zondag 13 september 2015

"The Jordanian people don't know anything about the Netherlands"

Salam ailekum,

(this blogpost is not for educational purposes)

Several times in the blogs of my fellow students (and my own) I have read that 'we' doubted the choice of going to Jordan because of the safety and the fact that we did not really know what to expect. Has this view changed after our homecoming in the cold and grey Hollanda?

I prefer the Jordanian desert to the dutch beaches..
On the morning of the second day of our summer school, we had a meeting scheduled with the Deputy head of mission at the embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Amman. This was not my first time in a Dutch embassy in a foreign country but definitely the most impressive dutch embassy I had seen before. We had a nice meeting (a/c!) with the Deputy Head and she answered all our 'pressing' questions. One of my own questions was if the Jordanian people "had changed their mind about the Netherlands" since the dutch forces joined the coalition against Daesh. The answer was that, since the dutch government had not given much rumor to their presence in Jordan, most of the Jordanian people don't know much about the Netherlands other than for the projects the Dutch government organizes in Jordan (mostly related to human right, women's emancipation and peace). Fair enough. The Netherlands is still a relatively small 'player' in the chaotic game of world politics.

the church we visited in Madaba
The day after that we went to Madaba to visit the beautiful mosaic mapin the st.George's church. Madaba was a respite to Amman because of its size and complete different ethos. After our visit to the church and the beautiful mosaic map me and a few others decided to search for a place to eat in town. It was quite a long search and we had to walk far to find a restaurant. When we finally found a falafel place we decided to split up. Me and 3 other girls went for the "sandwich bar" from which we could only buy falafel. After we had our first sandwich the place got a bit crowded and more and more (older) men got in. They tried to talk to us but we could not really understand them. One of the men came up to us and asked us if we were American and "what are you doing in Jordan" in quite an aggressive tone. I did not really know what to answer and got a bit scared. What happens if tell them that we are actually dutch? Skeptical I told him from where we came and what the purpose of our visit to Jordan was and he simply just walked away. A few moments later the waiter gave us drinks that we did not even order. We decided to leave the place because we didn't feel comfortable there. Of course we had to pay for our meal first so I walked up to the counter and tried to give the money to the man behind it but he wouldn't accept it. I didn't really understand why because he kept smiling at me in a strange way and then I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was from the man who came up to us earlier and asked us from what we were doing in Jordan. For a moment I thought oh god,we're in trouble.., stuck in a strange sandwich bar in a town where we can't even ask for the direction and whole group of angry looking men in the same place.. But then the man smiled at me and told me that we don't have to worry and the sandwiches are a gift from him and the Jordanian people for us because "the dutch people and their government do a lot for the Jordanian people and this is just a small expression of the gratitude of al shaeb al-Ordoniya*" and that we need to enjoy our time in Jordan. Of course one could be a little suspicious in the given circumstances but I could see that the nice man really meant it by the look in his eyes. We thanked him kindly and left the place and we were all happy that nothing bad happened. After that we finished our meal and went back to the church (and meeting point). While trying to find the way back and walking past all the people in the streets, many people shouted "ahlaan wa sahlaan*" or "welcome to Jordan!" at us. Even the children in the streets!

who could resist this?
After we got out of the restaurant
This "tourism encounter" was probably the one that left the deepest impression on me because I was really cautious and suspicious at first while there was actually no need for it. After this I also realized how much depending the country is on tourism and how welcoming al shaeb al-Ordoniya are. I hope I have inspired some people to learn more about Jordan with my blog entries and maybe even pay a visit to Bilad al-Sham. If you find yourself having questions about my stories or anything else leave a comment on my blog or send me an email. Shokran for reading my blog!!

Salam ailekum warahmatullah wata'ala wa barakat.

Anouar Ibn el Kadi

waiting for sunset in Wadi Rum

Hollanda = The Netherlands
Daesh = ISIS
Al shaeb al-Ordoniya = The people of Jordan/ inhabitants of Jordan
Ahlaan wa sahlaan = Be welcome/ welcome
Shokran = Thank you
Bilad al-Sham = An old Arabic name for the lands around Jordan and Syria sometimes called levant

vrijdag 11 september 2015

"You are waiting for a plane.. a plane that will take you far away.."

