22 at last!
It’s nothing but up from here! Guaranteed!!!!!
Happy, happy birthday to you!
It’s September 6th today. It would be nice to have a “secretary” accompanying me on my daily jaunts to record the historical and cultural information I’m bombarded with and the names of the people I meet. Alas, I don’t have a secretary; therefore, I must organize my thoughts and document things on my own:
Zohreh and I went out today with our personal cab driver and tour guide, Nahid. Our first stop was at a beauty shop, Salibah, where Zohreh had her hair cut for 10 JD.
After the haircut we proceeded to the Abu Darwish Mosque:
It was built in 1961 and commissioned by the late King Hussein of Jordan and Mustafa Jakazi at the top of one of Amman’s seven hills, Jebel Al-Ashrafiyeh. Non-Muslims are generally not permitted inside, but the views on the way up are good. Its pattern of alternating black and white stones draw on traditional Levantine architecture. It can accommodate more than 7000 worshipers.
There is an intriguing story about the genesis of the mosque’s construction that involves two men: a Christian man and a Muslim who were best friends. They would get together and talk at the Muslim man’s bar (where liquor was served/consumed). As the years went by, and with much consumption of alcohol, their talks turned into arguments and the two men began arguing about everything while their friendship totally deteriorated. The two men then agreed to redeem their friendship to ensure its continuation by the Muslim man tearing down his bar and building a mosque instead, and the Christian man building a church. No more alcohol = no more disputes. It represents each of them going back to following the teachings of their respective religions, and in so doing, redeeming and strengthening their bond of friendship, which continued until the day each died. In my opinion, the conservative architecture of the Christian church, and the L.A. “Watts Tower-esque” architecture of the mosque, visually demonstrate the extreme differences between the personalities of the two men.
Regardless of their differences, religious practices and personal beliefs, the mosque and the church represent the beauty and richness that can only be created through unity in diversity.
We then went to Nancy’s shop, next to the Roman Theatre, where I bought my hand-embroidered Palestinian dress yesterday. I left my dress with her to have it shortened. Nancy’s father owns a store similar to hers in the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem. I am now wearing two rings that I bought in her shop, one of which is as a faux wedding ring. I am not a “ring” person, but an individual’s association with “family identity” is very important here. The idea of an older woman being single with no children is comparable to being a person without an identity here – a very sad and unfortunate state. Considering I’m happy, and feel extremely fortunate not to have a husband and kids, it’s psychologically easier to appear to be married rather than appearing to be a poor, lost soul thrown out to the wolves.
Before leaving the downtown area, Zohreh and I strolled through a few of the nearby shops. Today is Friday. On Fridays after noonday prayers in the mosques there are demonstrations in the downtown area. Considering Zohreh and I represent what is being protested, we ended our tour for the day and returned to our separate abodes. I am now at home, being my own secretary and eating the food in my pantry. My next tourist expedition will be to the Stop and Shop in the Paris Circle, hopefully tomorrow.
So sorry to have sent out eight links to the Old Citadel blog! I am still learning how to use WordPress. Hopefully nothing like that will happen again.
Today, September 5, Zohreh and I went to Rainbow Street and walked around. I bought a great blouse with numerous patterns and designs for 14JD, it was on sale from 20JD. I like the styles and fashion of the women’s clothing here. We then met David and Randall for lunch at a nice outdoor restaurant, a cross between Moroccan and Jordanian furnishings and lunch fare.
The four of us walked down the steps to Downtown Amman where there are endless dress shops and an outdoor covered fruit and vegetable market by the mosque.
I am being the typical tourist with camera in hand on all occasions. During all of my past international jaunts I felt self-conscious displaying a camera and ended up with very few photographs. Not this time! I’ll have plenty of visual references for the “nuances” of life here that I’ll want to reference in my future art.
