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Jordan: things to know before you leave

With many people heading to the beautiful land of Jordan this Christmas with On The Go Tours, here are answers to some commonly-asked questions about the land of Jordan.

Weather

Because of its elevation, Jordan is slightly more temperate than some of its neighbouring countries. Average daily maximum temperatures in Amman range from 12°C in January to 32°C in August. The weather in the Jordan Valley (Petra) and south of the country is very hot during the summer months of April through to September, with daytime temperatures rising as high as 49 °C. Winter (December to February) brings a definite change in temperatures, which range from 0°C to 12°C. You’ll need warm clothes for sightseeing and for your stay at Wadi Rum.

Currency

Pounds Sterling, Euros, US Dollars and other major currencies can be exchanged into Jordanian Dinars on arrival, or even prior to leaving your country of origin. Exchange facilities are available at various bureaux de change and banks in major towns have ATMs.

Food

Jordanian food is very good, combining many of the best traditions of Middle Eastern cooking. Try the ubiquitous kebabs, musakhan (a chicken dish that is baked on Arabic bread), farooj (spit-roasted chicken served with salad and bread), mensaf (the national dish – consisting of lamb served on a bed of rice and pine nuts, in a tangy yogurt sauce), fattayer and sambusek (small pastries filled with minced meat, sharp white cheese and spinach or herbs), fabulous unleavened breads, maglouba (a fish/meat stew) and very fine desserts. There’s a lot of open-pit cooking. Fresh figs and apricots are a real treat. Arabic coffee, mint tea and fruit drinks are available everywhere.

Shopping

Jordan offers a range of quality souvenirs. Look out for high-quality artefacts including rugs, pottery, paintings, jewellery, embroidery and woven items produced by local Jordanian women under the auspices of the Noor-Al Hussein Foundation and the Queen Alia Fund. A popular form of ceramic ware is ‘Jerusalem Pottery’. Platters are highly decorated with biblically-inspired designs including fish, peacocks, grapes and goblets of wine. Known as Hebron glass, colourful handmade glassware in brilliant colours is a popular choice, as is silver jewellery crafted by the Bedouin people. Dead Sea products like olive oil, soaps and olive wood objects are also typically Jordanian souvenirs.

Ramadan

Ramadan is a Muslim festival celebrating the revelation of the Qur’an to the prophet Mohammed. During this time, Muslims are required to fast during the daylight hours.

As a westerner, there are good and bad aspects of visiting the country during Ramadan. On the bright side, people hit the streets after the sunset “breakfast” ready to sing, play cards, enjoy some of the special musical and theatrical entertainments and generally have fun. Shops re-open until the wee hours, and many hotels create special Ramadan Tents where they offer traditional holiday snacks and drinks, live entertainment, water pipes, backgammon boards, card games and the like. A festival atmosphere pervades.

Unfortunately, many normal procedures don’t apply during the month of Ramadan. Banks and offices all have shorter working hours, some restaurants close for the entire month, and about an hour before sunset the roads and streets will be full of people racing to buy last-minute supplies and get home in time for Al Iftar. If you plan to visit during Ramadan, you should understand that the touring day will be shortened. Many restaurants stay open and serve lunch, especially in the tourist areas. However, it would be very bad manners to eat, drink or smoke in the sight of passers-by.

Do remember, if you visit during Ramadan, that your dress should be a bit more discreet than usual. Some women who do not normally cover their heads do so during Ramadan, and often feel that make-up, perfume and other “vanities of the flesh” should be given up during this month.

The precise dates of Ramadan vary from year to year. Ramadan lasts for about a month and is dependent on the lunar cycle and the Islamic lunar calendar. Forthcoming Ramadan dates are: 31 Jul – 30 Aug 2011 & 20 Jul – 18 Aug 2012.

Jordan is a popular year-round destination, featuring some of the most breathtakinglandscapes on the planet. For more information on our tours to Jordan, please visit our website.

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