9 Hidden Gems of Jordan

Hello All,

In honor of there being 9 days left until our return to the States, here are 9 Hidden Gems of Jordan.  Why choose this topic?  Well, I am glad you asked. When one thinks of places in Jordan, they usually think of Petra, Wadi Rum, or-if you are a Lawrence of Arabia enthusiast-Aqaba. Some of the places I have listed are somewhat known, but from my experience in Jordan, they are not as popular to foreigners as the perviously listed places.  So here it is:

9. Cave Bar

Listed as one of Buzzfeed’s ‘Top 20 Bars To Drink In Before You Die,’ Cave Bar is actually a 2,000 year old Nabatean tomb that has been turned into a bar located not even ten minutes away from Petra.  If you see Petra, I would recommend hopping to Cave Bar either the night before or at the end of the day-if you still have the energy-and finishing the day with a nightcap in one of the little alcoves.

IMG_4015_2 IMG_4016 (BuzzFeed Article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/hotbarchick/20-bars-to-drink-in-before-you-die-onu7#.nolpqLMdE)

8. Umm Qays

Umm Qays is a town in the North of Jordan, which holds the remnants of an ancient Greco-Roman city.  Not only does this site have wonderful arcitecture that is still in decent shape, but it also has the best view.  From a certain point, you are able to see Jordan, Syria, Israel, Palestine, the Golan Heights, Mt. Hermon, which “straddles” the border between Syria and Lebanon, and the Sea of Galilee.  According to the inter-web, this is also the site mentioned in the New Testament where Jesus cast the demons and turned them into a herd of pigs. 10687153_10206133894893089_1177628518524914398_n (1) 10987669_10206133890172971_2369824889159697982_n (1)   10258026_10206133891853013_8987884468764641544_n

7. Kerak

Now probably the largest remaining Crusader castle, Kerak Castle was certainly a sight to see. Each step taken, was like traveling back in time.  It was hard to believe that famous men such as Salahuddin once stepped within these walls.  If you like exploring all the nooks and crannies of ancient castles, Kerak is the place for you. 11138621_10206573894972816_3992422052433451140_nIMG_4485 11053278_10206573893572781_4479026503300648113_n

6. Mt. Nebo

-If you know your Old Testament, Old Nebo is the place where God sent Moses to gaze down at the Promised Land before he died.  I will admit that it is more of a spiritual experience, but the view is still capable of taking your breath away.  You can also expect to make a furry friend or two.

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5. Baptism Site of Jesus Christ

While people would list this as a place to go to in Israel, the actual Baptism Site is on the Jordan side of the Jordan River.  From the site, you can walk to the river where you can get a clear view of Israel.  Literally, Israel is less than 10 meters away from Jordan.  We were told to not cross the buoys because on the other side of those buoys was Israel and the armed guards on both sides would not like us crossing without the proper travel documents.

That's Israel

That’s Israel

Baptism Site of Jesus Christ

Baptism Site of Jesus Christ

4. Qasr Al Abd

In English “the Castle of the Slave,” was one of our first trips together as a group in Jordan.  The story behind this castle is more of a tragedy than anything else.  Legend has it, there was once a man named Tobiad who was in love with the daughter of a nobleman.  When he asked for her hand in marriage, the nobleman told Tobiad he may only marry his daughter if he were to build “Castle of the Slave.”  Upon completion, the nobleman killed Tobiad claiming that he did not want his daughter to marry a commoner.

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3. Al Urdon Shop and Cafe

-Al Urdon has one of the best views in all of Amman.  In fact, I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

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2. Ajlun Castle

Many thanks to CIEE for scheduling the trip to Ajlun Castle!  This was one of the most impressive structures I have seen in Jordan.  According to our tour guide, one of the primary purposes of this fortress was to “keep an eye on Jerusalem” during the Crusades.  How did they do this?  Well, it just so happens that the very top of this fortress is a lovely view of Jerusalem.

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1. Wadi Bin Hammad

We did this hiking trail the same day as Kerak and it was worth the wet sneakers at the end of the day.  The trail can be easily done in half-a-day.  Along the way is lush greenery hanging from the gorge, multiple waterfalls, and plenty of tall rocks just waiting to be climbed.  Most of the time, we were walking in water and while it was a pain to dry out our sneakers it was worth the views we got to see (and the gym time we were able to avoid).  My favorite part of this trail is that there is no short cut or passageway out.  You have to go to the end and then turn around and go back to the starting point.  If you are ever in Jordan, you must go to Wadi bin Hammad.  This is truly the #1 hidden gem of Jordan.

“I was not stuck! I was surveying my prospects!”-Jake

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One of the many waterfalls we came upon during our journey.

One of the many waterfalls we came upon during our journey.

That is all for today folks! I hope this blog post gave you some serious wanderlust.  Until tomorrow!