Before we left for Jordan there was uncertainty if the summer school could go on because of the situation around Jordan. I am sure that many of us (students from the summer school) doubted they made the right choice in applying for this particular summer school. And if they did not have doubts why did they want to follow this particular course? Is it an interest in the 'passions of tourism or the thrill of 'travelling'?

As Scott McCabe noticed people make a distinction between travelers and tourists. What is this distinction exactly? Tourists are viewed by MacCabe as the people who stay do not go off the "beaten track", go sightseeing without really "experiencing" the country or sight they are visiting.
Travelers view themselves as the people who get the better tourism experience by experiencing the country and it's people more.1 Thus I wanted to ask myself the question what am I? A traveler or a tourist? Personally I think that this distinction and the answer for this self defining question is rather subjective and personal. As for Scott MacCabe I would be a traveler but I see myself more as a combination of a traveler and a tourist. After all my motivation to participate in the summer was to research the social and economical aspects of tourism and to enjoy the sight seeing in Jordan. 
After the summer school ended I also realized that I not only went for the reasons I already mentioned but also to experience the people in Jordan and I think I succeeded in that. 

The ultimate 'travelers in Jordan' experience: driving trough the desert
This blogpost should actually be my last blog entry. I still have one story to share with you but before giving you that story I would like to thank dr. Buda and Anna Martini for letting us go on this amazing trip to such a beautiful country and teaching us the interesting theories about tourism.
If you are still interested in the story you can find it in the next blogpost.

Ma'a Salam.

The view from the Amman citadel

1.Scott McCabe, who is a tourist?: a critical review. Tourist studies, 2005, p.11

woensdag 9 september 2015

Taxi drivers and Daesh


a selfie with a portrait from his majesty
One of the typical things about big cities are the taxi's. Whether you find yourself in London, Casablanca or any other (big) city in the world taxi's, taxi's everywhere. And of course in Amman too. I once read a story about King Abdullah going 'undercover' in the country and especially in taxi's to hear the everyday stories from his own nationals.1 Before going to Jordan I thought that I could do the same by "going undercover" as a local while being a tourist!

And of course I was curious to see if the demonstration effect would take place. This effect supposedly changes the value systems and the moral basis of societies for tourists to make it easier for them to "fit in".2 Are Jordanian people different to tourists in social interactions than their "own" social interactions?  What better way than to 'research' this in a taxi with a Jordanian taxi driver!

The fourth day of the summer school I went downtown Amman to buy a few souvenirs with my colleague students. On our way bay to the ACOR-hostel we decided to take a taxi. The taxi driver first tried to speak with us in English but after that I continued my conversation with him in Arabic and he had a lot of interesting things to tell. He told me that Jordanian people are way more 'desperate' for (what he called) a better life than they show themselves to tourists, especially himself. He also told me that there are no jobs in Jordan or a prospect on a better life for most of the people. He became quite angry (and we could really see that in his driving style..) when I asked him about the effect of Daesh on Jordan and kept swearing and cussing on them. Apparently the war in Syria and Iraq really affects the Jordanian people in their daily lifes. I realized that the constant treath of daesh (and the connected drop in tourism) really affects the daily lives of the Jordanian population. Then after the rant on daesh he asked me if he could marry one of the girls on the backseat of the car in able to get a dutch passport. Sad for him we had to disappoint him..

Jelle and me trying to look like locals

Daesh = Al Dawla al-Islamyia fil Iraq wa’al Sham = Islamic state in Iraq and Al-Sham = داعش

2.Williams,S. (1998). Tourism geography. Pschology Press. p.140

dinsdag 8 september 2015

"But is it save in Jordan?"

Salam Ailekum,

We have all heard about the turmoil in the region around Jordan. Of course it did not seem strange that the number of tourists that visit Jordan would drop. After 7 days in Jordan I have only seen about 100 (western) tourists at the tourism sights and most of them at Petra. The fourth day of the summer school we went to the dead sea and after that, on our way back to Amman, we made a stop at a huge store for dead sea products..

