After a week of studying for finals, papers, projects, and meetings I’ve finally had a moment to sit down and write my closing post on Jordan.
The word in the title, Arabreezi, refers to the dialect that exists among the teen population in Jordan. A combination language between Arabic (Old and New), and English. After spending a few days with my brother, I noticed immediately how easily he could switch back and forth between the two languages, not even acknowledging when he was speaking in English versus in Arabic
The two languages have become a prominent part of the culture and was one of my favorite aspects of the tip. In a way, this “hybrid” dialect was, to me, a metaphor for the entire country.
Jordan seems confused (and I mean that in all seriousness). There seems to be this constant struggle among the citizens between becoming Westernized and holding onto their ancient traditions. Jordan is so obviously still a developing country, as if a unfathomable population of stray cats (Blame the British), poor internet, and a truly terrible water system (don’t drink it, just don’t). The country is starkly Muslim, and constant references to the Qu’ran, as well as hearing the “Call to Prayer” reign over the country 5 times a day are prominent reminders just how close they hold to their beliefs. Members of the royal family, (believed to be direct descendants from the Prophet Mohammed) are highly regarded and each restaurant, office-building, and hotel contains identical portraits of King Abdullah II (went to high school at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts…), and Crown Prince Hussein (who is currently here in Washington D.C. studying at Georgetown University’s Foreign School of Service). Shopping is the second religion here, and I’m talking some serious “bling”. Women are not forced to stay home, but husbands have a clear mentality of not understanding why a woman would ever want to leave the home more than a few hours a day. You need help? I’ll get you help. You need more money? I’ll give you money. You want to see friends? Why don’t they come for tea. The draft has ended, but Military service is highly encouraged, along with University education, which is divided into both private and public education like here in the states. The top students in the city receive Jordan’s version of “free-rides” through one of the publicly funded University. And healthcare? LOL.
In essence, it seems this hybrid dialect Arabreezi, perfectly matches this hybrid country.
Overall, the experience was eye-opening, and my parents are amazing for allowing me to tag along. It will probably be awhile until the next post, and by then- who knows where in the world I will be <3
On every trip, vacation, or weekend away, its almost always for certain that you will experience a moment, at one point or other, where you stop where you are. You pause, to live fully in the present, experiencing exactly (and only) what is right there in front of you. These moments are fleeting, but they are there. If you can, hold onto them for as long as possible,
When that pause moment happens, you’ll know it.
Here are some of my favorites from Jordan:
- Seeing my brother for the first time in months, and him giving me a red check keffiyeh explaining that even though its traditionally worn by men, he knew I’d like one. He was right.
- Watching my 6’6” father roll down a sand dune in Wadi Rum and at the very bottom spreading out his arms and legs to make a “sand dune angel”
- Standing on the edge of the canyon in Petra, with my toes right on the edge of the warm, red, rock, overlooking “The Edge of the World”
- Sitting across from my brother in the back of a jeep racing through Wadi Rum in a rainstorm
- Being hoisted by my father into “The Monastary” in Petra, just so my brother could show me the engravings inside and translate the Arabic for me
- Getting stopped by border patrol on the night drive from The Dead Sea to Amman, holding my breath in fear, only for them to ask for a cigarette lighter.
- And finally, seeing my Mom ride a camel :)
Float in the Dead Sea (Dead Sea, Jordan) the short list
As an American girl growing up in what my mother calls a “feisty Irish household”, I have always been fascinated by the Muslim tradition of women having to conceal themselves in different ways. I have often looked at wearing a hijab* or niqab** as a violation of a girl’s rights, and as men having their way of hiding their wives or daughters away to be not seen, and not heard.
Upon coming to Jordan, my brother told me repeatedly how liberal Amman is, and how liberal Jordan is as a Muslim country as a whole, he told me not to worry about wearing a hijab, that I would stick out as a tourist no matter how hard I tried. What was odd for me was how casual he described the culture, as if maybe I’d see a handful of girls wearing a hijab during my stay here, if any. In my mind, if wearing either of the head coverings was not enforced than why would you ever choose to wear one?
Seeing Denise the first day, and her blonde hair flying freely as it liked, uninhibited by a headscarf, I immediately made the assumption that most Jordanian women were like her, “modern”, and “Westernized”. However, I didn’t have to be on the streets of Amman for more than 30 seconds to realize just how horribly wrong I was. The fact of the matter was, if you weren’t wearing a hijab you immediately stood out. I was shocked.
Over my time here I became interested in learning why, if not enforced, would women continue to hide their hair, or face, from the public’s view. Don’t they feel controlled? Is it social pressure? Pressure from male family members? Or is it truly a religious choice as it was originally?
One man we met said flatly, “Well would you rather have a piece of chocolate that has been wrapped and untouched, or would you rather have one that was already unwrapped and opened?”
Still some women say their choice is due to religion, as well as a personal choice to remain private about their looks so that men may take them more seriously, being focused on their faces instead of their other features.
Coming from a generation of girls that are encouraged to reveal all, and leave really nothing up to anyone’s imagination (Dear Britney, why did you ever make “Short Shorts” a thing?) over my time here I grew a new appreciation for these women’s choices to live modesty.
*veil that covers the head (hair), and neck in the Muslim culture
**a type of hijab that also covers the face, leaving a small slit for the eyes
The Treasury, Petra, Jordan
[Insert Indiana Jones theme song here]