Top Ten Countdown

Hello all!

Wow! Hard to believe that the last time I actually updated this blog was in February and now I’m only ten days away from the end of this wonderful adventure.  So much for that whole “I’m going to update every week” idea I got stuck in my head in the beginning. Oops…sorry.

Since I am only tend days away, I will actually try and attempt to do a countdown blog.  If I do not, let me just apologize in advance, but its finals week here and I have to do: 2 ten page papers, study for four finals, and make sure I have all my stuff together before the big move.  In other words, the sanity I have so little of will be hanging on by a thread, but I’ll do my best.

I am going to begin this first Top Ten Countdown with things I will miss about Jordan when I am stateside:

  1. The People: While the shabab have been more or less of a thorn in my side, I will miss the welcoming nature of all the Jordanians.  There has not been a single time I did not feel welcome here.
  2. The Showers: Correction, I will miss the showers at the gym.  It was like a waterfall compared to the trickle of water we get in our apartment shower.
    1. side note: To those of you who became alarmed when I said I went to the gym, please know that it was solely for the showers.  I just felt guilty buying a gym membership and not actually using it.  To those of you who must deal with me on a regular basis, expect me to say, “I practiced my constitutional right to bear arms.” Bonus points to anyone who got the Stick It reference.
  3. The Food: If it wasn’t for the gym, I would probably come back 20 pounds heavier.  The food here is amazing!
  4. Speaking in Arabic: While I am not fluent, or even close to being fluent in Arabic, I have liked being able to speak a language other than my own.  It has definitely allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and improve my confidence when I speak.
  5. The Call to Prayer: It will be weird returning to America and not hearing to call to prayer five times a day.  It has been the most beautiful sound I have ever heard.
  6. Our friend at Full Cup:  Sarah and I have become “regulars” at to this wonderful coffeeshop by JID (Jordan Institute of Diplomacy).  Overtime we enter, our friend welcomes use and then asks us, “Same as always.” Yup. (Our usual is the Hazelnut Caramel)
  7. CIEE:  There will be days that I complain, but looking in hindsight, CIEE has done so much for us this semester (please refer to ‘Grey’s Anatomy: International).  It still baffles my mind that we were able to meet royalty! Name one other person who can say they’ve met royalty.
    1. This also includes the wonderful people in the DPS program I now have the pleasure of calling my friends.  Each and every single one of you is like a star shining bright in the night sky.
  8. My Professors: My professors here have been wonderful.  From Arabic to my Area Studies professors, it has been such a treat learning from such wonderful people.
  9. Being in the Middle of it all: I feel like I have been at the center of it all during my semester.  Then again, being in the Middle East, it is hard to not be in the middle of everything here.  It has given me the opportunity to see events that people in America only see on the news first-hand.
  10. The view: Jordan has so many wonderful views.  I wish I could take it with me back to my home in the middle of the forest.

Now, here are the Top Ten things I am looking forward to when I return home:

  1. My pets: the separation anxiety has been real.  I feel all I dream about now are the puppies and the kitty-puppy (my cat).  This includes my sister’s dog Darcy, but let’s face it, she acts more like a human than a dog.
    1. Shoutout to my wonderful step-brother and my wonderful sister for sending in the most pictures so that I didn’t get too homesick
  2. Being Blonde again: It’s been fun and all being a brunette, but I miss being blonde! I feel a part of me has been missing.  Weird to think that a hair color could make you feel that way.  Just a reminder as to what my real hair looks like:
    1. IMG_2422
  3. Wearing suitable clothes: While I do believe I have found my love for maxi skirts and dresses here, the first thing I’m probably going to do is throw on shorts, a tank top, and flip flops before proceeding to walk around my hometown.
  4. The Metro: I’ve have had to pay for cabs every day here and I will probably click my heels for joy when I am able to ride the Metro again (watch out Megan for visits from your favorite baby sister).
  5. Wifi: I’ve spent more than enough on Wifi here and I’m looking forward to ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘House of Cards’ binge-watching sessions while cuddling with my pets.
  6. My friends: Yup, I miss you guys…I guess…maybe…Aw who am I kidding, I’m tearing up while writing this! COME BACK INTO MY LIFE!!!
  7. My bed: I have every intention of plopping on my bed when I get home.  I recommend not disturbing me for a couple of days.
  8. Long Showers: Jordan is one of the most water-poor nations in the world, so the water pressure of our shower, as stated in the previous Top Ten Countdown, stinks.  Upon my return I am going to take a shower that lasts longer than seven minutes.
  9. Flushing toilet paper down the toilet: This will be the first thing I do when I land.
  10. My family: Five bucks says that my family members were wondering where they were while reading this list.  While I have enjoyed my independence, I am looking forward to seeing my family again.

