Sunday, September 13, 2015

Jordan: a Final Remark

After one intensive week in Jordan, we finally came to the end of the trip. This whole summer school program has changed my perspective, specifically regarding my perception towards Jordan and the encounters between host and guests. My initial expectation when I enter this country was that I will have a feeling similar to the ‘death drive’ (Buda, 2015) which is defined as a force or feeling between life and death. Nevertheless, I was feeling the exact opposite of what I expected; a feeling of joy for being able to travel to Jordan and to meet the locals who are very friendly and welcoming. My anxiety was proven to be irrelevant.

Moreover, I noticed that there were very little amount of other foreign tourists who came to the touristic sites; most of the other visitors were Arab tourists. In this case, many parties were affected by the decline in tourist inflow to the country. Not only travel agents and companies that suffer, the most significant change happens to the local communities whose income is dependent on touristic activities. I believe that the label “dark tourism” which is defined as travel to places connected to death, disaster, atrocity and ongoing socio-political conflict (Buda, 2015) is not suitable for the tourism in Jordan. Although there were conflicts happening in the other countries surrounding Jordan, there was hardly any dangerous event happening inside Jordan. I learned that, while most of the facts and figures gave us a negative view regarding the condition, one should not take for granted the information that he/she get from the media. With the beauty, hospitality and kindness that Jordan has to offer, I believe that tourism in this country deserves more attention rather than only the “yellow code” label from international communities.

As a concluding remark, here I present you some of my favorite things in Jordan:

"The best coffee in the middle east"

Mixed grill together with Jordanian taboon

The mosaic eggs

The great mosque in Aqaba
Buda, D. M. (2015). Affective Tourism: Dark routes in conflict. Routledge.

Experiencing the Bedouin's Life (or Not?)

Wadi Rum

Towards the end of our summer school in Jordan, we were lucky to get the chance to spend a night in the Wadi Rum desert. As expected, we were actually very excited about the experience as we were imagining about living a remote life for one night in the desert with the locals. We were surprised when we arrived at the camp. It was a well-established camping site in between two rocky cliffs, with around thirty rooms equipped with a bathroom for each. This was far from our imagination. I believe this expectation is provoked by our tourist gaze, a tendency to see a different set or landscapes that are not ordinary (Urry, 1990). Interestingly, explained by Cheong and Miller (2000) the tourist gaze is considered as the major mechanism by which tourism providers operate in power relationship with the tourists. The tourist gaze works similarly to the "gaze of experts" (Urry, 1990), in which people from the more modern world try to interpret the activities of people from the less developed one. However, at the same time, the tourists' knowledge is constructed by the surrounding local people.

So, was it the tourists from the first world country who had the power, or is it actually the locals who had more influence? I was expecting that by staying one night in the desert will mean that we depend our own safety and well-being to the Bedouins, as we will be dependent on the resources that they give to us. Nevertheless, it seems that power relations also play a crucial role. While the tourists have the economical power to pay for the goods and services from the locals, it is the locals that determine the type of entertainment or leisure that the tourists can get.


Cheong, S. M., & Miller, M. L. (2000). Power and tourism: A Foucauldian observation. Annals of Tourism Research, 27(2), 371-390.
Urry, J. (2002). The tourist gaze. Sage.

Cross-cultural Encounters

Throughout our journey in Jordan, I found similarities in the way Jordanians behave towards newcomers: an open and friendly attitude. Since the first day we arrived in Amman, we were greeted by the hostel owner, who gave us an elaborate explanation about the city and some advices regarding how to interact with Jordanians. This type of hospitality is also shown when we talked with the supermarket owner, the souvenir sellers, the taxi drivers and many more, although they realized that we came from a different country.
I found this is fascinating since if we refer back to the theory of cross-cultural interaction, it is explained that when individuals have encounter with person from other cultures, the difference between them becomes highlighted (Bochner and Ohsako, 1977). This difference in some cases can lead to negative value-judgements about a specific group. For example, the most important difference that is immediately visible is the norms about clothing, especially for women. In this case, women need to cover their shoulders and wear long trousers or skirts in order to cover their body. Nevertheless, it is also intriguing that in some encounters, the failure to present this action is still tolerable. This is what Dutton (1973) called as reverse discrimination, a certain conditions in which minority members received a preferential treatment over the member of the major community. In this case, because Jordan is a moderate muslim country, this difference becomes not very salient. However, the difference becomes increasingly important when the encounter happens in host countries that are rather conservative or to a certain extent isolated from the rest of the world (Bochner, 2013). After all, I must say that meeting Jordanians is a pleasure to me, although we have differences in many ways, they always show their friendliness, a good sense of humour, and openness that are incomparable with any other places that I have visited.

