Just a few days shy from two full weeks here in Amman and so much has happened already! Downtown is always bustling, from indie movie screenings to rooftop hookah lounges, downtown at Rainbow Street is the place to be every Thursday night (Thursdays = Fridays here.) I actually might be participating in a poetry slam at one of the most well-known cafes on Rainbow, stay tuned! Tomorrow is my birthday and it feels weird starting off my 19th year so far away from everyone I love. I decided I am going to do an intense hike down a canyon, Wadi Mujib, and hope I don’t die. Stay tuned for that story too…
I finally have mastered the art of taxis and illegal Ubers as I navigate the city’s dusty alleys and noisy circles. The people here are kind and helpful. For the most part, they can sniff out Americans from a mile away and are eager to help however they can. I can honestly say, though, I have never experienced street harassment like this– hijabi or naked, men here will catcall anything that looks vaguely female and moves. Navigating my identity as a Muslim-American woman in the Middle East has honestly left me in an interesting in-between again: I find I am constantly having to explain myself and justify my identity over and over again:
- Yes, I speak Arabic.
- Well no, I’m not Jordanian, I am American.
- Yes, my family is Jordanian.
- No, not Jordanian-Jordanian, we are Circassian.
- Okay, Muslim? Well yeah, there’s a scarf on my head.
- Convert? No, I just told you my family is Jordanian.
- Yes, I still pray in America.
- Family name? Not your business, please leave me alone sir.
It’s infuriating. It’s mostly taxi drivers that dig the deepest, even if you ask them to stop. There are times I want to jump out of the taxi and just take my chances. It’s definitely strange still not feeling at home in the “homeland.” I’m too Arabic for America and not enough for Jordan. Oh well.
Other than that, things have finally started to settle down and normalize here. Alongside a full course-load and an internship, my lovely program here ensures we are getting our fill of being out and about. The longer I am here the more I realize how much there is to see, so much to do! It’s easy to forget that Jordan has a tangible history that dates back to Roman civilizations and biblical days. My first adventure began with the Citadel in the heart of the “Old City” in Amman. We spent the day covered in dust and exploring limestone and Roman ruins, honestly incredible. Here are some shots from the day!
Roman Ruins at the Citadel
Roman Theatre Ruins
Roman Ruins of the Statue of Hercules: three fingers and a bicep
On the edge of the Old City
I have so many of these mini-trips planned, I cannot wait. Tomorrow will be Wadi Mujib, and not a week later I am doing the “Golden Triangle” trip of Jordan: Wadi Rum, Petra, and Aqaba. I will be sure to update and document them all so hang around to check ’em out!
Update: didn’t die!
My flight from Seattle to Chicago was a little nerve-wracking, as it was my first flight alone. Also, the Chicago airport really needs to up their signage, my god. But I found my gate and all is well!
O’Hare Artsiness across Gate M15
The flight from Chicago to Amman was grueling. A whole eleven hours stuck up by tinted windows you can’t really see out of. Takeoff during a lightning storm was pretty badass, though: we traveled straight through a rainy, tumultuous sky that kept glowing purple and white every so often. The Royal Jordanian itself looked pretty cool too. While up there, there was a surprising feeling of timelessness. Straight up twilight-zone at some point where I think it’s day but we are only 7 hours into the flight and people are asleep. Very strange. My phone was still in Chicago time and it was interesting being unsure of what the local time was or where we even were. Night and day were blurred thanks to the tinted windows so all of a sudden when the tint lifted we were having 7am breakfast in broad daylight, 4pm local time!
The Royal Jordanian
It has officially been a full three days since my arrival in Amman, Jordan. I have a very strong feeling acclimating is going to take more than just a few days. Somehow managed to get to and from my program orientation and even managed some grocery shopping and a shisha lounge. Everything here is located by surrounding landmarks and every street has two names: one on a map, that seemingly no one cares about and one absolutely different name everyone but me seems to know. Mastering directions to tell taxi drivers how to get me home has definitely been one of my biggest challenges.
The city of Amman is also massive. Home to over 4 million people (four times the population of San Francisco, for reference), I have never felt a city more alive. It is seemingly always bustling and is sectioned off by 7 or 8 major roundabouts, translated as “circles” from Arabic. Each section off of a circle is it’s own little “Amman-suburb” and has a microculture of its own, which I have already picked up on. Many of them are on hills, as apparently, the city was originally built on 6 major hills. This also makes Amman impossibly un-walkable. Ergo, traffic here is absolutely awful. I am unsure if I am more afraid as a pedestrian crossing the road or as a taxi passenger. But hey, people seem to know what they are doing so I’m going with it.
I haven’t gone out an explored much, in all honesty. I am mostly just trying to acclimate to my apartment and the area surrounding my study center. I’m certain once routine sets in things will become much easier. It is absolutely beautiful out here in some of the strangest ways. I’ll be posting some photos of the city tomorrow, keep an eye out. In the meantime, I have more Arabic to be studying!