*Bonus Top Ten thing I am looking forward to: Bacon and my car* 

That’s my list for today.  The more people that “like” this on FaceBook, the more likely I am to update again. Just kidding! I’m hopefully going to update every day until I leave.



Grey’s Anatomy: International


Before I begin, I would like to extend my condolences to the family Lt. Moaz al-Kassasbeh.  Please, keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this time of grief.

Last Saturday, I had my first experience with a Jordanian hospital.  I was not feeling my best at all, so I called our program coordinator, who then connected me the to emergency phone, as my SIM card was out of JDs.  In half an hour, a taxi was at the apartment and took me (and Sarah) to the nearest hospital. Less than a minute after arriving, I was already in a bed talking with a nurse about my symptoms.  In less than one hour, I was already strapped to an I.V. filled with antibiotics and my doctor was writing a prescription.

Got a fancy new bracelet from the doctor-engraved and everything.  Unfortunately, it says my name is Anskign Mcgratn.

Got a fancy new bracelet from the doctor-engraved and everything. Unfortunately, it said my name was Anskign Mcgratn.

To say I have fallen in love with the health care here is an understatement.  I am now almost done with my antibiotics and am feeling much much better now-just in time to start my area studies courses. Thank you to the medical professionals at the hospital, to Sarah for coming with me, and to the CIEE staff member for picking us up from the apartment and staying with us the entire time.

Another memorable event that happened this weekend was the Super Bowl.  I am currently seven hours ahead of the states, so I was unfortunately not able to experience watching the game live because that would have meant staying up until the sunrise.  I value sleep too much and the Giants were also not playing, so I was not as emotionally invested as others.

If anything, I only wanted the Seahawks to lose. (I apologize to any Seahawks fan I have just insulted.)

We watched the game with some of the other students in the program Monday night at restaurant called Buffalo Wings and Rings.  The owner was very nice and replayed the game for us using NFL Pass, so we were able to re-watch the whole game commercial free.

Picture of the TV when the Pats finally won 28-24

Picture of the TV when the Pats finally won against the Seahawks 28-24

This was also either the first or second time I saw other Americans who were not students.  I  think that they were Seahawks fans because we were the only ones cheering at the end of the game.

All in all, a week well-spent.  I would tell you more of what happened, but like I said, I was sick.  I will hopefully have more for you soon!

Until next time!



Damsels and Doorknobs

مرحباً Greetings from Jordan

It’s hard to believe that I was in America not even ten days ago.  Time moves so slowly here, but it’s a good kind of slow because it allows you to take a step back and soak everything in like a sponge.

After arriving in Amman, we stayed at a lovely hotel for one night and then moved into our apartments the next day.  There are twelve of us living in apartments, which makes me happy that I have such a great support system for times when we~hypothetically~cannot open our door (not really a hypothetical situation).  The first night alone we spent, in order, unpacking, searching for food, eating hummus and falafel, getting lost, finding the apartments again, trying to open our door, having one of the other students open it for us, and then falling asleep to the sound of Amman.

The rest of the week was spent in orientation sessions where we learned “survival Arabic”, which consisted of learning some colloquial phrases to help us navigate the city.  Contrary to big cities like New York, in Amman, you tell your taxi driver landmarks, not the street you wish to go to, even if that landmark ceases to exist.  That is not to say there aren’t street signs, of which there are plenty, but that people prefer to use landmarks rather than list street names.  So, if your apartment is on King Abdullah II street, you would tell the driver what landmark it is near, such as a hospital and the circle where it is located. Its different from the city (NYC), where I am used to telling the driver Park and First, but I’m hoping that it will help me improve my colloquial arabic.

I almost wish I had more colloquial words under my belt a couple of nights ago when Sarah and I faced a huge barrier in trying to open our door.

Sarah and I became pretty friendly with our neighbor the second night in our apartment.  Before I go on, please understand that it’s pretty hard to open our door here and I was convinced that witchcraft had something to do with it.  I digress-one fine evening, upon returning from dinner, bellies full from a delicious meal, Sarah and I found ourselves quite distraught because we could not open the door.  No matter which way we turned the key, the door would not budge.  We were probably causing a ruckus between the sounds of the key turning in the lock and our groans of frustration at the lights turning off on us every couple of seconds.

Lo and behold, we met our first neighbor.  Although we did not speak a single word of the local dialect and his English was very broken, he was able to get the idea that we were very new and our door was under some kind of spell preventing us from getting in.  He then gestured for us to give him the key and lo, the door opened for him.  We thanked him tremendously and he bid us goodnight.

(Little did we all know that he would help us out again the next night and the night after that, until the guard finally showed us how to open the door on our own.)

My advice to anyone who is locked out of their apartment in Jordan, don’t be afraid to ask the neighbors,they are very nice people and will help you if you ask nicely.

That’s all my mind can come up with for today, but there will be more to write as I continue on with my adventures in Jordan.

Until next time!xoxo,