As I was browsing and looking for travel tips for women travelling alone in Jordan, I found a great deal of information, or misinformation rather, about the potential dangers for women travelling in Jordan, which is completely not what I experienced travelling alone as a woman in Jordan last year, in 2010, going from the North to the South, going from Jerash, to Amman, to Deadsea, to Dana Reserve, to Petra, to Aquaba and to Wadi Rum.
There’s ehow which says “As with most Middle Eastern countries, women should be vigilant while traveling in Jordan. Middle Eastern attitudes toward women are very different from those found in North America, Europe and Australia. Staring, sexual harassment and unwanted touching are common problems for women travelers.” And it ends with, “Women traveling with male companions will have the easiest time.” http://www.ehow.com/list_6366127_travel-tips-women-jordan.html#ixzz19c86PMZF One may as well say that travelling with a big tour group and staying in a resort will be the easiest. Or better, it’s safer to just stay home.
On the US State department travel site to Jordan, doing a word search on “women” you will find 3 matches, all of which are under the section, Crime. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1149.html
“Western women, both visiting and residing in Jordan, have reported sexual harassment, stalking, and unwelcome advances of a sexual nature. There have also been isolated reports of harassment and sexual assault, many involving taxis and taxi drivers. Incidents typically involve verbal sexual harassment, staring, or following the victim after the victim exits the taxi; however, there are occasional violent attacks.”
The first thing which strikes me is that, like ehow, the State website lumps “staring” together with serious crimes, that can also occur in Toronto, New York, Paris, and London. The truth is that while staring is considered to be rude in Western culture, travelling in countries especially those that has a rich local culture and have not been completely flooded by westerners, staring is not as uncommon, certainly doesn’t constitute a crime, and definitely not an indication of someone about to commit a crime.
As I was visiting the Roman City in Jerash, I remembered being swamped by a group of Jordan kids who were perhaps visiting the city on a school trip. There was certainly a lot of staring, touching, and giggling. Walking down the street of Amman, there was also some staring, neither wanted nor unwanted. Sitting in a mini bus full of men going to the Soft Beach from downtown Aquaba also attracted some attention. But as I tried to tell the bus drivers where I was going, the friendly starers all tried to help though most didn’t speak much English.
If the State website had provided some statistics, perhaps comparing the crime rates in Jordan and other countries, or Amman and other cities, the advice could be for people to immigrate to Jordan.
That being said, some precautions still need to be taken when travelling alone in Jordan. For example,
a) Dress modestly; avoid t-shirts or shorts; avoid showing your arms or legs.
b) Be polite, but no need to smile at or be too friendly male strangers on the streets.
I followed the above rules to not so much to avoid dangers but more importantly to show respect to the local culture and tradition.
What I also noticed is that in areas (in Jordan as well as other countries) more populated by western tourists, though it’s natural to feel safer, unwanted attention or touching are more common.
Some sites also warn against going out in the evening, but going out to have dinner and doing so sensibly should be fine. Ruth’s Jordan Jubilee http://www.jordanjubilee.com/travelme/women.htm has some good travel tips but it’s certainly not true that going to Wadi Rum is unsafe. It says, ” The idea of “sleeping under the stars” is wonderful, but the idea of sleeping almost alone with strange Bedouin is less attractive.” In fact, Wadi Rum is not somewhere that foreign tourists, men or women alike, unfamiliar with the desert environment can go on their own. But there are many tours operated by Bedouins. You can find out about them on Lonely Planet, travel agencies in Amman, Petra, and Aquaba, or other independent travellers.
Finally, Jordan attracts lots of experienced and independent travellers, who can be found in most hostels. Be outgoing. Talk to other backpackers and talk to hostel staff. You will be able to get a lot of reliable and current tips.