How we are supposed to be‚Ķ moving

So, here we are again! I hope you had the best holidays and wish you a great 2014.

The last few week have been really busy. So busy that I didn’t even had time to blog. Next to a lot of work in the office, I had my hands full of on moving to another house in town!

We need attention too!

We need attention too!

Most of the time I go along on Inshallah mode and only believe something will happen when I actually see it happening (Trust me, no way I run the office on that mode! ūüėČ ) . We found a proper house which needed to have certain things fixed but that would be done in a few days. Other than I expected, it turned out to be ready in 2 days after we went to look. So I had not only to get my mind set on moving, I also needed to get everything packed. Last Minute.

The moving went really on Jordanian style. We were looking for a different rental house for a while but didn’t find something really worth moving. The thing was that our previous house was 4 high and really cold. So cold that it was colder on the inside of my house, than it was in my fridge.

The next day we had a peleton of sisters and brothers in law coming over to help us. The women up in the house, the men down to load it in the ‘Bedouin Style’ truck. Hubby picked up boxes from the supermarkt to get things packed and me and the sisters moved everything to the front of the house. Soon the matrasses we use as couch in the ‘winterroom’ were thrown down the window, just as the blankets and other things that shouldn’t break.

And then the next thing came. Getting all the furniture down. Now, you would think it’s only down right? Yes, but then you need to go back up again to get the next load! Many times and 4 high. I was exhausted but since the people were moving our stuff, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving them without my help.

The fully loaded truck

The fully loaded truck

On the end of the day, the whole truck was filled up and on its way towards the new house. On the picture you can see it was loaded so fully, that with the first corner the truck went from left to right and I was hoping nothing would fall off. Some final stuff & all the people who helped were loaded into 3 other cars and by that time we had everything on the move.

Arriving to the new house, all was still on the truck and I was pointing out where everything needed to be. We spend all night to clean the new kitchen, putting the bed and closets back together, etc. Others took their own hand in designing our new house which made me later change some things from Arabic style to my own more practical style. Not everything was finished yet but we did it, we moved!

Our new view

Our new view

The snow

The snow

A late sunset captured from our house

A late sunset captured from our house

Only a few days after that, the snow fell down the skies. But we were happy in our new and warm house and a beautiful view over the valley, town and the mountains of Petra.



How we supposed to… kiss!

Next to the whole hand shaking thing (click here to read my post about that), giving kisses on the cheeks is also a part of the greetings ritual. Also here counts the rule that women keep themselves for their husbands and only kiss men in the direct family (brothers, fathers and fathers in law). Though, this depends on if the men need to pray or their interpretation of Islam.

So, once you have figured out who to kiss, the next  decision  should be made: how many do you give? The average is about 3 kisses on one cheek. but, if you have missed the person or are happy to see him/her, the number might just run up to 10/20 kisses (yes, seen and experienced that, takes ages)

Then you need to decide along all the possibilities if you should do it on one cheek or on both. And since nobody seems to has rules for this, you need to be careful that you avoid an  accidental kiss on the lips.

A thing that I thought was strange in the beginning, but where I’m totally used to now: the men kiss each other and hold their hands. I know some other Western Cultures do this, but in Holland it’s considered weird and even a little bit gay to touch or kiss a men of the same sex. (For Arab men reading this: don’t worry about it, just a cultural difference!)¬†It surely surprised my brother and father, being kissed by a boy for the first time.

Former president Bush holding hands with King Abdullah from Saudi Arabia

A bosa (kiss) from Jordan,





How we supposed to… shake hands

Not only for Western men it may be confusing to not shake hands with women.

Local women keep themselves exclusively for their husband, so any other men outside the family is not shaken hands. You may find a women who does, but this would be an exception in the town I live.

For all guys visiting Jordan: don’t be concerned about being rude not to shake hands! It’s even more polite when you don’t even try it.

For me, I always say hello and shake hands with women. Inside our outside the family. I would be rude when I wouldn’t. It comes together with kisses and the Arabic phrase for “how are you, any news?”, followed by the answer “Al Hamdullilah” (A kind of thank you to Allah for still being alive).

For me, shaking hands with men is actually more confusing than you would think. Why? Because when men did their ritual washing before praying they can not touch women until they finished their prayers. Or even for a longer time when they don’t feel like washing again for the next prayers. Some men don’t keep to this rule, some do. It’s not that they refuse to give hands to women at all times, like sometimes is pointed out in the Media, but at certain moments. At least by the Islamic people who I know. It’s all about the interpretation of the Quran.

So I never know if they washed, if they would mind washing again or if they don’t. Always confusing and frustrating, while sometimes I was offered a sleeve to shake.