When I entered the store I was really surprised about the size of the building, it really looked like a big supermarket filled with souvenirs and dead sea products. But the store was unpeopled and the prices were very high. No tourist to find anywhere, only a bunch of students from the Netherlands but they did have (not joking) 10 staff members walking around the store and ready to 'help' us. Because I was wearing a Moroccan dzjellaba one of the vendors offered me an extra discount on the products. After having a little chat, I asked him why the prices were so high. He told me that we were the second tourist bus that week and it was already Thursday.. And all because of Daesh (The arabic name for ISIL). After that he went on telling about the drop in tourism the last years and the necessity of increasing his prices to provide for his family.. Quite shocking to hear this from a local.

There is another (interesting) 'kind' to tourism which focuses briskes up in tumultuous times: dark tourism, danger-zone tourists show interest in the conflict want to experience the tumult from the first hand. 1 Dark tourism is actually visiting a country with the intention of visiting a place of turmoil, disaster and conflict. 2. Well, despite Jordan being the 'Switzerland of the Middle-East' people still repeatedly ask: "Is it save there?". I hope that more and more people will find out that Jordan is a stable country and the number of tourists in Jordan will increase. But this feeling can not rise from one side and might need some help from the Jordanian tourism department (or USAID) with a pr-campaign and maybe then the shop owner can lower his prices.

Have a good day!

1. Buda, D.M. (forthcoming 2015). Tourism in conflict areas: Complex entanglements in Jordan. Journal of Travel Research.
2. Richard Sharpley; Philip R Stone. The darker side of travel :The theory and practice of dark tourism. Bristol, UK ;


maandag 7 september 2015

"Anouar, what is a tourist?"

Traveler or tourist?
Yesterday while having dinner at my parents home, my little brother (7) asked me: "Anouar, what is a tourist?". I had to smile, after a whole summer school about the definition of tourism and motives of tourists etc. this question should have been easy to answer. Oddly enough I could not find a simple answer to my brothers question so I asked him what he thinks that the word "tourist" means. His answer was rather enlightening to me: "Tourists are people who are bored of their own lives and want to see nice things in foreign countries. " and immediately after that: "Are you bored of us? why did you leave to be a tourist in Jordan?". Children can be shockingly sharp sometimes..

This conversation made me think about different theories about tourists. For example Mathieson and Wall who provided a rather simple explanation: 'person who travels outside of his normal environment for more than 24 hours'.1 Scott McCabe argues in his article Who is a tourist that in tourism studies researchers are still looking for the 'real' meaning behind tourism. He also states that there's a negative notion about being or giving yourself out as a "tourist". 2 Well, how to explain this to a seven year old?

Back in Jordan I did 'feel' as a tourist, as I wrote before some things were not as surprising as I thought, but I still found myself gazing at the Roman buildings in Jerash, the caves in Petra and the sand rocks in Al-Wadi Rum. Perhaps my brother is right and I am bored of the green landscape of Friesland and Groningen and grey buildings and pavements of any city in the Netherlands. Perhaps I ought to go see more "nice things in foreign countries" and be a tourist more often.

Thank you little brother for the refreshing truth.

Me and me little brother

1. McCabe, S. (2005). ‘Who is a tourist?’A critical review. Tourist studies, p.89
2. McCabe, S. (2005). ‘Who is a tourist?’A critical review. Tourist studies, p.114

zaterdag 5 september 2015

Freedom and democracy?


One of the things I was most curious about before coming to Jordan was the westernization of the country, because of the big contrasts between the western cultures and the Arabic cultures I expected to find little western influences in Jordan. On my trip trip to Morocco earlier in July, I realized how fast Morocco is changing and becoming more and more 'western'. Fashion, the last iPhone, American fast food chains on every corner etc. These are all small examples of westernization in my opinion.

