Wednesday, June 23, 2010
30. Visit Jordan - And Learn the Meaning of the Word "Hospitality"
So, when I posted about my trip to the Dominican Republic my one-word description was "vibrant". Applying the same exercise to Jordan, the word that immediately comes to mind is "hospitable". And that is really saying something because a week ago I would have been completely willing to bet any amount of money that I had already been to the most hospitable country on earth, which I was sure had to be Tanzania, where the first word you always hear is "karibu" (welcome). But despite Tanzania's incrediby admirable showing every time I've been there, I have come to believe that Jordan has it beat.
I know some people I've taken to Tanzania (and maybe a few who I've now been to the Dominican Republic with as well) who might dispute my claim, so I'm assembling a few points of evidence from the many we've experienced the last few days to make my case.
Exhibit A: Our hosts, Chris and his family, the Omrans. Even though none of them were actually going to be in town when we arrived, they opened up their guest home to us, called and checked in (twice) the day we arrived, and set us up with every form of information we could ever need before we even knew we needed it. Pictured in one of the photos above is the wonderful Ashraf, who works with the family and picked up Connor and I at the airport, and then took us back again at midnight to get Siham. All of this for strangers they had ever met, just because Jamila made a request to Chris.
Exhibit B: Khaled, Jamila's good friend, who took about 10 minutes to become one of ours as well. The first night we were all in town he picked us up, and took us out for dinner and drinks and our first shisha experience (as you can see in the picture here). On top of being a fabulous host, he's a brilliant guy and a ton of fun, and all three of us are now twisting his arm to please come be a tourist with us to sites he's already seen, just because hanging out together is so much fun.
Exhibit C: Inas, our guide to the University of Jordan. My friend Gary also really came through on this trip, and very generously shared his Middle East contacts with me, doing a whole host of e-introductions on my behalf. Inas teaches English literature at the University of Jordan, and she devoted the better part of a day to showing Connor, Siham and I the highlights, and some of the nooks and crannies of the University. I think we all agree that among the unexpected things we will never forget was a tour through the campus medical museum, where an astounding array of diseased human parts were floating in formaldehyde. There were also a number of fetuses, including one with multiple heads that made one of us (okay, me) involuntarily scream when we came upon it. Inas also has the distinction of providing what was probably the most generous portions of lunch we've ever faced, and if you check out the table in the photo of Connor, Inas and I, you will see what I'm talking about.
Exhibit D: All the Jordanians we have contacted about water scarcity and refugee problems, or asked for any help about anything really. We have people who have never met us who have: offered to help us go to refugee camps, offered to accompany us to them; offered to skype in interviews with us because they are too far away for us to get to; and made contacts 3 to 4 times removed to get us talking to people they think would be helpful. And that doesn't even factor in the random acts of kindness we've experienced, including this afternoon when we were re-grouping at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the staff brought us bottled waters and candies (twice as much for Siham, of course, because everyone here loves her twice as much as ordinary mortals).
At this point, I hope I've made mine (point, that is). This place takes hospitality to a level I've never seen. There are plenty of reasons to visit, but this is definitely at or near the top of the list.