little treasures of Amman

Is it too early to say that I am already beginning to feel settled in? Will I take these words back as soon as I write them? The initial shock of arrival has faded, and the rush of orientation is over. I’ve had more time to acquaint myself with the city. The act of exploring—really, it’s more a process—has made me feel more at home in Amman over the past few days. Getting ready, leaving the apartment, telling the taxi driver a new location, seeing a different neighborhood. I sometimes have to push myself to do these things, to leave the apartment and engage with the world. Yet, it has been worth it every time. Each experience is a pearl of wisdom, a little treasure in and of itself.

  1. A walk down Rainbow Street with a friend that is close to my heart. Leafy green salads for lunch from Stradda Café, surrounded by people sipping coffee from white mugs. Some of them in pairs chatting, others alone typing furiously on their laptops. Little shops and restaurants line the street on both sides. We stop in Malabis and I buy a t-shirt with a peace sign and the word “salaam” written in Arabic along the bottom. We walk to the end of Rainbow and encounter a colorful canopy of little umbrellas hanging from lines in the sky. They serve no purpose, except to brighten the day of any pedestrian that walks underneath. Walking toward the First Circle area, sun beating down on us, we take a break at the café in the Wild Jordan Center. Our seats overlook the city skyline. I can see the ancient citadel of Jabal al-Qal’a in the distance. I find myself amused that I am drinking a date and mint smoothie from a mason jar while staring at the ruins of a building that has been inhabited by the Romans, Byzantines, and Umayyads.
  1. It has been a long day of interviews and examinations so that I can be placed into the appropriate level for my language class. Recalling grammar rules and case endings and the sometimes-archaic vocabulary of Modern Standard Arabic is enough to exhaust anyone. My roommates are feeling similarly tired. One of them proposes a simple solution: dessert. We celebrate the completion of our placement exams with a decadent concoction from a place called Fruit Salad. Figs, nectarines, grapes, bananas, pineapples, apples, every fruit under the sun, peeled in elaborate swirling shapes and carefully arranged in a boat-shaped bowl. The fruits rest on a bed of ice cream and are crowned with chopped chocolate bars. We laugh and talk and reach for our favorite fruits with our forks and somehow manage to finish the whole thing.

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  1. We go downtown for an evening of storytelling in the city square. The streets are awash in light from Ramadan decorations that have yet to be taken down. I like the glowing crescent moons and stars, hanging above the rushed taxis and huddled pedestrians. Why not keep the lights all year? Why take them down and wait until the next holy month for the streets to glitter with their celestial beauty once again? It reminds me of Christmas in the United States. Though we are Muslim, my family always partakes in decorating the entire front yard (and interior of the house) with twinkling lights. We are usually the last among our neighbors to take them down, sometimes waiting until Valentine’s Day. One gets used to seeing such beauty everyday. But perhaps it is the ephemerality of it all that makes it special.
  1. One of Amman’s greatest gifts: consistently delicious and inexpensive falafel on nearly every street corner. There is little else to say, except sahtein!

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    [Originally published on Andrea in Amman blog, September 2016]

     

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