The notion of hospitality is often associated with professional hotels and restaurants. But in Jordan, there’s an authentic and widespread culture of hospitality that’s reflected in the everyday interactions of locals with visitors—beginning with a keen desire to make everyone feel welcome.

Eager consideration is demonstrated throughout daily Jordanian life. You’ll notice it in the ubiquity of living rooms with plump pillows prepped to receive guests and in the emphasis on stuffing visitors with local delicacies like creamy chickpea hummus and spiced roast lamb.

Scan any traveler’s Jordan photos, and you’ll find familiar scenes of attentive restaurateurs, local guides cheerful with pride as they explain the country’s heritage and culture, and shopkeepers serving up small cups of sweet mint tea to the customers browsing in their stores. You’ll see travelers sitting on carpeted floors, their legs crossed, in front of a diverse feast prepared by eager hosts. 

Many such customs of warmth originated with Bedouin culture. And in some areas of Jordan, including the beautiful wilderness of Wadi Rum, Bedouins still open their tents to those interested in experiencing the nomadic desert life firsthand. A new acquaintance might peck you on both cheeks, a longstanding tradition intended to make even newcomers feel like family.

When it comes to sharing a meal, the term “Jordanian invitation” means that the host expects you to bring nothing but your appetite. Food is a key symbol of hospitality and any Jordanian host will try his or her best to overfeed you. Expect classics like Mansaf, which incorporates rice, broth, and meat; it’s the national dish and a symbol of generosity. Food is often served family style, with the intention of unifying diners and creating an instant sense of community.

Coffee is another Jordanian staple with a higher purpose, conveying a sense of welcome while also encouraging the conversation that deepens relationships. It should be sipped slowly and in good company while savoring the deep, rich flavor of fresh-roasted beans typically blended with a touch of dried cardamom. When you’re done with the coffee, either hold up your empty cup to receive more or shake it from side to side to indicate that you’re finished. And once you’ve completed this ritual, you and your host are no longer strangers.

Even if you don’t speak Arabic, a visit to Jordan means that you’ll soon learn to recognize an oft-repeated key phrase: “ahlan wa sahlan,” which means “I welcome you.” It captures the generosity of the Jordanian people and their eagerness to make all visitors feel welcome and cared for. You’ll arrive to find smiling hosts and leave with a smile of your own.

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