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Best of Jordan in Five Days – Part II

June 10, 2012

In my previous post, I wrote about the first two days of my five-day excursion here in Jordan. Although the entire trip was magnificent, the last two days — for different reasons — affected me most deeply.


Al Rajef Society for Special Education in Ma’an — another city in southern Jordan — is a center that was created to treat young people up to their early 20s who have physical and mental disabilities. Particularly after the bad press Jordan’s mental health system has gotten recently, it was lucky that we had a chance to see the inside of a government-run special education facility.

Although I’m sure the center likely has its problems, it was nice to see photographs on the walls and on seats that give these children a place to belong.

A classroom seat for a child with Down’s Syndrome at Al Rajef Society for Special Education – Ma’an.

Weaving skills are taught to the children here.

A room for physical therapy.

A friendly neighbor of the society.


This is the place from which I have the fewest photographs, but was by far my favorite part of the trip. A little over 30 miles east of Aqaba, “The Valley of the Moon” landscape was awe-inspiring.

Late after dinner on Wednesday, I walked to the mud flats outside our camp with a couple of my classmates. Barefoot, I ran as fast as I could away from the group into the black. After about a minute, I found myself alone with only the hard mud beneath my feet and the expansive sky above. In the distance, I saw lights and heard strains of traditional Arabic music being played from another camp. I could hear humanity, but I was alone. It was hard to see more than 15 feet ahead and my friends had been swallowed by the dark. There were camps near and far in a circle around this huge area. It felt like I was standing in the middle of a dried-out lake on a foreign planet.

I won’t forget that night.

7 a.m. wake-up call; ride some dunes.

Wadi Rum.


The last day was spent at a vacation spot for many people in Jordan called Aqaba. The country’s only seaport is here, in the Gulf of Aqaba, which is fed by the Red Sea. Three other countries share this coastline, including Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Geography aside, it was just a wonderful, relaxing day spent out on the sea, swimming, snorkeling, jumping off boats and eating delicious grilled food.

The coast of the Red Sea.

Me, Wilda Beast and Sam jumping off the J-School boat.

The part of the Aqaba that stays with me most was from my Thursday night out. I was at a club called f.r.i.e.n.d.s. and standing out on the balcony while music in English booming from inside. There were drunk people everywhere from all over the world. People were grinding on each other. British men were hitting on all the girls and others were making lewd comments.

I observed the scene inside then I turned and watched women walk by below me fully-covered. Many men who passed were wearing tobes. A dry, modest culture.

At that moment, Western culture framed against Jordan’s felt so crude and cheap. I felt ashamed to be standing on that balcony as people looked up at me.

I was torn. It felt so good to finally be “free,” to be able to wear what I liked and not have to sweat through three layers of clothing to be sure not to draw any attention to my body. At the same time, the freedom felt tainted. I couldn’t help but think about how if it was this hard for me to reconcile my two worlds after only a month here, how difficult it must be for those who were born here to go against tradition – particularly for a woman.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 10, 2012 1:39 pm

    Thanks Melissa for posting your Blog!. it’s such a pleasure to be able to experience it with you in this way because you really do have a talent for making one really feel how it was for you. Your pictures are fabulous!

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