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February 13, 2012

Impressions of Jordan

Kelly James, a staff member at the Network, spent three weeks in Amman, Jordan in January studying Arabic at the University of Jordan as part of an American student group. Nine Living Room Dialogue participants spent an enjoyable evening with Kelly as she shared photographs and anecdotes from her trip. The conversation was informal, and people asked questions as the talk went along.

As part of her immersion in Arabic, Kelly spoke with workers at the hotel, taxi drivers, sales people, tour guides, etc. It was helpful to read familiar names in Arabic - Burger King and KFC, for instance. All the Jordanians she met were patient and pleased with her interest in learning the language. In general, she felt very welcome as an American.

People in the room were curious about whether she had an opportunity to speak with Jordanian women. On one occasion, the group of students met with three members of Parliament, one of whom was a woman. Otherwise, the workers and trades-people she encountered were mostly men.

In the interview with the members of Parliament, there was a question about Jordan's relationship with Syria, which is Jordan's main trading partner. Kelly said the parliament members agreed that the uprising taking place there was a situation that first and foremost requires an internal solution, to be lasting. They applied this belief also to their own situation in Jordan, saying that Westerners often took measures affecting region without consulting them as an important actor.

The economy in Jordan is weak, and the country has lots of debt. The main sources of income are exports of cement and potash and tourism. Obtaining sufficient water is a problem. An effort is being made to transfer water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, which has declined greatly in size because water has been diverted for irrigation from the Jordan River, which flows into it.

Kelly visited the Dead Sea and floated in it despite the cold weather. It was warmer in the water than outside it. Other visits to tourist destinations included trips to the ancient city of Petra, which is carved out of rock; to Jerash, a well-preserved Roman city where she was moved to hear a graceful call to prayer floating through the air from many directions; to the fabulous desert and rock formations of Wadi Rum; and to an eco-resort where women sold crafts.

Kelly also showed pictures of sights within the city of Amman, such as a Roman amphitheater and other Roman ruins, a souk, and overviews of the city from its many hills.

Odds and Ends: One surprising thing for her was finding pictures of King Abdullah displayed everywhere, sometimes dressed in military uniform, sometimes in Western clothes, and sometimes in traditional dress. Even though it was January she did not expect the weather to be as cold as it was. Little heat was provided, and the students wore their coats in the classroom. As a vegetarian, she passed on the traditional Jordanian dish called mansaf, which is made of lamb, rice and goats' milk. Her best meal was breakfast where she was served things like a boiled egg and hummus.

At the end of the meeting, members of the group expressed thanks to Kelly for the glimpse into the Middle East she provided.


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Impressions of Jordan
GImpressions of Jordan
Impressions of Jordan
Impressions of Jordan
GPO 2011
Impressions of Jordan

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