Jordan is a tribal country and each tribe takes pride in its own traditions of hospitality and generosity. Guests here are always blown away by the friendliness of our culture and the beautiful hosting. There’s always something original or different to do, too, like stargazing from the rooftop of a desert ecolodge or brewing up cardamom tea over an outdoor fire surrounded by prehistoric valley ranges.
It’s that sense of warmth that inspired my online brand, Jordanality. There are so many moments when in Jordan that leave you speechless at what you encounter. I came up with the word “Jordanality” because there’s no better way to explain the sense of wonder: it’s originality, hospitality and personality all rolled into one.
Being a tour guide is introducing guests to first-time moments
I originally trained as an accountant but my lifelong dream has been to have freedom – being a tour guide seems to capture that. You get to build relationships with all sorts of people, from hotel owners to restaurateurs and, of course, travellers from around the world.
In a way, it’s not even a job. I’m able to be my true self while introducing guests to first-time moments, from floating seamlessly in the Dead Sea to tasting fresh Jordanian hummus (because you haven’t really tried hummus until you’ve experienced how we make it).
For anyone who hasn’t visited this country before, the biggest surprise is always that there’s so much more to Jordan than Petra, the ancient Nabatean kingdom and Unesco World Heritage Site made famous by Indiana Jones. It goes without saying that Petra in itself is a marvel. It’s so much larger than people expect – a huge archeological park that expands well beyond The Treasury, its most iconic site.
Many Flashpackers dive in Aqaba for their first time
Yet, however mind-blowing the ‘rose red city’ is, there is so much to experience beyond it, too. That’s why Flash Pack’s trip to Jordan excites me. It’s totally different and features the perfect blend of adventure with some more intimate, quiet time, meaning Flashpackers can absorb the incredible landscapes and authenticity of the places they visit.
Every moment counts on the trip, whether you’re covering yourself in mineral-rich sea soil at the lowest point on Earth and posing for a muddy group photo together, or admiring a spectacular sunset in Aqaba, our southernmost city on the Red Sea. We only have 26 kilometres of coastline in Jordan, running along the Gulf of Aqaba, and it’s a gorgeous place to do some snorkelling and diving.
Many Flashpackers dive here for their first time, accompanied by me and a team of experienced instructors. Once people learn to relax underwater they are always mesmerised by Aqaba’s incredible marine world – it can be a life-changing experience for some. You could see anything from colourful clownfish to wandering sea turtles.
Food in our culture is a celebration
The area is a bit like an underwater museum, too, because there are a number of shipwrecks, tanks and even aircraft beneath the surface. They’ve all evolved over the years to become their own ecosystems and coral reefs. It’s like you’re immersed in this surreal universe, the likes of which you’ll never see anywhere else.
From the moment visitors experience our welcome dinner in a local restaurant in Amman, they are delighted by our cuisine. Food in our culture is a celebration: there’s a pride and love to what we do. Food is Mediterranean-themed, so everything from olive oil to falafel and za’atar is made fresh from local produce. It’s not processed which means it’s always delicious.
Our national dish, Mansaf, is a beloved delicacy made from lamb, rice and fermented dried yoghurt. Even the way it is eaten, with everyone dining by hand from the same plate and dipping their bread in the sauce, shows how communal our meals in Jordan.
A first glimpse of the Treasury at Petra is emotional
Tea is another key part of our foodie heritage. From mint to sage or lemongrass tea, you’ll find it everywhere and it’s very tasty and prepared with love. Flashpackers always remark at the end of our trips, “I’ve never had so much tea in my life. I’m going to miss it.”
Other highlights from the Flash Pack trip include canyoning in the Wadi Mujib. There you are pulling yourself up on rope, or wading through water in this dramatic ravine setting and it feels like you’re a kid again – it’s a real thrill.
Peoples first glimpse of The Monastery or The Treasury at Petra is always very emotional, too. I always try to divert people’s attention away so then I can then reveal the sight – and often, there are tears as I do.
I really enjoy the conversations that I share with Flashpackers
Above all, I think it is the sense of human connection that stands out on the adventure I lead to Jordan. It’s very important to me to help Flashpackers interact with local communities wherever we go. The people that we come across on the trip are my friends. They make the whole experience shine with their kindness and care and give everything meaning. I always encourage travellers to chat with locals and learn about their lives.
For example, in Petra, Flashpackers are always intrigued by the fact that a local Bedouin tribe moved back into the site around 200 years ago and made it their home. We then get to sit down and share dinner with some of them, to hear their stories first-hand.
I really enjoy the conversations that I share with Flashpackers on the road, too. You never know what someone has gone through before joining a trip; they might have just broken up with their partner, or had problems in their job. So, my role is to be as inclusive as possible and to lead with empathy, honesty and patience. I love learning about other people’s lives – I grow through their experiences, and vice versa.
We’re connected by the adventure we’ve shared
People come to Jordan as strangers but they leave as friends, which is what Flash Pack is all about. My favourite stage of the group is the farewell dinner – not because I’m relieved that it’s the end (as everyone jokes) – but because, by this point, everyone is one big happy family.
We sit together as friends and we’re connected talking about our memories and looking back on the adventure we’ve shared. It’s a very special, and satisfying, moment. I love it.
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Images: Courtesy of Fadi Abu Jaber and Flash Pack