Welcome to the inaugural episode of the Embolden Adventures podcast show: A Wedding in Jordan – Part 1.
- Why a Wedding in Jordan?
- Where Exactly Are You Going?
- Will It Be Safe?
- …and so much more!
On this trip, my brother Devin, his girlfriend Joanne, and I will be traveling to Jordan to attend a wedding of my two dear friends and world travel buddies, Jen and Adam.
After the wedding, our international group of wedding guests will be touring for seven days to explore the country with the bride and groom.
It’s going to be a fun story so please follow along and subscribe to the podcast!
In this podcast, I introduce my friend Jen, the bride-to-be. Jen and I are long-time friends from our days in business school at NYU-Stern. She and I met on a 2-week university trip to Beijing China in their Doing Business in program. Since then, Jen and I have traveled to many other amazing places around the world. These trips were adventures to say the least and some that will be featured in future podcasts – so stay tuned!
Why a Wedding in Jordan?
Jen lives in Australia and is from the United States – so why Jordan?
Jordan “is a magical place…one that I would never have discovered if I had not met Adam. So it feels like exactly the right place to publicly join our lives,” says Jen
Adam, Jen’s fiancé is originally from Jordan, and it is where his family lives now.
So with that in mind, Jen and Adam are planning to make their wedding destination an epic one, having friends and family from around the world come celebrate with them in a fun way.
Their wedding ceremony and the festivities will be held in the ancient Roman city of Jerash inside an old amphitheater, followed by dinner and dancing inside a beautiful, lavish Arabic tent. Jerash is located in the northern part of the country, and it is about a 40 minute drive (40km/25mi) from the capital city, Amman.
The amphitheater was built over 2,000 years ago and remains well preserved. Typically, the local people of Jordan do not use the amphitheater as a place to get married, so this wedding location is a bit unique. Although a little bird once told me that a Jordanian princess had her wedding celebration at the same amphitheater.
In the podcast, Jen discusses more about the wedding plans and the festivities. Also, you can read more details and stories about the wedding on her blog New Dawn Wedding
The song you hear on the podcast is an fun example of a “zaffa”. A zaffa is a traditional and charismatic ensemble band in Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab world. The Zaffa plays upbeat, festive music at wedding celebrations, in particular when the bride and groom enter the reception for the first time. The band carries large drums, bongos, and tambourines in the performance and is accompanied by belly dancers sometimes. Other traditional instruments the zaffa band plays are percussion instruments such as hadjoudj, bendir, derbouka, and djembe and stringed instruments such as a mandole and an oud. (Special thanks to NYC DJ Arana of Wobble Music for audio edit support to this zaffa recording).
Where Exactly Will You Be Going?
From the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, from the Wadi Rum desert to the ancient city of Petra, Jordan features many natural wonders, historical wonders, and ancient religious sites of Biblical importance – all in one small, friendly, country.
After spending time in the city of Amman and celebrating the wedding in Jerash, we will head to the ancient city of Petra. Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the highlight of anyone’s trip to Jordan. Petra is known as the “Rose City” because of the beautiful rose color of the sandstones canyons from which the city is carved. The ancient Nabataeans built the city as early as 300BC. Its most famous and most elaborately carved structure of all the structures that span the ancient city is the Treasury. The Treasury is a columned façade of a building, intricately carved into the wall of stone. It was made famous by the movies Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and most recently by the movie Transformers 2.
From Petra, we will travel south to the Wadi Rum desert valley. Wadi Rum is called the Valley of the Moon and translates to “Elevated Valley” in Arabic. Wadi Rum, too, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spanning 450 square miles (720 square kilometers), Wadi Rum is a spectacular, red-colored desert peppered with sandstone and granite mountains across the valley as far as the eye can see. The scenery has been a perfect location for many Hollywood films such as Lawrence of Arabia and the Martian
Here, we will explore the desert by camel, 4×4 jeeps, and hot air balloon, pending weather conditions. In the evening, we will sleep under the stars in the Bedouin tents. Nomadic Bedouin tribes still live their traditional ways in the area, tending to their herds of goats and residing in their beautiful tents.
“Being in Wadi Rum is like being on another planet and it is amazing to sit just miles from the Saudi Arabian border and watch the sunset with a Bedouin guide making tea on an open fire with the firewood we collected. It is peaceful there, a word you rarely hear in conjunction with The Middle East, ” says Jen
After we get dry and dusty running up and down sand dunes in Wadi Rum, we will head to the Red Sea port of Aqaba, the only coastal city in Jordan, and take a dip in the pool. The Red Sea at Aqaba is calm and full of sea life. I look forward to relaxing at the beach resort and to going scuba diving. It is a scuba diving destination that I cannot wait to check off my list of places to dive around the world!
