Kim Steiger (Schott)
The Real People and Experiences in Jordan
Recently I attended a conference with the Adventure Travel and Trade Association and the Jordan Department of Tourism. The attendance requires an application and an acceptance process of which I was fortunate enough to be one of few to be accepted.
Travel to the Middle East and the country of Jordan had many of my friends and family concerned for my safety. Considering the current concerns of unrest in the Middle East, I knew it was vitally important for me to experience first hand the people, the local culture and all this area of the world had to offer. What I will explain, in continues updates, is how this part of the world forever touched my heart and soul. One of the roles of an educated, certified and true travel professional is to teach and inspire others about the world! I can attest to the fact that my travel experiences continue to educate, inspire, and open my eyes to the never ending beauty in this world. It is through travel experiences that we have the ability to break down barriers of misunderstanding, judgements and pre-conceived notions.
Not being familiar with Arabic had me a bit nervous. I always try and familiarize myself with at least some of the basic language prior to arrival. Arabic, however, was a bit more challenging for me to grasp and pronounce correctly. It was immediately made aware, upon arrival at the airport, that this was not going to be an issue.
Signage through out the city is in both Arabic and English. From the road signs, to store names and historical cites. Of course I always recommend at least attempting to use even the basic forms of the local language. The people I met were more than helpful to assist me with these efforts.
What I did not see was all Muslim women wearing a hijab, women walking behind men, not driving, not working outside of the home and not holding positions of power within the community and government. I did not see people carrying guns, creating riots and/or spouting religious ideas and hate toward others. What I did see was a country that offers medical insurance to all, empowers women, accepts the refugees and prayers for peace within their countries so they can return to their loved ones. This is a country that is forward thinking, embracing and welcoming of all people despite their religious beliefs and country of origin. Weather you are visiting with a local family or shopping in a local store, you will be greeted and asked if you care for tea. It is a warm sweet tea and a staple within this culture. If being entertained within a home you will be filled with delightful tastes and smells of food and fed until you are wishing you had wore your sweatpants!
While hiking through the dessert I was given directions by a local Bedouin women when I apparently looked confused about which way to turn on the path. I had another Bedouin family invite me to tea and was later met along the trail by two young Bedouin girls who invited me to sit under a shade tree as they wanted to share how they could count and recite their ABC's in English.
The people always gracious and welcoming enjoyed sharing their culture and rich history with those who visit.