1. The old taxi drivers who slip you some ice cream or fresh fruit on the long drive from Aqaba to Wadi Musa
That little snack is of course included in the horrendous price you are paying even after 30 minutes of bargaining, but you appreciate it anyway. You will know the names of all of his 25 grandchildren by the time you arrive, and he will want to know the full story of your life.
“You’re not married? Hopefully you’ll find a good man soon, Insha’Allah.”
“Yes, yes, your car will be fixed tomorrow. Insha’Allah.”
Good wishes for you, promises for the future, followed by an “Insha’Allah” — if Allah wills it — that comes deeply from the heart… meaning that the speaker is full of good intentions, but washes his hands completely of any responsibility for their fulfillment.
3. Sweet tea prepared over the fire in a rusty teapot
Sweet tea is one of the most important parts of Bedouin culture. It is spiced with cardamom and cinnamon, sweetened with presumably a kilo of sugar, and prepared over an open fire in a teapot that has never seen a sponge before. The taste of the desert.
4. Jack Sparrow fashion
The eternal question in Jordan is: What came first, Jack Sparrow or the Bedouins? Kohl-rimmed eyes, long dark hair, headscarf… It’s quite easy to get them confused. Although it’s a century-old Bedouin tradition to rim the eyes with black kohl, and the headscarf has practical reasons rather than fashion-related ones, you can’t deny that especially the young Bedouins make a pretty good business out of imitating the famous pirate even in movement, speech, and charm. Watch out, ladies!
5. The sketchiness of Jordanian cars
When you want to change the volume of the radio, you first have to put back the button hanging down on a cable, just like the one for the activation of the all-wheel drive. You might see someone hot-wiring their own car because the key broke in the ignition lock. Seat belts are mostly overrated, and don’t even ask what is supposed to be in the big hole in the middle of the dashboard. Still, these cars always feel strangely comfortable.
6. Being surrounded by ancient and living history with every step you take
From the ruins of Petra to Shobak Castle, from the Crusader castle Kerak to the Dead Sea coast, there are Bedouins who still live like they’ve been living for hundreds of years. The farmers harvest the corn with traditional sickles; only the occasional ringing of an iPhone is a sign of our modern times. It’s hard to find another place where history is still as alive as in Jordan.
7. Road tripping with Arabic songs about love and heartbreak playing at full volume
The windows wide open, music blasting, driving along the Kings Road, I was stunned by the ever-changing landscape of Jordan, be it the rocks and mountains of Wadi Musa, the colorful sand dunes of Wadi Rum, or the valley of Darna, whose beauty might just bring tears to your eyes.
8. Bedouin camps
Happiness is a tent with a bed, a magically refilling tea cup, the sound of a bonfire in the quiet of the desert night and a sky above that is not disturbed by any light pollution and shows itself in its original beauty.
9. Random road blockages
Driving through a Jordanian city is not always easy — fallen-over boxes of oranges in the middle of the streets barricading you is a real thing. After the cars honk and people yell poetic Arabic insults at each other for about 15 minutes, they all disappear to talk it over with a cup of coffee and leave the street blocked.
10. The call to prayer
Back in Aqaba or Amman, peace and quiet can be found during the Islamic call to prayer, the Adhān, called out by a muezzin five times a day. Listening to the muezzin always leaves one in an peaceful state of mind.
11. Bedouin stories
It’s hard to forget memories of climbing ancient stairs hewn in the stone of a canyon, and over fallen columns to get to the shop of the Bedouin family at the end of the world in Little Petra. And by ‘shop’ I mean some jewelry on a few carpets on the rocks and a teapot on the campfire. They willingly shared their stories about their way of living, their personal lives, and their culture.
12. Eating melon after a long day in the desert
There is a special sweetness to fruits when you eat them after a long day walking through the desert, having breathed in the sand and the dust of millennia. The juice running down your dry throat, licking your fingers clean — it feels like you’ve never really tasted melons, apples, or oranges before.
13. The feeling of nothing but infinity in front of you.
You remember the leaving the desert of Wadi Musa, hiding from the hot midday sun in the shade of some palms in an oasis. Birds crossing the sky above, the quiet burbling of the little stream behind — nothing but infinity in front.
14. Feeling weightless in the Dead Sea
It’s amazing to float on the surface, looking at the pale, flickering mountains in the distance. Until you make a wrong movement and accidently swallow a liter of liquid salt.
15. Ice cold lemonade with mint
This ice cold juice made from freshly-squeezed lemons and mint leaves may be the most refreshing thing you’ve ever tasted.
16. The feeling of freedom
When sipping tea alone right on the edge of a deep cliff, looking over the vast desert far beneath while feeling the warm wind in your hair and little drops of sweat running down your body, you get a taste of infinite freedom and understand why so many Bedouins chose the hardship of their traditional lifestyle over a comfortable flat in Amman.
17. That little part of your heart…
… that you’ve inevitably lost somewhere between the ruins, the sand, and the people. At least you have an excuse to return soon, so you can claim it back.