Jordan and the Amazing Maher

Jordan a country in the Middle East with a big heart is how I would sum up this little piece of desert paradise.  When speaking with people who had traveled to Jordan before they always led the discussion with stories about how wonderful and friendly the people are.  This was to become the theme for my story  after spending four days in this lovely country, which begins with my arrival at Queen Alia airport.

After making my way through the security checks I was greeted by my guest supervisor from United Travel.  With a big smile he welcomed me to Jordan and asked if I had already obtained my tourist visa.  ” No I haven’t, where do I get it from? Was I supposed to get before I came? My travel said I could get it when I got here”  as I rambled on and on he looked me with a big smile and just said ” Relax, no worries I will get you one for free”.   “Free? really? wow!”, instantly relaxed and pleasantly surprised.   A few moments later I had a free tourist visa for Jordan and another friendly welcome from the customs officer who stamped my passport and wished me a pleasant stay. After collecting my luggage I was introduced to my driver  Maher,  who I call the Amazing Maher of Jordan.

 The Amazing Maher was my driver during my stay in Jordan and kept me entertained with funny stories and was so kind, especially when I was injured and unable to complete my day trip to Jaresh.  When we were driving to the Dead Sea on my last day he received a phone call from his mechanic, however it was not about the car, his mechanic was calling to see how his client (me) was doing after injuring myself.  Maher had serviced the car the day before and mentioned that I had hurt myself during my trip to Petra so of course this mechanic whom I had never met wanted to call and check if I was feeling much better.  A great courtesy that Jordanians extend to those who are guests in their homeland.

The Amazing Maher looks after all his clients like they are family and during my time in Jordan I would learn all about his and even meet one of his sons.  A clever young man named Mohammed who is on the precipice of success with a brilliant product he developed and launched.  Maher of course is a very proud farther of three sons and two daughters and I’m sure a wonderful husband too.

One of the many stories that Maher told me that made me laugh was about how his daughters came home from school crying one day.  When he asked what was wrong they explained that a man had been outside their school and was saying horrible things to them.  The next day he picked up one of his sons and drove to his daughters school, sure enough this disturbed individual was there.  Now Maher is over 6ft tall and so is his son, you can imagine what happened next.  After an exchange of words his son picked up this man and put him in the boot of Maher’s car. Crying and pleading to be let out he promised never to come near the school again. To the delight of many school girls who were watching the drama unfold and laughing at this man who had harassed them.  He was never seen again and Maher’s son become the hero of many school girls that day.

Maher’s family originated from a small village in Palestine called Wallaja and relocated to Jordan in the 1940s. Like so many other Palestinian families they were forced to make the difficult decision  to leave their land.  How heartbreaking it must have been for his ancestors to leave everything they loved behind to form a new life in a new country. They have never been back but perhaps one day they will be able to, one can only hope.

Jordan is a remarkable country not just because of wonderful places like Petra and the Dead Sea.  It’s a country that helps others in need by taking them under their wing when people need shelter.   This country has taken in over 600,000 Syrian refugees not to mention many Palestinian people who began to flee their country in the first part of the 19th century.   It has a big heart that puts others to shame.

From the air the Jordan landscape looked so flat with endless desert as far as the eye can see.  However this is not the case, Amman reminded me so much of my home town Wellington.  Anything but flat, with hills covered with houses and narrow streets that would wind up, down and all around.   Driving out of the city on one of the main highways really showcased the diversity of the Jordan landscape.  From hills covered with houses and the busy city, to a landscape so flat with fertile fields changing to barren desert, then mountainous valleys.

Diversity also exists within the people of Jordan and the lives they lead from those in the city and small towns to the bedouin people who lead a nomadic life living off the land and their goats.  The population of Jordan is 7 million with 4 million of those living in Amman, that’s pretty much all of New Zealand.  The people of Jordan are so friendly and laid back just like their royal family who you can apparently bump into at family restaurant or out and about in Amman just like everyday people.

I think one of the best things about traveling solo is that you have the luxury of connecting with people easily.  When you are in a group situation you tend to hang with the group, they become your social hub and not often do you venture out of it.  I was lucky to have such a great driver who I now call a friend and still keep in touch with.   Jordan will be a country I will visit again sooner rather than later as there is still so much to see and I know I will be welcomed back warmly as that is how this country rolls.

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The hills of Amman
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It was quite hazy in the city due to the heat and dry desert winds.
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The old and the new creeping up on the horizon

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Rolling hills just outside of Petra
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Bedouin settlement

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Why did the camel cross the road?     To escape the on coming dust storm.
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On the way back from Petra we drove into a massive dust storm it was so dense
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The Amazing Maher in his youth he was a hair model, true story
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My new friend seeing me off from the airport