Travel Weekly's Michelle Baran recently visited Jordan with Intrepid Travel. View a slideshow from the trip here. Her first dispatch follows.
There are few things more frustrating than suffering because of the actions of others. But that's exactly the current situation in Jordan, where tourism has diminished because of Egypt's post-Arab Spring problems and unending war in Syria. In the tranquil Hashemite Kingdom, there is no unrest.
Unfortunately, Jordan has been deemed guilty by association. And the associations are flimsy at best.
First, there's Egypt. Egypt and Jordan are not even neighboring countries, separated by a sliver of Israeli land. But when it comes to tourism, they might as well share a border because of a long-standing practice of travelers combining the two destinations when visiting the region. Thus, when Egypt's tourism suffers, Jordan's goes right down with it.
As if the Egypt effect weren't bad enough, there is Syria, Jordan's neighbor to the north, which continues to make headlines for the masses of refugees fleeing the violence there, many of whom are seeking asylum in Jordan. Not only is Jordan taking on the economic impact of absorbing a swelling number of Syrians, but it is losing tourism revenue due to the correlation travelers make between the two countries.
After one week traveling throughout Jordan with Intrepid Travel, it's hard not to feel frustrated. Frustrated with the lack of proper information reaching potential travelers about this dynamic country, frustrated by baseless fears, and frustrated that Jordan hasn't been able to emerge as a self-sustaining destination.
Everywhere you go in Jordan, people ask you to spread the word about their colorful country. When you ask how tourism business is, the response is always that business is no good, that it's been bad since 2011. Usually the reason given is Syria, sometimes Egypt. Amazingly, they do so with heart-warming grace and charm, revealing not even the slightest hint of bitterness. They seem calm and mellow, even accepting of the current situation. Sadly, they're probably accustomed to it after several years. If they're desperate for business, they don't allow it to come through by way of hassling visitors.
When travelers think of Jordan, they usually conjure up images of the ancient city of Petra. And Petra is, without a doubt, an awe-inspiring sight to behold. But what I've witnessed is that Jordan is so much more than Petra. Jordan is snorkeling and diving among the reefs of the Red Sea; breathtaking desert-scapes and under-the-stars glamping in the Bedouin reserves of Wadi Rum; the under-appreciated ancient Roman archaeological complex in Jerash; and, of course, floating effortlessly in the salt-filled Dead Sea; among other hidden gems and surprises.
To visit Jordan properly is to not just piggyback a two-day trip to Petra onto another vacation to a nearby destination. To really see, smell, taste and feel what Jordan has to offer, a longer stay is due. Even a week here doesn't seem long enough.