That’s it for the “tourist day.” I’m now back inside my lovely apartment looking at the Old Citadel in the distance. I will spend a relaxing but treacherous few hours sewing beads on the canvas for the women’s art salon. I say treacherous because the beads are the size of seed beads and require extremely small needles. The needles have a habit of puncturing the tips of my fingers and the canvas is a very rough texture that scrapes skin off hands and forearms. Fun, fun! I bought white cotton gloves for the women to wear to protect their hands. I’ll try wearing a glove (with the tips cut off) for a change.
I am now drinking a cup of instant Arabic coffee, at least I think it is coffee. It kind of tastes like bullion, maybe it is. Bullion with milk and sugar isn’t the best drink in the world. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but it’s definitely “interesting.”
Yesterday, September 4, a trusted taxi cab driver, Nahid, took me to the Old Citadel…the view from my living room window. It was incredible. It overlooks one of the Palestinian refugee camps that seems to go on forever.
We then went to the Roman Steps. At a shop by the Steps I bought a beautiful black Palestinian hand embroidered black dress from “Nancy.” Her father owns a similar shop in the Old City in Jerusalem, Palestine. She served Nahid and I coffee from a makeshift kitchen on the steps adjoining her shop.
I met a Palestinian woman, about fifty years old, in the Paris Circle and we had a nice little chat. Her rent has been raised from 26JD a month to 60JD a month during the past three months. That is a good example of what the economy is doing here since the huge influx of Syrian refugees.
That is it for yesterday!
I’m posting the following three days late. Each day turns into the next day very fast here. One of these days I’ll catch up with myself.
Today is September 2nd. Mismar, the realtor who handled my apartment rental, is bringing over the four boxes I mailed three months ago via Diplomatic Pouch to the Fulbright House. Each box weighs forty pounds and is filled with art supplies for the women’s art salon. Once the boxes are in my apartment I will feel secure. The boxes are analogous to my future children, aka: my future works of art.
Later today at 4:00 pm I will be meeting with my Facebook-adopted son, Son Khaldoon, for the first time. We met on Facebook about three months ago. He is twenty-six, lives in the north near the border and takes a bus to Amman where he works at a bank. He is on vacation from the university where he’s studying for a Ph.D. in accounting. Claire, a Fulbrighter, will be joining us. In Khaldoon’s last email to me he wrote, “You are my American friend.” I’m surprising him, he will soon get to know more than one American. Claire is a school teacher who, luckily for my son and I, knows Arabic.
The people here are incredibly kind, patient, welcoming and generous. They seem to be from an altered universe, the kind of people that should be everywhere.
Onward! I’ll update the events of the day with photos:
Hello to everyone!
Since arriving in Amman on the 23rd and until a few days ago, I was staying in the AlQasr Metropole Hotel. Breakfast there was exotically delicious.
On September 30th, I rented a magnificent apartment in Jabel Al Weibdeh with a wonderful view of the Old Citadel. (Photos 4,5,6).
This past week we attended meetings during the mornings at the Fulbright House.
The information that was presented pertained primarily to social customs.
What did I learn? A lot. I developed a deeper understanding of the reasons certain social customs exist, primarily for strengthening the welfare and advancement of extended family. I’ll explain more about this at a later date, suffice it to say for now, the family works as a unit and each member’s behavior reflects on the economic and social advancement of the family.
On the walk to the Fulbright House we pass a city park that houses peacocks, chickens and various types of birds.
In the afternoons we were transported to various circles in Amman to see apartments for rent.
On the very first night I arrived, the 23rd, I smoked my first hubbly bubbly – watermelon flavored! It was good to puff on but too strong to inhale. The patrons at the cafe were primarily women, dressed in their best long black dresses (decorated with white beads on the neckline and shoulder areas). Hubbly bubbly (hooka) cafes appear to be the “in” place for women’s night out.
The second night, a few of the Scholars (Angela and her husband Stephen, Zohreh, David and I), ate dinner in the restaurant on the roof of the hotel.
The following are more photos taken during our orientation week: