Category Archives: Middle East

Kindness in Jordan

This is a post about trust and kindness on my travels. I’ll share 3 stories from my experiences on kindness in Jordan. I met the nicest people!

I’ve met great people in every country but Jordan is a standout.  Jordanians would go so far out of their way to help us.

People were friendly in Indonesia and other countries. However, Jordanians kept going that extra mile beyond reasonable expectations. They were random strangers to help me. Often they tried to help us but most spoke very limited English, so the level effort was apparent.

Stories of kindness in Jordan

Here are three (3) stories of trust and kindness from my Jordan trip.

1) waiter offered to host us!

For example, a waiter actually invited us to stay with him at his home the “next” time we visit. We’ve gone through the conversation multiple times. We can’t quite figure out how it came to that. Nevertheless the invitation was incredibly generous!

2) Lost in the fog with no gas

Here’s another example. When we were driving in the fog, we were hopelessly lost in Jordan. Even worse, we were almost out of gas. Then, a guy we met along the way invited us into his house. He tried to help but couldn’t understand some parts of our English. Then, he called someone he knew that spoke marginally better English. That guy then tried to help direct us for this missing road.

3) Closed his ship to provide a personal escort

Here’s a third example. On our last night, we were a little lost driving through Amman, their capital city.  The highways are actually very well marked in Jordan, but there’s almost no signs on the local roads. We thought we must be really close but couldn’t find our hotel.

We pulled over to walk into a car dealership office to find someone to ask for help. There was only one guy working, and lucky for us, Mohammad that was nice enough to help.

He started kindly directing us. However, halfway through he said it was really complicated. We were only 15 minutes away, but he said he’d help us. He didn’t just finish telling us where to go, or show us on a map.  He closed the office, hopped in his car and had us follow him to our hotel.

If this had happened when I first arrived in Jordan, I’m not sure if we would have trusted. We’re so skeptical, which typically makes us “street smart.”  Would you trust a random person in the Middle East to drive to your hotel? That might have been slightly frightening, but at this people we expected friendliness.

This is Jordan, and it was yet another example of Jordanians going out of their way to help us. Mohammad was incredibly nice and helpful, and I’d like to give a plug to his business. Mohammad gave us his card afterward – he’s actually the Deputy CEO at Great Wall Al Said Automotive. If you’re moving to Jordan, that’s where to buy a car!  Thanks Mohammad!

Jordan map

Conclusion – kindness in Jordan

If you’re friendly, genuine, and just give people a chance, they might surprise you. I still recommend being street smart and remaining vigil.

Have you experienced kindness in Jordan? Have you experience kindness from locals on your travels?

Afterward I read a few good posts on trusting others in Jordan; here’s one from Nomadic Matt. It’s a great travel blog if you don’t already read it.


Road to Petra – Getting Lost Driving in Jordan

Note: if you have trust issues, particularly with strangers in foreign lands, reading most of this post may not help. Spoiler alert – we lived!  But it was an adventure.

This is the story of our attempts to drive from the Dead Sea to Petra, one of the wonders of the world. We were on a travelers high, having just floated in the Dead Sea, and witnessed an amazing Dead Sea sunset.

As we drove down the Dead Sea highway, we looked at the rather poorly marked map. We noticed that the driving directions from the Dead Sea to Petra were wrong. They had us driving on a road that wasn’t on our map, which presented some obvious challenges as the sun was going down.  How could that be?

Petra and the Dead Sea might be Jordans two biggest tourist attractions. They’re almost directly across from each other, so it seemed easy.  However, all the books and websites said the way to get there is to go back up to Amman and then go down. Or go down to Aqaba (the Red Sea), and then back up. Petra seems so close  is to our location along the Dead Sea highway. Thus, let’s get in touch with our inner Lewis & Clark and start exploring. Exploring at night. That was a big mistake.

We stopped to ask for help, but given that neither of us speak any Arabic whatsoever, we couldn’t quite figure out if people were saying that there’s no way to go directly east, or if the people we asked just didn’t know the way. Either way it required some investigation because the road we were looking for either wasn’t there or more likely wasn’t marked.

He drew us a map??

Hunger forced another stop and asked for help but couldn’t find anyone that spoke English. One guy seemed to understand us, and after three minutes of struggling to find the words to direct us, he actually decided to draw us a map. How kind is that??  He spent nearly 15 minutes drawing it. I’ve spent a couple of years living in Hells Kitchen in NYC, right near Times Square, so I know how many people routinely for help with directions, and I know how frustrating that can be. Perhaps it was a Kitty Genovese moment, as he was the only guy that seemed to speak enough English and have an idea of where to direct us, but it was very much appreciated. Unfortunately it still wasn’t clear but we went along our journey.

Sometimes You Trust the (seemingly) Creepy Man

After driving further down the Dead Sea highway we decided that we must have passed it, so we’d stop at the next exit with a rest stop. Waiting. Waiting. You have no idea how spoiled you can be with US highways, where every few exits include a rest area with restaurants, a gas station and bathrooms. We didn’t even see another vehicle for ten minutes, and another 20 minutes before coming across a place we could stop for a “bathroom.”

