When I went to Tour Jordan, I had a pretty major culture shock when I stepped off the plan in Amman. It took me a good two days before I felt the culture shock start to wear off. It was so different than the American and European cultures I had grown so accustomed to. I hope to curb that culture shock for you, and maybe even break some of the stigmas you may have about Jordanian people. Take a look at my interview with Mohammad from Irbid, who was kind enough to open up about his daily life in Jordan, culture, customs, politics, religion and even marriage customs.
Who are the Jordanian People?
Me: How to the people in Jordan identify themselves? Kind, stoic, helpful, funny, laid back?
Mohammad: Jordanians are known for hospitality. If you are my guest, I should give you food and sometimes a place to stay for free. Hospitality is like you are my guest. Like I should serve you some food.
Me: How would the people describe where they are geographically in relation to the surrounding countries?
Mohammad: Jordan is next to Palestine or what you know as Jerusalem. It is middle east. The common and well-known thing about Jordan is its safety.
Me: Do you feel that your culture and traditions have changed in any way in the last 10 years?
Mohammad: Yes, back in the day. If you came like a guest, you have to stay at least 3 days, with me providing your stay and food. Now it is a – you can be my guest for one day or a few hours, but it is only because of the financial situation there. It is considered a big shame if you cannot provide for your guest everything that they need and want.
The Right Way to Tour Jordan:
Me: How can we as tourists and visitors help to maintain your culture?
Mohammad: Since you are foreigners, and they don’t know about anything, you should just ask someone & they will explain. Jordanians can talk for hours. Most of them don’t have anything to do, so they like talking.
Me: What are some Festivals that you think are worthwhile for people to visit in Jordan while touring?
Mohammad: Jerash festival – it is Arabic singers and dancing, but you won’t understand anything. We also have the royal car museum in Amman. This is the King’s collection of all kinds of rare and classic race cars. You could come during Rhammadan, but most people will be with their families and the shops are all closed during the day.
Me: What about towns that are not well known?
Mohammad: If you go to Irbid, my hometown. My hometown is in the genius book of world records for the town for the littlest villages & quantity of villages – compared to the rest of the world. There are 497 villages in Irbid. The reason is that it is a countryside.
Me: What are the biggest tourist traps you have noticed here?
Mohammad: The tourists get charged waaaayyy more than it costs. Like a taxi costs $2-3 max, but they will charge you $200-$300 for the ride.
Me: If I were to move to Jordan how would you suggest I assimilate to this culture? Are there facebook/Instagram or other internet apps/groups that I could use to integrate myself?
Mohammad: People are nosy, they will be your friend without you trying. They come and ask you all sorts of questions. This is by default, they treat you like family
Me: What is the Language spoken here?
Mohammad: Arabic and some people speak a little English, but everyone is educated. About 80% of Jordan speaks English.
Me: Can you give me some useful words all tourists or those recently moved here should know?
- La = is no
- Nam = yes
- Assalam Alaikum = Means greetings
Me: What is the best mode of transportation here?
Mohammad: Buses, taxis, or you can rent a car if you are coming as a tourist or if you are a local.
Me: How do you cross the street?
Mohammad: You have to worry about cars, because they will run over your @##.
Me: What would you pay for a cab from the airport to the city centre?
Mohammad: Not more than $50 USD
Me: Do you trust Uber here?
Mohammad: Yes, we have Uber — (See post on Worldwide Airport Transporation)
Me: How is sexuality viewed here?
Mohammad: First of all, for tourists, try to cover up. Don’t show your boobs, your ass, the curves….no Yoga pants. Arab men go crazy for this shit. You will just get harassed.
Me: Best places to get Coffee, Breakfast, or Nightcap?
- Coffee- At home.
- Breakfast- Commonly people don’t eat much in restaurants, everyone makes their own food every day. Most of the time you eat with the family at home. If you are coming as a tourist, then you eat Schwarma or Falafal Sandwich.
- Nightcap (can you buy alcohol from a store?) Yes
Me: What is your favorite local hangout?
Mohammad: Café’s, smoking Hookah, Playstation, Pool for the men. The women go and smoke Hookah together, they visit each other and go to the mall and go to the mall and eat something.
Me: How do you order?
