Agents on the Spot: Jordan
In June, 12 ARTAC agents travelled with Royal Jordanian Airlines for a four-day visit of Jordan, hosted by the Jordan Tourist Office. They flew to Amman, then visited the ancient city of Jerash - home of one of the most well-preserved Roman cities in the world and a wide variety of other historic sights. They visited Mount Nebe - where it is said Moses was shown the Promised Land by God - and saw John the Baptist's home and baptism site. From there they travelled to Petra, Wadi Rum - a spectacular natural sandstone rock towering above the desert - and the Movenpick Dead Sea resort. We asked three agents for their impressions before and after the trip.
Before: I had never been to Jordan or the surrounding region before and I had the idea that our freedom of movement would be fairly restricted. I imagined that we would have to stay with our guide all the time and that it wouldn't be safe to try to do your own thing. I was very worried about what clothes to take and how much flesh it was acceptable to show. I knew it was a very religious country and that the women wore yashmaks and although King Hussein was a very modern ruler I imagined the country was still rather in the dark ages. I had never sold a holiday to Jordan, I didn't really know what was there.
After: Jordan is a wonderful place. It is a very modern, up-to-date place and the people are incredibly welcoming. There are no restrictions to your movement and even in the old quarter at night I felt very safe - probably safer than in most cities in the UK. Petra was the highlight for me, but there were so many other things to see - it is quite fabulous. Some of the ancient sites have special spiritual significance but even if you are not religious you can't help but feel a sense of history and pick up on the atmosphere. Everything is preserved so beautifully and treated with such reverence. The people are really friendly and welcoming and now I can really recommend it.
Angela Bridges, Manager, Soluna Travel, Chesterfield, Age: 36
Before: I hadn't been to Jordan, but I had heard of Petra. I had sold quite a few holidays there but only as an add-on to a holiday in Israel. I didn't really know there was anything much else there to see so I never actively encouraged clients to stay longer in Jordan. The vast majority of my clients were like me and had heard of Petra but nothing much else. Some were apprehensive of the cultural differences between our lifestyle and that of an Arab nation. I think King Hussein did a lot to break down those barriers, but they do remain in parts and I felt a personal knowledge of the place would help me overcome any worries clients might have.
After: I have been in travel for over 30 years and have seen a fair few places, but Jordan is certainly among the most impressive. Petra is excellent but there are also aterrific amount of other fabulous archeological sites and mosaics which are never publicised. There is a huge amount to see and do. I am now recommending Jordan to anyone interested in walking or antiquity holidays and I feel the sightseeing can be combined very easily with a relaxing break by the Dead Sea. The accommodation is of a very high standard, tours are well organised and everyone is very helpful. The trip was a real eye-opener, I really feel more should be done to promote the wealth of attractions the country has to offer visitors.
Isabelle Casper, Director, Swiftsure Travel, Moor Park, Middlesex, Age: 60
Before: I had been to Palestine and Israel but not to Jordan. I had been impressed by the vast amount of historic significance the region has and was keen to go back and see a bit more. Most of our clients are older, retired people - they have money to spend on holidays but do not want to take any risks and will not go anywhere that has even the slightest adverse publicity. Jordan used to be popular until the Gulf War and still people don't feel it is entirely safe. They hear stories and rumours - most of which are probably unfounded - but it is hard to reassure them completely unless you have seen the situation yourself.
After: Jordan is entirely safe. Crime is far less of a problem than it is here and I now have no hesitation in recommending it to my clients. The people are incredibly friendly and helpful and although Jordan is not a wealthy country - it has very little water and no oil wealth - there is very little poverty or begging and the people clearly value their tourists and treat them very well. Petra lives up to all expectations, it is really brilliant and the infrastructure there is good so that even-less active people can get to it. There is a real wealth of interesting historic sites and the craftsmanship you see there is really awe-inspiring. I'm an agnostic but even I felt very humbled by many of the religious sites.
Iain McGregor, Managing Director, West Sussex Travel, Pulborough, West Sussex, Age: 56
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