Respect the differences
Despite all the tolerance that is its landmark, Jordan is a muslim country, where many people defend the religious restrictions and cultural uses.
Mixing with other tourists is common behaviour, sometimes with a discreet reserve. However, that's not hard to accept and respect it.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
An Egyptian friend of mine once said, "Sometimes we think we treat foreigners better than we treat each other."
A couple of stories from my trip to Jordan.
A invitation to dinner
My driver for the week, Jihad, possibly because he was amazed at my ability to sing along to parts of the famous Lebanese pop song "The Hat is Yours" (Habbeetik) on the radio, and also know what the song title really meant ("I loved you"), insisted I come back and entertain his family with my bad Arabic. There I was force-fed some amazing home-cooked Jordanian food. While I ate, his children came out to stare at me intently, copying my words and actions and laughing (a lot).
Hazim, the Bedouin and his tea.
I was accosted somewhere in the desert by a genuine Bedouin. After surprising him with my few hastily learned words of Arabic ("salam alaikoum!"), he insisted I come inside and drink tea with him. And more tea. And more tea. He spoke pretty good English, but he didn't seem to understand "no thanks", "I've had quite enough tea now, thank you", and "I've really got be going or I'll never get back to my hotel before the sun goes down."
From Lawrence of Arabia:
When Lawrence wonders why the Harith Bedouin Sherif Ali doesn't kill him for drinking from their well, after he killed his Hazimi Bedouin friend for the same crime, Sherif Ali tells him:
"You are welcome."
The first impressions confirmed immediately the social opening of Jordan culture.
Middle class marriages take place in the hotel, and men and woman celebrate in a rather "western" party, where the presence of foreigners does not worry anyone.
By the contrary, they seemed pleased to share the joy.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
RIGHT HAND AND LEFT HAND
When in Jordan or any Moslem country you must eat with the right hand, drink with the right hand and use the right hand when being introduced. The left hand is used for cleaning yourself after visiting the toilet and it would be considered extremely offensive if you used your left hand for eating. The Moslems believe that Satan uses the left hand as mentioned in a Hadith (a rule by Prophet Mohammed)
Eating with locals the traditional way
If you are invited to visit locals in small villages they will probably follow age old customs, which will mean that the men will eat together, and the women will eat separately, sometimes after the men. But being a foreign guest they may make allowances and your wife or girlfriend mught end up eating with the menfolk.
Bear in mind that in Jordan They speak Arabic.
They have different letters They write and read from right to left,Here are some handy phrases and words (pronounciation) :
Hello : Marhaba
How are you : Ki fak
I am fine : al hamid lil lah
Thanks very much : shokran ktir
you are welcome : Afwan
Money : Masari
far : ba'eed
Near : Areeb
Nice : Hilo ,Jamil
Delicous : Laziz
How much : b'kam
Why : Lesh
Size : Qiyas
Taxi : taxi
Yes : Na'am
No : La
Please : min fadlak
what's your name? :Sho ismak ?
My name is Robin : Ismi Robin
where are you from? : min wen inta ?
I am from Holland: Ana min Hollanda,America,Britania etc
More than 90% of Jordanians are of Islamic Faith. There are many important Christian sites in Jordan which is very popular with tourists. There are also plenty Islamic Religious sites in Jordan (see website mentioned).
As in other Muslim countries, it is important to respect the religion. Women do dress conservatively, so do men.
When using taxis, men sit in the front seat, unaccompanied women & kids sit in the back.
I also never saw any women in Coffee Houses in any of the towns I visited.
I did visit some mosques, and were welcomed and was shown around.
The picture is taken on a Friday in front of King Hussein Mosque in Amman. The streets were full of worshippers listening to the message of the Imam.
This website gives very good information on important Islamic sites in Jordan: http://www.atlastours.net/jordan/islamic.htmlRelated to:
- Religious Travel
Visiting a Jordanian household
If you are invited for a meal, one usually takes a small gift for the household.You can take flowers, chocolates, biscuits or Arab pastries. Remember that it is not really polite to take something that the household would consider as being very expensive.
The usual way to offer a gift like this is to hand it over as soon as you possibly can. Just mutter "this is for the house" or something similar. However much your gift is appreciated you are unlikely to receive more than a polite thank you. Don't be upset, this is normal.
In many houses people take off their shoes when entering, so wear slip on shoes or sandals in case.
