By Veena Suman
Many of our friends were surprised at our choice of a destination as far as Jordan was concerned. The general impression amongst a lot of people was that it is not very well-off, and a conservative nation. We chose to go there as we were keen to visit a Middle East country that blended tradition with modernity, and I am glad to say that we were not disappointed.
Arrival at Queen Alia International Airport was a pleasant surprise. It is an efficient airport, very clean and user-friendly. We found the Jordanian people to be extremely warm and hospitable, who seem to take pride in the fact that their country is peaceful in these troubled times.
We had an exciting time visiting the Blue Mosque, which besides being very beautiful, required us womenfolk to wear Abayas…. a first and novel experience for us! The abayas are very thoughtfully provided by the shops outside the Mosque, free of charge.
Jerash, Petra and Wadi Rum are awesome experiences, and more than justified our decision to visit Jordan. Everywhere you go to in Jordan, you come across pictures of the present king and his very beautiful Queen Noor and their children, who seem to be very popular.
Floating in the Dead Sea is another great experience, though not as easy as it sounds. For one, the water is highly salty and tends to sting if one has even a minor scratch. It’s a good idea to carry a bottle of fresh tap water from the hotel to rinse out your eyes every time the salt gets in. It takes a couple of tries before you get the hang of lying on your back and relaxing, but once there, the feel is exhilarating!
Visiting the Dead Sea scrolls was a must for me personally, as I was told that Jordan is the only country that has the original and only copper scrolls. Israel is a unique experience, especially Jerusalem. It is a good idea to read up as much as possible about the city, in order to get as enriching an experience as possible.
The whole city comes to a standstill from Friday evening till Saturday evening,which can be a disappointment for most, but very interesting for me personally as I could see how the Sabbath is observed. The huge Rams horns used for announcing Sabbath, being sold in the shops on Via Dolorosa make an interesting sight. We bought some souvenirs for our Christian friends and had them blessed in the churches when we walked for the Stations of the Cross. Jerusalem is full of Indians who have come for a tour of the Holy Land. We saw very few Indian tourists in Jordan.
We were very lucky that our guide in Israel was a member of a Kibbutz, who gave us a lot of information on the functioning of a kibbutz. We were very lucky that we could see a number of bar-mitzvah ceremonies at the Wailing Wall. The Jewish people prefer to call it the Western Wall, and we were careful to call it by that name. My only disappointment was that being non-Muslims, we could not see the truly magnificent Al-Aqsa mosque but had to be content with a distant view. Early risers can however, go near the precinct after early morning prayers are over.
To end-Israel has delicious fruit, one must do full justice to it. The Medjool Dates are the best in the world. We brought back boxes as gifts for friends and family. Olives are another must buy.
And yes- for travelers to both countries it is advisable to carry a headscarf, for visits to holy places. A lot of walking is involved in both countries, so comfortable shoes are a must.
As far as food is concerned, I am not aware if there are any Indian restaurants. We dined in the hotels and were happy to sample the local cuisine!
To Book your Middle Eastern experience. Call The Wanderers on +91 22 67023377