What now?
Because most of the time I still don’t know if I can shake hands or not, my strategy resulted in waiting until the man offers his hand to shake. If he doesn’t I know enough. In the beginning it was frustrating and I thought it even was insulting that they wouldn’t shake my hand. Now I am fine with it, and know that it’s just a part of the culture and religion.

You can look at it different ways. If the men don’t want to shake hands because they need to pray, you may feel like they think your dirty or not clean. Or that they are too lazy to wash again. But that’s the Western kind of view. Here they do this out of respect for you and/or your husband, since touching a¬†¬†“strange”¬†women would be¬†¬†interfering in a marriage and is something rather private. And in a culture where women are covered and keeping the whole hand shaking things for just their husbands, shaking hands may encourage thoughts in the man’s brain, which he shouldn’t have when praying.

My answer to that? I’m just too hot to handle! ūüėČ

This was again your reporter from Jordan!


50 shades of Sheikh

Last week we had an important visitor coming over to our house. Apparently we had some evil or negative spirits hanging around which needed to be cleansed. Strange things did happen, but all were perfectly to be figured out with logical sense….

(VIP) visitors mean that I need to clean the house (not really my expertise, neither hobby). And under high-speed, while an actual time was mentioned on which we could expect our visitor and I had to do some other things as well. Again my hurry turned out to be completely unnecessary while our guest arrived awfully late at our place.

In advance we needed to prepare a bottle of drinking water and a small container with oil. You think why? Yes, that was what I thought as well…

By the time everything and everyone was set, Allahu Akhbar time was there. Alright, go pray. Yalla Yalla! I don’t mind waiting even longer‚Ķ

Sweet tea and some cookies before coming to the action. The VIP first starts whispering in the open container with oil. What it exactly was, no idea. I suspect something from the Holy Quran. He did the same with the bottle of water. Luckily, no sputtering, while later it turned out that we need to drink this water and use the olive oil to protect us, the house, garden and even the car.

After the whispering part we (me and husband) needed to sit next to the Sheikh. First question was if we experienced hair loss lately. I had a really hard time not to start laughing really hard. Anyone who knows husband also knows that his starting boldness is a very difficult and not to forget serious issue to deal with. While I always bully him with the fact that he has such great genes (don’t worry, he also bullies back!), I couldn’t resist a laugh. You know that moment in where you need to be serious and not piss anyone off with your laughing?

Alright Carmen, focus! While we sat next to him (our butt on the ground, legs straight forward and hands on our upper legs) he started with Quran verses. Halfway we received the question if our hands and feet were feeling heavy. Of course I was the spoilsport while my answer was ‘No, I’m just relaxed’. So another round of verses came.

Towards the end, Mohammad was the first to receive the chasing away of negative spirits from our bodies. Again a moment of focus for me, while it was such a strange thing I was experiencing, that I started giggling again.

With an ordinary pen our visitor started hitting husband’s toes. After pointing out the toe that hurts the most, the hitting continues and is ended by pulling the certain toe until it makes the ‘khht’ sound.

Then, of course, it was my turn as well. I can tell you that I had a really hard time not to call our VIP bad words! Jesus, how much pain a normal pen can cause in that man’s hands. Ayaiaiai! Right on the nails and knuckles, repeated many times‚Ķ Why my session took longer than the husband’s? Did anyone expect me to have more negative energy then others? I thought I was the sunshine of the house haha. Well if that damn negative energy is not gone now, I’m completely lost!

After that the usual preach (he wont be the first or the last one) of me converting into another religion came. Not willing to start a discussion with this man, I just smiled and listened…

I know that I should be open-minded while I live in a completely new and other culture. And I do try adjust to the local customs as much as possible, as any country expects from foreigners coming to live in their nation. Although every person mentioned in above story surely means it well, this is just out of my league. Plus, I’m happy about the way I am. I believe in logical thinking, good hearts, respect and friendliness, no matter what background or religion you have.

Though, it gives me opportunities to have a real good laugh every now and then, realizing what strange or crazy adventures I experience here.

Welcome to my life, where everything is unexpected or unplanned and nothing goes as thought it would!



How we supposed to be… driving

Camels ahead

You might have noticed the warning sign for camels which are not there for nothing. Driving around in the South, we experienced multiple occasions where camels were panicking and galloping across the highway with as an extra result cars going everywhere. Dangerous, those camels! Image hitting one with your car….

Another kind of cattle that likes to use the road: Goats and sheep. Don’t be surprised when you find them on the middle of high way eating some of the bushes or crossing it.

Traffic in Jordan is great. At least when you’re up for a bumpy ride!

Not only you’ll find a lot of holes in the asphalt, there are¬†¬†speed bumps¬†¬†on the highway. Since you¬†¬†wouldn’t expect them there, it might just happen that you hit them hard, remaining in shock about what just happened.