If you are invited to a meal, almost certainly a spoon will be offered, don't hesitate to accept it. Everybody may eat from a common plate, take the food immediately opposite to you only. When you are full, say so, no need to burp! Water is usually offered at the end of the meal, there might be a common glass here as well, so drink it down quickly and hand the glass back! When people have finished eating, they will get up immediately to wash hands and mouth, without waiting for everybody else to finish. If this happens when you are still eating, then take your time! After that, everybody lies back on the cushions and the conversation will begin.
After a meal, coffee will be served, probably tea also after a short interval. After this, you should offer to leave; you will be pressed to stay, it is for you to decide how sincere this is - roughly base yourself on how much you are enjoying yourself and how much you think THEY are enjoying themselves. In general, an invitation to supper is not necessarily an invitation to spend the evening.
The ladies : if you are part of a couple, they are unlikely to appear, the same if there are men from outside the household present. If you are a woman alone, they MIGHT put in an appearance, and in any case it would be perfectly proper to ask if you could thank them for the meal. However it would not be rude not to do so.
In Wadi Rum you may find these brown tents scattered on the landscape. They are woven by the Bedouin women using the goats’ hair. Goat’s hair shrinks when is wet so it blocks the cold air from outside in winter. However when it is dry, the fabric sags appearing “holes” everywhere which let the breeze pass. A common tent is usually 30 -40 metres long and has two sections: the open area, which in summer is usually open, and the women’s area, on the right hand side, which is kept closed if there are strangers around.
The public area is used to receive guests. People here can eat, drink, chat but never discuss about money or business (it would be very impolite). Coffee is prepared (toasted) in advance and boiled when guests arrive. Guests may be offered one cup of coffee and even a second one. A third cup means that are considered as a part of the family so never refuse a third cup, it could be very offending for your host.
Ok, ok, I have to admit it: Petra beer is good but in a Muslim country like Jordan it is not easy to find everywhere! But there are some places with good fruit juices, mint tea aaaand water pipes. I don’t smoke (I am only a bloody passive smoker!!!!) but I find smoking narguile very relaxing :-) After a very traumatic “first time” in a men's social club in Istanbul, smoking narguile in Madaba after a day trip was very cool!
A Sweet tooth
I will go back to Jordan for konafah (k’naffy). This is a wonderful sweet confectionary mad of goat’s milk cheese, topped with phyllo and crushed pistachio, then warm syrup is poured over. It is served warm and one of the most wonderful sweets I ever had!
There are more of these wonderfully freshly made sweet stuff mad in those big round tins!
There are also the other typical Middle-Eastern sweets available from sweet shops like Habibah, in Amman.
Sweet shops are in all the towns I visited in Jordan.
After Egypt and bakeesh left, right and centre, we understood that tipping in Jordan was appreciated but not obligatory.
Our driver kept telling us Jordan was expensive and, I may have misunderstood, petrol was 1JD a litre - whereas it is half a JD. When we left one JD for our guide at Jerash, he was offended, asked if we knew what it was and gave it back! He wasn't even that good and spoke in a monotone. We said we had to change money. In Australia that was about 1.40 A$ so more in US $. Our driver said we should have left 5 JD which we felt excessive! And in Petra where we would have a guide for maybe 3 hrs, we should leave JD 15!!
We had a conversation with a German lady who had given the Jerash guide 2JD only to be told it wasn't enough! She was left with a bad feeling.
At Petra we had a good guide for 21/2 hrs and gave him JD 12, he didn't comment so hope we didnt' over tip, but it was just him and us.
We agonised over what to leave our driver for 6 days and felt that 80JD was much more than we would normally give but it was a personalised service. We haven't heard from him so maybe he is not happy!
This was a weird experience because total strangers would say Welcome to Jordan!
There are many barber shops in every town I visited in Jordan. Like in North Africa, India, Oman, Turkey etc, I never had to shave whilst in Jordan.
It is always a nice experience to get a very smooth shave by these masters with the blade.
Coffee & Tea
Coffee (Turkish coffee) is a strong boiled brew of cardamom flavoured coffee. It is usually served in small cups. You have to inform the waiter how you sweet you like your coffee, as it is prepared with sugar. Let it settle before drinking, and do not drink the thick, muddy ‘sediment’.
Tea (shy) is sweet, often flavoured with mint and usually served in a glass.
There are many coffee shops in Downtown Amman, as well as the other places I visited in Jordan and as in Turkey, you see waiters delivering tee and coffee to shops.
I think Jordanian men are addicted to caffeine and nicotine :-)
Other than normal cigarettes the nargileh (hubbly-bubbly) is a very popular local custom.
You usually find these in coffee shops, where you can order a prepared water pipe, and a flavour of your choice.
It is a very relaxing and sociable experience.
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