10 Days in Jordan: Living in Amman

While scrolling Sincerely, Alice these days, you may have noticed I've done quite a bit of country hopping since my move to France. I've been really blessed in not only being able to find insanely good deals on trips, but incredible friends to go on these trips with, and this post couldn't be more representative of that.

When I met Noor during my first week of our masters studies, I had no idea that she would grow to become such a treasured person in my life. All I thought at the time was "This girl looks really cool, I want to be her friend." When my classmates and I went around the table and introduced ourselves, I'm embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of the country 'Jordan' before. 

I had no idea that only months later I'd be stepping off a plane and into Amman hand in hand with the girl sitting beside me.

And so, this post is a culmination of 10 incredible days that we spent together in Jordan, seeing her friends and family and taking photos along the way. I'd like to divide this post into two parts, one that shares my experience in Amman and another that captures Wadi Rum and Petra. I think splitting this post up will do more justice in highlighting the incredible photos and memories I made while exploring Jordan.

This story began when Noor discovered that, if we did a layover in Milan, we could travel to Jordan for only 80 euros roundtrip. Prior to finding this flight, it had always been a "maybe someday" trip idea, but as I looked at her computer screen with all the prices lined up, it instantly became a "definitely right now" trip idea. With our planning obsession, we quickly mapped out the logistics of all the trains and buses we'd have to take, and within a few days, we were booked.

As I'm an American citizen, I have to obtain a visa upon arrival when I travel to Jordan. However, the Ministry of Tourism in Jordan offers foreigners a 'Jordan Pass', which is a sightseeing package that waives the entry visa cost and gives some bonuses that allow you to access different touristic sites. 

Without the pass, the Jordan tourist visa is around 56 USD. As you can see above, the lowest tier Jordan pass is around 99 USD, which is the one I got. The Jordan Pass becomes an unbeatable deal when you see the first check on the list: a 1 day visit to Petra, where a single day pass is 70 USD alone. 

I did visit a few other sites in Jordan such as the Roman Theatre and Wadi Rum where, thanks to my pass, my entry was free. 

As I've said in previous posts, I'm not too lucky when it comes to public transport. Usually, it's either delayed or cancelled for some reason, and my journey to Jordan was no different. Our flight from Paris to Milan was delayed by 2 hours, and the flight from Milan to Jordan was also delayed, meaning we arrived in Amman at midnight.

But this didn't put a hamper on our spirits! As we stepped out of the airport, the cool air energized us and we all but ran to Noor's familys car, where a very tearful and happy reunion was had. This was my first time meeting any of her family in person, but I had seen her mother and siblings countless times on video chat. I knew little to no Arabic, but I had spent the layover times asking Noor questions and taking notes on my notes app, so with what little I knew, I said hello

With a big hug, I was welcomed instantly, and from that moment on I became like a 4th daughter in their home.

Noor and I spent our first few days in Amman going out shopping with her family, being stuffed with food at home, drinking coffee in caf├ęs and just walking around. Before arriving, I was nervous that the heat would be intense, as it was already mid June, but most of the time I wasn't too bothered by the heat. 

In fact, at times it was better than the weather Guillaume was facing back in Dijon. In France, the sun was setting around 9pm while in Jordan, it started getting dark at 7. I can only recall a day or two where the heat bothered me, and that ended as soon as we arrived at a destination and stepped into an air conditioned building.

I got my hair washed and blown straight by a hairstylist in Noor's neighborhood, only costing around 4 USD. I got a pretty immersive experience from the get-go, as from the moment I stepped off the plane everyone around me spoke in Arabic. What I found a little funny was that I didn't stand out too much as "obviously American" and, on several occasions, was even mistaken as being Lebanese! 

Noor lives in a residential area in Amman, and it was interesting to walk around there at night and see the shops lit up selling all kinds of food, houseware and spices. 

I got to eat a variety of sweet things while visiting different shops that night. As soon as one of the staff members would hear me speak in English, they would rush to me with a free sample of whatever they were selling, and I would thank them with my child-level Arabic. 

I was so touched by how welcoming people were right from the get-go. 

Before I had even left the airport, I had heard 'Welcome to Jordan' twice, and this continued for the entire duration of my stay. Many people would speak to Noor and I and ask us about our studies, why we came to Jordan, if we were enjoying our time there, etc. We were given a lot of freebies like a free headband, free perfume, arabic coffee and other things. At first I worried about accepting these free items, as I didn't want them to feel forced to give me something, but each person assured me that this was a gift from them to me, and that they very much wanted me to have it.  Jordanian hospitality is no joke! 

While we were in Amman, Noor's best friend Sarah and her sister Mary also came to stay with her family, as they were visiting from Dubai. 

This made the trip so much more fun, because now we were travelling as a big group of girls, hopping in Mary's car as we rode around the city doing different activities. It created such a sense of belonging for me, that we were all doing things together and just enjoying the summertime. 

