Demystifying Traveling in Jordan As a Woman


Jordan ignited an insatiable craving in me for the Middle East. When I visited earlier this year in the “Lost City" of Petra—a UNESCO World Heritage site with ruins dating back to 400 B.C. which included towering buildings carved directly into pink sandstone cliff faces—relit my anthropological curiosity. Jordan is in the epicenter of where civilization began.

On the summit of Jordan's tallest peak, the 1,832-meter Jebel Um Adami, I gawked at Saudi Arabia's strikingly rugged mountains, and in the vast Wadi Rum—a reserve with rolling crimson-orange dunes and behemoth sandstone towers where I trekked by countless free-roaming camels. Such moments of awakening remind me of our planet's incomprehensible geologic timeline, biodiversity, and how we humans are conditioned to our immediate environments. Beneath the brilliant stars in the backcountry, I relished each bite of Zarb, a traditional meat dish that's cooked underground in an earth oven, while connecting with my Bedouin hosts, who graciously offered their hospitality.

The Near East, as Jordan is known, imprinted magic on me. Though, the most common questions when I returned stateside always circled back to my safety as a traveler and woman in the Middle East.

Photo credit: Morgan Tilton

I can understand why travelers who have never been introduced to this region feel skeptic. Unrest recently and historically oscillates in each country that surrounds Jordan: Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt. Due to the conflict in neighboring countries, Jordan suffers a safety misperception despite being stable according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association.

To help dissolve negative stereotypes, Jordan hosted the Middle East's first-ever adventure tourism conference in 2017—called Adventure Connect. This conference brings together the travel industry's international stakeholders so that they can connect and exchange ideas so their business ecosystem can flourish. With a progressive vision, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan recognized the benefits of the inaugural event and committed to hosting the conference for three consecutive years including the forthcoming Adventure Connect, in 2019.

According to Lina Annab, minister of Tourism and Antiquities, to date, forty new Jordanian adventure travel itineraries launched and tourism arrivals increased by 15 percent in the first quarter alone, compared to 2017.

Next year, local suppliers such as tour operators and accommodations are anticipating a revenue spike of another 13 percent.

Jordan Tourist Guide and Morgan Tilton; PC: Morgan Tilton

Jordan's tourism growth is supported by a surge of travelers from our fifty states. The number of U.S. citizens entering the country increased by 4% from 2013 to 2016, according to the World Tourism Organization and Intrepid Travel spotlighted the Middle East as the top-growing travel region in the world.

In my perspective, the flourishing and consistent health of Jordan's adventure tourism sector is an indication of social, economic, and political security. Of course, as visitors to another country and culture, it's essential for us to maintain a lens of safety precautions and etiquette for the cultural norms. Aside from my personal experience in Jordan, it's an ongoing mission of mine as a journalist to share other's views. Here, I speak with Jordanian Salam Shaqdeeh, operations manager for Abercrombie & Kent Jordan. She's worked for the luxury travel company for close to five years. Sharing Shaqdeeh's viewpoint helps to broaden our understanding of Jordan's local culture and demystify a few common misconceptions or misinformation regarding the female identity in Jordan.

Morgan Tilton: What is the common stereotype about how women need to dress in Jordan versus what is the reality?

Salam Shaqdeeh: The stereotype is that women are all covered, like in long sleeves and so on, but this is not the case. If you visit Amman, you will notice that this is a modern city where women walk freely, go to work, drive cars, go to nightclubs—they do everything. Of course, we have the conservative part of our culture, such as people who are veiled [author's note: the veil is also called a hijab], but we have the contrary as well.

MT: What do you recommend travelers wear?

SS: For my clients and all of our guests, I always recommend layered clothing, especially in places like Petra, because the people of Petra are of the Bedouin tribe.

That's it—you don't need to cover up. Jordan is not a conservative country.

In this context, layered clothing does not mean covering your hair, but like having a jacket and shorts on, because the weather changes. In the morning hours, it's a bit chilly. At noon, it's a bit hot, so you can take the jacket off. At night, you need a jacket, because it gets chilly again.

MT: Tell us more about the history behind the hijab.

SS: My personal opinion—not societal opinion—is that the hijab stems from religion. It is not only for Islam but is also for Christianity: [we] see nuns who are covered up.

Some people here in Jordan also think of the hijab as a traditional practice. If you're a girl and reach puberty, around 13 or 14 years old, you cover your head. In that case, it's not something accustomed by the religion.

MT: Is the hijab also a functional or aesthetic wardrobe piece for men? I met a handful of male tour guides who wear the scarves, and they said that it protects against the sun and sand.

SS: Yes, and some Jordanians do wear the hijab as a tradition, to show our traditional outfit and to show that they are a true Jordanian.

MT: What is your response to the negative stereotypes regarding safety as a traveler in Jordan?

SS: Jordan is centralized, unfortunately, in a crazy neighborhood. People see Jordan as a scary destination where you have to be careful, and you don't go out unless you are accompanied by someone of the local culture.

I always receive the same question whenever I have guests staying in Amman; they ask me, 'What's the best place to go out for cafés or souvenirs?' I recommend areas where locals are present and scattered so that travelers can do a walk safely and it's okay to walk by themselves. I personally spend most of my time walking in late hours and at night and no one touches me or harasses me.

Jordan is safe to walk around, even in places like Petra or Wadi Rum, because you are in the hospitality of Bedouins, and with the local people. They do not attack visitors. They would see it as really shameful if you were harassed or if someone was annoying you. They perceive you as a guest, and they need to protect you. They protect everyone.

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Choosing the Right Corporate Structure: Which Business Entity Should You Go With?

Business entities can be defined as the corporate, tax and legal structures which an organization chooses to officially follow at the time of its official registration with the state authorities. In total, there are fifteen different types of business entities, which would be the following.