Mohammad: You have the menu in Arabic and English in most cases. The waiter will come to you and you ask for an English menu, it is the same system as here.
Me: How do you tip?
Mohammad: They do not usually tip waiters, but if you want to do it, then 5 Jordanian Dinars is good.
Me: How do you know if service was good?
Mohammad: If he coming and asking if you are ok and keeps checking on you all the time.
Me: Do they typically charge for water or a table?
Mohammad: Yeah, they usually have a bottle of water. They tell you it is free, but they will charge you 1 JD and might even try and charge you for 5 JD. You can ask them about it if you want and see if they will take it off.
Me: If I had a food allergy, are they helpful in telling me about how to order and would they be willing to take it out of my meal?
Mohammad: No, they won’t cook it special for you. Unless you are ordering a sandwich. Most of the food is already cooked and is like a buffet.
Me: What are the Best Hidden gems of Jordan?
Mohammad: Villages and the countryside, go to Irbid, Irbid will always be the best place for me. Everything is green there. Jerash is a good place to go, Ajloun Castle is really nice too.
Me: What are the best historical places to visit in Jordan?
Mohammad: Most tourists go to Petra, Aquaba, and Amman and then they leave.
Me: What are the most romantic places to visit?
Mohammad: You can go to a Café or a Park and hangout.
Me: What is nightlife like in Jordan?
Mohammad: Most people go buy Schwarma and eat in the car on the side of the street. You have nice clubs in Amman in hotels, there are even strip clubs there. I don’t know of any places to go dancing.
Me: What are the best places for outdoor adventures and hiking?
Mohammad: They do activities, there are adventure companies that can take you on those things. Most of the time I was working so I don’t know.
Traveler Tip: There are loads of camping spots, rock climbing, and other places to go in both Wadi Rum and near Petra. Please email me at email@example.com and I can provide you with some contacts in Jordan that I trust and are reputable.
Me: How to get help should you get in trouble/hurt?
Mohammad: Call 911, same as in the USA
Me: What are a few things you would like to tell anyone who visits Jordan?
Mohammad: It is beautiful, what the f#%* (insert laugh). There is a company, like, Jordan tourism board you know. They have a website visitJordan.com, you have everything you need to know right there. The few places I have heard are really nice are hiking in Mujib preserve area, go to the hot springs, the pink desert, Madaba is the Christian treasure, Mt Nebo and things like this.
Me: Would I be safe traveling as a single woman there?
Mohammad: You might not be single for long if you were over there, but if you covered up properly, you would be safe for sure.
Education Systems in Jordan:
Me: What are the school systems like here?
Mohammad: Elementary we have grades, after KG-1 KG-2, you have the grades when you are 6 years old you go to the real school which is the 1st grade. It is the 1st to the 10th grade. After that, you graduate and go the next school, High school which is 2 years. After the second year, you have a comprehensive exam which is called General Secondary Education Certificate Examination. This is after you finish the two years of High School and 10 years of school. Only those who pass the exam with good marks can proceed to a University. We have different majors like if you want to be an engineer or a doctor and you must pass that certificate. My certificate was in Information Technology. If you want to be a doctor, you must pass the Scientific Stream with a score of 95%. That is why the doctors in Jordan are Bad Ass!
Me: Does it cost anything to go to lower level schooling?
Mohammad: No, you just need your birth certificate and your ID. You have to pass each grade otherwise you have to stay in the same grade until you pass it. If your friends pass it, then you have to stay in that grade while your friends move forward. Most likely if you are in Elementry school you will pass through.
The Families of Jordan:
Me: How is the family unit work here?
Mohammad: The Family is a father a mother and children. The family is different. Everyone is family in the city and they visit each other daily if you miss a day your mom will call you. If she calls and you don’t answer she thinks you are dead. (Insert Laugh). Back in the day, they use to have 14-15 kids but now they just have 5-6 because of the financial situation. There are still some like this that can have 27 kids, sometimes it’s the same wife sometimes not.
Me: You can have more than one wife right?
Mohammad: Yeah, you can have up to 4 wives according to Islam. This is a solution for us because of too many single ladies. But the man has to have good health and a good financial situation.
Me: How common is it for someone to have more than one wife?
Mohammad: Now it is only 10-15%, because of the financial situation you know. No money, No honey.
Me: Who wears the pants in the family?
