Trusting Others in Jordan

By Nomadic Matt | Published January 6th, 2011

Male taxi drivers in JordanThis is a guest blog by Laura, our resident expert on female travel.

My alarm went off at half past four. As I waited outside in the dark for my taxi to show up to take me to the bus station, a man appeared from the shadows of the restaurant, and I jumped, startled from being in a half-asleep state. He was the security guard, and after seeing that I was awake, he brought me a cup of Arabic tea. There’s nothing like having a sugary drink at 5am, and since it would have been rude not to accept his hospitality, I gulped it down.

I don’t normally wake up so early. However, the prior day, there had been a lot of confusion about the bus I should take to get to a little village called Dana. I’d heard a lot about it and wanted to visit. Public transport in Jordan isn’t easy; the buses tend to leave extremely early, and many destinations can only be reached once or twice a day. In my case, there was only one bus a day from Aqaba to Dana, and no one knew which bus station the Dana bus departed from. I had talked to my hotel owner for help. He made a few phone calls and told me he was certain that the bus to Dana was leaving from the main bus station at 6am.

I told my taxi driver to take me to the main bus station to go to Dana. “Oh no,” he said, “It leaves from the other bus station.” After much discussion, I decided to trust the driver. We arrived at the second bus station at 5:35am. No bus yet. Suddenly, the neighboring mosque began the call to prayer. The next thing I knew, my taxi driver was jogging away, yelling back over his shoulder that he’d “be right back.” Upon seeing my look of surprise, he tossed me the car keys—as if that would put me at ease.

The small ancient city of Dana, Jordan

I stood there dumbfounded in a crowd rushing to the mosque. I can only imagine what people thought as they looked at me, a blonde white girl leaning against a taxi by herself in a small town before dawn. If I said I stopped a few people in their tracks, that would be an understatement. My taxi driver returned from the mosque at 5:50, just 10 minutes shy of the bus departure. After another five minutes, there was still no bus, so he asked around. Several people said the bus was actually leaving from the main station. We jumped in the car and drove to the main station. By some miracle, my driver spotted it on the street as it was getting ready to pull away. I practically leapt out of the car and grabbed my things. As I was boarding the bus, the driver told me that he wasn’t taking the direct highway to Dana, so I’d need to switch buses at some point. I was just so relieved that I’d made it before he pulled away that I didn’t care.

It was a hot, dusty ride, and the man in front of me chain-smoked the entire way. After four hours, we left the desert landscape and climbed into the hills. When we reached the next town, I was told to get off. As soon as I stepped out of the minibus, a taxi driver flagged me down. I refused service and told him that I was waiting for the minibus to Dana. “There are no more buses today,” he explained. “The buses to Dana don’t operate on Fridays.”

The dusty crowded and poverty stricken streets of Jordan

I didn’t believe him and walked away. I crossed the street, bought a couple of bananas, and turned around to see the taxi driver still there. I thought about the situation. I slowly realized that he was probably telling the truth. In Jordan, Friday is a weekend day, and it’s a day traditionally meant for families. I made a snap decision, walked back to the driver, bartered for a better fare, and we were on our way to Dana.

As a solo female traveler, you’re always on guard. You hear stories of people being swindled or misled. It’s hard to let down your guard and trust others. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut and realize not everyone is out to cheat or hurt you. I learned that on my way to Dana.

Laura Walker runs the website A Wandering Sole. She’s been backpacking around the world for seven months by herself and isn’t afraid just because she’s a girl. You can get more travel tips from her website or check back here every other Thursday for more stories by her.

comments 8 Comments

Wow great story, I had a friend, a female friend at 90 lbs who backpacked across the middle east without a problem. While you still have to be careful where you and above all be respectful to everyone’s way of life, you can still travel safely through the middle east (even if your female) . cheers! :-)

As a woman who often travels alone, I’ve experienced similar situations to yours over and again, Laura – though never in Jordan, and I envy you that. A few times a didn’t believe someone when I should have; a few times I believed someone when I shouldn’t have. Once, I was riding in a bus to Besisahar in Nepal’s Himalayan foothills. It was getting dark, there were no lights on the rutted steep mountain roads, and the bus was struggling. The woman sitting next to me said, “This bus no Besisahar tonight.” She suggested I stay with her and her family. I did. Looking back, it seems likely she was looking to fleece me of a few tourist dollars, but I’m still glad I didn’t stay on that bus. I think having both your guard and your gut on alert is a good thing. Of course, if we didn’t let down our guard now and again, we wouldn’t be invited to share in some of the most amazing cultural experiences other countries have to offer – which always involves getting to know other people.

George

I think Matt is subconsciously tell us that he’s now interested in traveling to the Middle East ;)

Great post, completely enjoyed reading it. Stories like these certainly help readers to be more confident to travel alone, and yet be more careful, especially if you a woman.

Lisa E @chickybus

I was in Jordan last summer and faced some transportation challenges, too–mostly because high season had just ended. I wanted to go to Dana, but didn’t due to some of those challenges and the high price of traveling by taxi on my own. (Sometimes the buses worked out, but not always.) I really enjoyed Jordan, but found the transport to be tricky/pricey. Syria, on the other hand, was much more affordable and easier somehow.

Anyway, I’m glad you made it to Dana….from what I’ve heard, it’s a wonderful place. Hope you enjoyed it!

Life Exceptional

Yes… not everyone is out to get you but there is always one or two who are. It’s important to find a good balance between trust and distrust, so that you don’t miss out on opportunities but equally don’t get ripped off or robbed.

I like the story! Not many people know about Jordan, so it’s not full of tourists, but Petra and as I see now at the pic, Dana, too r worth the visit!
And the thing with buses … it happens to me all the time people do not know anything about the timetables and the place where they depart from …

Be confident, trust your gut and keep your wits sharp. But by and large to my experience the universe will provide. Sometimes trust, even if miss placed or blind can be the only route forward. It is a form of surrender that the traveler knows keenly.

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