A transfer to Jordan was going to fan their wanderlust!

A transfer to Jordan was going to fan their wanderlust!
Petra, JordanLonely Planet

Swati loves traveling and exploring different cultures. She's lucky to have a partner who shares the same passion for life, as her. Both husband and wife work in the same industry and are able to relate to each other more closely, helping their bond grow stronger. When her husband's transfer orders to Jordan were in their hands, they were looking forward to the experience, albeit with mild apprehension. We caught up with Swati for her first-person account:

Arabic coffee served in traditional pots
Arabic coffee served in traditional potsSwati Bhatt

What was life like in Pune and how different is it in Jordan?

Pune (in Maharashtra) has always been home to my husband and me. We have seen the city as teenagers and also worked there as professionals. What amazes me is how beautifully the city makes you its own no matter the age, background or interests. There's always something interesting for everyone.

Mezze dining in Jordan
Mezze dining in Jordanhttps://www.touristjordan.com/

We moved to Jordan a few years back. I remember being excited and also a bit apprehensive, though only very briefly. I attribute this quick transformation from apprehension to comfort, for the similarities Indians share with Jordanians in their culture and values. The hospitality of Jordanians is their most striking feature. They warmly welcome a guest, even a stranger, with a potful of coffee. There's a saying among the Bedouins (people who have made the desert their home), no stranger should ever go away from their abode hungry, even if there's no food on the table. If that means they must offer the guests their camels or sheep, their main source of livelihood, they mustn't think twice. Indians firmly believe in treating the guest as though it is an act of welcoming and serving god himself. Atithi Devo Bhava, (in Sanskrit, which literally means, the guest is god).

Breakfast in Amman
Breakfast in AmmanSwati Bhatt

What kind of food is available for a vegetarians?

It's been fun exploring the cuisine, here! I can assure you that there's no dearth of options for a vegetarian or a vegan. The cuisine is rich in fresh produce and includes a variety of salads (mostly dressed in Olive oil), vegetable and dairy based snacks like Sambosak (similar to our samosa which has a filling of either cheese or potato), Sabanek (spinach stuffed patties), pies which have fresh veggies and olives, among a host of other varieties. The very popular falafel and hummus may be had as a sandwich or a light snack. One of my personal favorites is Yalenji, which has grape leaves stuffed with steamed rice and veggies. For rice lovers, there are a variety of rice preparations either cooked in vegetables or rice that's stuffed inside vegetables like Zucchini.

Camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan
Camping at Wadi Rum, Jordanhttps://www.touristjordan.com/

What are your favourite places in Jordan?

Jordan spans an area of 89,342 km², which can be very alluring for a traveller, as it offers a lot of variety for sight-seeing within short distances. North Jordan is quite hilly and hosts the capital city of Amman, which is built on seven hills. The Dead Sea is a short drive from Amman and you go from a hilly terrain to the lowest point on earth, all within 30-45 minutes.

At Wadi Rum with friends
At Wadi Rum with friendsSwati Bhatt

Further south is the vast desert of Wadi Rum which is extremely picturesque and movies like ’the Lawrence of Arabia’, ’The Martian’ and ‘Alladin’ have been shot there. The lost city of Petra, one of the most visited sites in the country, is also in the same region and is among the seven wonders of the world. The southernmost tip is the port city of Aqaba which shares a coastline with the Red Sea, known for its beautiful corals and is a treat for deep sea divers. Ever since we moved here, we have frequented all the hot tourist spots mentioned above and the port city of Aqaba. It's easy to do this tour within three days.

Floating effortlessly in the Dead Sea
Floating effortlessly in the Dead SeaSwati Bhatt

It’s difficult to pick favorites as we have loved every spot we’ve visited, however we revisit the Ancient City of Petra (even though we have been there 5 times, we haven’t yet explored it all - reason why we return to it so often); Wadi Rum (camping in the desert under the stars is what you can never outgrow, specially because you can see the Milky Way with your naked eye.

You can choose from among a plethora of camps that offer a Bedouin experience and desert safaris); hiking trails like Wadi Bani Hammad and Wadi Musa involve walking through a gorge; Madaba and Umm Rassas - known for the oldest known mosaic maps that date back to the 6th Century; the Ancient City of Jerash and Um Qays (these are old Roman cities in North Jordan).

Souk in Amman
Souk in Ammanhttps://www.amazing-places1.blogspot.com

Downtown Amman (this is where the city began and is full of traditional markets and architecture).

Site of the Baptism of Jesus
Site of the Baptism of JesusNational Geographic

The Dead Sea (offers effortless floating in a state of calm slumber - simply enchanting!); the Baptism site of Jesus (along the Jordan river) is a very humbling experience. To be able to stand where Jesus Christ was baptized is nothing less than a miracle. Close to this site is Mount Nebo (the site where Moses was granted a view of the promised land) offers a beautiful view of the Dead Sea. On a clear day you can even see Jerusalem!

Jerash Roman City
Jerash Roman CitySwati Bhatt

How is Jordan doing in the present pandemic and do you find living there comfortable?

Jordan was hit by the pandemic like the rest of the world, however it recovered quickly as compared to several other nations, thanks to the systematic way in which the lock down was enforced. So much so that even during the holy month of Ramadan, mosques were shut to ensure safety of the public. It's an amazing experience to live here and we urge more people visit this beautiful country, once it's safe to travel.

I can be reached through my Instagram handle (@swatisb3)

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