Bochner, S. (Ed.). (2013). Cultures in contact: Studies in cross-cultural interaction (Vol. 1). Elsevier.
Bochner, S., & Ohsako, T. (1977). Ethnic role salience in racially homogeneous and heterogeneous societies. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 8(4), 477-492.
Dutton, D. G., & Lake, R. A. (1973). Threat of own prejudice and reverse discrimination in interracial situations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28(1), 94.

Mimicking the Strangers

 One of the souvenirs center in Amman

In different touristic sites that we visited, it was common for us to see the view of small children wandering around in touristic sites. They were selling bottles of water, sunglasses, or chewing gums. Omar, our tour guide repeatedly warned us not to buy anything from these children. "If you want to help us educating the children, please don't buy anything from them as they will prefer to earn money in these places instead of going to school" as Omar said. It made me realize that tourism, to a certain extent, can directly affect the lives of the local people. It makes me think, how far can touristic activities influence their lives? One of the ways in which local communities can be affected by tourism activities is through ‘demonstration effect’. Demonstration effect is the instance in which locals try to imitate the wealth and lifestyles of tourists through acculturation (Smith, 2012). As a result, traditional values often become threatened by the wave of foreign culture brought by the tourists. In Jordan, the most visible cue of demonstration effect that I found was the language use. For example, I met a child who spoke to me using a British slang in addition the British accent that he had. Nevertheless, as Jordan is categorized as a moderate Muslim country, although there were many noticeable differences between Jordan and western countries, those differences seemed to be accepted. In contrast with the usual example of demonstration effect - in which social gap between the tourists and the locals could lead to offensive behavior (Smith, 2012) - our encounters with the locals are mostly positive. It seemed that the locals tried to simulate the western culture in order to adapt with the inflow of tourists in the country, instead of using it as a means to ‘compete’ culturally with the foreigners.

A form of acculturation performed by the visitors

Smith, V. L. (Ed.). (2012). Hosts and guests: The anthropology of tourism. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Friday, September 11, 2015

"True or False?" The Case of Mount Nebo

The view from top

The theme of today's visit is "religious tour", in which the destinations are Umm Rassass, Madaba and Mount Nebo, however, the most intriguing experience I found in Mount Nebo. Mount Nebo is famous as a destination for religious tour, specifically the Christian pilgrimage. In the Bible it was mentioned that Mount Nebo is the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land. This place is also considered as the place where Moses was buried. This fact is, nevertheless, true according to the Christian belief. It is interesting to question, whether this fact is "true" for all people? As an example, because I was brought up with a Muslim belief, I did not recognize Mount Nebo as part of the Prophet Moses's journey; only the story of the Sinai hill is regarded as important. The two perspectives might have the same root, however the details become different. This shows that there are certain "facts" that are "true" for some people, but not for the others. This idea reminds me of the concept explained by Urry (2002), the "postmodernism" concept. Postmodernism approach suggests that there is no single truth regarding an instance. Rather, the truth is composed of pieces of information gathered from different perspectives, to create a bigger picture. Contrary to previous beliefs, the postmodernism approach is skeptical to the grand  narratives. It believes that knowledge is produced by human, and thus it is socially constructed. Of course, if we relate back to the previous example, a fundamental difference is present as it is related to people’s beliefs. However,  the postmodernism approach is useful to better understand the process in which one story can have so many different versions and details, even according to the same belief. It shows that facts and knowledge are produced in particular social and historical context.


  • Urry, J. (2002). The tourist gaze. Sage.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Price Tags of Petra

“Ride before you die”
“Don’t worry be happy”

These are the two phrases that I can hardly forget since I was in Jordan, because it was repeated repetitively by the people in the most-visited touristic site in Jordan, which is Petra. We were looking forward to this visit, because Petra is a major destination in Jordan, which is also categorized as UNESCO World Heritage. Highlighting the fact that it is a very famous site, we prepared ourselves with the thoughts that there would be many service providers and souvenir sellers that try to do some offerings. The thought was nearly accurate. As soon as we enter the site, there were many children offering some gums, the older men tried to offer a horse ride to the treasure, while several of them tried to sell antique coins. I felt like everything in Petra has a price tag; when you want something in Petra, there will always be a price for it. This situation is also called as commodification of touristic places. What attracts my attention is the fact that many of these people dressed in a traditional way – some of them even put mascara on their eyes in order to signify their authenticity. However, it is interesting to note that instead of providing ‘the authentic experience’, commodification of touristic places can lead to inauthenticity, as it gives an alienating sense to the experiences that they had (Halewood & Hannam, 2001). Paradoxically, although various tourism commodities (for example souvenirs) are commodified goods, those are produced and consumed as “authentic” experiences, as explained by Halewood and Hannam (2001). In this case, I felt that the people were very struggling with the condition of tourism in Jordan right now, that they have to put even more effort in turning any kind of product or services into touristic commodities. Therefore in my opinion, it is inevitable that the gap between the ‘authentic’ experience and the staged performance will increase.

