It had been 9 years since I last paid a proper visit to Jordan, but I recently went back for 2 weeks. I was greeted by a freak heatwave in the middle of the bitter Jordanian winter, and instead of the bone chilling cold and sobbas I got warm sunny days. It had been 6 years since I had seen most of my relatives, and during this time two of my uncles had passed away. A loss which struck me again when I arrived, and I kicked myself for not having gone back sooner, in time to see them one last time. But as is life, I dont have a money tree and I guess my priority is to visit my nuclear family at least once a year.
While in Jordan I felt ‘something’ had changed, certainly the little I saw of Amman was busier, more developed, and significantly more capitalised. In northern Jordan in general there was a boom in billboard adverts, with slogans such as “together we can build a better future”, and I remembered thinking what that was about? There were far more leisure outlets as well, such as the King Abdullah gardens and the water park, which were not there 9 years ago. The explosion of malls did not escape my attention either, there is, what, four or five of them now, and I left the day after they opened abdoun mall (the first mall in Jordan), and there are now plans for another in Irbid. I was saddened however at the high perecentage of imported goods, I would have preferred to see more home grown products in the malls. But I guess we can always go to wist-al-balad for that, which I did, and was pleased to see it was the same!
In terms of spirit, I did feel that the few young people who had remained were optimistic, and were developing plans for their futures. My engineer cousin has yet to succumb to the lure of the gulf, and enjoys a decent job with a decent salary and health care, and the option to switch jobs. This luxury of choice of companies to work for was not as available when I was there, I recall a deep pessimism in the land regarding career progression, but now, at least with the few that I spoke to, they felt they could build a life in Jordan. Having said this, I did feel the Jordan is an ageing society, with so many of its youth and middle-agers having travelled abroad, and people did complain about the broadening divide between the super-rich and super-poor.
I was impressed by the new Jordan highway, as well as the northern bus station (so much cleaner, organised and pleasanter than abdali). I was also gobsmacked at immigration, I usually get through passport control in a bad mood, due to the officer being rude, but this time things went really smoothly, and the officer smiled and was really pleasant! It turns out this was not a one off experience, my sister reported the same phenomena when she joined me a few days later. We were both impressed and pleased by this!
The mumtaz taxi service gets a mixed reaction from me, their phone service is professional and friendly, but their drivers still try to bargain and switch the counter off just before they reach their destination, but of course you can always complain.
Above all, I just loved seeing my relatives again! I loved being reminded of all the amazing qualities that Palestinians/Jordanians have, that often are absent in the people who travel west. I was reminded of how genuinley generous they were, how unassertive and how much they hated upsetting people, and how hospitable! It was great to be reminded where my little quirks come from.