Join us in this series of articles as we follow ESL team member Alexander Gyr on his trip around the world to 7 different cities. Here is Alexander’s first-person account of his trip to Jordan. Let’s go!
Jordan? Why are you going to Jordan? I heard these questions quite a lot over the past few weeks. Today, I can say that this extraordinary country is definitely worth a trip. First of all, the kingdom will charm you with its diversity; there is something for every taste from gastronomes to amateur archaeologists.
When talking about Jordan, an important topic is security. While it is true that Jordan borders countries such as Israel, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia, the political situation in Jordan is stable, and, thanks to reinforced protection measures, I never felt unsafe. This said, you need solid nerves when you travel by car in Jordan, as there seem to be no traffic regulations in place, and the most popular means of communication is the horn.
Petra, magical city carved in the rock
The most impressive place I saw during my journey was definitely the abandoned rock city of Petra. This site is part of the New Seven Wonders of the World and protected by UNESCO, and it was rediscovered in the 19th century by a Swiss explorer. The funerary temples, cut into the rock, are incredibly beautiful and are an absolute “must” if you travel to Jordan.
Amman, a lively capital
At first glance, Amman, the capital of Jordan, may seem chaotic, but that’s exactly what fascinated me. There is no room for boredom here; its dynamic and frenetic daily life will carry you away. My favourite spot was the Amman Citadel. The view from the hill is stunning and the atmosphere is simply magical when the muezzin’s voice mixes with the city’s noise. The city is very diverse and offers a wide range of activities: modern shopping centres, traditional markets, and cosmopolitan and trendy neighbourhoods such as Rainbow-Street. I was very impressed by the Jordanians’ tolerance and sense of hospitality. Right next to the mosque dedicated to King Abdullah, two churches are the physical proof of religious tolerance in this country. People in Jordan are very warm and welcoming – so at the end of the trip, I didn’t know what I had heard more of, “Welcome to Jordan”… or blaring horns.
A language stay in Amman with ESL
Arabic is one of the 5 most spoken languages in the world; it’s very demanding and diverse. For one simple word like “love”, Arabic has 11 expressions related to love. Our partner school Ali Baba is located right next to the University of Jordan, one of the most famous in the Arabic world. This modern school teaches Arabic, German, and English; so it is attended by locals as well. Small classes – organised by levels – and motivated teachers who use interactive learning methods, make Ali Baba the ideal place for learning this melodious language. In order to offer an immersive experience in Amman’s daily life, the school suggests living with a host family near the school (for cultural reasons, this option is offered to women first). Students who prefer more independence can choose to live in the residence or the studios, located in the surroundings.
My top 5 personal tips
- Buy the “Jordan Pass” in advance
You can purchase the Jordan Pass online; it only costs around 70-90 Jordanian dinars (depending on the number of days you dedicate to Petra). The Pass includes free entrance to more than 40 attractions, as well as the visa fee. It lasts 12 months, but expires automatically 2 weeks after you scan it at the first tourist attraction.
- Hashem restaurant in Amman
It’s an authentic street restaurant in the centre of Amman. There is no menu, and I recommend ordering the mix. In a few minutes, your table will be full of tasty Arabic specialities, such as falafel and hummus. The restaurant is open 24 hours a day and a meal costs around 4,5 Jordanian dinars, including a drink.
- The Dead Sea and the lowest place on Earth
How does it feel to float on the Dead Sea? Discover this weird, heavy feeling in Sweimeh, in north-western Jordan. The region is also impressive for its nature, and you can reach the lowest point on Earth without even getting your feet wet.
Participate in one if the activities organised by the school
Dive into the Jordanian atmosphere and participate in one of the activities organised by our partner school Ali Baba. During the week and on the weekends, the school offers different activities to share with other students who study English or German. For example, the monthly cooking class will teach you how to cook tasty Arabic dishes; it’s one of the most popular! These activities are also an opportunity to meet the locals and practise Arabic in a relaxed environment.
- Hiking to the Ad Deir Monastery in Petra
After an hour’s hike, you’ll see the incredible monastery, cut into the rock. After this tiring walk, you should drink a mint tea, sit down and immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere around you.