Tip: the flashing and blinking lights at the side of the road are from shops, trying to stand out from the crowd. Most of the time this is also where the  speed bumps  are located.


For me, an other issue are the truckers. There are regulations, but no-one seems to stick to it: driving times, on which side of the road they should drive or how much they should weigh. The result is trucks driving plus 100 km an hour going down the hill, or slowly climbing it up. Or just standing still on the highway. And the rule of the biggest counts: they don’t go out of the way for small cars. But seeing a (blond) woman driving might just help a little bit ūüėČ

Tip: If you’re about to drive your rental car or any other¬†¬†vehicle, don’t be shy to blink with your lights or beep the hell out of these truckers.

How many persons do fit in a car? kid-driving-car-300x2221

Well, that record must be held by Jordanians. In the small towns you’re likely to come across cars packed with people and children. ¬†Although there are regulations about safety belts, again no-one seems to stick to these! Also don’t be surprised by kids hanging out of the windows, sitting in the trunk of the pick- up or on the lap of the father pretending to drive. Babies are on mothers lap on the front seat. Personally I think these times should be over: families don’t have that much children anymore. Nowadays they would all fit in the¬†¬†seatbelt.

Rush, unless you’re not on the road

Everything goes on Inshallah-mode here. So if you’re sitting with friends or family, there’s always time to drink some tea or coffee. Until you get in the car. Then you need to rush and drive fast to reach your next stop. The theory is still that driving fast buys you time on the short-run…

Parking the car to get some groceries

Or better said: double parking. Especially in our little town of Wadi Musa this is the standard. The center of town is since a couple of years one direction. A big improvement, while the streets were not big enough and the double parking was in two directions. If you need to be at a shop and there’s no free parking space, you’re supposed to park your car just next to the other parked cars. With the¬†¬†consequence¬†¬†that (in some cases) the people driving behind you can not continue their drive,¬†¬†busses¬†¬†with tourists can not pass or the one who did park their car on the right spot can not go out.

Then the shopping goes like this:

“Oh no, there’s no parking space next to the shop. Ah well, then we drive an extra round in town.” This can go up to about 3 times an extra round, until the driver came to the conclusion that a short walk of 50 meters is quicker than driving around all the time.¬†¬†Of course¬†¬† the next time getting some groceries goes exactly the same way..

Yes, welcome to the efficiency of Jordan. 

fuel the donkey

During Ramadan

Also during Ramadan the traffic is slightly different compared to the rest of the year. In this time the most accidents happen. People don’t eat or drink all day which causes less attention to fellow traffic users. And around sunset the people rush to their homes to get some food. If you feel like living longer, don’t go on¬†the streets around this time.

Tip: Wait until the sun is down, the streets will be completely empty!

What are the actual rules?

No idea, who comes first goes first. Drive fast but when there’s police around you should drive on a lower speed. My friend and also blogger who lives in town wrote this post about it:¬†Jordanian road rules. The only thing you should say is Bismallah (protect me God). If something happens it must have been the Gods will….

I found a movie, that exactly illustrates what I mean. This guy says this is the proper way to drive in Jordan, and he’s not the only one with this opinion….

So, we (and maybe you) are supposed to be: 

  • Say Bismallah at the moment you get in the car
  • Drive with a speed 10 times faster than you think is suitable
  • Watch out for camels and goats
  • Watch out for truckers
  • Watch out for unexpected¬†¬†speed bumps
  • Watch out for holes in the asphalt
  • Beep and flash your lights when you want to pass the truckers
  • Let your kids hang around in your car
  • Don’t use your¬†¬†seatbelt!

A whole lot of things to take care about in traffic in Jordan. Personally I think it’s exhausting, while there are so much factors to take care about or that could go wrong. But I do wear the seatbelt and keep to the¬†speed limit when driving. When sitting in with a real Jordanian (and non-professional) driver, it’s a whole different story.

Please pay attention when you hit the road in Jordan.

Greetings from Petra, Jordan



This post is published in the How we supposed to be… category. How are locals or expats supposed to behave? Learn and be surprised about all the local customs. Click the category in the ¬†right menu to read the other post.

How we supposed to be‚Ķ When getting married

It’s not always easy, living as an expat in a different culture. And in my case in many circumstances, the cultural behaviors are completely the opposite that I was initially used to.

I came on this idea, to write about the cultural expectations, from a Dutch TV show called ‘ Hoe heurt het eigenlijk?’ where a Dutch host visits the jet set of Holland. Since we don’t really live in a jet set environment (Jordan is still a third world country) I figured that I wanted to make my own blog- series: How we supposed to be. In this I’ll write about what is actually expected from me.

I’ll start with the beginning of live (at least here in Jordan): Weddings. My biggest surprise about the local culture.

