JOJordan

Jordan

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  ?????   Waking up for class Sunday morning was painful and unnecessary. I was placed into Intermediate Arabic II which doesn't start til 2pm but Liz had class at 9:00 and since it was day one I told her I'd share a taxi to school with her. It's been ... read more

Jacquelyn Pitts

JordanJordan

Weekend Life

  Weekend Life   Everyone keeps asking me, "How is Amman?" and after being here a week I find that I am still incapable of answering that question. The reason? I spent almost the entire weekend in the house with my family. Weekends here start on Friday which is why ... read more

Jacquelyn Pitts

JordanJordan

Meeting the Family

  Meeting the Family   Thursday after our homestay orientation, an hour talking with my new friends Ashley, Stephanie, Jamilh, Joellen and Erica about any and everything, lunch, and a nap. It was 5:00pm and my new family was in the lobby to pick Liz and me up.  First impressions ... read more

Jacquelyn Pitts

JordanJordan

Some Cultural Notes

  Some Cultural Notes   Ok, so Jordan is in some ways like Morocco and in some ways not. But if anything is for sure, it is that Jordan is incredibly culturally different from the US in many ways. Jordanians have some weird obsession with feet, and not in a ... read more

Jacquelyn Pitts

JordanJordan

Getting oriented

  Getting oriented   This week has been pretty busy. I flew straight from O’Hare to Queen Alia International Airport in Amman. It was a 12 hour flight but it didn’t feel that long. We flew over Jerusalem and Amman so that was pretty cool. Those of you who were ... read more

Jacquelyn Pitts

JordanJordan

First Night Out

  First Night Out   Wednesday night was the first time I was able to go out on the town. Instead of getting the free hotel lunch, Claire, Caroline, Christine, Brittany, Eve,----, Awbrey and I went out to eat at Hasham's. We were the only women out, no surprise and ... read more

Jacquelyn Pitts

JordanJordan

An Unorthodox Ride Home

I don't think they could tell how annoyed I was. The car speakers blared Hotel California yet again, reminding me of that equally-obnoxious time when I was riding somewhere along the Oman-Yemen border and cursing a native for putting that same track on repeat. I never thought the day would ... read more

Adam Lichtenheld

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Getting Around

You'll be nostalgic for New York cabbies

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Jordanian cabbies are a far throw from the Egyptians who used to demand I reach out of the car window at 70 km/hr to borrow a lighter from a passing Fiat, but they’ll still add some entertainment to your daily commute. I once had one who seemed less irritated by the fact that we almost collided with a rusting Toyota and more annoyed at the idea of having to light a second cigarette, and he made sure everyone knew it by leaning on the horn for a solid three and a half minutes. Metered cabs are the only real way to get around Amman; fortunately, they’re pretty cheap. It’s important to note, however, that street names in the city are either non-existent or unknown—so expect to direct and be directed via landmarks and traffic circles.

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Festivals & Events

Nothing says "I love you" like firing a gun

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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During celebrations, weddings, and holidays, just remember: guns are a poor man’s fireworks.

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Culture Shock

Islamic understanding

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Like many Islamic countries, religion pervades every corner of Jordanian society—and it can be quite an adjustment if a foreigner is unfamiliar with Islam and Islamic customs. The best way to adjust to the conservatism of the culture is to be street savvy: talk to locals about religion, notice how other seasoned foreigners act and carry themselves, and try to learn a thing or two about Islam. Fortunately, there are enough Western-style bars and clubs around town to provide you with the occasional release.

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Must Do

Inspirational escape

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Spend a night in a Bedouin desert camp, where you’ll discover the solitary world and the solitary men who roam it. There’s no background noise, no call to prayer, no enduring honks of annoyed commuters that comprise the soundtrack of daily life in Amman. Your hosts will cook you a dinner fit for kings (or queens) and force-feed you addicting Bedouin tea while they point out every constellation in the sky. Vagabonding Wadi Rum, the southern red desert, is the closest thing I've ever had to a religious experience. It's quintessentially Jordan.

