“Welcome to Jordan, you’re most welcome to Jordan.” So began nearly every conversation in this beautiful, complex, fabulous country. Whether we were high up a rock in the desert of Wadi Rum or high up in a temple at Petra there was a universal smile and openness to the country that took me by surprise. I probably shouldn’t have been – you only need to spend ten minutes on their remarkable history to appreciate what an immense balancing act this small country pulls off.
Sandwiched between Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and Syria things could be so different. Instead of the history of turmoil that each of its neighbors has endured, Jordan has managed to remain peaceful, moderate and welcoming. Two thirds of the population are not native Jordanian – they have moved, migrated or sought asylum from one of the surrounding countries. Imagine that. Think of the fight we are picking in the UK over 3,000 children caught homeless in Europe right now. Jordan has not erupted, has not become extreme. It has recently shut its border with Syria but so have we, and we are quite some way removed.
I learnt many things on my week trip. Many of the historical sites and stories blew me away – the huge scale of the remains at Jerash, the beauty of the red rocks in the desert, the wadi walks and most of all Petra – a place so unbelievable you cannot quite process everything you are seeing and feeling.
But, what I did not expect to learn were two big lessons for life in the UK. The first was just how much value is now put on access to the Internet all over the world. After walking for seven hours from Dana village we spent a night at the Feynan Ecolodge – run by the local Bedouin community. There’s no electricity but there is wi-fi. The world seems to place a premium on technology that would have been unimaginable even a couple of years ago. It definitely made me re-energized for the @doteveryoneuk focus on bringing internet skills and services to everyone whoever and wherever they are.
Secondly, as we stare down the barrel of a possible Brexit – think of Jordan. Their calm in the midst of so much chaos does us in the UK a great service. Their welcoming culture has helped one of the most toxic areas on the planet. I fervently believe that this is not the time for us to do the opposite and to become jingoistic. Our fortunes as humans have never been more linked – from climate change to technological change to war to movement of people. I hope we can be a Britain that defaults to “you’re most welcome”.
Any chance you get, visit Jordan. Nearly 15% of their GDP is tourism and yet it’s collapsed in the last few years. They need us desperately and it is extremely safe.
I celebrated 12 years on from my near fatal car accident with this:
I’ll never forget it.
Thank you Jordan.