 Handmade souvenirs are sold in many places in Petra

 The pathway to the treasury

 The magnificent treasury

Camel ride offered to tourists


Halewood, C., & Hannam, K. (2001). Viking heritage tourism: authenticity and commodification. Annals of tourism research, 28(3), 565-580.

Expectation vs. Reality

When I first came to Jordan, there was several thoughts in my head; mixed feelings between anxiety, curiosity and excitement. One of the main thoughts that I kept thinking about is the chance of meeting local people and being able to listen to their stories. However, the reality does not fit into the story; the local people were refraining from having interactions with tourists. When I tried to make conversation with them, they only answer me in Arabic, thus, language barrier serves as an obstacle as well.

One of the shops in Madaba

I felt a little bit disappointed, for not being able to have significant conversation with the locals, even though they had been very welcoming and friendly to us; the tourists. This example is related to the theory of tourism expectation. Tourism expectation determines "performance perceptions" of products, services and experiences, as explained by Gnoth (1997). In this case, I expected a certain kind of behavior to be performed by the locals, in order to better understand their opinions and ways of thinking. The failure to fulfill my initial motivation thus influences my satisfaction formation. This is in line with the argument posed by Gnoth (1997).

Even though it was dissatisfying at first, the attitudes and hospitality of the locals has fascinated me. The language barrier did not stop them from being nice to the tourists. The attitudes of the Jordanians make me realize that we do not necessarily need to know the spoken language to show any kind hospitality. It shows me that although my initial expectation shaped the way I experience the encounters in the destination, there are still other cultural, social and situational conditions that can influence my perception on the site. Therefore, restating Gnoth’s (1997) argument, it is important to note that the impact of motivational reasons should be guided by value systems covering all aspects of the tourism life domain, including emotions and hospitality.

One of the people who helped our friend to put on the Keffiyeh

The strangers we met during our visit

Gnoth, J. (1997). Tourism motivation and expectation formation. Annals of Tourism research24(2), 283-304.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Travelling as a Means of Escapism: The Dead Sea!

The view of the dead sea from above

On the fourth day of our visit in Jordan, we got the chance to visit the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is considered as the lowest area on earth, with the height of around 400 meters below the sea level. However, it is not the position that makes the Dead Sea very famous; it is the experience of swimming in the sea without being able to drawn into the water. Combined with the service of 5-stars hotel, this location serves as a place for those who seek for a new experience but also for tranquility. I found this experience very interesting because not only that I was aware that I stayed in a country that has more chance of danger in terms of its geographical location, but also I internalized the fact that I went there solely for relaxation. As peculiar as it may sounds, I was trying to find wellness in the midst of the “danger” zone. 

In tourism study, wellness was defined as a way of life which focuses on optimal health and well-being, integrating the functions of body, mind and spirit (Myers et al., 2005). It means that the people who travel to find wellness, try to incorporate the physical, spiritual, psychological dimensions of the experiences. In the Middle East, Jordan, specifically the Dead Sea has been a major destination for Arab tourists to spend their weekends. In my opinion, these people go there in order to escape the ‘reality’ in their home country. For instance when I talked to one of the visitors in the Dead Sea, he said that he came from Saudi Arabia because he thinks Jordan has a ‘more relaxed and less-strict culture’. Nevertheless, these types of tourists, as explained by Smith and Kelly (2006), are actively seeking for an enhanced well-being, in places that they think will provide contentment for them. I found out that, despite the intensified political condition in its surroundings, Jordan can still maintain its position as a major destination for wellness tourism in the Middle East. 

Another view of the dead sea

The view of the resort which offers access to the dead sea

Myers, J. E., Sweeney, T. J., & Witmer, M. (2005). A holistic model of wellness. Retrieved September, 8, 2015.

Smith, M., & Kelly, C. (2006). Wellness tourism. Tourism Recreation Research,31(1), 1-4.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Unveiling Tourism in Jordan (Feelings, Affect, Emotion)

The view of Jerash from the Colonnade Street

One of the destinations that we visited is Jerash. Jerash is a city which is famous for its Roman archaeological ruins; a place which is often called as "the Pompeii of the Middle East". Although Jerash is fascinating, to me the most interesting part of the visit is the encounter with the site, the discussions and the way the place makes us feel. “Feelings” cannot be described as feeling per se; rather, it consists of different components, including feelings, affect and emotions (Buda, 2014). Feeling is described as bodily sensation or perception of haptics, as explained by Buda (2014). While emotions are the form of feeling that can be labeled, affect refers to a kind of experience which is difficult to put in words. 

