Don’t be surprised when you get to Jordan and a Bedouin invites you to his tent for a cup of sweet tea. The hospitality and warmth of the Jordanian people is just one of the many surprises you’ll experience in the Hashemite Kingdom.
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Jordan is an Arab nation with a landmass of just under 90,000 square kilometres. Jordan shares boarders with Israel and Palestine to the West, Syria to the North, Iraq to the East and Saudi Arabia to the South. As of 2015, Jordan had a population of 6.8 million people, the capital of Amman is the most populous city home to around 4 million inhabitants.
From north to south, Jordan’s landscape is full of beautiful surprises, with archaeological riches from Neolithic man and relics from many of the world’s great civilizations.
In the north, you’ll stand on hills covered with olive and pine trees that overlook the historic Sea of Galilee. Heading south, you’ll come to the lowest place on Earth, the Dead Sea with its healing mineral-laden waters. The salty sea is located in the subtropical Jordan Valley where bananas, tomatoes and watermelon grow year round.
Further south is Petra, a registered UNESCO World Heritage site and Jordan’s most popular tourist destination. With good reason: the amazing workmanship of the Nabateans and Romans feature amphitheatres and temples, tombs and elaborate buildings cut out of solid rock. Just south lies Wadi Rum, where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, with its majestic mountains and vast desert. The southern tip of the country lies on the Red Sea where Aqaba offers a dream location for avid scuba divers.
According to the World Bank, Jordan attracted 8.2 million international visitors in 2010, a figure that fell to 5.4 million in 2013. The local tourism industry has been affected by regional instability in the past decade, which is especially visible in popular areas such as Petra where visitors numbers halved from 800,000 in 2010 to 400,000 in 2014. Despite these difficulties, Jordan is committed to developing a sustainable tourism industry and is implementing a national tourism strategy. The strategy aims to celebrate Jordan’s amazing landscape and tourist sites while showing the rest of the world what hospitality really means.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Displacement of Local Peoples:
Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.
Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Cultural Loss & Indigenous Tourism:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery?
Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Cultural Loss and tourism:
These could be rides across sand dunes, to ancient sites of interest, or simply short walks just for the experience. The one thing these places have in common is that they all tend to be very hot during tourist season. Although camels are designed for the tough desert conditions, they still have basic needs, which must be met in order to be comfortable, strong, and healthy enough to carry passengers and survive the harsh conditions.
See more at Right Tourism; http://right-tourism.com/issues/beasts-of-burden/3038-2/#sthash.gZZnz141.dpbs
Coral Reefs & Swimming with Dolphins:
According to Right-Tourism.com, the Gulf of Aqaba is the world’s most northernmost coral reef ecosystem, and is home to more than 200 species of coral. Over a 1000 species of fish provide divers with a magnificent show, and larger visitors include dolphins, white sharks, sea turtles and sea cows. If you choose to go diving or snorkelling, ensure that you respect the local ecosystem by not touching the coral and steer clear from tours offering the chance to swim with dolphins.
See more at Right Tourism; http://right-tourism.com/issues/marine-activities/swimming-with-wild-animals/#sthash.GhvIH4jS.dpbs
Hammamat Zarqa Ma’in Hot Springs:
According to Right-tourism.com, visitors to the Dead Sea have the opportunity to visit another natural wonder with biblical connections, Hammamat Zarqa Ma’in Hot Springs. Bathers can enjoy the mineral rich waters of the hyper-thermal waterfalls which ranges in temperature from 40-60 degrees.
However, visitors are asked to respect the more traditional bathers and leave the itsy bitsy bikinis at home! There are also hot pools and several smaller waterfalls nearby.
Tourists use more water than the ordinary consumer. Indeed, the water ‘footprint’ of the Western world, as in our carbon footprint, is very high. There are already serious water shortages worldwide and a prediction of ‘water wars’.
The United Nations has claimed that ‘The average tourist uses as much water in 24 hours as a third world villager would use to produce rice for 100 days.’ Tourists need unlimited supplies of water – they are used to it at home and desire copious amounts on holiday: for drinking, baths and showers, swimming pools, overflowing fountains and green manicured lawns.
But water, in developing countries, is often a precious commodity. More than 2 billion people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and 80 per cent of all deaths in the developing world are water related. Put a hotel near a local community and the pressure on the water supply is acute.
Tourism Concern has extensively campaigned on water equity and have published reports & articles on the topic. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles: