Maybe it doesn’t have water, but Jordan sure is rich in culture and history. In these past three months, I’ve had the honor of learning from Amman’s rich history, amazing sights, and from people’s stories of religious tolerance and cultural identity. Jordan is known around the world for its devotion to peace and humanitarian efforts as it takes in thousands of refugees every year and provides them with the safety and security they can’t find in their own countries. Because of this, Jordan has an incredibly diverse population filled with many different cultures, religions, and identities; yet, somehow, the spirit of unity and tolerance is preserved.
I was witness to this in what became one of my favorite experiences here in Jordan as I took a taxi to school one morning and met one of the kindest drivers in Amman. Immediately after I got in the car, my driver, Khaled, demonstrated genuine interest in who I was and where I came from. I shared that I was from Costa Rica, but I had migrated to the United States when I was younger and was completing my studies there. Enthusiastically, he told me he had moved to Jordan from Palestine when he was young and that Jordan had provided him with opportunities he wouldn’t have had if he had stayed. He shared that his parents had made the difficult decision to leave their home, because they wished to provide him and his brothers with a safe life and better opportunities. Curious, I asked him if he struggled to find an identity as a Palestinian in Jordan. He explained that because of Jordan’s diverse nature and continuous acceptance of refugees, he had been able to take on the Jordanian identity proudly while also identifying as Palestinian. He told me that his background would always be Palestinian, but that he also identified with the Jordanian national identity for the country had provided him with a safe home and great generosity. As traffic got worse and our time together lengthened, he pointed to the Qur’an sitting on the car’s dashboard and explained that he was Muslim and that he was also thankful to Jordan for allowing him to preserve and practice this identity safely. He then asked me what religion I practiced and I explained that I am Christian. Demonstrating, once again, great excitement, he proceeded to talk about how our religions were similar and how much he admired Jesus as a man of good deeds. He explained how our being able to have these conversations was what made the Jordanian identity so great for him. The genuine interest in learning about my identity, his life story and open-mindedness, and our being able to share our experiences is a reflection of the accepting and welcoming Jordanian society that I have grown to love during this time.
During this last month here, I hope to continue learning about this central part of Jordanian history and society. Even if I don’t get to learn in as much depth as I did with Khaled, I am eternally grateful for this experience for it gave me a more personal glance at this country’s diverse yet tolerant nature.