A Night in the City: Fashion and Food

One night we spent time walking around the neighborhood where we stayed. Now, don’t ask me where it was, because I can’t tell you. Amman is built on 7 hills, and you can often get where you need to go by telling the taxi driver to go to 1 of 7 major traffic circles. Our apartment wasn’t near any of those.

The language barrier was so frustrating. Since I speak Spanish and English, I can generally communicate with a good chunk of the world, at least on this side of the ocean. I found that in Amman, most of the people on the street spoke little to no English. (Of course, the educated people did speak English.) Strangely, the Palestinian shopkeepers and the Bedouin people in Petra spoke great English.

Anyway, our first night in our place, we walked out to the corner store to try to get someone to tell us where we needed to come back to. After several frustrating attempts, we got a college-aged girl to tell us the traffic circle was called “Interior Circle.”

Yeah, that never worked. No taxi driver had any clue where that was. We ended up giving them the name of a nearby hotel, which I had thankfully noticed that first night. The rest of the time we somehow got around by communicating with the few Arabic words we knew and occasionally a phone call to the person we were meeting, so they could talk to the taxi driver.

Here are a few of the sights you could see in the shopping area near our neighborhood:

Amman Fashion. With and without head coverings.

Purple seemed to either be an in-season trend or to have some religious significance. I saw many store window displays featuring these long, purple coats in various shades. It seemed that the step above the ultra-conservative Muslim black tent-garment is a long coat in a muted color.

As a female, I was curious about how religion affected dress for women in the country. There was definitely more than one standard. Here’s the clothing hierarchy for women that I saw:

1. Total black, face totally covered except eyes. Body totally covered, including black gloves.

2. Total black, body and head covered but  face open.

3. Long coat, moderate, plain color, head scarf and face open.

4. Regular, trendy clothes (but with long sleeves and a high neck) and a colorful headscarf.

5. Pushing the limits: wrists and elbows sticking out, tight jeans,  scarf with escaping hairline. (I imagined these were teenage girls rebelling against their parents.)

6. No head covering and regular clothes, though generally pretty modest.

Back to our neighborhood: I’m somewhat of a foodie, and I always enjoy checking out local offerings. That doesn’t mean I’ll like it, but I at least appreciate it, and my policy is to try anything once.

We ducked into this bakery one evening to pick up breakfast for the next day.

I’m sure this guy thought it was strange to see some white girl snapping pictures of such a mundane, daily activity, but seriously. Look at those stacks of bread, eaten with every meal. He nodded ascent when I asked if I could take photos, though.

This place smelled incredible.

Next it was time for dinner. We wanted something we could take back to the apartment with us, so we looked for shawarma.

This place looked decent:

There was a line out the door, so that seemed to be a good sign. See those big sandwiches?

That is what we thought we were getting when we signed to the guy that we wanted two. We were surprised they were so cheap ($1 JD each, or about $2 USD), since most of the food we had been eating was definitely more expensive than that.

I’m sure we looked surprised when they handed us our order: two small paper wrapped tubes. What we ended up getting were two little wrap-like things, similar to a flour tortillas, filled with the meat shreddings.

But, oh well! We were hungry, and it was food. That’s what you get when you use sign language to make your order.


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