Category Archives: Jordan

Women’s ways – The best village food and handicrafts in Jordan

traditional tea and bread in Jordan
 handicrafts in Jordan sales womanA first time visitor in the Middle East arrives with so many questions. I was curious about authentic handicrafts in Jordan, the food, and especially the women. On a Friday night in the Amman Souk, there were a few women in traditional dress with mingling with foreigners and compatriots dressed in Western styles. They were shopping in small groups or relaxing with their families. While traveling through the country, I met women working in shops and businesses; in homes and tents. They were always in motion, tending to children, cooking, teaching or creating something. Women are that way no matter what country I wander through!

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Bedouin woman brings bread to her tent

Bedouin woman brings bread to her tent

Having my eyes smudged with Kohl in the Bedouin tent

Having my eyes smudged with Kohl in a Bedouin village

We walked to have coffee in a Bedouin village from the Feynan Eco Lodge. The father first roasted and hand-ground beans then brewed a thick drink over a low stone fire. Taking time from her busy day, the mother mixed a traditional Kohl and then smudged my eyes. It’s believed that Kohl helps to protect the eyes from bright sun or eye ailments. I saw many men as well as women wearing it.
Making daily bread outside the Bedouin tent

Making daily bread outside the Bedouin tent

Our questions were patiently translated as the wife began making a traditional flatbread. You can see more of her process in the video below.
Queen Mother Noor, an American who married King Hussein, has had an enchanted life. That didn’t prevent her from working hard to alleviate poverty and ignorance in her adopted country. She established many projects including the Noor Al Hussein Foundation in 1979. It supports traditional arts, education, health, and women’s entrepreneurship. A foundation established by the Queen Consort, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, also supports development and the arts. While I’m sure the handicrafts of Jordan produced by the Jordan River Foundation may be found across the country, I only saw them in an Amman airport shop.
The Noor Al Hussein Foundation is a primary supporter of handicrafts in Jordan

Sign for the Noor Foundation Development Program.

Madaba is a popular Christian village that overflows with tourists. The floor, columns, and frames in the central church are embedded with historical mosaics. Nearby, a large craft market employs many women who painstakingly create traditional mosaics based on ancient designs. I watched women with steady hands paint ceramics, while others worked as salespeople and cashiers. Many were in modern dress.
Handicrafts in Jordan include traditional ceramics

Food and handicrafts in Jordan

In the northern village of Um Qais, the entrepreneur Muna Haddad, Managing director of Baraka Destinations, talked about her work. Baraka works with village men and women to promote agrotourism, ecotourism, and sustainability. They foster businesses featuring basketry, bread-making and cooking skills as well as olive oil production and beekeeping. I loved spending an afternoon learning how to make stuffed eggplant and traditional bread.
Breadmaker in Um Qais, Jordan

Breadmaker in Um Qais

baskets in Um Qais, Jordan

Baskets in a living room studio in Um Qais

While keeping their traditional values, the women of Jordan have new ways to pursue their skills and handicrafts in Jordan. As the future unfolds, the young women of Jordan have even more ways to support themselves.
Jordanian girls look to the future

Jordanian girls look to the future with hope

For more about Jordan check out these posts: Amman Adventures and How best to explore Petra.
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Travel Notes & Beyond

When you travel Jordan start in Amman

Roman plaza in Ammans Citadel - a must see when you travel Jordan
The citadel in Amman is well worth a visit when you travel Jordan

Travel Jordan and don’t miss the Citadel atop Amman’s highest hill.

A camel stood alongside the highway while, between the road and small fields, circles of people sat eating beneath dusky, olive trees. A row of bright flags flapped above an overpass and a blue sign in Arabic unmistakably advertised IKEA. These were my first minutes in the Middle East. I soon learned that when you travel Jordan you dance constantly between ancient traditions and new world buzz. travel Jordan
Bridge crossing while approaching Amman

Bridge crossing while approaching Amman

Soon we crossed through an intersection as a clutch of sheep poured over a roadside meridian. That scene repeated itself dozens of times in the ten days while I traveled through Jordan. The Amman road led through low valleys, the Wadi, and up into hills, Jabal, then through neighborhoods that bore their names.

When you travel Jordan you'll see street signs like this in Amman

One of the Street signs in Amman

A historical glimpse of Amman

The city is laid out over seven hills, then it expanded to 27, and today across the metropolis, layers of civilizations peel back in surprising glimpses. Jabal Amman, the tallest hill, was settled in Neolithic times and never fortified as the lower hills were. Waves of invasions left their marks. Roman Greco ruins still dot the country, many wait for excavation still.
Ottomans swept in to establish a route to Mecca. Centuries later the British sought influence in the region. Their legacy remains in the writings and admiration of T.E. Lawrence and his novel, Lawrence of Arabia. Finally, while other Middle Eastern countries shift allegiances, and through all the upheavals, the Bedouin tribes preserved their independence.

