Foreign misconceptions pollute views of Jordan, Middle East

Foreign misconceptions pollute views of Jordan, Middle East

Having traveled to Jordan twice in my life, spending at least six weeks in this predominantly Muslim country, I always return home with great stories to share and answers to questions.

Some questions are about my personal experience, others about the country itself, and a whole lot about the religion — Islam. I always enjoy the questions and curiosity. However, the serious misconceptions people have about Jordan are mind-boggling.

Jordan is an attractive country for many reasons. With the continuation of the two-year civil war to its north, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its west, and the painful history of American military intervention to its northeast, Jordan, in the midst of all the chaos, is an extremely peaceful and safe country. And that’s not to mention its jaw-dropping view of white stone houses stacked upon rolling hills, and its Grecco-Roman history and artifacts left from the Neolithic period, all of which can be peacefully enjoyed without worry about the occurrence of causalities.

One question I’ve been asked several times is, “So, you had to wear that thing on your head and cover yourself, right?” Wrong — and that thing is called a jibab. Jordan is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East, next to Kuwait, Lebanon and a couple others.

There is no legal dress code for women in Jordan. There is a dress code in the Quran, but the Jordanian government is secular and does not force the women to abide by that code.

Out of respect to the culture and customs, tourists ought to cover their chest, knees, and shoulders. However, if they don’t, this won’t be the end for them. Stares will come their way, but rarely do the local men harass women. This isn’t Saudi Arabia, where in some cities, women are forbidden to leave their homes without the jibab and even sometimes the abay (cloak).

Another fun question is, “Weren’t you scared? I would have been freaking out.” While I was freaking out over how awesome the Roman ruins are, I’ve never felt safer anywhere than Jordan. The crime rate is certainly lower than it is here in the US. I never feared a break-in, public shootings, or an armed gunman holding up a gas station. These things are not common in Jordan.

A misconception that is rather troublesome is the idea of abuse toward women being a cultural norm. Yes, Jordan is a male-dominant country. No, not all men abuse their wives. I’m sure some do, but that happens here in America, too.

I have never been forced to do anything against my will, nor did I fear so at any point during my visits. Nor did I worry about bombings occurring on every corner I turned. These common misconceptions are the outcome of pure ignorance and poisoned conceptions from the consistently xenophobic media.

To avoid this hive think, it’s important to do your research about a foreign country before forming an opinion.

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