When you visit Jordan, you’re likely to hear “ahlan wa sahlan” — which means “welcome” — on a regular basis. Though hospitality and generosity are associated with many people and places, these characteristics are ingrained in Jordan’s culture, with origins in Bedouin tradition. The Bedouin are a nomadic group who live partially in Jordan, and many other people in Jordan are descendants of Bedouin tribes. However, you won’t have to travel to Wadi Rum, where many of Jordan’s Bedouin people live, to experience the hospitable culture. You’ll experience it throughout the country, but we also have some tips to enhance your experience. (Hint: “shukran” means thank you).
Enjoy the food
Between mansaf (a Bedouin specialty that doubles as the national dish) and falafel, Jordan is a foodie’s dream come true, and trying the food is one of the ways you’re most likely to experience the country’s hospitality. . When you receive a “Jordanian invitation,” it means that the host is offering you food without expecting you to bring anything. Jordanians really care about their guests, so they want to make sure you’re enjoying yourself. If you say “no” to food in this situation, they might feel offended or think you’re uncomfortable.
If you want to experience the food and culture beyond going to a restaurant or visiting someone’s home, Beit Sitti in Amman offers classes that teach you how to prepare a traditional meal.
In Jordan, coffee is much more than an afternoon pick-me-up — it’s an important aspect of the culture. For example, in Bedouin homes and camps, guests are served three cups of coffee to promote hospitality and comfort. Similar to rejecting food, you might insult your host if you leave without drinking your coffee. And while this tradition of drinking and sharing coffee originated with the Bedouins, it extends beyond their tribes. Visit cafes throughout the country, and you’ll find that drinking tea and coffee is a bonding experience.
Visit Wadi Rum
A popular way to experience Bedouin culture is by staying in their camps in Wadi Rum — so, if you’d like to get a taste of nomadic life firsthand, a night in the desert is the perfect travel opportunity for you. And, of course, what better way to witness Bedouin hospitality for yourself than by staying, dining, and drinking coffee with these gracious people?
One such place is Wadi Rum Bedouin Camp, which invites guests to camp in private tents and participate in activities like camel rides and jeep tours. It’s owned and operated by a Bedouin family that is eager to introduce people to their lifestyle. Another option, Bedouin Lifestyle Camp, provides traditional food and tea, while also giving you the chance to listen to their time-honored music. Finally, Feynan Ecolodge is another place to stay known for its welcoming and comprehensive introduction to Bedouin culture.
Go to a museum
If you’re short on time or not prepared to go camping or on a guided tour, you can still learn plenty about Bedouin culture at some of Jordan’s museums . After all, the welcoming attitudes will still follow you wherever you go. In The Jordan Museum of Amman, you’ll find the Traditional Life Gallery, which celebrates the different cultures and lifestyles of Jordan, including Bedouin culture. The Jordan Folklore Museum, also located in Amman, is a small museum that highlights three Jordanian cultures — including the Bedouins’ — through items such as costumes and utensils for preparing food and coffee.
Wander a bit
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to experience Jordanian hospitality is by not having a strict schedule and taking a bit of time to explore. By wandering, you’ll be likely to meet people and experience true Jordanian hospitality, as Jordanians often invite travelers into their own homes.
Whether you decide to participate in a guided travel experience or you want to explore on your own, you’ll hear people greeting you with “ahlan wa sahlan” and welcoming you to Jordan. Make yourself at home — and more importantly, make a few friends while you’re there!
Header image by Iris de Waard