I spent nearly a month in Jordan on assignment for National Geographic and truly fell in love with the country, its people, and culture. The history of the world sits on the sandy surface of this land at the heart of the world, and a single hour did not pass without me losing my breath over the scenery and wealth of human heritage.
Much is said about the bedouin, but little is known. No matter the many books I have read on the subject, nothing compares to traveling deep into the desert and living among the tribes that truly know the desert. I was especially grateful to my guide, Suleiman Hasaseen who spent many days showing me his endless backyard in the Dana Biosphere Reserve.
While in Amman, I had the unique privilege of visiting the Royal Jordanian Stables, home to over 200 purebred Arabian stallions. Each horse is descended from the royal family's original seven mares, a bloodline that can be traced back to the Prophet Mohammed. They were amazing creatures to watch.
As a country, Jordan predates the Bible. How incredible it was to drive along some highway, or hike some path, and recognize the landscapes and sites of stories from the Old Testament. Jordan represents the story of humankind, and I was particularly struck by the marvelous artwork and history in this place. These extraordinary frescoes at Quseir Amra date back to the 8th century, one of the unique examples of human figures in early Islamic art.
It's so easy to fall off the map in Jordan, and I love that. Five miles off the Desert Highway, the world becomes silent and ancient. The blend of ancient and modern is part of the allure that draws in travelers from around the world. I was especially grateful to see how much Jordan strives to stay authentic and ensure that mass tourism has a positive effect on local communities.
Jordan was good for my soul. Perhaps it was the calm and tranquility of the desert, perhaps it was the culture of wellness and health that dates back to the Roman Empire. In any case, I left Jordan feeling healthier and happier than I have in a long time, and I cannot wait to return.