Meet the Jordanians
For the duration of your time in Jordan everyone you speak to, in every shop you enter, any taxi you take, anywhere you eat, drink, or sleep, and indeed even individuals who walks past you on the street will officially welcome you to Jordan (imagine this happening in the UK or the US?). If you were anywhere else in the world you might start to get the feeling that someone was taking the piss out of you, but in Jordan, most of the time anyway, it seems genuine and warm.
Generally speaking the Jordanians are polite, patriotic, religious people who seemingly adore their king. It’s an easy country in which to get around, made so by the friendly nature of the people and their willingness to help. Obviously there are those who want to make a quick buck, but the hassle factor is nothing compared to say neighbouring Egypt. A simple “La Chukran” (no thank you) is usually enough to make even the most persistent of vendors here move on to the next potential customer.
No surprises that this country is not a big nation of drinkers (although there a few) and the young would rather spend their nights off in restaurants, cyber cafes, or shisha café with their laughing gear firmly attached to a “hubbly-bubbly” pipe. They consider themselves more western, and less conservative than some of their neighbours but it is still clearly an Islamic country, with most of the afore mentioned cafes being male dominated, and only the most progressive women (well…. prostitutes) exposing shoulders and knees for all the world to see.
Wearing various coloured headscarves, consisting of numerous tribes, and well known for their hospitality are the Bedouin, who can be found all over the Arabian peninsular and north Africa. In Jordan there are about 40,000 true Bedouin left. Nomads by tradition, today they are equally likely to be seen driving a four by four or chatting on their mobile phones, as they are to be seen herding their goats or camels through the wadis.
The ones around Petra have a decent command of English and all the lines required to get you to ride their camel, buy their bracelets, or drink their “Bedouin whiskey”(tea).
For hundreds of years they lived happily in the caves around Petra. They kept the location of the former Nabataean city a secret because they were worried that outsiders would come and their homes would be taken away from them. Petra was rediscovered in 1812 by Swiss explorer J.L. Burckhardt. Soon the outsiders did come, and indeed eventually the Bedouin did lose their homes.
A city was built for them instead in hills behind Petra, with homes and schools and all the mod cons. First they were encouraged to move there, and then eventually the government forced them. However many of them still talk of the good old days when they lived in caves and if you take a walk around some of the quieter caves lying on the outskirts of site you’ll discover, a few still do…