To get our tickets, we had to walk through a bustling bazaar, filled with clinking plates and glasses, sizzling kabobs, young giggles and conversations in Arabic. The crowd was a bit overwhelming. I was just about the tallest person in the room, and, as had been the case for the past four days, my cousin, Aunt and I were always stared at. We were the outsiders among a sea of Jordanian schoolchildren and shopkeepers. Surrounded by the stares, giggles and offers for hot tea and a bite to eat, it suddenly hit me. I was finally in the Middle East.
Like the entrance to Jerash, an ancient Roman city in Amman, sudden moments of realization continued to hit me throughout our trip to Jordan and Jerusalem. When we were in line to see Jesus’ tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I could suddenly feel the mix of emotions of the tourists and locals exploring the church with us, the prayers being said, and the history of such a sacred place. Everyone was praying, smiling and in-tune with the moment.
My Uncle, who has lived in Amman for over a year, packed activities into every hour of our 10-day trip to ensure we got a taste of just about everything in this part of the Middle East. This truly made for the most impactful trip of my life, right next to my first experience living abroad. We were so lucky to have him as our tour guide.
Our days were flooded with sunlight, and hints of spring continued to surprise us. The flowers were the most noticeable signs of spring. Bright yellows and pinks popped out of small apartment patios and sidewalk crevices, little girls carrying them as they skipped along the stone streets. Even the desert had flowers pushing through the red sand to enjoy the sun with us. While some days were very hot, the sun somehow didn’t burn me.
Amongst the sweeping landscapes throughout Jordan, from the desert of Wadi Rum to the stone enclaves of Petra, the beautiful sunset on the Dead Sea and the vendors of Rainbow Street, what most stood out to me were the people who enjoyed them with us.
Young children would leisurely walk out on the streets alone, mothers my age would push baby strollers around the markets, and men, young and old, would congregate in cafes and street corners to relax with one another’s company. I felt very at ease in the Middle East.
We spent days with our kind taxi driver, Mohannad, who introduced us to so much of the Jordanian culture. We constantly made new friends, from Roaa who invited us to her home to try Jordan’s national dish, Mansaf, to Yosra and Khaled, who took us on a midnight drive through the desert under the full moon, all of them eagerly awaiting our return.
I can’t wait to share each of their stories, as well as the experiences that led us to them, with you over the next few weeks.