In Jordan I found a complete other way of western influence by one of the biggest influencers of the world: The United States of America. The third morning we were invited by the local headquarters of USAID. This is an organization that funds the renovation of archaeological sites, stimulates the tourism industry and helps Jordan promoting itself as a tourist destination. These are all great things for a country like Jordan but after the local chief of USAID said during his presentation "we do these things because we're nice, we're American." and reading the famous slogan of USAID (From the American people) on almost every sign at the historical sites, I became only more skeptical and critical towards the roll of USAID and the USA.

As stated by Aitchison in tourism relations locals are force less to resist the power of global capital and the economic force of tourists and therefore act as agents.1 Other authors state that tourists may posses economic power but that cultural power generally resides with the local communities and that tourists are merely characterized as targets of these power relations.2 After seeing most of the tourist sites managed or funded by USAID I can not but criticize the control of the USA in this country of the tourism sites. I hope the Jordanian government will soon realize that not everything in and around their country needs to be governed and funded by a world power. Unfortunately that day will, given the circumstances in the region, not come soon.

1. Williams, S. (1998). Tourism geography), Psychology press, p.139-141.
2. Idem. p. 139-141.

Wifi in the desert?

Hello there!

After our trip to Petra on Friday, we went to the magnificent south of Jordan. The famous (because of Lawrence of Arabia) Al Wadi Rum valley, Beforehand we were informed that we would be spending the night in a Bedouin camp. Of course, as exciting as it sounds, I had already spend sometimes searching the internet for the so called 'Hillawi camp' and found very differing reviews from 'great experience' to 'too touristic'. This made me wondering about this 'Bedouin experience', whether this experience would be authentic or not, and above all: What is an authentic touristic experience?

As stated by Stephen Williams 1 the behavior of tourists is often shaped by the search for 'the' authentic experience, as an antidote to their own inauthentic and modern lives. Nevertheless most of the so called authentic experiences in the 'back' areas (such as Bedouin camps or small villages) are not the real experiences which the tourists seek for. Oftentimes these authentic experiences are staged, Williams calls it 'staged authenticity'  meaning that a tourist 'attraction' has just been made up for the authentic experience and therefore not that authentic.2 And what about the authenticity of Hillawi camp? Judge for yourself:

Not exactly what one would expect from an authentic Bedouin experience, especially when the camp is selling alcohol (in a Muslim country), has wireless internet and was playing western music (including disco-lights). Even though I realized (and I hope I was not the only one) that we were not staying in a real Bedouin camp I still enjoyed the evening and the experience. Above all we were in the desert, not something you can say everyday. We were all so given the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful sunset in the Wadi Rum. Something I will not forget that easily and can not be 'staged' that easily..

1. S. Williams. Tourism geography - A new synthesis , Second ed. Taylor & Francis e-library: Routledge ; 2009. pp 134-155.2. Ibidem p. 134-155

donderdag 3 september 2015

Let me tell you a story..


Some buy a lonely planet guide when travelling to an unknown destination or just go with the wind and walk the path they think is the best for them. Others hire a tour guide to guide them during their travels and tell them the stories about the places they visit. During the summer school we also had an excellent tour guide, Omar A'lamet. For me this was the first time I ever found myself travelling with a tour guide. Of course it is extremely useful to have someone guide you and help you out in a difficult situation in a country in which you can find yourself struggling to even order a drink. But others find it annoying to constantly have the same guide tell you a story.

And what about these stories? Tourists visit certain places to experience or hear these stories. According to Clare Foster and Scott McCabe the stories told to tourists have a narrativist attitude.1.
The experiences of a tourist are expressed by their stories about people, places and the given circumstances they have seen/encountered. But are they also not influenced by the stories told to them by the tour guide? Of course these stories mainly consist of historical facts and characteristics but can also be influenced by the tour guides view and for example his or hers political views.

All of us listening to Rustum Mkhjian, assistant-director to the baptism site
I was very happy to have a tour guide during our travels in Jordan to help us out in difficult situations and explain to us the disguised beauty of Jordan. Although I have to be honest that for me personally a tour guide can be ceasing, especially in group of 25 students. Therefore I have not always been with the group during Omar's guiding stories but I am still thankful to him that was there with us the whole summer school.

