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A New Mexican reflects on Jordan

By Jeremy Reynalds
web posted December 16, 2002

Certain names give us very vivid word pictures. When we say "Israel," there are images that spring to mind. When we mention "Palestine," we also get a mental picture. However, if you had asked me a month or so ago to describe what I thought when mentioning the word "Jordan," I wouldn't have been able to tell you anything. That's because nothing would have come to mind.

That's all changed after spending a week in Jordan as a guest of the Jordanian Tourism Board. Mention the word Jordan to me now and a stream of wonderful mental images immediately surface. Let me share a few.

In addition to the unparalleled courtesy and kindness that our entire group experienced from every Jordanian with whom we came in contact, we visited a string of Biblical and historical sites.

Among those places visited was Petra, where we made our way after spending a couple of days in Amman. Petra is Jordan's most famous site and is an amazing first century city quite literally carved out of the rocks.

While a number of our group decided to rent donkeys and horses while at Petra, I opted for walking over the site. I'm told it was about a four mile walk from start to finish and while I ended up aching more than after a good work out at the gym, it was still a great time. My decision to walk was in part prompted by the ever changing prices of the donkey, camel and horse rides. Several members of our group who decided to take rides and who bargained for one price at the beginning of the ride, were asked to pay a different sum when it came time to dismount!

While at Petra, we also experienced some youngsters trying to sell us a variety of overpriced trinkets. Some prefaced their sales pitch by saying "Happy hour, happy hour. Good deal." These same youthful entrepreneurs also told us that they accepted Visa. However, they got very upset when our guide told us that we shouldn't buy from them as their prices were too high. Some of them began telling us, "No tip for the guide!"

One afternoon we got to sail on the beautiful waters of the Red Sea on a boat with a glass bottom, a unique experience, and eat lunch at the Royal Yacht Club. In addition, we stayed for a couple of days at a resort right by the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is 13,000 feet below sea level and is the lowest point on the earth. The sea is so full of salt that you float. Because the mud is so good for your skin, if you visit don't be surprised when you see people wandering around the beach plastered with mud. It really is therapeutic, not just dirty!

However, one of the highlights of the tour for me was visiting the desert at Wadi Rum. There we left our bus, split into groups of four and piled into four wheel drive vehicles. Then we headed out to the desert where we climbed to the top of a sand dune, amidst a few groans from some of us who were still nursing some sore muscles after walking all over Petra!

After our descent, we all got to drink sweet tea with the Bedouins in the desert made with water boiled over a hastily assembled camp fire.

The end of the trip came all too soon and almost before we knew it we were saying our goodbyes and heading to the airport to catch a plane back to JFK.

Reflecting on my experiences from last week, I encourage everyone to start praying for Jordan and its people. The country is really in an unenviable position, with the probable upcoming conflict with Iraq. That's because Jordan obtains about 96 percent of its energy from Iraq, while nonetheless being somewhat economically dependent on the United States. In addition, Iraq provides Jordan its oil for a fraction of the cost at which it is available on the world market.

For those interested in learning more about Jordan, go to www.see-jordan.com.

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico and is pursuing his PhD in intercultural education at Biola University in Los Angeles. He is married with five children and lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. His work can be viewed here and weekly at www.americasvoices.org. He may be contacted by e-mail at reynalds@joyjunction.org.

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