During my recent trip to Jordan, I had the pleasure of participating in a homestay at the Orjan Village in Al Ayoun, Jordan. My group and I stayed with Abu Mahmoud and Um Mahmoud in their beautiful home. We were welcomed in warmly, and treated better than I treat myself at home. Though this kind of activity is not what first comes to mind when you think of visiting big sites in Jordan, this experience set the tone for my trip. It enhanced my understanding of Jordanian culture and gave me a greater appreciation of everything I visited and saw throughout the country. Here are five reasons why everyone who visits Jordan should book a stay in Orjan Village.
1. This experience was immersive into Jordanian culture. We walked through the local village, stayed in someone’s home, ate a home-cooked meal and shared conversation. There were no other travelers around us, only the village population and beautiful scenery. We saw our host family in their natural environment and experienced life as a Jordanian does it.
2. Like most Jordanians, I love food, and I can confidently tell you the food I had at Um Mahmoud’s home was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. By taking part in a homestay, you get a full spread of traditional dishes — allowing you to fill your plate and your stomach with authentic Jordanian food. Um Mahmoud loves to tell the stories behind the dishes she makes, as well.
3. This way of traveling is more authentic than a hotel stay. In a hotel, you can isolate yourself from authentic experiences and return to your normal cultural tendencies. By doing a homestay, I not only got to eat the delicious food Um Mahmoud cooked, but she even invited me to help prepare it, allowing me to roll and stuff grape leaves. After we finished eating, we spent hours discussing aspects of each other’s culture, wished the kids a good night of rest before they went to bed and laughed about family stories.
4. With such a personal experience, you, as the consumer, can easily see where your money is going and who it is benefiting. As opposed to larger, impersonal tours, by doing a homestay, you have the opportunity to meet people and hear their hopes and dreams for their families, so you know who you have invested in.
5. Most importantly, when you leave your homestay in Orjan Village, you’ll leave as part of a new family. During my visit, I took a polaroid camera and Abu Mahmoud and Um Mahmoud were so excited to have a photo similar to this one to keep for themselves. Additionally, as is custom throughout the country, we were welcomed with tea and greeted individually, and the family members took the time to wish each of us well as we departed, too.
My homestay is Orjan Valley was one I’ll never forget. The family I made and the love I was shown was more powerful than any site I walked through or visited in the country. By engaging with this local family, I was better able to understand how Jordanian culture is formed by the love of its people, and that makes it essential for everyone who wants to come to Jordan.