The Trashing of Jordan

IMG_3633The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has a very nearly indescribable beauty. Certainly it can’t be condensed to words like ‘arid’, ‘desolate’, or any of the infinitude of words one might use to describe a desert land. This country has been also been blessed with lush farmlands, a (very) few forests, rivers, and marshlands as well as the majestically stunning deserts. Far better pens than mine have tried. The late King Hussein said, “Jordan has a strange, haunting beauty and a sense of timelessness. Dotted with the ruins of empires once great, it is the last resort of yesterday in the world of tomorrow. I love every inch of it.”

I had the very distinct pleasure of hiking a short distance in Wadi Numira recently. The cool clear waters of the stream were refreshing as they wended through an imposing siq. The solid, rosy stone of the mountains rose imposingly, at times nearly cutting off the light of the sun. I was moved and overwhelmed by the work of Nature. Thanks to the erosive nature of the ever-moving water I could see millions of years of sedimentary deposits; solid stone overlaying tiny gravel again and again. The tenacity of nature was on display at every turn. Seeds caught in crevices, high up in the stone walls, took root and sprang to life as orchids, palms, and many others.

IMG_3676It seems impossible that anyone could visit this area and not be impressed by its natural wonder. Sadly, this exquisite display does very little to dampen the enthusiasm of the average Jordanian for dumping his trash when he is finished with his recreation and leaves it behind until next visit.

The ever-present plastic shopping bags, food containers, water bottles

At least this guy bagged his trash before abandoning it...

At least this guy bagged his trash before abandoning it…

and even the odd piece of clothing and shoes litter the ground and the streams. Oh, the shopping bags! The tiniest item purchased in a shop absolutely must be wrapped in a bag, which is immediately tossed upon leaving the shop and goes flying through the air. They are snagged in trees, on utility wires and everywhere you can see. From time to time, one flies into my balcony. I see them flying through the air so much that I’ve designated the plastic bag as “the national bird

One shoe. How do you lose just one shoe?

One shoe. How do you lose just one shoe?

of Jordan”. The national bird is quite colorful, ranging from black right through to red, yellow, and green. It’s quite sad that the “national bird” has been allowed to multiply in such massive numbers.

Littering seems, to these foreign eyes at least, to be a national pastime. I see it every day when I leave my flat. People park their cars and dump cigarette packets, coffee cups, and other assorted trash that IMG_3666accumulated in the car onto the street for the street sweepers to come along and collect it. Driving in the streets, one is treated to the sight of all manner of trash being thrown from the windows. Over the years, I’ve asked people about it. “Why do you throw your trash on the ground?” I’ve yet to get an answer that is either definitive or acceptable.

We host around 8 million visitors IMG_3648each year. There should be a national embarrassment at the way our environment is trashed. We should be horrified by the number of birds and animals, of which we have very few, are sickened and killed by the pollution.

How does a society in which littering has become so ingrained reverse that trend and take pride in the beauty with which we have been blessed? Each IMG_3656and every one of us should treasure the history of one of the oldest civilizations on earth.

Related article:

Middle East Moments – Don’t They See It?


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