I did not know what to expect when traveling to Amman, Jordan for the Middle Eastern studies program. I came with an open heart and mind and with little to no expectations.
Upon our arrival we participated in scavenger hunts in Amman that not only helped me to get to know the other students in which I am traveling but also helped me get to know Amman.
My time in Amman has been filled with sook visits, tea with shopkeepers, city adventuring, excessive falafel eating, mosque visits, interesting classes on Islam and the Arab culture and various adventures outside of Amman.
Throughout my time in Jordan, I have grown in ways I never imagined and I have cherished every moment in this beautiful, welcoming culture. From the second I stepped outside of the plane I have been greeted with the phrase “Welcome to Jordan” on every street corner and shop I have entered.
In reality, only one tenth of one percent of Muslims are actually violent or participate in extremist groups. Everyone I have met in Jordan has gone out of their way to show me that they condemn violence and that the Qur’an promotes peace.
Truly, the Muslims I have met here been some of the most faithful, dedicated and welcoming people I have ever met. I am so thankful that I have gotten to experience Islam first hand so that I can see the truth that the American media portrayals of the religion are both inaccurate and unjust.
In addition to learning about Islam both inside and out of class, I have also learned much about the Arab culture. I have been invited to dinners, given tea by shopkeepers and overcome by the hospitality I have been offered here.
In addition to this, thus far in our trip we have visited many beautiful places outside of Amman including the Dead Sea, Jerash, Umm Qais, Petra, Jesus’ Baptism Site, Mt. Nebo and Madaba. Each of the trips has been a surreal experience for me. I have dreamed about such places for my whole life, to actually visit and see the sites has been absolutely incredible.
During our day at the Dead Sea, we were able to cover ourselves in Dead Sea mud and float around. I took advantage of this and even read my bible while in the salty water.
I also participated in the MESP Dead Sea dunk and dive tradition and I withstood the facial and eye burning when I submerged my entire body under the water. The day spent at the Dead Sea was rejuvenating. I felt fully present and whole when floating around, enjoying the sunset and taking in the beauty of every moment.
A few days after the Dead Sea we visited Jerash and Umm Qais and I was blown away by the incredibly preserved ancient Roman ruins.
From the various theaters, preserved shops and city center in Jerash to the gorgeous view of the Golan Heights and Israel-Palestine from Umm Qais, the trip was spectacular.
Following this trip, during my day off I enjoyed a visit through the Jordanian countryside to the cities of Salt and Mafraq and was overcome by the beauty of Jordan’s diverse, dry landscape filled with herds of goats, sheep and camels.
I loved hiking around the Royal Tombs, the Ad Deir monastery, the great temple, the treasury and walking along the colonnaded street looking at the handmade Bedouin necklaces. While there, I loved talking with the local Bedouins, sunset watching, petting the donkeys and pretending to be Indiana Jones at times.
While at Jesus’ Baptism site, I decided to have a renewal baptism which was a significant decision for me. I, along with five other students, decided to renew our baptism again, many of us were baptized as infants and decided to reconfirm our faith as adults. And, we did so in the Jordan River in the region where Jesus was supposed to be Baptized by John the Baptist. I was overcome by the beauty of the experience, it is one that I will never forget.
Following our time at the baptism sight, we stopped by Mount Nebo where Moses, According to the Torah, first saw the promised land and where Moses eventually died. After Mount Nebo, we headed to Madaba where we visited a Greek Orthodox Church that holds a mosaic of the oldest map in the Middle East.
This journal that is a chronicle of the events of this trip thus far serves as a beautiful memoir of my time in Jordan. Reflecting upon the places I have gone and the gorgeous sights I have seen reminds me that the most significant experiences of this trip have been the sweet, simple moments and the meaningful conversations that I have had.
This trip has been life changing and I am thankful for the opportunity to be here, learning from my experiences with locals within this beautiful Arab country. I look forward to the adventures that are yet to come. Stay true, life justly and always travel on. Peace and love.