The first stop on my trip was to Amman, the capital city of Jordan. My time there was brief – less than 48 hours in total, as I arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning local time and departed on Sunday evening.
Rather than obtain a visa ahead of time, I acquired a visa on arrival. As well as an ink stamp in my passport, I also got two 20 dinar Jordanian postage stamps, which reflected the cost of the visa. A nice addition to my previously blank passport.
The security situation in Jordan is worth mentioning. Jordan has a land border with Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war between the government, Islamic State and other rebel groups. Amman is around 80 kilometers, or an hour’s drive from the Syrian border.
Consequently, on leaving the airport (which is around 25 minutes’ drive south of Amman) we had to pass through a military checkpoint, and to enter the hotel we had to go through a metal detector and have all of our bags x-rayed. Part of my visit involved going to schools, to recruit students, and these were all within secure compounds with gates and security guards. I was also advised to keep my passport on me at all times for identification.
Whilst we did travel around Amman and its environs, visiting 5 schools, unfortunately I didn’t have much spare time to actually explore the city. The hotel I stayed in, the Crowne Plaza, was some way out of the centre of the city – and it’s a big city. Around 4 million people call it home, making it not much smaller than London.
What I did see of Amman seemed rather run-down – a bit like Burnley, I suppose, but much bigger and with better weather. I gather that Amman has some really nice parts though, and if I’d had the opportunity to fly out earlier and spend a day exploring then I’d have been able to see more. Sadly work commitments made this impossible.
I did notice a lack of traffic lights. Most road junctions are roundabouts, or grade-separated junctions with sliproads (on-ramps to Americans). I don’t think I saw a single set of traffic lights, which means that drivers tend to use up any bit of available road space when waiting in stationary traffic. And seemingly everyone drives – there were very few pedestrian crossings and I wouldn’t like to try my luck with them.
Immigration in Jordan is something of an issue. Recent years have seen a lot of conflict in the Middle East region and Jordan’s open border policy has seen around 5 million people seek refuge from countries like Iraq and Syria. As Jordan’s population wasn’t that large to start with, it’s resulted in a massive, fast growth in the number of people living there, and, from what I saw on my brief visit, is struggling to adapt somewhat.
The internet connection in the hotel was very good though – they advertised that they had a 150 Mbps line which suggests that the telephony infrastructure in Amman is generally good. This came in useful when needing to do a Skype call with someone.
I’d maybe like to go back to Jordan in future to actually see the nice bits of Amman, and visit the Dead Sea which isn’t far away. But I’d prefer to wait until the situation in Syria dies down first.