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January 28, 2022

Travelling to Jordan unites modern city with ancient ruins

By CARTER BANKER | September 7, 2011

Looking for an exciting place to visit or study abroad? Look no further than the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (or just Jordan for short, but that's less fun to say).

Sandwiched between Israel, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Jordan is quite literally in the middle of all the action these days.

Yet despite the current instability of some of its neighbors, Jordan, with its Western-educated king (he went to Deerfield and then Oxford and readily admits that he speaks English better than he speaks Arabic), has remained remarkably calm.

The capitol, Amman, is a beautiful city to behold. Strict building codes require every building to be made with the local white limestone, giving the city a very clean and sophisticated look not often found in the cities of so-called "developing countries."

Residents of the city like to compare it to Rome, because they say both cities were built on seven hills. They are quick to tell all Americans that Amman's original name was actually Philadelphia, thus linking the two great countries together.

For a student who wishes to study in Jordan, Amman is definitely the place to be. It offers both the amenities and conveniences of a modern city, and the old charm of the Occident (think local markets that smell like spices and hookah smoke).

As wonderful as Amman is, one cannot truly experience Jordan without traveling outside the city limits.

A short car ride can bring you to Jerash, home to some spectacular Roman ruins (in my opinion they are better preserved and more worthwhile to see than most of the ruins in Italy but don't tell the Italians I said that).

A little further afield is the unmissable site of Petra, which was recently named one of the new "Seven Wonders of the World." You may recognize its iconic "treasury" building as the really cool building-carved-into-a-rock-face in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

A capital city built by the Nabataeans in the 6th century B.C., Petra was popular stop along many important trading routes in the Middle East.

The whole site is filled with caves, some with elaborately decorated exteriors and some more plain. And up until the late 80s there were Bedouins, traditionally nomadic tribes, inhabiting these caves until the government relocated them to help preserve the site; although some still remain in the less touristy parts of the site.

There is something for everyone at Petra; the history and archaeology buffs can marvel at the antiquity; the geologists can ogle at the multi colored layers of sediment; the anthropologists can share a cup of tea with the remaining Bedouins in the area; and the adventures can venture off the main paths and explore the thousands of caves.

For those of you who enjoy a little quality time at the beach, have no fear! Head to Aqaba and swim in the Red Sea.

But this will be no typical beach experience. While you are relaxing in the water, you can look up and see Israel to your right and Egypt to your left, all while hearing the call to prayer. This is no Florida beach!

And if you're looking for an even more unusual beach experience, go to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. As you walk down to the water, you'll pass signs telling you exactly how many feet you are below sea level (it's kinda freaky).

And that's not even the coolest part. The Dead Sea (very appropriately named) has a very high salt content and doesn't contain any living creatures. The salt makes you extra buoyant, so you can lie on your back and read the newspaper while you're floating in the water!

And when you're done with that, you can take a nice refreshing mud bath by covering yourself in mud from the sea (it's supposed to be very good for your skin).

When you're all done with water, take a trip into Wadi Rum to experience a real true-life desert. As you journey through the sands, you will most likely encounter some nomadic Bedouin with their herds of camels and goats, and hopefully you'll come across a nice big sand dune that you can slide down.

You may recognize the area from the film Lawrence of Arabia (or maybe you won't, since deserts are relatively hard to distinguish from one another).

If Jordan sounds like a place that you would like to study abroad, you're in luck! The Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) Jordan programs are all vetted by Hopkins.

It's a great place to go if you have any interest in the Middle East, history, International Studies, political science, anthropology or Arabic.

Ethnic minority students interested in one of these CIEE programs can apply for the Robert B. Bailey Scholarship. And all students interested in studying outside of Western Europe can apply for the David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships for a potential $20,000 award for undergraduates.

So for all you freshmen and sophomores who are starting to think about studying abroad, look at Jordan - you won't regret it!

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