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Etiquette

Kiss right

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Don’t forget that Jordanian greetings, where two people touch cheeks and feign slight kisses (like the French), begin on the right side. My failure to remember this important detail led to a very awkward encounter with a new acquaintance—let’s just say that we both leaned in and got more than we bargained for.

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Food

Don't bust a gut

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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I was unsure about the traditional Jordanian dish “mensef”—a steaming platter of rice and on-the-bone lamb covered with a rich, yellow yogurt sauce—until we feasted at a friend’s house. It’s the optimal communal dining experience, as everyone eats with their hands from the same plate. Just beware that it settles in your stomach like a rock, and before you know it, you’ve eaten too much (so wise travelers should have some Imodium on hand). If that doesn’t tickle your taste buds, try classic Middle Eastern dishes like shawarma (a lamb sandwich), foul (a pile of mashed-up beans) and hummus (the homemade kind—not the processed crap that American grocery stores sell).

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Film

Watch before you go

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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If you want to get a taste of Bedouin desert life, watch the classic "Lawrence of Arabia." It shows spectacular footage of Jordan’s desolate deserts, and will get you in the "nomadic" mindset. For a taste of contemporary Amman, check out "Captain Abu Raed," the first major motion picture to come out of Jordan. Aside from being “highly evocative of its Amman setting” (according to one critic), it won the World Cinema Audience Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

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Packing

Cold desert winters

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Most foreigners assume that Jordan, since it’s in the Middle East and mostly covered by desert, is warm and sunny year-round. But Amman can get quite cold beginning as early as late October, and by December or January the nights are chilly enough to bring on the occasional snowfall. Unless your stay only spans the summer months, be sure to bring sweaters, warm socks and a jacket. Few buildings have central heating, so you’ll need winter attire even indoors.

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Religion

Religious overtones

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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“Muslim or Christian?” you’ll often be asked—an indication that religion plays a significant role in Jordanian culture. Indeed, Middle Eastern society is heavily informed by Islam; the call to prayer will become the backdrop of your life. But, like in any country, people practice with different degrees of devoutness. On more than one occasion I’ve strolled into a mosque (at the coaxing of locals) and participated in prayer, an experience that is both comforting and tranquil. Understanding Islam is critical for understanding Jordan and the Jordanian people.

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Politics

Politics and life are inseparable

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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I had a friend who dropped a coin in the middle of a café, and as it rolled around, he stomped on it so that he could pick it back up. Everyone glared at him, and he realized why: he had thrust the bottom of his foot (an insult in Jordan) on property that bore the King’s face. This story reflects the simplicity of domestic politics in Jordan: everyone loves the royal family, so don’t knock ‘em. The political issues that receive the most discussion and contention here are regional—the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Since the country has been significantly affected by both (half a million Iraqi refugees have fled to Amman, and 60% of Jordan’s population is ethnic Palestinian), you’re bound to overhear—or engage in—some intense debates.

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Music

Can't stop the pop

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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For some unfathomable reason, Jordanians are in love with Bryan Adams, and a lot of the music played on the radio or blaring throughout the cafes is of the "Now 1: Top 1990s American Hits" variety. Of course, Arabic pop still rules the day, but most of the region’s well-known artists are Egyptian or Lebanese, not Jordanian. To get acclimated, I would recommend listening to two popular Egyptians: the everlasting heartthrob Amr Diab, and the traditional diva Oum Kalthoum.

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Sports

Soccer politics trump all

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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As an (American) football lover, I had little interest in soccer until I lived in the Middle East. But after spending countless nights in cafes puffing on a shisha and watching “fut-ball” matches with hoards of eager Jordanians, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the sport. Soccer is deeply embedded into the culture, and team loyalty trumps everything else. I once asked a shopkeep which of Jordan’s two main teams he roots for. He gave me his preference, and when I mentioned the competing faction, he said “no no no. I hate them. If they play Israel, I support…I support…” (leans in to whisper) “I support Israel.”