Amman becomes the capital

In the 19th century, Amman was named the capital of Transjordan and the city soon swelled in wealth and position. With two million visitors in 2014, Amman made it to lists of the 100 most visited cities in the world and it became the 5th most visited Arab city.

Safe and protected when you travel Jordan

I never felt uncomfortable while traveling Jordan. We passed through security fortifications and metal-detectors at western-style hotels, and then quickly passed through military checkpoints on the highways. Jordan is determined to remain stable and safe. After recent shootings and the rattling, political circus in the US, traveling Jordan was peaceful and calm.
It took me more than fifteen hours to get to Jordan from San Diego. Make sure you don’t miss a thing on your trip. Overcome Jet Lag from long flights with these suggestions from my earlier post. I won’t travel without the strategies.
The Sugar Cane Juice shop in downtown Amman

The Sugar Cane Juice shop in downtown Amman

Shop styles in downtown Amman

Shop styles in downtown Amman

Our guide, Ramzi, led us to downtown and into the Souk, the streets of shops. It was a busy, Friday night with families and foreign visitors sharing the sidewalks. Lit dramatically, dotted with clusters of people, the Roman Amphitheater rolled back from the street. A man lifted a box of flatbreads, laying out tempting stacks on a folding table. Teenagers jumped to loud music. Women, wrapped in full dark cloth from head-to-toe, raised cellphones to take pictures. Our group dressed casually and walked through it all.
The Roman Amphitheater in downtown Amman

Friday night in the Roman Amphitheater plaza in downtown Amman

A faint call flowed out of an alley and then rose more loudly into my consciousness. It was the call to prayer – another first. We passed trays of spices, stacks of sweets, a Shwarma tower sliced with a sword, a sugar cane juice press, and offers of tea. I wanted to stop by the dress shops and get something beautiful that I’d never wear, but we kept moving until the crowds thinned on the second hill.Sweet shop in downtown Amman

Inside Sufra Amman garden restaurant

Inside Sufra, the Amman garden restaurant

Shops lined the street and small cafes. We entered a softly lit dining room inside a walled garden. This was Sufra and our table was soon stacked with small plates, bowls, and platters. Lemonade thick with ground mint leaves, sweet sage tea, and baskets of warm bread found their place. In an open alcove adjacent to the dining room, a man stood over a round, ceramic oven. He pummeled dough and used a flat pillow to knock it onto the sides. I’ve no doubt he made hundreds during his shift.
Inside the palace of Jordan's Amman Citadel

Inside the palace of Jordan’s Amman Citadel

Jordanian bagpipers lead students in Amman

Jordanian bagpipers lead students in Amman

Ammanian students pose at the Citadel

Amman students pose at the Citadel

Getting to the Citadel early was a great strategy. At the top of Amman’s highest hill are two giant pillars, they’re all that remains of the Roman Temple of Hercules and the area was nearly vacant as we wandered. Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-80) erected the columns and temples.
I heard a surprising drone – bagpipes! (They were most likely developed in the Jordanian region, although the British claim responsibility for their appearance here.) The bagpipers led a group of young students on their way to the steps of the Umayyad Palace Plaza. Teachers soon wrangled them into position for class pictures.

Inside the Jordan Museum in the Citadel ruins

Two of the oldest human statues, 7250 BC, inside the Jordan Museum.

I was drawn to two rough figures inside the museum. They are the Ain Ghazal Statues, dated back to 7250 B.C. and considered some of the oldest statues ever found. The small museum is well worth a visit with overstuffed cases, skulls, goblets, and statues.
After wandering the grounds, marveling at the old palace, courtyards and views we left the metropolis of Amman for the wilds of the Dana Biosphere Reserve and a candle-lit eco-lodge set in a hilly divide of Wadi Feynan. More about that adventure to come!
One lobby in the Grand Hyatt Lobby

One lobby in the Grand Hyatt Lobby

Lobby fountain inside the Marriott Amman

Lobby fountain inside the Marriott Amman

When you travel Jordan consider these hotels:

Thank you to the Jordanian Tourism Board and IFWTWA, who made my first visit to the Middle East so wonderful. All photos and opinions are my own.

I hope you enjoyed this short tour of Amman, Jordan. Please share!

24 hours in Amman isn't enough when you travel Jordan
Window shopping in Amman is a treat when you travel Jordan

You won't go hungry when you travel Jordan and visit Amman's downtown for street food wonders.

Travel Notes & Beyond