Would you be my fiancé?

In advance of a wedding there’s a time of engagement. In this time the marriage contract is signed at the Sheiks office, which is actually the official contract. The period from signing this contract until the big celebration is a kind of trial period, where the bride and groom to be can get to know each other better. (Nowadays, with social media they sometimes even know each other better already in advance of this period, via WhatsApp or Skype.) If it’s not working out they still can get separated and look for someone else.

How to select a partner involves multiple steps. It basically comes to this: A girl and boy/ men and women make contact with each other. (Preferably in the same family) or he/she tell a family member/ friend that they fancy each other. Another option would be the parents figuring out a good potential partner.

The next step is having dinner, where the future family in law spoils the other family to show that the ‘potential’ comes from a good household. The groom-to-be needs to pass the first commission of selection: the father and brothers of the bride. If he passes, the question is asked to the bride-to-be, which always can say no. At least as far as I have seen here in Jordan!

By the way: marrying within the family is a whole different thing here than it would be in Western countries. Here families are much bigger. 500 people would be considered a small family. People don’t marry direct cousins but those further away in the family, while they are aware of the possible complications for future babies.

Party Party! 

dabke, an Jordanian folklore dance

Men and women celebrate their wedding separately, where the men try to show their power by loud music and by singing Bedouin songs. One likes it, the other thinks it sounds like there are hooligans running through the street. But I’m sure that these guys are just really happy.

Another thing the men do is shooting with any device that makes a lot of noise. Think about machine guns, hand guns and alarm pistols, those that fire the red lights. If you are up for a long and early sleep while your neighbors open the fire with a machine gun under your bedroom window, I can assure that you’ll be up to the sealing!

Please note that they don’t shoot at each other, but up in the air. The only thing they seem to forget is that everything that goes up, also comes down again. My mother in law already looks for somewhere to hide when she hears the shooting‚Ķ. Once a big bullet dropped just next to her‚Ķ Apparently no one seems to believe the theory of gravity until they experience it themselves.

The ladies

Wedding dress including hijab, enables the bride to go outside

Not only the men, also the ladies celebrate their wedding big time. To start with, a wedding takes around 3 days up to a full week. Every day of the week family and friends come over to celebrate and the bride wears dresses in the most extravagant and bright colors. Same thing goes for the make-up, where the strangest combinations of colors are put on eye lids. Skin is powdered white since their beautiful bronze skin color doesn’t match the beauty ideals. The sisters and sisters in law sometimes dress up in the shortest dresses, since there are no men around. (The read my lips versions) It always reminds me of that TV show called ‘The travelers’. Surprisingly, I’m the one with the most clothes on, while it’s normally the other way around.

The wedding is likely to be planned before the weekend, so every family member and friend can participate on the final day. After huge dinners to feed all the guests the groom hangs golden jewelry around his bride as a kind of guarantee or investments that he’s prosperous enough to take care of her.

Beep beep, we’re married!

After these rituals the bride and groom are driven around in a car while all the other guests follow them beeping loudly through the streets to show their happiness to the rest of the village. Some newly- weds go on a honeymoon, some don’t. If not, the bride is delivered in her new house or even in the same house of the parents in law.

So shortly, we supposed to be:

  • Marry as a virgin
  • Within the family
  • Wear the most (I wouldn’t call it sexy) short dresses, the brightest colors and highest heels
  • Of course you need to wear an abaya (to cover, big dress) when you go over the street to reach the party.
  • Demand a good amount of gold
  • Live in with your parents in law
  • Immediately bring some babies to this world

Luckily, my family in law accepts most of the time that I come from a different culture and don’t do all those, in my eyes strange, things. And for Mohammad it was even easier, since I was unaware of the fact that I could demand gold!

Could you be like you’re supposed to be?


Love from Jordan,


Meet the family



Eid is a time when the whole family comes together. After Ramadan, Eid al Fitr (also known as Sugar Feast) is celebrated. With a lot of sweets (See here how we made mamoul cookies) and friendly wishes to each other. All dressed up pretty for this special occasion, so we took some nice pictures of the kids in the family.

We tried to get some nice shots, where you see kids being kids. The problem over here is that as soon they see my camera, they start posing the strangest poses without any smile. Probably because they see it from the adults, who actually don’t have any wedding/family picture with a smile. (At least not the ones I saw!) After making them laugh making funny faces or from a distance zoomed in, I made below pictures.

PS: Did you remember my post about remembering names in Jordan? It took me quite some time to remember the names of these kids (and from some kids I didn’t make pictures). ¬†I’ll put the names with the pictures, so you can see the names.

PPS: Do you wish to meet these cuties in real? Book your local prepared dinner with In2Jordan. They’d love to meet you!

Here are the pictures!

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