Be aware of dress codes:
Jordan is quickly becoming a modern cultural hub, which is reflected in its increasingly contemporary clothing styles. However, freedom in dress codes will always be limited; misunderstandings about what’s appropriate to wear are the biggest cause of friction between locals and tourists. To respect cultural norms, women should wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid wearing anything revealing. As for men, it is important to bear in mind that it isn’t acceptable to walk around topless. Aside from dress codes, a scarf can come in handy for totally different reasons. On a hot day, it might be a good idea to cover your head to avoid getting heatstroke – this is especially the case when visiting a desert tourist site such as Wadi Rum or Petra. Female visitors might need a scarf when visiting a religious site, such as the spectacular King Hussein Bin Talal Mosque.
Vegetarians, be alert:
Vegetarianism is widely accepted and catered to in Jordanian culture. However, those who don’t eat meat will still be left with limited choices for traditional cuisine. Almost all Jordanian dishes contain animal products in one way or another. So be prepared – say, if invited to lunch – to stare down at a table full of meat dishes, and be aware that it is very disrespectful to show disgust for food in Jordan.
Good news for smokers:
Many Jordanians enjoy smoking, and it’s a custom that’s allowed almost anywhere and everywhere, including taxis, public transport, streets and shopping malls. And who hasn’t heard of the people’s most favoured smoking apparatus, the hubbly bubbly – or the Argileh as it is called in Arabic. You’ll find an Argileh at almost every café in Jordan.
Don’t drink water from just anywhere:
Tap water is not drinkable in Jordan. Unlike in Western countries, tap water in Jordan is only used to wash things. Nonetheless, you can get drinkable water delivered to your doorstep at any time of day, or you can buy bottles in corner shops or big stores.
The Arab ‘five minutes’ rule:
Jordanian people love being spontaneous and easy-going, especially when it comes to making plans and appointments. People might show up and hang out, invite you to come over at a specific time, or plan a road trip and leave immediately. Punctuality, on the other hand, is disregarded. When you’ve made plans with a local, and they say they’ll be with you in ‘five minutes, it is best to presume they’ll be at least 20 minutes late – so you might as well be late yourself.
Never say no to food:
Expect to be served grand meals when you come to Jordan | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Jordanians are generous and hospitable people. They take their guests’ comfort seriously and go to great lengths to make them feel at home. They enjoy sharing their meals with everyone. Always smile and accept the food offering, as repeatedly telling them you’re full will likely offend them.
Jordan is undoubtedly one of the most photogenic regions in the world, and the locals are often happy to pose for your photographs as well. But before attempting to take any pictures of them, always ask for permission, especially when women are present.
Use your hands
Table manners are carefree in Jordan. Eating food with your hands is a common custom and indicates that you enjoy the food on offer. Mansaf, Jordan’s famous traditional dish, is usually eaten with your hands.