Saturday, September 15, 2012

Amman

Having spent time in Doha and Dubai, it was really refreshing to scope out Amman in Jordan, to get a feel for the buzz of a true middle eastern capital city. Doha and Dubai are super modern, new, even botique-ish, and finding any grit, bustle, or history is difficult. They are the 21st century middle east. They say, however, that Amman is on route to become the next Dubai & Doha, given its economic prowess and political neutrality. Even if it does, being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, I can't imagine the materialistic feeling of those cities taking over completely.

The whole central part of the city felt like one big souk. Covered fruit markets, clothes markets, spice markets, toy markets, and more.  Lot of people milling around and hawking things. It seems to be centered around a large central mosque from which streets and markets diverge. Although I've been to a few mosques in Dubai and Istabul, I shyed away from entering this one as it seemed crowded and actually very much used for practicing Muslims and simply for congregating. One thing I love about the middle east, albeit probably just for the novelty of it, is the sound of the call to prayer radiating across the city over the speakers. It reminds me of how far away I am from anything very familiar, culturally and geographically. The call, in fact, can be quite nice, depending upon the voice and melody. It can definitely sound like a broken record too.

The city is home to well preserved Roman Amphitheatre, right smack in the middle. On a hill towering above it is the ruins of a fortress, with architecture spanning many eras. Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians, Nabataeans, Byzantines, Umayyads, Ottomans all had their share.

The city is built amongst seven large hills, making all the roads windy and hill walking difficult.  I decided not to test out the bus system, as I heard neighborhoods in some of the other hills are pretty westernized and don't have much going on. The historic center with all the hustle and bustle is where I spent most of my time (not having a host), but I did manage to huff and puff my way up one hill to check out a different neighborhood, Rainbow Street, where it suddenly turns very Western, shops begin having English signs (frozen yogurt suddenly appears, which is a complete contradiction to the old world feel at the bottom of the hill), and a more tranquil yuppy feel exists.

One night at the hostel there was an American girl that went out to get some cash. She came back without cash in hand, saying that men were asking her out to dinner and staring at her. She was dressed conservatively with a long dress on. So she asked if I could stroll around with her to ward off the eyegazers. Later, I stood on the roof of my hostel watching people walk below, and verified that surely the average middle eastern man is free of any tact. I saw several time women walk by and men do a 180 degree turn just to follow them for half a block to get a good look! Definitely wouldn't be a pleasant experience to be a single western woman here.

Whitewashed buildings
This is actually one of the tallest flagpoles in the world. What a claim to fame.
The amphitheatre from the fortress


A vegetable & fruit souk (with tons of these mini, sour green apple things)
Love it.



Spices, nuts, & grains
Delicious sugar cane juice
Central mosque
Nightfall. Mosque lit up in green.

1 comment:

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