Getting under the skin of a destination is what drives many of us to travel. But how do you get past the generic tourist experience and delve a little deeper into the soul of your host country? Here are some ideas for getting to know the culture and people of Jordan and Iran, two Middle Eastern gems bursting with exotic delights.
With many thousands of years of continuous civilization under its belt, Iran can lay claim to one of the world’s longest and most fascinating histories.
Learn a new skill
A great way to get to know more about the traditions and crafts of Persia is to participate in a workshop. Not only do you get to explore the cultural heritage in further depth but you also benefit from the opportunity to learn about your teacher and his or her story. Try your hand at learning to make traditional Iranian recipes on a cookery course, learn to weave rugs, or study the Persian art of mosaic tiling.
Be open to interactions
One of the most enduring characteristics of the Persian people is their unfailing hospitality. Should you appear a little lost or confused you are likely to feel the warm glow of concern from your hosts, who are extremely helpful to foreign visitors. Such encounters are commonplace and often lead to friendly conversation as Iranians are openly curious about visitors. With luck you may even receive an invite to a family meal.
Have a picnic
It may sound unlikely but picnicking really is a national obsession in Iran. And it’s done in style. Large family groups bring lots of delicious home cooked food (and sometimes even cook in situ) plus all sorts of other equipment for their lengthy picnics. Pick your spot, spread your rug, and settle down for some people watching. Picnicking with Iranians is a great way to understand more about the local cuisine and the ritual of mealtimes.
See the sights
Many of Iran’s finest cultural monuments welcome visitors, and offer an invaluable insight into the historical events which shaped Iran into the country it is today. As you travel, your guides will regale you with stories and insight which will enable you to build up a good understanding of the cultural landscape of Iran today.
Do as the Iranians do
If you are hoping for some local insight, spend time doing as the local people do. Take your tea in a tea house, stroll outdoors in the evening, visit the ice cream parlor, or shop in the market. This is where you will find Iranians getting on with their daily routines. Start a conversation and ask questions about the area, local cultural events, local specialities. Almost everybody is flattered by interest in their lives and enjoys sharing their culture.
A safe and hospitable country with many historic treasures and natural wonders, Jordan is a small but diverse land with a fascinating culture to discover.
Amman’s buzzing arts scene
The Jordanian capital is a modern and optimistic city where the cutting edge of middle eastern culture is on show. Galleries, quirky cafés and boutiques are eclectic and inviting. A day or two exploring the trendy neighborhoods of Amman will illustrate the contemporary side of culture and society in Jordan.
Jordan’s flagship sustainable tourism project has seen the rejuvenation of an abandoned village into a great destination to see community tourism in action. Get to know more about traditional agricultural life in Jordan by exploring the nature reserve with a guide who can offer added insight into the region’s history and the reinvention of Dana village. Visit the village workshops to see handicrafts, jewellery and artisan products being made in this idyllic setting.
A good place to interact with local Jordanians is the Coffee House. The fulcrum of communities all over the country, the coffee house serves as a gathering place, café and hub of local news. Why not drop in, linger over a coffee or two and see community culture in action.
To sample the Bedouin life of yore, join a desert camping excursion. There are plenty of camps to choose from, offering a variety of ways to experience a taste of nomadic desert life, invariably including a night or two in a Bedouin tent, a traditional meal and some storytelling or music from your hosts. There may also be opportunities for camel rides, dune bashing and stargazing.
Chariot racing at Jerash
Surrounded by the ruins of a Roman city, the chariot races staged most days at Jerash offer the chance to learn about the ancient Roman sport of chariot racing. The city itself is also an impressive and evocative location for a foray into the history of Jordan, and it is only a short way from Amman.
If you want to get to know more about these Middle Eastern gems, contact one of TravelLocal’s experts. They can help you plan the trip of a lifetime! Head to their destination pages for more information.