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Imagining Jordan

The storied country of Jordan, with its tales of Lawrence of Arabia, its multicolored desert sands, and awe-inspiring Wadi Rum expanse was a big draw for this year’s Roving Race. On the day before the 250-kilometer adventure began, we caught up with various competitors to see whether their expectations of the country were being met, and what was striking them the most of their experiences so far.


Natalia Sierant, a Hong Kong-based, Polish competitor explained that she has traveled to Egypt and Dubai before, but she has been struck at how liberal Jordan is for an Arabic country. She says she was particularly looking forward to seeing the Hill of the Citadel in Amman and of finishing the race in the historic setting of Petra.


I thought it would be hotter,” she adds. “And am really impressed with the cleanliness.” Her highlights thus far have been the rooftop dining at the Wild Jordan Restaurant, with its views of Amman and amazing, organic food. On the topic of food, many competitors have pointed to the mouth-watering hummus and the out-of-this-world Shish kebabs.


It’s a very developed,” points out Sydney’s Susan King. “The country is patriotic with lots of Jordanian flags.” Karen Wei, a Canadian based in Hong Kong says she expected Amman to be more cosmopolitan, like Dubai. Instead, she found it to be rustic and traditional. She says that she was struck by the very male-orientated nature of society and its very friendly people.


Before the race, Karen made a trip to the Dead Sea, which borders Israel and the West Bank. She wasn’t alone. Canadian competitor Grant Mowbray also took a trip to this legendary site: “My best moment was covering myself in black mud at the Dead Sea,” he says. For others however, the sheer nerves at work before the race put any thoughts of traveling out of the realm of possibility.


Grant says he’s been struck by how Westernized the country is—yet with signs of traditional living all around. “Goat herders just living next to the road was another interesting observation,” he says. Alex Johnson who is resident in Japan but originally hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, explains that this is a return trip. “I was in Jordan 15 years ago,” he says. “I love the culture and the history, I’m also interested in the politics and economics.”


Perhaps the greatest element of RacingThePlanet events is how they take people from around the world into rarely travelled places, allowing them to mix directly with the local people and helping to banish stereotypes created by the world’s media along the way.


The friendly people of Jordan have truly impressed Yang Junhyeok, a student at Dong-A University in Busan, South Korea. “ I initially thought that Jordan would be a tense country,” he says. “But the people I’ve met are very friendly.”  


Everyone is in mutual agreement about one thing: the race’s conclusion in the archeological city of Petra is the biggest draw of the entire trip. With its rock cut architecture and water conduit systems, this rose-colored city harks back to the sixth century—and promises to transport racers (and dedicated Indiana Jones fans) to another world completely.


By Clare Morin


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