The architecture of Amman was very square; the buildings all lined up behind each other ascending up and down with the curves on the mountain it was built atop. It was a style of building I've never really seen before, which made it look that much more interesting to photograph. The color scheme was mainly beige and light orange colors, with the occasional pop of red or deep blue. 

Something I discovered about life in Jordan is that, 5 times a day, a man's voice will play over the speakerphone at every mosque and call people to pray, as well as recite from the Quran. The prayer calls are spaced out throughout 24 hours, meaning some happen during the day and some very early in the morning. I have a memory of waking up to the announcement, checking the clock, and seeing it was 3:50am. 

I guess the call to prayer was effective since I woke up, haha! 

That being said, I really wanted to go a mosque while in Jordan, and to do so I was required to cover my hair. I decided to jump right into the experience and try wearing abaya, which is a sort of modest cloak women wear with a hjiab. I had never worn a head covering before in my life, and it took a few tries to be able to wrap it around so that it wouldn't fall off right away. 

I really, really enjoyed it! I decided to keep my bangs in front of my face as a stylistic choice, usually the hair would be pulled back and covered, but I was assured it would be okay. Despite wearing all black from head to toe, I wasn't that hot. The fabric is very breezy and allows for a lot of movement, so I was comfortable the entire time. 

It's hard to describe how wearing hijab and abaya made me feel as a person, and I mean that in a positive way. I wasn't worried about my outfit or how my body looked as I moved around, and it was really freeing to feel unburdened by my appearance. I've never really thought much about dressing modestly before, but perhaps my experience is one many can relate to! I can't say I'll be wearing abaya anytime soon, as I am not a Muslim, but it was such a great experience to do so! 

Noor and I visited the Roman Theatre together, climbing up dozens of stairs to the top to get this shot. The stairs were carved out in the second century, so going up was a bit of an arduous task as the steps were steep and some were broken apart. Standing at the top, I was totally out of breath and told Noor that it was a good thing we were doing this now rather than when I'm 65. 

Going down was a nightmare, I ended up almost sliding down on my bottom since I was so terrified of slipping and falling down 100 rocky stairs. I never thought I was afraid of heights, but there's something about your sneaker slipping on a half crumbled rock stair that will really do it for you! When we reached the bottom, my right leg starting wobbling and gave out, so I had to sit down for a while to recover. All that being said, I was told that concerts here are incredible, as the sound amplifies naturally due to the way this theatre was built. If I ever get to attend one, I think I'll stick to the ground floor!

We also did a day trip with Sarah to As-salt, which was a quaint little town. They were doing major construction on the roads and Noor was trying to navigate tiny streets that had half the road missing, which definitely got my heart pumping before lunch!

I tried so many new foods during my stay in Jordan, which pushed my out of my comfort zone in the best way. Noor's mother spent a lot of time in the kitchen preparing special meals for us, which I am so grateful for because it got me to challenge some of my more 'pickier' eating habits. For example, diwali is a popular dish in Jordan in which rice is wrapped in a grape leaf, and then folded into a small cylinder. This is done over a hundred times to create a whole pot full of stuffed leaves. Needless to say, this takes quite a long time to make!

When I saw her mother dump the contents of the pot onto a plate, then proudly exclaim the dish had taken her 3 hours, I felt my stomach flip. I was urged to at least give it a try, and when I did I was so surprised! Despite my pre-judgement, I found that it was the most delicious dish I had in Jordan. If you like a pickle-y sort of flavor, you'd love diwali. 

I noticed a lot of dishes have yogurt either in the dish or on the side, which gives a lot of foods kind of a more sour or acidic taste. I'm so grateful for all the time and love Noor's family poured into making sure I never went hungry or thirsty throughout my stay, even if that means I had to literally run away from food at times since I was so full! 

To end this post, what made my really unique and unforgettable was not the shopping or the coffee, but the people I met. Never in my life have I ever been given so much care and attention while travelling.

Every night, different members of Noors family would come over from late evening until the early hours of the morning, drinking coffee and chatting together in the living room. Sometimes music would be played and people would begin to dance and clap, sometimes I would be pulled in to join in the festivities or attempt using basic Arabic with one of her relatives. 

There was even one point in which I felt a bit overwhelmed by all of it, as it was such a culture shock and unlike anything I've ever been through before (even though I was raised in a Latin family! haha). However, I'm so glad I got to meet so many wonderful people. I feel as though I have a second family waiting for me back in Jordan, and I'm so lucky to have that!

So, I'd like to say a big thank you to Noor, her entire family (namely her mother and father), her siblings, Sarah and Mary for welcoming me with open arms. 

In my next post, I'll detail my trip to Wadi Rum and Petra, and what a life changing experience that was. Thank you so much for reading and see you soon!