Our first concern was revealed when we were informed about the condition of tourism in Jordan. The tour guide explained that the figures and statistics about tourism in Jordan on the internet is biased, as the Jordanian government also take refugees into account when they do the calculation. It means that, contrary to the available information, tourism in Jordan is, in fact, in a critical condition. Moreover, the guide also mentioned that the government is not cooperating well with the other tourism stakeholders, especially the tour guides. We are even told that the guides will quit their jobs if there is no further support from the government. All these facts has opened our eyes; not only that we felt concerned about the matter, we also want to contribute in finding the solutions to the problem. It shows that feelings and emotions have major role in shaping the tourism industry. The tour guides that are dissatisfied by how the government treat them will not bring any improvement to the situation. In my opinion, positive relations between the tour guides and the government, but also between the tourists and the tour guides need to be maintained in order to gain trust, which consequently will bring more tourists into the country.

 The north gate
 Our tour guide, Omar in one of the sites

 The Theater
The Colonnade Street

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tourist Identity

“Salaamu’alaikum, are you a Muslim?”

Almost two times a day I got these type of questions from Jordanians that I met. At first, they looked uncertain about me when they saw my appearance, however when I gave them a nod, their confusion turned into a smile. As a Muslim traveling with a group of many Caucasian students, I experienced a mixed feeling. Although I am part of the group of “tourists”, I felt that I am more connected to the local culture, including its atmosphere and the people. 
A (typical) touristic activity

It is clear that the connection that I felt is largely because of the same religion that we share. However, in this case I also play a role as a tourist; a person who typically wants to find exotic experiences and to gaze upon others. It brings me to a question, what are the factors that influence the tourist’s identity? To what extent a tourist can be defined as such, when there is a significant connection between the tourist and the destination place? According to Jacobsen (2000), tourist roles, experiences, meanings and attitudes are more important than the reductionist notion of tourists which describes that “a tourist is a person who travels outside for more than 24 hours”. It means that, using postmodernism approach, the motives behind someone’s visit to a destination becomes salient. As for myself, I found that what I experienced was a “role distance” (Jacobsen, 2000); I was attached and committed to a role as a tourist, however I also want to distant myself from the tourist stereotype in order to get to know the local better in relation to the Islam. This is because being perceived as tourists may lead to a social stigma. Nevertheless, the dichotomy between ‘tourist’ and ‘traveller’ might not be very useful to determine the tourist identity, rather, a comprehensive view of the values, meanings and attitudes that the tourist show might help in unveiling the tourist’s identity.

 Tourists or travelers?

Our (touristic) activity in Umm Rassass

  • Jacobsen, J. K. S. (2000) ‘Anti-tourist Attitudes:Mediterranean Charter Tourism’, Annals of Tourism Research 27(2): 284–300.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tourist Bubble in Amman

 Night view of Amman

It was 11.05 p.m. Jordanian time when we first arrived in Amman, the capital city of Jordan. The hilly landscape of Amman kept me and twelve other students in awe while we went through the town. In the first day we went to the King Abdullah I Mosque. To be able to enter the mosque, visitors need to cover parts of their bodies as a symbol of modesty. When we enter the mosque, Omar, our Jordanian tour guide explains everything about the mosque. At that time the mosque was empty; there was no prayers in the mosque, as prayers are regarded as holy activities in which visitors cannot directly witness the prayer. So, not only that the visitors cannot witness it themselves, there was not any opportunity to have any conversation with local Muslims in the mosque. This means that there is a certain limit that the tourists can have access to, even if they try to find the ‘authentic’ experience.

This notion reminds me of the theory posed by Daniel Boorstin (1964), namely the tourist bubble. He explained that instead of providing the means for tourists to experience local culture, mass tourism isolates tourists from the authentic culture within a closed environment; the tourist bubble. In most cases, tourists are exposed to a staged performance, in which the locals are pretending of doing the rituals that “they would normally do”, while it is not necessarily their authentic activity. It entails that the tourists are driven to passively consume these spectacles, which simultaneously reduce their agency to understand the experience in many ways. As can be seen from the example of the mosque, instead of experiencing “the local culture”, we were categorized as tourists and hence can only access a certain part of the culture that the locals choose to show. Then the remaining question is, were we actually experiencing the "local" culture or instead, were we immersing even more in a bubble that we created?

 The terrace of King Abdullah I Mosque
 The main hall of King Abdullah I Mosque

 The Islamic Museum, located outside the mosque

The women had to cover their body parts using the clothing shown above

  • Boorstin, D. (1964). A guide to pseudo-events in America. New York: Harper.