Walking Jordan, Adrift in Amman

I woke up on the seventeenth floor, suspended above a city beneath an overcast sky; misty roads winding through stacks on stacks of white stone structures. When you live for months at a time in a place void of rain, mist, and cloud; moody mornings are more like million dollar moments. Le Royal Hotel Amman was our not-so-humble abode for the next five days; with a lengthy list of complimentary happy hours, tea times and club level luxuries. I took full advantage, settling into a table on the 23rd floor balcony overlooking the King Abdullah Mosque; helping myself to breakfast number two.

Amman seemed to me the sort of place that reveals itself over time, with the promise of time well spent. I’m fairly certain I could spend weeks exploring the littered lines of Amman and see only a fraction of what lies beneath. Justin and I discovered Dunia, a rooftop restaurant near 2nd circle with a modern Middle Eastern mix of low lighting, draped white linen, the scent of grape-mint shisha, head wraps and heels. A steady stream of underground lounge remixed with Arabic lyrics played soft enough that we could hear each other speak. Our bartender was both Russian and French. He was much like every other person we would meet in Jordan, genuine and warm.

While Justin went to work, I went roaming through the heart of the Balad; stumbling through streets lined with vendors and various shops. The vibe seemed a unique hybrid both Bangkok and Napoli. There were no plumes of perfumed incense or towering piles of colored pashminas. The market was mostly open-air, spilling into the street rather than clustered and confined beneath the tent-like covering that is typical of the Middle East. Ballad was the urban version of what I knew to be the traditional Middle Eastern market. I was met with friendly gestures and lyrical lines of Arabic, none of which I understood. A young girl followed me for two blocks, hiding behind tables whenever I turned her way to smile. A few boys were brave enough to stop and reach curiously at my blond hair, running tiny fingers through my trailing locks. I met Justin at the amphitheater and we wandered through a fruit market, stumbled upon an old book store, and stopped for coffee at a strange terrace café with even stranger decor.

Young men and women walked the streets in sweaters, holding hands. Some women wore tight leggings with towering stilettos and head scarves; others were covered completely by black burkas so that only the eyes could be seen. The streets were a display of equal contradiction in construction; modern designs stood beside crumbling remnants of abandoned homes; leaning lamp posts and graffiti sprayed walls loitered outside newly minted glass banks; a tiny liquor store down the block from a Mosque emitting the evening call to prayer.

The lines were blurred. There was no black and white, and it was something to admire.