Advice and Tales from the Expat and Tourist Community in Jordan
We at Zaman Tours love to share with you our knowledge in travel expertise. In fact, we chose this job because we enjoy guiding others. We also, however, wanted to write a blog to share not only our thoughts, but the insider tips of average travelers who have spent days, months, and even years throughout the country of Jordan. To accomplish this, we sat down and interviewed four individuals (two tourists and two expats living in Jordan) about their stories and tips to making the most of one’s time in Jordan.
Abhishek Das (Indian, 28)
Abhishek Das is an expat living in Amman, Jordan.
What do you do here in Jordan?
I am a CAD designer for jewelry. I’ve been here for almost three years. I had jobs from other Gulf countries, all of which are super-hot. I also come from Mumbai, also very hot, and I heard that Amman has really good weather. I felt I was in need of a change, and I also felt like Jordan was underrated and that no one really knew anything about Jordan
Is Jordan what you expected?
Better than expected because people are really cultured here. Its very culturally rich, compared to Dubai for instance. There’s no culture in Dubai, which is so Westernized with so many skyscrapers and modern buildings. There’s no old structures and there are so many malls, but here in Amman there’s lots of historical places. And families are a lot closer here than in Dubai, and you can see that very clearly.
What are your favorite things to do in Jordan during the week?
During the weekend I love to go to restaurants, or the friday markets, or downtown. I love to go to downtown and buy vegetables for cooking later in the week. The bars over here are super good, although a little bit expensive, and there are a lot of people from Europe and America who frequent these bars (so there’s a lot of expat bonding that you can make). It’s not too Jordanian. You feel surrounded by everyone, there’s such great diversity and you hang out with great people. Even in restaurants you will find other expats and friends that you know from living here.
Restaurants are great here too. Indian, Iraqi, Syrian, Yemeni, it’s so diverse here. That’s one of the best parts: there are so many different restaurants you can try everything. The food of Jordan is really good, but it can get boring if you have lived here for three years. But the amount of restaurants make it not stale.
What are the best tourist spots in Jordan?
If you want to relax, Wadi Rum is the best place. You can really hang over there, and there’s no sound and it’s so chill with the silence and everything. The next I would say (closest to Amman) is the Dead Sea; you can go with friends and hang out and chill and have barbeque and go swim and then come back the next morning.
Petra is nice but very touristy, so I’m not too fond of going there a lot. Wadi Mujib is very adventurous too. Fighting against the water is super cool. And Aqaba is mostly about scuba diving and snorkeling and the coral reefs are the best there! It’s super fun to do scuba diving and snorkeling there – the water is super clean.
I’ve never been to the north part of Jordan that much. There is Ajloun and Um Qais, but they’re sort of similar to each other in my opinion. The best part of them is that you can still see these really old structures. Same with Amman actually. You can still see so many really old structures in the city. It’s not like other Western countries or Arab cities that I’ve visited. t still has that old vibe and culture, it never lost it
What are some of your insider tips and tricks to having the best time?
If you are getting a taxi, always ask to go to the police location nearby the place you are going to. I find that makes taxi drivers less likely to try to rip you off hahaha. Or better yet, just take an Uber or Careem (the Middle East Uber).
Always have mobile internet here so that you can show people pictures of places in case they don’t understand your English if you need to buy something or to ask questions.
The families here are super nice! They love to talk to you and ask you questions about your country and really get to know you.
Aaron Weintraub (USA, 24)
Aaron Weintraub is an expat living in Amman, Jordan.
What do you do here in Jordan and why did you come here?
Currently I am a video editor for this tourist agency (Editors Note: Not Zaman Tours) that has a bunch of videos in Jordan that they need editing for. It’s remote, so it gives me time to do twice the amount of Arabic lessons that I used to do before. It’s been nice. Beforehand, I bounced around from NGO to NGO for the past year or so doing communication work. I studied journalism at the University of Oregon and my intention was to come out here and be a foreign reporter for issues that I cared a lot about. For example, refugee rights, particularly among East African refugees. Palestinian identity and culture (which a lot of foreigners come out here for) is also of course another big thing.
Is Jordan safe?
I think it’s really funny when people ask me that. When I first moved out here, people always in America always used to tell to “Stay safe.” Hands down, America is way more dangerous. Jordan is completely safe. The number of times I’ve left my stuff in places (like cafes) and not had to worry about people stealing it, it’s alot. I worried about that kind of stuff way more in college. Theft is not a thing I’ve had in my mind. Not that it doesn’t happen; it’s a big city. But it’s very rare.
What are some of your insider tips and tricks to having the best time in Jordan?
I get the impression a lot from people who haven’t been in Jordan alot that they think Jordanians are really grumpy. And they’re not. Like Americans are way grumpier people than Jordanians are, but sometimes Jordanians have a natural frown(don’t know how to describe it) when they’re walking, and I think people who haven’t been here assume that they these people are unfriendly. It’s not true, Jordanians are super friendly and engaging and the number of times a random Jordanian has helped me in the street I can’t even count.
