Jordan: Where Our Executive Editor Will Return Once Her Travels Resume

“The thing I love most about travel is that it’s so often the people you meet, not the places you go, that have a lasting impact.”

A meal of middle eastern cuisine laid out on colourful Jordanian carpets.
An infinity pool at sunset with a large clay pot in the foreground.
A traditional Bedouin lunch served al fresco in the desert.
An infinity pool overlooking the Dead Sea.

With our 2020 travel plans temporarily on hold, we find ourselves returning to memories of past adventures, finding joy in journeys that resonated, inspired, elevated — and that taught us something meaningful about ourselves and the wider world we share. In this new series, we revisit our best-ever trips with you, and hope you’ll do the same for us. This week, executive editor Sydney Loney travels back to Jordan, where she visited in the fall of 2018.
 

enRoute Tell us why this trip in particular keeps coming back to you now — what made it so memorable?
 

Sydney Loney This was a journey that took me from a relaxing sailboat snorkeling excursion in the Red Sea to a hair-raising desert tour in a dented white Nissan four-by-four, careening wildly over the rust-coloured dunes of Wadi Rum. The trip was everything I could have hoped for, a heady mix of adrenaline-fueled adventure (scrambling up cliffs to explore Petra’s ancient caves and hiking through rapids to the base of the country’s highest waterfall) and quiet contemplation (the Dead Sea lived up to its Cleopatra-inspired hype). But, in the end, it was the people who shared their country, their stories and even their poetry with me that made all the difference.

April 1, 2020
A landscape with many tightly packed apartment buildings on a hill in the background and an ancient coliseum in the middle of frame with trees in the foreground.
A man in a keffiyeh walking away from the camera in a rocky desert landscape.
Amman’s ancient ruins.
Tyseer at home in the desert.

ER Who did you meet along the way that made the trip especially rewarding?
 

SL The thing I love most about travel is that it’s so often the people you meet, not the places you go, that have a lasting impact. We might visit the same country, or the same city, or the same tiny restaurant tucked away on a quiet street and have an entirely different experience based on the people we encounter.

In Jordan, one of those people was my desert tour guide (and the driver of the white Nissan), Tyseer. He was born in Wadi Rum and, when he wasn’t telling jokes and playing tricks (like pretending he’d lost our traditional Bedouin lunch in a desert cave), he was reciting poetry (his own) and singing Arabian love songs. Tyseer taught me practical life-skills, like drink camel milk within two hours of milking to avoid feeling unwell, but also the more contemplative, like the fact that there are 37 words for love in Arabic. “Love is never just one thing,” he says, “so you need more words to describe it.”

Three camels in the desert with a rider on the back of one.
Camel herders in Wadi Rum.

ER Do you still keep in touch with anyone you connected with during your travels?
 

SL Yes, and that person is Ghada Saba, a relentless women’s rights activist (an Arabic tattoo on her right arm reads, “don’t get angry, get mad,”) and Jordan’s first female film director. She’s also a talk-show host, designs her own clothing and founded an NGO to help abolish forced marriages. Ghada is probably one of the best people to sit next to at a dinner party, which I was fortunate enough to do in Amman.
 

ER If you could return to Jordan tomorrow, what’s the first thing you’d do?
 

SL I’d book a long table in the terrace garden at Sufra, a restaurant housed in an old villa in Amman, and invite the friends I made in that magical city to linger over a traditional Jordanian dinner.

A street in Jordan with old yellow-bricked buildings in the background and leafy trees in the foreground.
Three dome-shaped white dwellings in the desert.
Views of Amman.
Desert hotel rooms designed for star gazing.

ER Describe your travelling style in 30 words or less.
 

SL Spontaneous – I like to arrive at a destination without a set schedule so that I can change my mind about what I want to do, depending on the day.
 

ER What was your favourite souvenir from the trip?
 

SL Two brightly coloured handwoven pillows that I spotted in a small shop in Amman – they wouldn’t fit in my suitcase and became my carry-on over two long flights (yes, I was one of those people!). But it was worth it. They now cheerfully reside on the couch in my den and remind me of my Jordanian adventures – and the wonderful new friends I made – every time I walk in the room.

A rock formation in the desert which forms a natural window showcasing another piece of rock behind.
The famous Burdah Rock Bridge (taken after I’d survived climbing it).

We’d love to hear about your favourite travel memory. Just send us a photo and 50-100 words about why this trip in particular had such an impact on you — and why you can’t wait to go back.

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