Preparing for Jordan

I hadn’t thought of visiting Jordan until I saw a post on Jerash by Harinda Bama. Then I realized that right there in the middle of the middle east, a place so full of history, where the remnants of the European wars of a hundred years ago are still being fought, in the middle of a beautiful and once peaceful land, there is a part which is easy for tourists to visit.

There were over 4 million tourists to Jordan two years ago, and that number might have gone up to 7 million this year if it were not for COVID-19. I suppose only a small fraction of travelers blog, but that number still produces a lot of stories and opinions. I started by reading some of what wordpress has on offer: Amman’s street art, Kerak, Raqmu, also known as Petra, Wadi Musa and Little Petra, Jerash and the Cats of Amman.

This was definitely a place I wanted to visit. The Family was also interested. So I looked deeper. The first book I took up was a translation of the travel diaries of Johann ludwig Burckhardt, the man who rediscovered Raqmu (Petra) in 1812. The translation of “Travels in Syria and the Holy Land” that I had contained a very long and interesting foreword by William Martin Leake. I found this really interesting, not only for the description of the geography (it helped to keep a map with contour lines open on my laptop as I read) but also for the interesting tidbits about how accurately the Greeks and Romans had mapped this land. Raqmu need not have been lost at all.

There is quite a bit of European writing on Jordan. The most well known is “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by Thomas Edward Lawrence. From today’s perspective one can see the broad line between Lawrence of Arabia and to the present wars in West Asia. The book is a little too verbose for my taste, but I found it interesting to skim through, pausing at bits here and there. Gertrude Bell‘s book “The Desert and the Sown” was an easier read, from a slightly earlier time, and left me with the same unsettling feeling of imperial powers meddling in local politics. As a travel book, it too has its positive points. One could add a dash of whipped cream by adding Agatha Christie’s “Appointment with Death”, not one of her best Hercule Poirot books, but one in which the murder occurs in Raqmu.

Most of the British books from the early part of the 20th century CE are imperial and racist by today’s standards, and totally ignore the post-Roman history of the area. They deal with the Ottoman Empire as a vile occupying power (an Indian finds this ironic). It was only when I started in on the next phase of reading, guide books, that I began to appreciate the modern history of the area. After some thought I chose the Blue Guide and Lonely Planet. I like Blue Guides for their detailed explanations of cultural artifacts, especially in and around Europe. Byzantine power supplanted Rome in this part of the world, until it was checked by the Umayyads and, later, Abbasids. After the brief Crusader incursion, Ayyubids and Mamluks held this land until the coming of the Ottomans. Each of these periods has left its artifacts across the land. This was a good point from which to expand my reading. I was feeling a little rushed last week, since our plan would have taken us to Raqmu today.

Now, under the new social distancing conventions, I remain in my flat. Airlines have cancelled flights, and the world has broken up into little islands. It gives me more time to read about this tiny country. I hope that when this calamity has gone, The Family and I are still able to take this cancelled trip.

By I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.


  1. Hi! Thanks for linking to my post. I want to say a resounding DO go to Jordan! I was there in October with my girlfriend and we went all over the place. Jerash is indeed wonderful and check out Um Quais, similar, less developed, and nearby. I blogged every single day of our journey, so if you want a report from many stops in Jordan, look at all my posts prior to the cats post (which I did once I got home). Jordan is safe, and much of it is very clean. People are good to you, vendors don’t surround you as happens in other places. The food out outstanding, things are not expensive. Please look into Dara, which I had never heard of but turned out to be wonderful. And do not leave out Petra. Yes, it’s swarming with tourists, but do go. If you get a chance, visit the Baptism Site of Jesus with John the Baptist. I am an atheist and loved the site, so it does not matter one’s religion. The best part was seeing Palestine across the river, only a few feet away – no border wall. It was remarkable. Thank you for letting me rave about Jordan!! I hope the skies open up for travel soon, and that you and your family can go and have a wonderful time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You might enjoy “A Prince of Our Disorder” by John E. Mack. He draws the lines from TEL to our current oil-drenched problems. I also really enjoyed “The Dark Ages: An Age of Light” 3rd episode focuses on the Middle East including Jordan’s beautiful medieval sites. Jordan was my entire bucket list for most of my life. But now I know that’s not happening. I hope you go and write many blog posts about it for my vicarious pleasure. ❤ Stay well. I'm reading "No Picnic on Mt. Kenya" — it's great and seems apt to the moment to read about momentarily escaping a POW camp to climb a mountain.


  3. Just today, I wrote – in a rambling post that touches on some other subjects: – about the need to prepare for a trip by reading a lot. And then I come across your wonderful description of how to do it! Read history, geography and fiction. It’s so much fun and extends the trip into the presence, whenever it will take place.

    I have only been to Jordan on a day-trip from Eilat, crossing the border to Aqaba, finding a car rental and driving to Petra, visiting it for a day, and back at night. It was far too fast, I wouldn’t do that anymore, but it still remains in my memory as a wonderful country. In Aqaba, there are some guys with horses trying very hard to sell their horse (or maybe rent it for a short trip, come to think of it), but otherwise people were super friendly and funny and relaxed. It already started at the border where the soldiers joked with us, and in the evening as we returned, they let us sit with them and check the few passing cars together. The soldiers at the checkpoints to Petra (I didn’t take the main road, but the one closer to the Jordan river) were also super friendly.

    It’s the one Arab country where I would really like to return for a longer spell.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. By the way, it’s funny that you called the world “broken up into little islands”, because I am literally stuck on an island in the middle of the Atlantic. No more flights, no more ferries. I just hope the supply ships will still come, or I will have to learn how to fish.

    Well, there could be worse places for being stuck for a few months. At least I feel safe and isolated here. And I can still go for walks without bumping into anyone, at least not too closely.

    Liked by 1 person

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