Have you met Mahmoud?

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Amman, Jordan

As an independent traveler I have always been a bit snobbish about tour guides.

But when I spent 5 days with Hayley in Churchill I started to realize that they can actually make a travel experience.

Here in Jordan I have spent 10 days with Mahmoud my guide and Rami my driver.

They show me the sites and Mahmoud explains the history but there is so much more.

We’ve become friends.

During the day we have lunch with Rami, who makes me laugh despite the language barrier. 

At night Mahmoud and I eat dinner together and talk about everything, our cultural difference, our similiarities, we laugh about people from other countries.

He is patient with all of my many many questions: why do women wear headscarves? why do some show hair and others do not?

What is happening in Syria? What are the wedding traditions of Bedouins? What should I wear? Do I need to cover my shoulders? Do people like tourists? Why do people pray 5 times a day?

We also talk about life, having children, traveling alone, learning other cultures.

He wants to do the full Camino de Santiago which I am too lazy to do. He’d love to have a bed in a van and just travel around like Germans in Turkey.

Mahmoud asks Rami to stop the car often to take a photos.
weaving rug
Here Mahmoud takes a photo of me learning to weave a rug.

Within a few days it feels like we are old friends. Mahmoud knows that I drink too much water and have to go to the washroom before I see any site or talk to anyone.

Mahmoud says he doesn’t know everyone in Jordan but I think he does. We are constantly stopped by people who tell me he is the best guide.

I can see he is well respected by everyone.

Sometimes we brush off guides because we are seeking this elusive authentic experience.

But I understand Jordan far better from spending time with Mahmoud than if I tried to do it on my own.

Maybe it isn’t the independent backpacking way to do it but if I hadn’t had a guide and driver I would never have come to love Jordan the way I do.

 Disclosure: I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board, they did not ask that I write a favourable review or have such a good time with Mahmoud my guide.

Join the Conversation

  1. Just had our first ever guides in Turkey. They made the trip so much better.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have always thought guides were just people who spouted off historical facts but they really add to the experience.

  2. Ayngelina:

    Do you have contact info for Mahmoud? I’ve a friend heading to Jordan next month…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah absolutely, I don’t think he will mind as his email is also listed in Lonely Planet – it is mat65petra (AT) yahoo (DOT) com. His full name is Mahmoud Twaissi and I cannot imagine using any other guide.

      1. Perfect. Thanks.

  3. Rami drove us for the first two days – he’s such an awesome guy!! We’re finding the people in Jordan to be so friendly and intelligent I think visitors might be hard-pressed to find a guide who isn’t brilliant =)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Rami was awesome, once we went for falafels and the waiter tried to bring us separate plates and he told the guy I wanted to eat it the right way, not the tourist way!

  4. Reminds me a little bit about the day we spent with Louis and Csasar in Ecuador…

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Very much so, they were great guides.

  5. Sounds like you had a pretty amazing time.

    We hooked up with guides from the tourism boards in Croatia and Slovenia and they sure help you get an idea of the towns. Plus you are right in that they end up becoming friends. In Southern Italy the tourism boards seem non-existent so we’ve had to break out the old google and find out what we are looking at and why it’s important. I much rather the interaction.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I love the guides who understand you don’t need to know every single thing that happened in the last 1000 years, just the highlights please!

  6. Cheryl Howard says:

    Agree, a good tour guide can make all the difference! Great you were able to have such an experience. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Such a difference, and spending this amount of time was really great.

  7. The best way to experience authenticity is to hire the right guide. I’m glad to hear that Mahmoud delivered that for you.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s so hard to find the right guide, I definitely lucked out.

      1. How did you find this particular one? I’d like to recommend him to a friend who is on her way there this month..

        Does he work for an agency, free-lance, or ?

        Do you have contact info for him?

  8. Having a local guide can sometimes BE that authentic experience that travelers are always searching for.

    Yours sounds awesome!

  9. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    Incredible guides make a world of a difference. I had the most amazing one on Easter Island and I will never forget her. I’m so happy you found Mahmoud.

