Moving guide: Going to Jordan
by Laura Fulton, Freelance Writer Published: 00:00 December 15, 2009
For many people, Jordan is a place to see the past - from Roman ruins to Crusader castles, desert citadels to religious sites. Considering the credentials of the royal family, it's no wonder Jordan has such an interesting history.
The current head of state, King Abdullah II is renowned for guiding his country through difficult times to create a place of peace, stability and moderation. It's the king's forward-thinking, erudite wife Queen Rania, however, who has skyrocketed Jordan's ‘cool' factor into the stratosphere. Known for her philanthropic work, she has used her status to become one of Forbes magazine's 100 most powerful women in 2009 - again.
The efforts of Jordan's monarchs, both past and present, to create a climate of openness, tolerance and compassion have transformed modern Jordan into a peaceful, comfortable place to live. Lebanon-born RK says Jordan is safe, modern and clean. "People are generally pleasant. We are lucky that Jordan is a liberal and modern country. It is Muslim, of course, and one should respect the culture, but no one interferes in what you wear or do as long as it's not too shocking." The decision to move to Jordan should not be made lightly, she advises. "I would visit first, take a look at what it has to offer and see if you can find a good paying job. You have to weigh your options and see if you can afford living here."
If the history, climate and landscape of this gorgeous nation aren't enough, consider what's fast approaching on Jordan's horizon. Abu Dhabi's Al Maabar International Investments, a joint venture between Abu Dhabi's six leading investment companies, is on schedule with its mega mixed-use waterfront project in Aqaba on the Red Sea. The $10 billion (Dh36.7 billion) Marsa Zayed development will include high-rise residential towers, retail, recreational, entertainment, business and financial districts, and a number of branded hotels, plus several marinas designed to transform Aqaba into a premier yachting destination. The first phase is scheduled for completion at the end of this year.
Expat tips: Perihan Bermamet
Perihan, a Jordanian who has also lived in Abu Dhabi, says, "Jordan is politically stable and there is tolerance among various religions and ethnic groups that live there. Jordan's weather is something I missed when I moved to the UAE.The temperature is moderate throughout the summer and gets chilly in winter; spring is short and lasts for less than a month but is fantastic!"
Zein Al Fawwaz
A Jordanian who lived in the UAE and then returned to settle in Amman in 2006, Zein Al Fawwaz loves her native land. "During the last ten years Jordan has changed a lot. Our society is getting more exposed to the outside world and becoming more flexible." For Zein, the greatest advantage of going back and settling in Jordan is her family and friends. "One important advantage of living in Jordan is that you live with your people — you share the same interests, the same culture, and the same background," she explains.
Pros and cons
There's a lot to see and do in Jordan, from scuba diving in the Red Sea to exploring the ruins at Petra. "Jordan has lots of history," says Perihan.
The climate is relatively mild for this part of the world, and each of the four distinct seasons affords its own brand of fun.
For all the old world charm, Jordan is every bit as comfortable as any contemporary city. "We have everything available," says Zein. "The best schools, very good infrastructure, good facilities and a secure environment."
Although most nations claim to be friendly, most visitors to Jordan agree the people are warm. "Jordanians are generally down to earth. Their hospitality and generosity are evident at all times," says Perihan.
According to a report published earlier this year by Bayt, one of the Middle East's top job sites, 39 per cent of professionals in Jordan are not satisfied with their salaries. Something to consider for anyone who isn't already financially secure.
Though you can find a nice place to live for a smaller price than you might in Abu Dhabi, jobs are harder to come by, says Zein. Anyone wanting to move to Jordan should wait for a good job offer. "Never arrive and wait until you find a job as this is very hard these days."
Even the biggest cities are quite small, so the expat community is tiny, which means everyone in town will know what you had for breakfast this morning. Comforting for some, stifling for others.
Perihan says the traffic is bad. "People do not respect the traffic rules while driving." She adds that it's a bit expensive. "Compared to Abu Dhabi, food, cars and gasoline are more expensive. However, accommodation, schooling and labour are much more reasonable, depending on your income."
Rent or buy?
If you're not sure how long you'll be staying in Jordan, renting is a very viable option. Though most Jordanians buy their property, most expats usually rent furnished apartments. Rents can range from around Dh36,000 per annum for a student flat to Dh100,000 per annum or more for a luxury flat. Rents for a good sized villa start around Dh 110,000.
Unlike some neighbouring countries, expats are free to buy property in Jordan. Two bedroom villas have been advertised for sale for around Dh320,000, and four bedrooms advertised for around Dh525,000, although some ran as high as Dh3 million.
If you're looking to buy a property to rent out, rent return is about 6 per cent in Jordan. Whether you're looking to rent or buy, the best place to begin is a property agency such as Viviun (www.viviun.com), Property World (www.propertyworld.com/Jordan), or Edraj Real Estate (www.edraj.com).
"Most people live in the capital city," says RK, a resident of Jordan. "Other cities don't have the facilities you need such as hospitals, entertainment and shopping areas." Zein Al Fawwaz agrees. "All major business and projects are located in Amman. It is a developed and modern city and you can find all kinds of things to do. Also, a lot of people enjoy hanging out in the older part of Amman downtown. It's a small city so you can easily reach any place and it doesn't take much time. Even though Amman is the capital, it is a small city where everyone knows everyone; you don't feel like a stranger at all and it's a very warm society to live in."
Combining the lure of a traditional port village and the appeal of luxury, Aqaba is set to blend the best of both worlds.
The ancient street winding up the hill and through the old part of the city from the Red Sea to the castle is thronging with shops and local craftsmen, whereas the sleek new Marsa Zayed development promises ultramodern comfort.
Though Aqaba may very soon out-charm its sister city of Amman, which sits 320km to its north, RK points out that at the moment "the only people who live in Aqaba are those with jobs there."
Property transactions in Jordan declined by 38 per cent in the first eight months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008, although purchases by foreigners increased, a government report found. According to figures released by the Department of Land and Survey, foreign purchases of apartments, commercial units and real estate assets rose 22 per cent in the same period in 2009 against the first eight months of 2008.
"Jordanians cherish family life," says Perihan. "I always see relatives getting together at night during the summer having picnics and barbecues. "There are many nice restaurants and nightclubs in Amman that are especially packed during the weekends, although people with limited income can't afford such luxuries."