observation is rather hilarious! especially with the jordanian pronunciation: bebsi :)

    It is said that coca cola company once decided to push their sales and brand in the old town of Tafila. So they went there with a huge campaign where they distributed thousands of free coca cola to everyone.
    Shortly after the even was over, someone passes through the town and asks a guy in the street “what was happening?!” the guy replied: “I don’t know, some people came to town, distributed alot of bebsi cans and left”

    Reply ↓

  3. Really interesting info! I had no idea 65% of the population is actually Palestinian. And I love the camels drinking from water bottles, hilarious! I really want to visit Jordan one of these days, hopefully during a time of year that isn’t scorching hot.

    Reply ↓

  4. Hi , nice Comments and Observations :) . so happy to know that you liked in Jordan and you are always Welcome in Jordan. the post contains some generalizations about the Palistinians Number and the Swimming Women, i believe that the number of Jordanians of Palestinian origin is high, but it defenitly didnt reach 65% of population. at the same time, Jordanians of Palistinian origin are normally living in Amman, Zarqa, Irbid. which are some how a newlly established cities compared to Al Salt, Karak, Maan. Al Salt & jerico in Palistine are two of the oldest cities in the world.
    the special thing about Jordan is the Freedom and Diversity that we have in our community. as you have said, 90 % are Musilms, around 8% are christians and i have never heared about a problem caused because of origin or religion. ( off course there are always some people who still have issues in their head , but it never comes to the outer world or even discussed between people).

    for me, my fav. places in Jordan are Dead Sea (becaus i cant swim, so it is a perfect place for me :) ) , also Wadi Rum and camping there is a great experience especially if you do it by your own, i mean not in a well organized desert camp :). Also for me the Atmoshpere in Amman is Great. am living now in Europe since 3 years, but for me no thing is compared to Amman :).

    one final point is that you really missed it to eat and experience our MANSAF!! . it is our tradional and offical Meal which we serve our guests in Weddings and other ocasions. and you cant have Manasf in anyother place in the world, because the material is only available in the region which is the dried Salty Yogurt. (Mansaf is mainly Rice, well coocked Lamb, and this salty yogurt as a souce) am missing it write now :(. i wondur how come that you didnt have it in Jordan :P ..

    so thank you again for the nice observations, and so glad that you liked it there and we wanna have you back there again in the future :) cheers
    Suliman.

    Reply ↓

    • Thanks for your comment Suliman. Apologies if I got the Palestinian statistic wrong – I see different numbers everywhere and that’s what we were told by our guide.

      We missed mansaf because we are vegetarian! We really enjoyed the mezze though and have just written a detailed post about all the wonderful food we ate.

      Reply ↓

  5. The photo of the camel drinking from the water bottle is great! Priceless! What a great first trip to Jordan! Great photos :)

    Reply ↓

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