  10. Daniel Adamson says:

    I’m lucky enough to have been friends with Mahmoud for 10+ years, and to have got to know his wife and kids, his father, his brothers. Outstanding man, outstanding family. Great to see him acknowledge here. Good work!

  11. It’s great that you found such a great guide. And made a friend at the same time! A local’s perspective is priceless when you visit a new place. I know what you mean about independent travel though – I feel exactly the same. But sometimes I think a little help for a local guide can make all the difference. Am thoroughly enjoying all your posts on Jordan.

  12. The Travel Chica says:

    I have come to appreciate a good guides as well. In a place where we do not speak the language or do not know much about the history or culture, it can make the experience so much better.

    Glad you met Mahmoud!

  13. Emily in Chile says:

    “Sometimes we brush off guides because we are seeking this elusive authentic experience. But I understand Jordan far better from spending time with Mahmoud than if I tried to do it on my own.”

    You totally hit the nail on the head for me here. I don’t want some prefabricated tourist experience, but I’ve also had guides who’ve really deepened my knowledge of a place and made it more enjoyable for me.

  14. Lorenzo Gonzalez says:

    I’m a believer who thinks that a good guide makes or breaks your experience, I’m glad it was favourable. Great post, I am sure you know how much you are helping Mahmoud out.

  15. Steve @ I'm Not Home says:

    It can be a difficult questions sometimes. Like you said, going for the “independent” thing or with a guide. Personally I prefer the independent route, but sometimes this can lead to just sitting around with a bunch of tourists and no locals.

    Obviously it depends on the guide too, but if you get a good one, they can give you a much greater insight into a place, it’s traditions and culture.

    Also nice for tips on good quality local food!

  16. dtravelsround says:

    I had a local guide when I was in Fez, Morocco. While these local guides often ask for money, he did not. Instead, he took me to shops where (if I wanted to) I could buy things and I’m pretty sure he got kicked some profit. Aside from the shops, he took me all over town, educating me on the city, the culture, the history. He even got me to hike up a hill to an amazing overlook of the medina. I agree — sometimes a local guide can make all the difference in an experience. Otherwise, I would have wandered, gotten fed up with being bothered by people, and returned to my hostel.

  17. Zablon Mukuba says:

    its really hard to get good guides, am glad you got one

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have been so lucky with guides but it will be tough to beat Mahmoud.

  18. Nomadic Samuel says:

    My experience with guides has been hit or miss. It’s great you developed such a rapport that you consider him a friend.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I had a few in Central America that seemed like history majors reciting from a book but everyone I have had lately has been amazing.

  19. It’s a risk! Some guides are amazing – and I’ve stayed in touch with them for years. Others have been utterly dreadful and I tried to give them the slip within about twenty minutes 😉

  20. Look at your chic travel outfit!! You look fantastic!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      No one has ever called me chic, you are too kind.

  21. I’ve never had a great tour guide like this. Sounds pretty awesome. *jealous face*

  22. We found exactly the same in South Africa at a nature park. Most people do it alone and drive around the parks in search of the Big 5 – and we would have done the same except we were limited for time. We got a guide for three days and he was the best. I thought I would be pulling my hair out after three days with someone but he added so much value, finding animals there was no way we could have seen by ourselves. Go the guide! 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m definitely going to be using more guides from now on, and keep my fingers crossed they are good ones.

  23. I wondered when we’d hear about Mahmoud properly. 🙂 Guides aren’t always such a bad thing. when I go to visit old sites and ruins, I like to be alone. But showing you around the country like this is the best.

  24. Stefania - the Italian Backpacker says:

    I hope to visit Jordan very soon, it’s on my list of possible destinations for my next big trip.

  25. Came across this post as I was looking into the experiences others had in Jordan.

    Super glad to hear that you connected with Jordanians in so many positive ways.

    I was extremely impressed with, and moved by, the overwhelming hospitality and extroverted friendliness I experienced throughout the country. 🙂

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