Hi everyone – Thanks to those who have posted their introduction yaks! We are so excited to meet you! And while we wait for everyone else, we wanted to look ahead at our course so you know where we’re headed…!
Our journey to Jordan will begin on Wednesday, March 6th, as students board an evening flight from Philadelphia and Boston to Amman. Dragons Course Instructors Elley and James will meet the students on the other end on Thursday night, ushering the group from Queen Alia Airport to the Zaman ya Zaman Hotel in downtown Amman. After quick introductions, we’ll head to bed and get some rest before our first full day.
Friday morning begins with a traditional Arab breakfast at the hotel and Course Orientation. In the morning, we’ll set group expectations for the trip, cover some basic cultural communication tips, delegate student roles for the trip and have our first Arabic lesson. Lunch will take us into the heart of the Balad, the city’s downtown district, where we’ll have a moment to relax and share a traditional Jordanian meal. We’ll spend the afternoon with guest speakers who work at different humanitarian organization in Amman to give us an introduction to aid work and the refugee crisis. In the evening, we’ll continue working on our Arabic and explore the areas around downtown, Jabal Amman and Jabal Luweibdeh, popular areas for shopping and nightlife.
On Saturday, we’ll dig deeper into the narratives of several refugee populations in Jordan and explore the the question, ‘What does it mean to be Jordanian today?” We’ll start with a guest speaker from Sawiyan, a grassroots community organization that works to support minority refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other African countries. These refugees are often overlooked and underserved in Jordan for a multitude of reasons, and we’ll hear firsthand from Dina, one of the founders, as well as from one of the people Sawiyan serves. After lunch, we’ll join them for their Saturday skatepark activity, a weekly event that brings the community together for food and bonding.
On Sunday, we’ll be focusing on Syria. After a morning Arabic lesson, we’ll visit Syria Direct, a nonprofit journalism and media organization focused on providing unbiased and accurate news on Syria. We will chat with some of the Syrian and American journalists about their experience reporting in nontraditional ways. We’ll also chat with them about their experience being Syrian in Amman. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Collateral Repair Project, a local NGO that works with Syrian and Iraqi refugees. We’ll meet with CRP staff and listen to a few personal testimonies that shed light on the life of Iraqis and Syrians living in Amman. In the early evening, we’ll head to the old citadel to explore three successive civilizations worth of ruins and the most breathtaking view of Amman. We’ll listen to the call-to-prayer as the sun sets before heading back downtown for dinner.
Monday is dedicated to Palestinian and Jordanian culture. We’ll start the day off with a visit to an UNRWA high school, where we’ll hear about how the education system works in Jordan, particularly for Palestinians, and get a chance to speak with Palestinian high schoolers. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Rainbow Street, an organization that supports LGBTQ people in Jordan. We’ll have the chance to explore t what it means to be gay, queer, trans and other non-traditional gender identities in Jordan, and about Rainbow support youth grappling with these issues. In the evening, we’ll dive into classic Jordanian culture at Jadal Cultural Center, where we’ll learn dabke, a traditional regional dance, and enjoy an incredible home cooked meal. We’ll close the evening with a simple ceremony, celebrating the end of our first four days in Amman and preparing for our journey down south.
Tuesday will be a full day — after checking out of the Zaman yaZaman, we’ll depart for EcoPeace to learn more about water management and environmental issues in Jordan. This will give us a great window into Jordan’s ecosystem before our visit to the Dead Sea, a unique natural phenomenon that is rapidly receding due to upstream damming, climate change and agricultural withdrawals. One of EcoPeace’s representatives will meet us near the Dead Sea to point out the sinkholes and the changes in topography due to water issues and climate change. In the afternoon, we’ll have a chance to play in the salty waters of the Dead Sea and relax along the shore, eventually piling into a van towards Wadi Musa, the town adjacent to the famed city of Petra. That night, we’ll settle into our hotel for an early night before the full day in Petra.
Wednesday morning, we’ll wake up bright and early to spend the day exploring Petra, tth moment that many of you have been waiting for! That evening, we’ll head even further south, joining our friend Salah for a traditional Jordanian feast at his desert camp in Wadi Rum. Likely too full to move, we’ll roll onto our sleeping mats in a circle of Bedouin tents, or if everyone is feeling brave, the group is welcome to grab extra blankets and sleep under the stars.
Thursday morning we’re apt to wake up with the sun. We’ll have breakfast together, practice Arabic and then Salah and your Course Instructors will provide a homestay briefing, preparing students to join their homestay families that afternoon. Homestays are an incredible opportunity to be fully immersed in Jordanian culture and all students are invited to truly embrace this unique opportunity to practice new language skills and gain greater cross-cultural understanding.
The next few days will be fluid, depending on the opportunities in Tweisi and the interests of the student group. We may meet with a village elder to learn more about the history of the local tribe. We also have the option to visit a Women’s Cooperative and learn more about local gender dynamics and women-led initiatives. We may also have the opportunity to meet with local youth and learn more about their hopes and aspirations. We’ll close our time Tweisi with a very special dinner on Saturday night and have a chance to thank our homestay families for their incredible warmth and hospitality.
Sunday is a travel day as we head north to Madaba for a final dinner at the famed restaurant Haret Jdoudna and then say our goodbyes.
While the details of this week may shift as unexpected opportunities arise, we can guarantee is that this will be an incredible opportunity to delve into Jordanian culture, get out of your comfort zones, practice Arabic and understand the complex tensions between refugee resettlement and resource management in Jordan. This country is at the heart of so many cross-cutting issues in the Middle East and James and I are very excited to explore it with you.
As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions and we can’t wait to meet you in Amman in just over one week!
Your Instructors Elley and James