Jordan is a truly dynamic country where a rich deep-seated Byzantine history meets a contemporary Arabic lifestyle. Like many Arabic countries, Jordan has an intricate set of cultural sensitivities and habits that travellers are advised to inform themselves about prior to their trip.
What to Wear?
As a general rule, Jordanian men and women are conservative, respectful and traditional dressers. Men wear long trousers and long sleeves even in the heat of the summer, while women are almost never seen wearing short skirts or shorts, instead choosing loose fitting discreet clothes that cover the shoulders, chest, legs and stomach. As a tourist you are not required to follow these habits however keeping your dress-code respectful will help you to feel comfortable during your stay.
Both men and women are advised to wear bottoms that go down past their knees. Covering the shoulders is also recommended not only to respect the local culture but also as sun protection.
When entering religious sites it is especially advised to respect local cultures and dress appropriately, with women advised to cover their hair with a scarf and both men and women recommended to take off their shoes.
Jordan’s working week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday. Weekends are Friday and Saturday. Shops are open all week until 10pm, and most also open on the weekend Keep in mind that many Jordanian’s will stop work and close shop for prayer five times a day, especially on Fridays.
Government offices, banks and museums operate from 8am until 2pm, while tourist attractions often alter their visiting hours in accordance to the season. Asking the tourist information officers at the airport or in Amman is recommended.
Jordanian’s love their coffee and sitting with friends to drink this strong black liquid is a popular pastime amongst locals. Emerge yourself in the local coffee culture by tasting the Turkish Coffee traditionally served to guests and visitors. Served in an expresso cup, you can ask for the drink sweet: “hilweh”, medium: “wasat” or bitter: “sada” – just don’t knock it back in one or you’ll get a mouthful of granules which the locals leave to settle, then use to read their fortunes.
The equally popular Arabic coffee, or “Kahwa Arabeya”, is made using cardamom and was traditionally served during big events.
Shopaholics will be delighted by Amman’s buzzing retail options, with everything from traditional souks to modern malls at your disposal.
The souk – or traditional market bazaar – is located in Down Town or Jabal Amman, the older areas of the city which have maintained their air of tradition. For a funky and contemporary twist to the souk concept visit Souq Jara in the hip district of the 1st circle around Rainbow Street. Here the Friday market sees the cities alternative creative types, artists and craftsmen come out to sell their wares. Modernity and style are combined in Swefieh district, as well as at the capital’s American-style malls such as City Mall and Mecca Mall near the 8th circle, or Taj Mall in Abdoun.
The Holy Month of Ramadan is one of the most important events on the Islamic lunar calendar where the majority of the Muslim population of the country fast from sunrise to sunset. Because the Islamic calendar is dictated by the moons orbit around the Earth, Ramadan comes a few days earlier each year. Tania Tours recommends that you check that the dates of your trip to Jordan don’t coincide with Ramadan as working hours are reduced and many businesses and restaurants close during this time. As many locals will be fasting during the day, eating food in public is frowned upon
The local currency is the Jordanian dinar, JOD or JDs for short. Many places will accept US dollars, although money can be changed at the airport, your hotel, banks or currency exchange booths in major cities according to the current rate of exchange. Be aware that hotel currency exchange prices may be higher than other places.
Tourists in Amman are advised to travel by taxi. These yellow vehicles are safe, cheap, convenient and easy to use. Hail a taxi from the street, tell the driver where you are headed and if he’s going that way he’ll take you. Make sure you ask him to turn on the meter at the beginning of the trip.
For travellers looking for more freedom of movement renting a car is also very easy. In Jordan we drive on the right and the traffic can be a bit more disorganised than what you might be used to. Be extra cautious when you use roundabouts and intersections as cars may come out of nowhere.
A great way to travel around the country is by private bus. These buses make daily trips to historical and cultural sights of interest and can be arranged from your hotel or by Tania Tours.
Language and Communication
Although almost everyone in Jordan speaks fluent to proficient English, it is always a nice touch to learn a couple of words in the local language while on holiday. Impress the local Jordanians by practising the following words and expressions in Arabic before you arrive – you’ll be surprised to see how happy and honoured they’ll be to see the extra effort you’ve made to learn their language.
Hello: Marhaba or Al-Salamu Alaikum
How are you: Keef al Hal
Thank you: Shukran
Water: Mayya (stress on the y)