Next we will head back up north to visit the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is not a sea, rather it is a salt lake, a lake so salty that nothing can live in it. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on land at 1,407ft (429m) below sea level, and it is the deepest and saltiest of all of the salt lakes on Earth. Fun fact: The Dead Sea is 9.6 times saltier than the ocean!
We will spend some time at the resort along the Dead Sea and take a quick swim (well, really just float) in the lake. Actually, because the lake is so salty, you can only last a few minutes in the water before your skin starts to become irritated.
Lastly, we will spend a half-day hiking in the tall canyons and through the river of Wadi Mujib before concluding our short adventure around Jordan.
- Tour Amman Jordan
- Celebrate Jen and Adam’s wedding at the ancient Roman city of Jerash
- Visit the ancient city of Petra and ride camels
- Take a hot air balloon ride over the Wadi Rum desert
- Stay overnight in the desert sleeping under the blanket of stars in a Bedouin tent
- Go scuba diving in the Red Sea in Aqaba
- Float in the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth
- Hike the canyon waterfall and river at Wadi Mujib
- Fly to Dubai and tour the city including visiting the Burj Khalifa, the largest skyscraper in the world, and going skiing inside the Emirates Mall
- Visit an oasis in the Arabian Desert, the Green Mubbazzarah Hot Springs
- Pose for a photo with a falcon
- Visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and meet Aisha, my Arab doppelgänger from social media!
- Go sand dune bashing in a 4×4 in the desert
- Have a sunset dinner and go belly dancing in the desert tents
- Depart back to the US from Dubai
Will It Be Safe?
“It’s a noisy neighborhood, but a quiet house.”
Jordan is located in the heart of the Middle East, surrounded by Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Despite the on-going unrest in Syria and Iraq, Jordan continues to remain a safe country comprised of a diverse and welcoming people. Yet tourism has declined recently due the conflicts that have caused people to think twice about visiting any part of the Middle East.
Some have expressed concerns about being kidnapped or targeted as foreigners when in Jordan – the reality is that this scenario is just not true. Terror groups such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda are not in Jordan. No wars are being fought in Jordan, and Jordan peacefully co-exists with its neighbors. In addition, Jordan has signed a treaty with Israel that ensures safe border crossings between the countries.
“There are lots of people (Muslim, Christian, Jewish etc.) just living in the Middle East. We don’t see them on TV because people just living their normal lives are boring to watch. But it isn’t boring to experience a good meal with a new friend, which is why travel is so important to counteract fearful narrative we are constantly hearing,” says Jen.
The United Nations HCR International Refugee Agency runs its large operation in the cosmopolitan Amman, Jordan and employs many foreigners who live and travel safely around the city and the country.
Because of the ongoing conflict in Syria, Jordan has taken in many refugees. According to the government, Jordan has so far hosted around 1.4 million Syrians, or the equivalent of 20% of its population, and is receiving up to 5,000 refugees per day at times. Click here if you would like to donate to the UN efforts directed to help the Syrian refugees.
“Jordan has become a safe haven for people who are justifiably afraid,” says Jen
Additions to the population translate to more demands to water, increased costs for food and housing, and in some cases, more petty crime. However, Jen has not noticed a difference from when she visited in 2015 compared to her prior visits to Jordan three years earlier.
“When I arrive in Jordan, I do worry. I worry that my future mother-in-law will feed me too much, that I will get a sunburn, that I will pay too much for that trinket, or that the perfect falafel place from last visit will be closed this time. I worry about the things we all worry about when we travel,” says Jen.
As with visiting any foreign place, it is important to respect local customs. In the case with Jordan, err on the side of dressing conservatively such as covering shoulders and knees although women are not expected to cover their hair or wear a hijab. “This style of dress works well for those of us also concerned about sunburns!” says Jen. Also, it is safe to consume alcohol in appropriate places and in appropriate quantities in the country.
The resorts located on the Dead Sea and the Red Sea have security that restricts access to those who are not registered guests. In contrast, the hotels in the larger cities screen everyone who enters the buildings. When we travel around the Jordan on our trip, we will be accompanied by local tour guides and possibly a local policeman assigned only for the purpose of helping us ease through transit points.
In Part 2 of the Embolden Adventures podcast, A Wedding in Jordan, we will chat with Adam, Jen’s fiancé, about his experience growing up and living in Jordan, talk more about the wedding, and hear about his Hollywood movie career in Jordan! You will want to stay tuned.
Until next time Adventurers