  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership or LP
  • Limited Liability Partnership or LLP
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership or LLLP
  • Limited Liability Company or LLC
  • Professional LLC
  • Professional Corporation
  • B-Corporation
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Estate
  • Cooperative Organization
  • Municipality

As estates, municipalities and nonprofits do not concern the main topic here, the following discussions will exclude the three.

Importance of the State: The Same Corporate Structure Will Vary from State to State

All organizations must register themselves as entities at the state level in United States, so the rules and regulations governing them differ quite a bit, based on the state in question.

What this means is that a Texas LLC for example will not operate under the same rules and regulations as an LLC registered in New York. Also, an LLC in Texas can have the same name as another company that is registered in a different state, but it's not advisable given how difficult it could become in the future while filing for patents.

To know more about such quirks and step-by-step instructions on how to start an LLC in Texas, visit howtostartanllc.com, and you could get started with the online process immediately. The information and services on the website are not just limited to Texas LLC organizations either, but they have a dedicated page for guiding fresh entrepreneurs through the corporate tax structures in every state.

Sole Proprietorship: Default for Freelancers and Consultants

There is only one owner or head in a sole proprietorship, and that's what makes it ideal for one-man businesses that deal with freelance work and consulting services. Single man sole proprietorships are automatic in nature, therefore, registration with the state is unnecessary.

Sole proprietorships are also suited to a degree for singular teams such as a small construction crew, a group of handymen, or even miniature establishments in retail. Also, this puts the owner's personal financial status at jeopardy.

Due to the fact that a sole proprietorship entity puts all responsibilities for paying taxes and returning loans, it directly jeopardizes the sole proprietor's personal belongings in case of a lawsuit, or even after a failed loan repayment.

This is the main reason why even the most miniature establishments find LLCs to be a better option, but this is not the only reason either. Sole proprietors also find it hard to start their business credit or even get significant business loans.

General Partnership: Equal Responsibilities

The only significant difference between a General Partnership and a Sole Proprietorship is the fact that two or more owners share responsibilities and liabilities equally in a General Partnership, as opposed to there being only one responsible and liable party in the latter. Other than that, they more or less share the same pros and cons.

Registration with the state is not necessary in most cases, and although it still puts the finances of the business owners at risk here, the partnership divides the liability, making it a slightly better option than sole proprietorship for small teams of skilled workers or even small restaurants and such.

Limited Partnership: Active and Investing Partners

A Limited Partnership (LP) has to be registered with a state and whether it has just two or more partners, there are two different types of partners in all LP establishments.

The active partner or the general partner is the one who is responsible and liable for operating the business in its entirety. The silent or investing partner, on the other hand, is the one who invests funds or other resources into the organization. The latter has very limited liability or control over the company's operations.

It's a perfect way for investors to put their money into a sector that they are personally not experienced with, but have access to people who do. From the perspective of the general partners, they have similar responsibilities and liabilities to those in a general partnership.

It's the default strategy for startups to find funding and as long as the idea is sound, it has made way for multiple successful entrepreneurial ventures in the recent past. However, personal liability still looms as a dangerous prospect for the active partners to consider.

Limited Liability Company and Professional LLC

Small businesses have no better entity structure to follow than the LLC, given that it takes multiple good ideas from various corporate structures, virtually eliminating most cons that are inherent to them. Any and all small businesses that are in a position to or are in requirement of signing up with their respective state, usually choose an LLC entity because of the following reasons:

  • It removes the dangerous aspect of personal liability if the business falls in debt or is sued for reparations
  • The state offers the choice of choosing between corporation and partnership tax slabs
  • The limited legalities and paperwork make it suited for small businesses

While more expensive than a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, a professional LLC is going to be a much safer choice for freelancers and consultants, especially if it involves risk of any kind. This makes it ideal for even single man businesses such a physician's practice or the consultancy services of an accountant.

B, C and S-Corporation

By definition, all corporation entities share most of the same attributes and as the term suggests, they're more suited for larger or at least medium sized businesses in any sector. The differences between the three are vast once you delve into the tax structures which govern each entity.

However, the basic differences can be observed by simply taking a look at each of their definitive descriptions, as stated below.

C-Corporation – This is the default corporate entity for large or medium-large businesses, complete with a board of directors, a CEO/CEOs, other executive officers and shareholders.

The shareholders or owners are not liable for debts or legal dispute settlements in a C-Corporation, and they may qualify for lower tax slabs than is possible in any other corporate structure. On becoming big enough, they also have the option to become a publicly traded company, which is ideal for generating growth investments.

B- Corporation – the same rules apply as a C-Corporation, but due to their registered and certified commitment to social and environmental standards maintenance, B-Corporations will have a more lenient tax structure to deal with.

S-Corporation – Almost identical to a C-Corporation, the difference is in scale, as S-Corporations are only meant for small businesses, general partnerships and even sole proprietors. The main difference here is that due to the creation of a pass-through entity, aka a S-Corporation, the owner/owners do not have liability for business debt and legal disputes. They also are not taxed on the corporate slab.

Cooperative: Limited Application

A cooperation structure in most cases is a voluntary partnership of limited responsibilities that binds people in mutual interest - it is an inefficient structure due to the voluntary nature of its legal bindings, which often makes it unsuitable for traditional business operations. Nevertheless, the limited liability clause exempts all members of a cooperative from having personal liability for paying debts and settling claims.

This should clear up most of the confusion surrounding the core concepts and their suitability. In case you are wondering why the Professional Corporation structure wasn't mentioned, then that's because it has very limited applications. Meant for self-employed, skilled professionals or small organizations founded by them, they have less appeal now in comparison to an LLC or an S-Corporation.