Friday, August 31, 2012

I hope my reflections help further your understanding of a region we hear so much about in the States. My goal is to create one entry for every week I'm here. Welcome to Amman, Jordan.


  1. Make sure to save yourself time for regional travel! Wadi Rum and Petra are both must-see places, but I'm sure being in Jordan you'll have plenty of people telling you that already. It's important though that you save plenty of time for Egypt, Israel, the PA, and possibly elsewhere too! In Egypt, travel carefully in the Sinai, but try not to skip it out of fear of lawlessness--it's a landscape that is unparalleled on earth, and should not be missed. Save yourself at least 2-3 days for Cairo, and then take the overnight train south along the Nile to see Luxor and the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. Also consider taking a Nile River cruise. I was AMAZED at how cheep traveling in Egypt was, though you may be less so, since Jordan is also relatively inexpensive. In Israel, make sure to at the very least provide yourself with at least one night in Tel Aviv and at least two days in Jerusalem. If you can give yourself an extra couple of days for Jerusalem, ask any friendly Arab (it's difficult to find an unfriendly one!) in the eastern part of the city to direct you to where the buses (they're really more like large vans) pick you up for the journey to Bethlehem. From there, you can safely travel by taxi to Hebron and Ramallah, which are both well worth seeing. You should also go see at least one of the refugee camps in the vicinity, and leave yourself a couple of hours to walk along the separation wall near Bethlehem and admire the protest art. Ideally, give yourself at least a full day in the West Bank. If you pick up any Hebrew, you can try sweet talking your way into one of the outer settlements for a unique look into the heart of the conflict, but don't expect much unless the soldiers decide they like you. I don't recommend trying to cross directly into the West Bank from Jordan, the Israeli soldiers at the Jordan River border are far less likely to be accommodating there, but it's possible you can get local advice from someone who knows better. When I was a SLU student studying abroad in Haifa in 2010, I was unable to go to Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia because of the Israeli student visa in my passport and because I'm Jewish (I had several friends who did travel there and had an amazing time). Unfortunately, Syria obviously isn't a safe option for you either at the moment, but if you do go to Israel, ask the border patrol agent to please stamp the entry visa onto a separate piece of paper, rather than directly into your passport. They are very accommodating with this. That way, you will be able, if you wish, to possibly travel to Saudi Arabia or to fly to Beirut (presuming the violence there doesn't get worse) or elsewhere on the Arabian peninsula. If you let the Israelis stamp your passport, you will be limited to Jordan and Egypt. Have fun, take lots of pictures, don't get the Dead Sea water in your mouth or eyes (seriously, you will cry like a baby) and try to squeeze as much into every day as possible, because your study abroad will be over before you know it!

    -Rudy Breteler, history major, class of 2011

  2. Thanks for your input Rudy! Did you have any minors at SLU?