Salam, I hope you are all doing well!
I’ve now been in Jordan for 3 weeks and I feel a lot more settled in than when I last posted. Last weekend we went on our first excursion of the semester, to Jerash and Ajloun. Jerash is home to an uncovered Roman city in Northern Jordan, about an hour from Amman. I say uncovered because it was mostly buried in soil until excavation and restoration began in the 1920s. It is also known as the City of “One-Thousand Columns” for obvious reasons. It was pretty fascinating to be able to see and walk around ruins from a time in history I’ve been learning about since elementary school.
Ajloun Castle is located very near Jerash. It was built in 1185 AD to protect the country against Crusader attacks. At its top is a stunning view, and on a clear day you can see Nazareth, the Jordan River, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Syria, and Lebanon.
Sharing photos is the best way for me to share my experiences in Jerash and Ajloun, but when it comes to living in Amman, photos don’t seem to be enough to convey what it feels like to walk around the streets. The visuals are important, but the many scents, sounds, and interactions also contribute to the atmosphere here. Walking down a busy street in Amman I hear cars, honking, people talking in Arabic, greetings in English directed at me, “Welcome to Jordan” from younger men and children, the call to prayer (adhan) and reading of the Quran, music, and the same tune played over and over by the propane trucks several times a day. (That last one still confuses me, it’s like an ice cream truck, except they sell propane… It’s a mystery.) On the same street I would smell smoke, meat, gasoline, and (my favorite) the bakery.
The interactions I’ve had with Jordanians are overall very positive. Most people I talked to before coming here described Jordan as an incredibly welcoming country, and I can tell you that that is true. It’s one of the things I really love about Jordan. You can see it in the country’s history — taking in refugees from Palestine and Syria — and in everyday interactions with people here. Shop and restaurant workers will help you practice speaking Arabic. People from home will hear you’re going to Jordan and they will give you phone numbers of their family members in Jordan, and then their family will invite you to lunch.
Or, you might be walking down the street and a man invites you to his roof where he keeps his trained pigeons* and has them land on your head, then gives you coffee and dessert. He might also show you his cats and have you pet them while saying their names over and over. Then his friend will come over and have a conversation with you because he knows English, and then that friend will give you all his family members’ numbers. He might even take you to his friend’s restaurant down the street where they will give you tea. You never really know what to expect when walking through Amman.
*Side note: apparently the words for “bathroom” and “pigeon” are almost identical in Arabic, and I’m 90% sure I’ve been asking “where’s the pigeon” this whole time. Oops.
And now I have to work on the “study” part of study abroad, so, ma’ al salaamah!