An interesting fact is that our tour guide is a Christian and not a muslim, which was a pure coincidence but still surprising in a muslim country. I have to be honest that I sometimes perceived this as reducing for the authentical experience. But if you want to know more about my experiences with authenticity you will have to read my next blog entries.

Have a good day!

1. McCabe, S., & Foster, C. (2006). The role and function of narrative in tourist interaction. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change4(3), 


Surprised by sheep

Hi there!

During our travels trough out life, we all find ourselves sometimes wondering about how other people are experiencing the same experience as you are going trough at that moment. Of course the way one views certain things while 'performing' tourism can not always be neutral. this view or ' tourist gaze' as John Urry calls it, will always be influenced by someones own thoughts and beliefs.1 A great example I encountered in Amman is the presence of sheep in the streets grazing. I strongly believe that this tourism encounter can be perceived as a strange thing to a western tourist who is not used to roaming sheep in the streets the capital of a country.

Nevertheless I was not surprised by the sheep and many other things I encountered during my travels in Bilad al-Shaam. Do my previous experiences in Morocco influence my tourist gaze Jordan?
John Urry writes in his book The tourist gaze that every society, historical era etc. has his own tourist gaze.2 Therefore there is not one gaze but several differing per society, social community and historical period formed by historical events in the indicated communities. So it might be useful to think about how your tourist gaze is formed the next time you have a tourism encounter.

So to grasp the origin of your own tourist gaze, you should carefully consider which emotions, memories, characteristics etc. influence this tourist gaze to answer the question.
For myself I can certainly say that my gaze is influenced by my Moroccan ancestry. Certain things as mentioned before were perceived as normal by me however not everything I have seen during my stay in Jordan was unbeknown. The greatest example for me might have been the presence of churches next to mosques. As I mentioned in my other blog post this would be highly unlikely in Morocco and therefore for me surprising and worthy to gaze at.

I hope to reveal the rest of my tourist gaze experiences in my upcoming blog entries. So stay tuned for more stories about sheep in the streets of Amman.

Have a good day!

1. Urry&Larsen, The tourist Gaze, p.1-3. 
1. Idem. p.3.

woensdag 2 september 2015

The other side

Salam Ailekum,

My last post on this blog was about 'Ahl al Kitaab' (the people of the book) in Jordan. Today I wanted to share my impressions about the other country in which I did my observations for this particular travel blog: Morocco. As we can see Morocco lays between Europe a.k.a. 'the western world' and the arab countries in North-Africa and the Middle-East. Does Morocco, because of it's position, hold a 'tolerant' view against the other people of the book as they do in Jordan?

As I mentioned in my last post I was very surprised to find a big Coptic church next to the biggest Mosque in Amman in Jordan, and even more churches in the rest of the country. In all my travels to Morocco I have only seen 2 churches and 2 synagogues. And this was in the Capital Rabat. According to the CIA the population of Morocco consists of nearly 99% Muslims,0,8 Christians and only 0,2% of Jews.Quite peculiar for a country next to Europe.

But I also found the inhabitants of Morocco quite strange to Christians and Jews and their religious habits. An interesting fact is that in Tamazight (a language widely spoken in the northern part of North-Africa) the word for Christian or Christians is Iromiyen, which is led of from the words Romans,wild and unmannerly. 2  Of course after all these years nobody really pays attention to the descent of this word. Nevertheless the general feeling in Morocco about the 'people of the book' is in my point of view positive. Morocco has shared a lot of history with Christian countries and has therefore never been a 'stranger in their mids'. Therefore, I think that the fact that there are not so many churches and synagogues in Morocco compared to Jordan is simply explained by the structure of the population and the history of this particular country.

 the courtyard from a mosque in Taza (Morocco) where I attended a Friday prayer in July)

1. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mo.html
2. de Boer.S, 2013, Het volk van Abdelkarim, uitgeverij Wijdemeer, Dokkum, p.262