So far, my time in Amman has been interesting, but also quiet, introspective, and relaxing. There’s lots to see, so I’ve delayed exploring the desert – Petra and Wadi Rum – until the weather is warmer at night. Average daytime temperatures in the desert range from 10-21°C (50-70°F), falling to 0-8°C (32-46°F) at night. Spring and autumn in the Arabian Desert are supposedly the best seasons to visit Wadi Rum – nicknamed the Valley of the Moon.
Even though temperatures haven’t been extreme in Amman (40s to 60s-70s), it’s often windy, and after sunset, it gets cold quickly. I imagine nights camping in the desert are even colder, but things should warm up a bit in April and May. There are several ways to experience desert camping, including traditional Bedouin tents, caves, or luxury “bubble hotels” that allow you to gaze at the stars all night long!
Jordanian Visa Extension
I was told that extending a Jordanian tourist visa was “easy,” but it truly wasn’t a cakewalk. My landlord provided several documents, and I took everything to the neighborhood police station in Jabal Amman.
It was surprising to see a machine-gun-carrying guard stationed at the entrance. He didn’t speak English but understood I was there for a visa extension. He looked at me, rapidly peeled through my passport pages, said “Americana,” and motioned to enter the station. I signed in at the front desk, handed over my passport for another examination, and checked my iPhone.
There were several people waiting for visas, and a loud discourse in Arabic was going on between them and Jordanian officials. A policeman motioned me forward, and I explained that I was requesting a tourist visa extension, and handed over my passport with several pages of documents.
He thumbed through the paperwork and said I needed to complete an additional form, get my fingerprints taken at another police station – Al-Shmeisani – and return. This exercise was a lengthy boondoggle lasting several hours. Shmeisani was far away, so I took an uber. More armed guards were waiting at the entrance. They looked at my passport, and motioned toward an outside waiting area along the main police station.
There were a few people queued there, waiting to have their fingerprints taken. I was told the wait would be 10 minutes. Forty-five minutes later, I asked when / if my fingerprints would be taken. It was cold sitting outside on a windy, overcast day. Someone motioned me inside and led me to the office of the policeman in charge – yikes, what now! He said to have a seat and began talking to me in informal English that was difficult to understand. He seemed to look through every entry and exit stamp in my passport. During times like this, you wish you had fewer countries stamped in your passport. He looked puzzled, and then asked if I was traveling alone – always my favorite question :o(…
After another 30-minute wait, the officer yelled in Arabic to someone in the back who came into the office and said “two more minutes” – ha… Finally, I was led into the fingerprinting room, where they took my fingerprints and a mugshot and stamped the form. I definitely look like a criminal in that mugshot.
I decided to have lunch, chill, and return to the Jabal Amman police station later – enough red tape and being led around by the nose for one day. Government bureaucracy exists everywhere, but in foreign countries, it can be intimidating. Border crossings and passport / visa checks aren’t my favorite part of traveling. Admittedly, I have a phobia when it comes to the subject.
The next day, I returned to the police station and was granted a two-month visa extension – yeah! I heard that if you don’t get an extension, the worst that happens is a 1.5 JOD ($2) per day fine upon departure. Don’t know if I believe that, so decided to play it safe and get a formal extension. I don’t understand why a 90- rather than 30-day tourist visa isn’t granted upon arrival at the airport? I think you can get a longer visa if you obtain it online in advance of arrival. Reasons for why and how visas are handled in each country are baffling.
Ramadan and Food
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The act of fasting is “meant to remind Muslims of the less fortunate and to reinforce the need to be thankful“. Many restaurants in Amman are closed during the day, but open in the evening before the fast is broken at a sunset iftar meal. Liquor stores are closed during Ramadan, but most restaurants and hotels catering to travelers and tourists serve wine, beer, and cocktails.
Some restaurants and markets remain open and serve food to non-Muslims. It’s just a matter of finding them. The Internet may say they’re open, when in fact, they’re not.
Sleep and food – or the lack of either – affects your health and can ruin a trip. During extended travels, finding heathy food doesn’t just happen. It requires forethought. During this trip, I’ve struggled a bit finding the right food. Jordan is easier than Egypt.
“As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the Ramadan Holiday, lasts twenty-nine to thirty days and starts from one sighting of the crescent moon to the next. The last third of Ramadan holds the greatest spiritual significance to Muslims, as it commemorates when angel Jibrīl (Gabriel) revealed to Prophet Muhammad the Koran’s (Qu’ran) first verses.” Jordan Traveler
My apartment has a kitchen, but one complication of cooking for yourself is purchasing the ingredients, like spices. Many are hard to find and inevitably discarded, because you can’t take them with you or use them during a short stay. Cooking utensils are often lacking and learning to use a new stove (in my case, 8 different stoves) can also be challenging. All in all, except for breakfast and simple meals, when traveling, I think eating local cuisine in restaurants is better than cooking for yourself.
“Eating, drinking water, and smoking in public is technically illegal during fasting hours (sunrise to sunset) in Jordan.”
A nearby Arabic restaurant has delicious homemade tabbouleh, hummus, and flat bread called shrak. Those and locally grown Medjool dates are my favorite snacks in Jordan. The dates are the best I’ve eaten anywhere in the world.
Birds weren’t what I had in mind when deciding to visit Jordan, but the position of my apartment in the hills has provided a fantastic panoramic perspective of the city, including its many birds. The windows get “buzzed” regularly by flocks of small dive-bombing birds. I love watching them!
Jordan is on “one of the most vital bird migration paths in the world“. Annual Migrations occur in autumn, with wild white storks as a notable species participating. The storks “help prevent crop losses and the spread of disease by controlling rodents, locusts, and other pests, and by disposing of carrion“.
I’m not sure of the name of the little birds that dot the sky in Amman and swarm my windows, probably swifts, swallows, sparrows, or starlings. The groups I’ve seen include a few hundred birds, not thousands, so they’re not large Murmurations. There are also many doves in the area.
“A total of 435 bird species have been identified in Jordan, more than 300 of which are migratory and pass through the Kingdom, according to the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).” Petra Photo
Jordan Valley is a “key part of the Rift Valley-Red Sea Flyway that functions as a bridge connecting Europe, Africa, and Asia”. It’s a “primary pathway for millions of migratory birds”.
The cast is off my fractured wrist, but it will take at least another 4 to 6 weeks to regain normal strength and use of my left hand. It’s slowly improving, but still hurts – a great lesson in patience.