Mohammad: The father, if he is dead then the mother, if neither of them then it is the uncle, then if not then it is the grandpa, if not then the oldest son. For guys and girls, we stay with our parents until we get married, it does not matter how old you are.
Me: Where do the elderly go when they can no longer walk? Who takes care of them?
Mohammad: They stay in the home and EVERY PERSON in the family helps take care of them.
Me: What is the view on feminism, gay, or minorities here? Are they treated equally or do you notice a societal difference in how they are treated?
Mohammad: The transsexual and gay people? It is totally unacceptable, they kick you out and ask you to go back home. They will likely start harassing you and making fun of you. If you want to be a girl and you are the guy then do it by yourself. If you drink then go and hide.
Me: Is having children common here?
Mohammad: If you are married you should have kids. If you don’t and you are a man, then people start asking if something is wrong with you or wrong with your *$%*. If it is the girl that can’t have kids then he can go get another wife, but he will not divorce her unless she asks for it, then she can go do what she needs to.
Me: Do people get maternity leave? How long is it?
Mohammad: Oh yeah, if you are a school teacher, and you are pregnant and give birth then you get 3 months paid vacation.
Me: How many days off a year to people here get?
Mohammad: In the government, they work 5 days and 2 days off. You can take up to 1 month of vacation. You can take 2-3-5 years of vacation unpaid of you want.
Me: Is it common to have one night stands?
Mohammad: No, the man who does that will probably get killed by the girls family. (Laughs)
Me: Are people faithful in general faithful to their spouses?
Mohammad: Well if they have a Sharmuta they will, but no, they are faithful.
Me: Do people commonly show affection for their wife other in public spaces here?
Mohammad: Yes you can, but you aren’t supposed to. It just isn’t a good thing.
Marriage Customs in Jordan:
Me: What age do people here get married?
Mohammad: Until he is done with the University, so usually 25-26, but even then it is only if you have money. So now, due to the financial situation, they are getting married around 30.
Me: Are there customs associated with marriage you would like to share?
- Wear clean good clothes, the guy wears a tuxedo and the girl wears a nice dress. But for those coming for the wedding, you just wear the best you have. You can’t wear shorts though.
- If you are interested in a girl, you go and ask the father for her phone number, or whoever is in charge. You must ask her are you single or married. Tell her you would like her phone number. If she says that is ok, then you start spying on her. You ask about her family, who her Parents, her family, her Uncles, and everyone in her family. If you think the family is good, and you like the girl. Then you ask your Dad, and he calls her Dad. Your Dad says “Hey, we are part of this village, we would like to come and drink coffee with you”. The girls Dad says, sure and must say, “You are welcome”. Then the guy must dress good and goes over with his parents. Then they introduce themselves to the girl’s family. The father of the guy should do the talking, the guy shouldn’t do the talking unless he is asked to. This is a tradition to be respectful and listen to the man in charge or try to talk over with him. Then my father says, “We are interested in my son’s hand to your girl’s hand. It is an honor for us to be a part of your family. Here is our phone number, I’m going to call you next week about this. No matter what happens we are still friends”.
- When you leave, now this one week gives this time for the family to do an investigation into the man. The main answer will come from the girl. No one can force you or convince you to marry him, it will be up to you. So your family comes back and tells you all the information. Then it is up to the girl if she wants to marry you or not.
- If the girl agrees, then her father calls and says come over for coffee. Then I bring my sisters over and then we all talk for real.
- Then the girls family starts saying, (for example) “We want a car, we want a house, we want $4,000 gold for the girl”.
- Then my family says, “Oh that is too much, we don’t have that, help us out”
- Then once conditions are reached and agreed. Then the guy has to set up a blood test to see if our genetics will cause diseases or not (genealogy is too close). If it is not a good result then the family says, “No you can’t marry or you will f*&% the whole family”
- If the answer is good, then we do an engagement party. Then they have a party with her friends throw a party for her as a goodbye party.
- The wedding is the biggest event. You can go to the house, the tent in front of the house. At the wedding the dance what is called the Dabka. Back in the day they use to shoot guns, and now the laws are changed, and you can’t do that in public. When they are done with the wedding, they drive their cars to the guy’s house. Then they might shoot a couple of AK-47’s and then go inside and lock the house…..Then you know what is going to happen….hehehehe.