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TV

DVDs for a dinar

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Downtown Amman is littered with DVD stores, where you can get knockoff discs of popular movies and television shows (both Western and local) for one dinar each (about $1.25). For this reason, most Jordanians have been exposed to a plethora of American shows—The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives—whose popularity rivals the Turkish soap opera, Nour. Nour's penchant for dramatic overkill makes American daytime television look disappointingly anti-climatic. I can’t recall how many nights I’ve sat reading on my couch only to be interrupted by that show's obnoxious theme music drifting up to my apartment window.

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Fashion

Pack some class

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Jordanians tend to dress more formal than the average Westerner, so it’s good to pack some nice attire if you don’t want to feel un-classy when you go out. Fashion trends don’t differ much from the West, except for traditional dress: long galabeyas for men and full black burkas for women. One gem that you’ll find in the downtown markets are loads of warm sweaters—optimal for when the weather gets chilly.

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Dating

Date smart

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Maneuvering through the abundance of young, beautiful, well-endowed women in Jordan as a poor, white, non-Muslim foreigner is a bit like walking through a Mercedes-Benz dealership without a dollar to your name. After hearing of one of my futile attempts to court a local woman, an American friend looked at me and laughed. “That’s a dry well man!” Luckily, I took my vow of chastity early. Male-female relationships differ significantly in Jordan; they’re quite patriarchal (so for females planning to date Arab men—be prepared to be “taken care of”) and public displays of affection are haram (forbidden).

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Health

Health yourself

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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If you have the privilege of checking into a Jordanian hospital with a stomach ailment, they’ll either want to take out your appendix or (if you’re female) just tell you that you’re pregnant. "Same same." That being said, it’s pretty easy to stay healthy in Jordan, especially if you resist the urge to drive everywhere and spend time walking up and down Amman’s steep hills. Street food is no problem; I lived on it for five months and my vital organs seem to be functioning properly. Just try to keep your shisha intake to a no more than a few times per week, lest you burn up your lungs (I probably should have taken my own advice on this one).

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Slang

God willing...

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Most foreigners love the Arabic tradition of adding an “in’shaallah (“God willing”)” to the end of every sentence: “see you tomorrow, in’shaallah.” “It’ll rain tomorrow, in’shaallah.” “I’ll get you a beer, in’shaallah.” Mutter it to a cab driver or souq merchant and they’ll appreciate your knowledge of cultural customs—and you’ll probably make their day. Another popular rhetorical tool is the use of “al-hamdulelah” (God be praised!) to acknowledge good fortune or the completion of a task—as in “the sink is unclogged, al-hamdulelah.”

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Nightlife

Variety in Amman

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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Amman hosts a healthy assortment of bars and cafes, from seedy, male-only back alley joints to glitzy, expensive nightclubs. Jordanians (at least those who drink alcohol) possess a puzzling affinity for Russian vodka. Many of the Western-style bars and restaurants make a night on the town similar to going out in the States, save the fact that everyone is a human chimney and if you’re not inhaling a cigarette, people are offended. Or just think you’re strange.

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Being an American

Feel welcome in Jordan

Adam Lichtenheld

10 Feb 2009

Jordan

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Adam Lichtenheld

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It’s a common misconception that Arabs are hostile toward Americans. Taxi drivers will often react to the news of my nationality with an ehlan wa sahlan (“welcome!” in Arabic) and sometimes an “America good!” (with thumbs up) “Bush bad!” (with thumbs down). I have never felt the need to hide my passport or stitch a Canadian flag onto my backpack. To effectively mesh with the natives, some knowledge of the local language is crucial—Jordanians will appreciate hearing you speak even a few words of Arabic. As long as you’re respectful, open, and friendly, you’ll receive a warm and enthusiastic greeting. Just heed the country’s conservative culture and be sure to dress appropriately—men should resist walking around in tank tops, and women would be wise to keep their legs covered. Unless, of course, you want to attract unwanted (and unfavorable) attention.

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