“Welcome to Jordan”






The ruins atop Amman of Jabal al-Qala’a, accompanied by completely unrelated music.

Welcome to Jordan!” is an oddly specific and nearly universal phrase among Jordanians. It’s odd because almost every Jordanian that has so far employed the phrase has done so with the exact same cadence and meter. Like the syllabic meter of 5-7-5 for a haiku, the syllabic meter of “Welcome to Jordan” is a distinct 2-1-2. There is always a clear emphasis on the first syllable of each of the two primary words, as in “Welcome to Jordan!” It’s not just adults and passport control officers that use the phrase either, I must have heard an excited “Welcome to Jordan” from more than thirty children at this point. I always reply to the kids in Arabic, which earns me plenty of funny looks.

          A second interaction which any visitor to Jordan should be truly excited for is the taxi drivers. In the United States, the common interaction with taxi drivers is one of business and detachment, while the passengers will frequently engage in their own conversations while the cab driver contentedly listens to the radio of his or her choosing. In Jordan, a taxi is the polar opposite. To enter a taxi is to make a new friend and, to demonstrate this point, some of my taxi drivers have so far been of the following names: Ahmed, Abdullah (or Abu Ahmed), Nadr, Jihad, Ihaam, Abu Zultan, and Mohammad. Each driver is perfectly happy to carry on a conversation with the passengers and, thankfully, every driver (to date) has been excited to teach us new words in Arabic.

This presents its own challenges, however,  as drivers speak varying degrees of English. Mohammad and Jihad*, for example, knew quite a bit of English and were able to teach us units of time in Arabic (seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries), compass directions (north, south, east, and west), and a few assorted words. For cab drivers that speak no English, the interaction is even more challenging because we passengers have to derive the meaning of the words they are saying by comparing them to the (few) Arabic words we already know. Nadr, for example, spoke no English yet taught us the word for “park” (qidaa’im) by me describing a space that was “spacious, with trees, beautiful, where people exercise”, as well as other words for “good” (mniehh, ziyenn) and “learning” (muwadharra).

          Lastly, this week we visited the ancient ruins of the Roman Citadel. It would be an injustice to write about this experience, so I would rather share video and photos from it.

*A side note about Jihad; when I asked his name, he was very hesitant to say it and was very careful to measure my reaction when he said “Jihad.” I’ll admit that my immediate response was surprise, but I went ahead and said tsharafna (pleased to meet you). He became visibly more relaxed, and the conversation from there was excellent.