While the side of the road worked fine for me, she understandably strongly prefers an actual bathroom. We needed directions anyway so we tried to find an entrance. A man was at the front of the gate and offered to let us in. Unlike most people we met, he actually spoke broken English. Unfortunately he didn’t have any idea where that road might be. That’s a bit of a troubling sign, as it appeared that the road to Petra would be the only sign of life within a half-hour on either side of him. However, he kindly invited us to use the bathroom while he looked it up, so we trusted him.

If our Jordan trip was a horror movie, this would be one of many scenes where the audience would be screaming “don’t go in there!”  Everything this guy said and did were super nice, and perhaps it’s our own fears, experiences, and prejudices, but sometimes someone just comes off as creepy. We decided to be bold and trusting, and went to follow him. Would our car be there when we returned? Would this be our demise?

We followed the man in the gate, and he locked the gate behind us. Then we both cringed as we heard the click of the pad lock close, wondering if we’d be able to get back. He led us down a small hill from the highway. We then followed the man down a path, around the corner to a building to his office. At this point we couldn’t see the highway at all. Scary!

This is usually where you throw popcorn at the screen because the characters aren’t making good decisions. It’s about trust (or desperation?).

We walked in and the guy offered us some drinks (declined!). While she was using the bathroom he started talking about the King and the royal family. At that point I noticed every wall was decked out in framed photos of the King and Queen of Jordan.

So…directions?  He asked me to wait there – he’s coming back with a weapon, I know it! Why am I not trusting?

He came back with a phone number. Does Jordan have a “411” to call? His first call was short and he looked disappointed. It was in Arabic so I am only guessing from here.

His next call got heated. He was arguing with someone and got emotional. This may have been a bad idea!  If it was Star Wars, Solo would be saying “I got a bad feeling about this.”

Again, not speaking any Arabic whatsoever, you feel rather helpless when you can’t understand the language. This is particularly this case when you’re away from tourist attractions during moments like these. His temper seemed to rage, getting more intense by the moment.  To this day I have no idea what they were saying. It could have been unrelated to anything involving me!

As it turns out, the man called his brother and asked for directions. The brother hadn’t heard of it either. We tried – now what??

Good news…

The man asked us to stay and said he had an idea. He continued making calls. Again, they were in Arabic so we have no idea what they were talking about. But, at some point he came back with some info on how to find it.

Apparently drove past it, and that he doesn’t recommend that we continue. He invited us to stay over there until morning.

Whaaaat?  No thank you. Very kind of him to offer. Would you stay over?

Stopped by Jordanian Military

We finally found the road from the Dead Sea Highway towards Petra. It was dark and quiet, until we ran into a road block. We saw a Jordanian Security checkpoint with a military vehicle with really large weapons. They were wearing their purple “camo” in a military vehicle and had their guns drawn. Oh my!  You’d think they were looking for a dangerous fugitive!  They directed us to open the trunk, and while one soldier inspected it, the other guy suspiciously asked lots of questions. Where are you headed?  Why are you going there?  Who’s vehicle is this?  Can we see your airline ticket out?  Who do you know there? In some countries, this is a prime opportunity for them to extort some cash out of tourists. They’ll plant some contraband items until the ransom is paid. However, after some questioning they let us go.

The road turned out to be going through a mountain range without any lights (or guardrails!).  By mileage our destination seemed rather close, but given the road conditions, we were moving really slow. It was actually ok…until the fog hit. Suddenly visibility was only one car length on a mountain and I was driving reeeeeally slowly. We hadn’t seen another car for an hour – just the military vehicle, and considered turning around on multiple occasions.

As if that wasn’t scary enough, add random wild dogs and other wildlife  – a surprise cameo from a donkey! Seriously – we hadn’t seen vegetation in miles, how are there donkeys there?

Besides being lost on a road with no signs of life for miles, in the fog, and almost driving off the narrow road, we have more challenges. The next challenge: gas. You have to fill up your tank every time you see a gas station or you won’t make it. We did, but we got a little lost earlier and now we added petrol to the list of concerns. Can you imagine being stranded in the middle of the mountain in the fog?  We wouldn’t see a car event one came by and could help. Suffice to say, it made for an interesting adventure!

In broad daylight and without the fog, I imagine it would have been a really beautiful drive.

Some tips for your trip

Advice to people that may visit Jordan

They say the only way to get to Petra is to go from Amman in the north or from Aqaba in the south, but there is a road. Drive it during the day – you’ll thank me later! The Dead Sea is just west of it, but the roads are terrible.

Advice to the Jordan tourism board:

Petra is your #1 tourist destination, and the Dead Sea is also a top destination. Given their proximity, there should be a convenient way to visit both without backtracking. Please update your maps, fix the road, and add some street lights. Please?

At multiple points during the trip, we found ourselves saying that Jordan is incredibly beautiful, but they could make it easier for people to get around if they’d like more people to visit.