While Jordan may be located near the center of the Middle East, it is certainly not the center of Middle Eastern political conflict, as found in some of the surrounding countries. In fact, Jordan is home to exceptional economic and political stability in the region and openly welcomes tourism from around the world. Located in what has been historically referred to as the Fertile Crescent (also known as the “cradle of civilization”), Jordan is a small but diverse country in both its rich cultural history and its climate. Visitors come to see the pride of Jordan’s history, the lost city of Petra, made famous by adventure films in Hollywood and one of the worlds greatest visual wonders.
For a taste of Middle Eastern history, Jordan makes a perfect and safe location for students to learn about ancient civilizations and religious studies. A number of biblical references were made to spots in what is now Jordan, such as the location where Jesus was baptized, and can be found near and along the Israeli border. Jordan is also home to Roman architectural ruins from the expansion of the Roman Empire, and castles built by Crusaders during the Crusades. With the exception of Petra, these historical sites are certainly not as busy as many others in the Middle East.
The city of Amman is the capital of Jordan, and the along with the political and economic conditions in the country, cultural diversity has encouraged the city to become one of the most modern in the region. While conservative values are still important to some locals, the introduction of tourism in Jordan has resulted in increased acceptance for cultural variations in Middle Eastern customs. Nevertheless, it is still important as a student to respect the local traditions and to dress appropriately while abroad. Western pants and shirts are fine, but despite the desert heat, shoulders and knees should be covered at all times. Some popular attractions allow more flexibility, especially when visiting the beaches at the Dead Sea, but students abroad should always try to remain as respectful as possible to cultural norms in order to advocate abroad programs and demote misrepresentations of a student’s home country.
Strong political relations with the United States and the United Kingdom make Jordan a great place for students to study Middle Eastern economics and political science. Arabic is the native language, so courses in beginning-to-advanced Arabic may be available through study abroad programs. Students can also take courses in public health, medicine, liberal arts, history (especially ancient), geography, cultural studies and anthropology, archaeology or religious studies. Prices can be comparable to studying abroad in Europe, but students that plan accordingly can stay with their budget by eating local street cuisine, which is cheaper than dining out in a restaurant. Favorites include mensaf, a Bedouin lamb dish with spices and pine nuts, or falafel, which is more popular in Western countries and can be found at many different Mediterranean restaurants.