Exploring Amman | Jordan


Backpacking Jordan: Day 004 (18-April-2024)


Understanding Amman

Like every other morning, Simbi and I sat on the swing on the terrace. While I had my tea, she observed the chirping birds – A probable meal. 

I got ready and left to explore a new side of the city. I walked to the King Abdullah 1 mosque. The mosque has a visitor centre that charges foreigners with a fee of 2JD for entry. The visitor gate passes through a store that sells jewellery, artefacts and clothes. I found it to be very expensive. Even those two sips of black tea that they serve for free did not convince me to shed money there. 

This is the first mosque I have ever stepped into. The interiors of the building was painted in turquoise blue and gold. The patterns on the ceiling were made of geometric shapes. A bright red carpet was laid on the floor. At one end of the empty chamber was a podium with a microphone. It is from here that the Azan (Call for prayer) is made. It was peaceful in there and I liked the interiors. 

I wanted to visit the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts next, so I walked up the hill to the most affluent part of the town. There are a few buildings that house the exhibits. The entry fee was 7JD for Foreigners and I thought it was way too expensive. I therefore went to the park near the galleries and sat there sketching the events from the day. It is probably the most peaceful place in Amman apart from of course the beautiful spot at The Khalid Shoman Foundation that I had been to, two days ago. 

Islamic art mostly focuses on geometric shapes, symmetry and uniformity. But such excessive focus on uniformity, I believe, limits imagination. However, Amman seems to be a bit different in this regard. While the majority of them conform to the rules of the religion, there are several exceptions. Jordan, as appears to me now, is relatively more liberal than other conservative Islamic nations. Perhaps that explains the immense interest in contemporary art. You can see so much of it on the streets as well. 

I walked to my favourite Mahjoub restaurant and ordered a Fatteh. It was extremely tasty. One of the locals had ordered a pack of falafel that he and his friend could not finish. So, he offered it to me and another client who was there. 

In Amman, houses are built using local Jerusalem stones - A type of limestone. This contributes to the uniform appearance of the buildings here. Also, I think there are also building codes dictated by the municipality that mandates the usage of certain colours. 

While retuning, I stopped at a small coffee shop to taste some Arabic coffee. It is made by adding finely ground Arabic coffee beans (also known as Turkish coffee), ground cardamom pods and hot water. It was different and tasted good. But I am not sure if I would like to have a coffee with Cardamom flavour every day. 

When I got back to the hostel, I realised that I had lost my phone stand. Though I had my new tripod, I felt bad to have dropped it on the way. I sat in my favourite spot and relaxed. 

In the evening, I decided to trace my path back and look for the phone stand. I went back to the coffee shop and then to the park. But I could not find it. I must have left it at the park where I used it last to capture a time lapse video. Anyways, I then tried a different route to reach downtown. While taking this route, I passed by the Rainbow Street. It is one of the most popular streets in Amman. The street is filled with Hookah bars and restaurants. This place is mostly, designed for the upper class and tourists. Many men and women were enjoying a smoke at the hookah bars. Servers were asking me to enter and were hinting at some extra service which I did to bother to investigate further. I honestly did not like the atmosphere there. 

Escaping from this hangout place for the affluent, I went back to the place where the middle-class like to gather – Hashemite plaza. Downtown Amman is always crowded and lively. I like walking along the busy streets. 

On my way back to the hostel, I tried Zaatar Manikeesh at a bakery. Abed had recommended this dish to me. It is basically a flat bread topped with olive-oil based Zaatar spread. Zaatar is a middle eastern spice blend that is primarily made with sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. The flavour of the herbs was strong.

At hostel, I had a lot of questions to Abed. I learnt from him that there is water scarcity in Jordan and water is supplied by the Government. It is expensive. He tells me that at his grandparent’s farm, located in the outskirts of Amman, there is a well. However, it is illegal to dig private well in Jordan and therefore they have to keep it a secret. 

I was curious also to know about their education system. He told me that boys and girls study together during the primary years and then go to separate schools. Most schools are run by the Government but some private schools do offer Co-education. Abed has a bachelor degree in English language and literature. For some time, he taught at a public school. He wants to be a flight attendant and had got an offer from Royal Jordanian Airline but he rejected it as he did not want to serve alcohol to customers. He is a religious man and according to Islam it is prohibited to consume or serve alcohol.  He told me that only Saudia Airline does not serve alcohol but they do not hire men from other countries. Although, for women of other nationalities, the airline is open. 

Abed has 2 brothers and 2 sisters. After marriage people generally move out of their parent’s house as the houses are too small. However, they visit their parents at least 3 times a week and there is always a close bonding. 

After spending a few days here and observing the locals, I have come to a certain analysis about the people of Amman. May the reader note that this is just an observation and not a data-backed report and therefore can only be considered as an opinion. 

Men of Amman: Most men are hard-working and are always active. The five-time prayer does not appear to be a compulsion for men here. While some pray at their work places when the azan is heard, many do not feel obligated to do so. Men are also not required to wear a head cap while praying. Smoking is very common. While young men hangout by the streets with their friends, older men gather at coffee shops and play Shatranj or Tawala. Almost everyone likes to walk into a sweet store and relish a piece of Knafeh

Women of Amman: Wearing a niqab or chador is limited to some older women. Most women prefer wearing a hijab. However, it is not a compulsion. A good number of them do not cover their heads. The Queen of Jordan herself appears in public without a head scarf. The women of Amman seem to be well educated and participate in the labour force, though not in equal proportions. It is also common to find women smoking a cigarette in public. 

At around 8:30PM, Jose arrived. He seems like a fun person. We connected almost immediately, thanks to his friendly nature. He speaks a lot; a bit more than I am used to. I also noticed that he uses a lot of swear words. Most often, the words are placed inappropriately in a sentence resulting in a meaningless or misrepresented phrase.  I think I have to get used to listening bad words in public for another week because there is at least one in every 2 sentences. 

We sat down and made a rough plan for the week ahead. The hostel offers trips to some places like Wadi Mujib and they have a lot of special sandals that can be used for the river walk there. Abed asked me to take them and bring it back during my return. It is kind of him to do so. By the time Jose had had his dinner and we went to bed it was really late – Past midnight. So, we decided to leave around 8AM next morning. 

CONTINUED HERE - Jerash | Ajloun | Umm Quais