Don’t trust street names and don’t ask for directions via street names. If you live in Jordan, people identify locations by the nearest mosque, hospital, roundabout, etc… So if you get into a taxi, tell them to take you to a nearby landmark and then you can guide them the rest of the way.
What are the things to see in Jordan? What are the hidden gems in Jordan?
Wadi Mujib #1. Wadi Mujib is bae. I think it’s not just the coolest place in Jordan, but one of the top five coolest places I’ve ever been. It’s so cool. I mean, I’m from Texas and it has some good sites, but Wadi Mujib is up there even higher. The thing about Wadi Mujib is that it is low-key dangerous, you should be in pretty good shape and know how to swim (otherwise you totally shouldn’t do Wadi Mujib).
Besides Wadi Mujib, there’s always something cool going on in Jerash (musical festivals and art events for instance). Wadi Aya has a zipline and repelling. I don’t like Petra too much, I’ve been to Petra and it’s cool but in my eyes there’s tons of other things to do besides just Petra. Lots of people come to Jordan for Petra but there’s so many other cool places out here too.
I love Wadi Rum. Everytime I go to Wadi Rum, I always have a moment where I think “this isn’t real”. It’s like Mars. They literally filmed the movie The Martian in Wadi Rum and it couldn’t be more fitting. If you’re into climbing, Wadi Rum is one of the most intense spots to climb as well as one of the most scenic. It’s really cool. First time I went to Wadi Rum, I met up with Bedouins and they took us up the mountain trad-climbing (look it up if you don’t know what that is).
What are your favorite things to do in Jordan during the week?
God, that really varies. I love going on random hikes to places I’ve never been. That’s literally my favorite thing to do on the weekend; trying to find a crew of people who are going on a hike to somewhere I’ve never been (or even a place I’ve been). I often have to work on Fridays at least a little, so I usually try to find a cafe I’ve never been to. I get a little kick out of it and love exploring the different ones in Jordan. Recently I’ve gotten back into basketball. A year ago there was a crew I used to play soccer with every Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I don’t keep up with that anymore but it’s still totally possible. Other than that, just kicking it with friends. I also love camping and Wadi Rum.
Ray Futia (USA, 25) and Colton Fox (USA)
Ray Futia and Colton Fox were tourists visiting Jordan for the week. I met up with them and they graciously agreed to do this interview.
What are you doing here in Jordan?
Ray: I’ve been here for 3 days. I have a friend in Cairo and I’m going to meet up with him in Cairo tomorrow.
Colton Fox: I came to Jordan because I am trying to see all Seven Wonders of the World before I’m 30 and Petra was one of the stops. I’ve been here for six days. I’m also currently circumnavigating the globe in as straight as a line as I can.
Where have you been and which of Jordan’s attractions have you seen?
Ray: In Petra and Wadi Rum and later Aqaba for a night. Petra blew my mind, and I think all the history and culture was so cool. A lot of times you see Roman ruins and stuff, and you think it’s purely Roman, but Petra is actually a really cool amalgamation of Roman and Hellenistic influences together. It’s amazing to see these carvings with arch designs and free standing structures. I think the guide said they built it over 500 years. For Aqaba, I would have loved to go diving in the Red Sea but I didn’t have the time. Aqaba seems to be Jordan’s only real tourist place in the Red Sea. Everyone was trying to sell you on diving there. It’s packed with kids and families and tons of boats. You also sort of walk around the city and there’s a lot of cool spots. There’s one back alley i found with a bunch of kids smoking a water pipe.
Colton: I was in Amman, Wadi Mujib, Petra, and Wadi Rum. I really like Amman. I was in Turkey before this and have been to some Arab countries before so I wanted to see how Jordan compared. Jordan is definitely more conservative than Tunisia and Turkey. It’s less conservative than Western Morocco but more conservative than Eastern Morocco.
How do you feel towards the people?
Ray: I’ve spent most of my time with local people so far. First day I was with a bunch of Jordanian Palestinians. When I was in Wadi Rum, I was the only other person in my camp so I hung out with the cook and guides. They were awesome and great conversation. I got a ride back from the desert from a local Bedouin guy. There have definitely been a few times I’ve been overcharged with things but they are great overall outside of those isolated incidents.
How safe do you feel in Jordan?
Colton: Totally 100%. I wander around at night multiple times and no issues. I’ve had many people who assumed I was going places and even helped me out finding places. Everyone waves, and there was an older woman teaching me some Arabic words. That aspect has been awesome. Especially compared to other countries, there haven’t been that level of hospitality in other countries.
Ray: Let me say a story. When I was in Aqaba and looking for a place that someone had recommended for food, turned out I had gotten to a sketchy part of town. I remember a lot of people trying to get me to come eat in their restaurants. Suddenly, one guy pulls over next to me in a big truck. He beckons me over and asks “Where you from” and I say “America.” I was a little scared. He asked me why I came to Jordan yadda yadda yadda and he spent the next few minutes giving me a few tips for Jordan and that’s all that happened. He didn’t want anything, he just wanted to know why i came to his country. It’s really nice just this random dude pulling over and welcoming me to the country.