Me: Is it common to live together prior to getting married?
Mohammad: No, you aren’t supposed to touch her, kiss her or even hang out with you. If we are engaged, the most I can do is take you out with your brother or sister with you. You can’t be alone. Once the wedding happens, yeah, you can go do whatever.
Me: What is the classic place that people get married here? Why is that culturally significant for the people here?
Mohammad: They get married in a special wedding place, it is a big hall and a lot of people will be there. There will be 500-600 people coming at the very least.
The Politics and Military of Jordan:
Me: What are common stereotypes that are encountered in Jordan?
Mohammad: Jordanians they say everyone else has a better life than us, lol.
Me: What do they think about Americans?
Mohammad: They think they are smart people and the USA supports their country, and they want to let them know that they are funny, not terrorists, peaceful and very hospitable. They are also very generous with what they have. They also think that if they marry a foreigner then they can get out of the financial situation. They think that people overseas will appreciate the family orientation of Jordanians.
Me: How are refugee’s viewed here and why? What are the major benefits of them being here? What are the major drawbacks?
Mohammad: Refugee’s are welcome anytime anywhere in Jordan. It is a safe place so anyone can come in. They need to live and get jobs, but there are no jobs, not even for Jordanians. This is the thing that killed the financial situation in Jordan.
Me: What are two of the major Political conversations going on right now?
Mohammad: It is all about how high prices are going up.
Me: What are the political parties here?
Mohammad: No, we have a king, we don’t vote for him.
Me: Can you vote and how would you vote?
Mohammad: We vote for representatives that make up the Senate.
Me: Are the citizens allowed to do demonstrations? Who are the people/ages of those that typically do this?
Mohammad: They do all the time, they go burn tires and f*&% up the streets. Usually, it is when the government raises the price of a product and they go and do this.
Me: Is it dangerous for tourists to be a part of these or taking photos of these demonstrations?
Mohammad: No, not at all. It is a peaceful demonstration. (Me: doesn’t sound peaceful..) – That is Arab style, but it is peaceful.
Me: What are the Police and the Military system like here? Do you have confidence that they would protect its citizens in the event of a terrorist attack?
Mohammad: Oh yeah. Well if the terrorist attacks, the local people will defend. The citizens actually have more guns than the police do. They want to help the military, it is not Arab style to just sit and do nothing. Remember in Kerak, there was a problem and the local people had it taken care of before the police even arrived.
Healthcare in Jordan:
Me: How is the Healthcare here?
Mohammad: Everyone has Health insurance. You have hospitals and clinics all over the villages, towns, it is everywhere.
Me: If you were sick, how much would it cost you to be treated?
Mohammad: Almost for free.
Me: What could someone expect a local to say if it is not common?
Mohammad: If you are a tourist, they will stare like crazy at you, and say it is ok for your culture.
Me: Is there a class system here?
Mohammad: We have 2 classes, rich and poor, that’s it. If you are rich you generally end up staying rich and your family does too. If you are poor you end up staying poor.
Me: How many languages does the typical Jordanian Person speak?
Mohammad: One, Arabic
Me: What type of calendar system do you use?
Mohammad: Same as the USA
Me: Do you have daylight savings?
Religion in Jordan:
Me: Major Religions here? How has that changed over the years?
Mohammad: Islam has been in Jordan forever. We have a lot of Christian people in Jordan. We are family. Most of my best friends are Christian in Jordan.
Me: Are people generally open to talking about religion or do they just not want to hear anything about it?
Mohammad: Yeah, people in Islam have converted to Christianity, and visa versa & each time they end up getting killed by their families.
Me: How devoted are people here to their religion?
Mohammad: They f#%* around. Most people who drink and smoke and f#%* around are Muslim.
Me: What are the biggest misconceptions people have about Jordanian?
Mohammad: They are serious people who don’t like to laugh, but they are really funny people.
Me: What are your favorite memories in this city?
Mohammad: I dunno, I was born and raised there so everything is exciting for me.
Me: How do you say Thank you in Arabic?
Me: Well then, Shukran Mohammad and thank you for the entertaining interview. I have known you for quite some time now, and I have to agree that Jordanians are both funny and infuriating at times.
Mohammad: That is Arab style, what can I tell you.