Jordan may be my favourite country so far.
For the first few days, we spent our time touring Amman and heading down to Wadi Rum and Petra. All the nature was a welcome break from the very metropolitan atmosphere of the Emirates. It was also a once in a lifetime experience. Anyone who was with me in Namibia can attest that I’m not a fan of deserts, but I had to make an exception for Wadi Rum.
After Wadi Rum, it was on to Petra, to see one of the new wonders of the world. The old city is not actually a city–but a huge collection of tombs. The Treasury that everyone goes to see is less of a bank and more of a structure that was rumoured to have stored vast amounts of treasure (this was later debunked).
There’s not a whole lot I can say about Petra–it’s beautiful and if you can, you should make the trip yourself. The road into the “city” is bordered by rock walls too high for comprehension, and there’s always the risk of boulders falling or the wall collapsing. With the guidance of the lovely Rania Anwar, our tour guide for the whole trip, we gained a lot of insight into the history and background of the site. After seeing the tombs, we made the ascent to a monastery on top of a mountain, and this is where things really got cool.
Students in our group pointed out the border between Israel and Jordan from the top of the mountains, which was a reminder of what we were heading toward–a conflict that has come so close to Jordan. As we got closer geographically to the land in between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, our conversations got more tense.
We headed back from Petra the next day (after an early morning hike led by Peter Bartu, on which we ALMOST got lost), and that night met with the former Foreign Minister. As much as I enjoy nature, it was good to get back into the swing of meetings, and to talk about why we were here.
Jordan is a safety bubble in the middle of a tumultuous region, as we heard many times. Surrounded by Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Israel/Palestine, every major player has a vested interest in keeping Jordan stable (except for maybe Daesh–but that’s a different story). The former FM had pretty extensive knowledge of the current situations, and it was a good kickoff point. Over the next few days, we met with a UNOCHR rep doing work with Syrian refugees, Iraqi academics in exile, and an expert on Daesh. I was especially interested in the OCHR rep, because she spoke about the transition in their branch from humanitarian aid to developmental programming, because of the protracted nature of many conflicts now.
One important point–almost all of the speakers we have had so far have felt very strongly that the US has a serious responsibility to work towards peace in the region, because they have done so much damage in the past decades. We haven’t necessarily gotten a good answer yet as to how that should be done, but the anger is definitely there, especially from our Iraqi friends (I wouldn’t expect anything less, given our history there).
On another note, our group has a ton of great conversations about topics across the board. We disagree a lot, but I’m happy to have their company and support and challenges as we move through this trip.
This has been a lot of text and not a ton of coherent thoughts, so I’ll stop here. I’m going to do a separate post for Israel and Palestine, so look out for those. As I’ve said before, I’ll be processing this trip for a long time, and these blog posts are a fraction of the feelings I have.
As always, check out my Flickr here.