Welcome to Jordan!
Trip Start Dec 31, 2004
71Trip End Apr 22, 2005
I hunched forward, folded my arms against the cold and slowly walked up the burgeoning sidewalk. I thought of Paris in the autumn, that damp chill, old village charm in a bustling city, the romantic bend down a quiet lane lit by a coffee shop sign. Amman is a cosmopolitan city, posh and sophisticated yet tethered tightly to their ancient traditions and bound by strict social mores.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan wears a diadem of dichotomies.
The streets were alive with people and polite traffic. A man was carving a rotating spit of meat under a heat lamp while outside a tall man with red and white checkered kafieh twirled his prayer beads. Veiled women walked down the street arm in arm their made-up eyes squinting a smile and at the hems of the chador coats clicked the pencil heels of their stilettos. An imam's call to prayer undulated through the speakers mounted to the attenuated minaret of the King Hussein mosque.
I found a narrow restaurant and settled in to watch the city. I was right away greeted as I had already been here several times within a couple hours with a sincere "Welcome to Jordan". I had a plate of shredded chicken in onions and peppers with humus, olive oil and cilantro and a skinny glass of hot tea with fresh mint leaves. I was reading my guidebook when I looked up to see a smiling painted face peering under a floral headscarf. She was wearing jeans under a loose black coat and after she grabbed her two bags of food she turned to me and welcomed me before leaving. Two strong-jawed sheiks with thick jet brows in brilliant white gowns stood talking then a Mercedes door muffled open and they stepped inside. Across the street a pharmacist leaned against his counter smoking a cigarette and talking to his coworker in her white head-wrap and doctor's coat
It's only my first night in the Middle East and already I've fallen under its mystic allures. Quite a lot of people have fallen prey to Jordan's charms: T.E. Lawrence strolled and fought in the desert's sand; Moses died here and even a certain man by the name of Jesus was baptized but a few miles outside of town.
Not bad company. Welcome to Jordan, indeed.