I just returned from the Middle Eastern country of Jordan, which is smack dab in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the world. With Iraq to the east, Israel to the West and Syria to the North, Jordan is surrounded by instability, ill-will and a war with seemingly no end. Right around the corner in the north is southern Lebanon controlled by the radical Hezbollah terrorists.
But what is evident from the time the plane lands in the capital of Amman is that Jordan is a country of relative peace and security. There are occasional demonstrations against the government, but never in my time in Jordan was I concerned about personal safety. My Jordanian hosts often remarked with pride that there’s is a special country.
What holds the country together is the modern and modernizing King Abdullah II, the son of the legendary King Hussein. Educated here in Massachusetts, Abdullah works diligently to move his country forward, despite poverty and a paucity of natural resources. Tourism with the Dead Sea, the baptism site of Jesus on the Jordan River and the new wonder of the world at Petra bring in foreign exchange, but with hundreds of thousands of refugees coming into the country from Syria, the government is cash-strapped and concerned about the destabilizing influence of the refugees.
The United States is a friend to Jordan and does provide aid and advisers, and relies on the King to serve as a kind of unofficial go between in the region. This role as a moderate monarch is difficult for Abdullah as he wants to maintain a stable country but is often caught in the middle of difficult negotiations or worse yet difficult allegiances.
I would not hesitate to recommend a visit to Jordan, especially if you are putting together a bucket list of places that are simply jaw-dropping – floating in the Dead Sea, being linked to the place where Christianity began and walking through the lost city of Petra with its unbelievable stone buildings crafted over 2000 years ago.
The Middle East can be a scary place, but Jordan goes against the grain as it seeks to remain an island of stability.