Amman & Ramadan

After a mix of planes, trains, and automobiles and just over 24 hours of travel time I arrived in Amman, Jordan. I was on a flight from New York to Amman with three of my colleagues from the program: Katrina, Meridith, and Zahra. During the flight a flight attendant came on the PA and said “We want to inform you that smoking is still prohibited during the flight… we know someone smoked in the lavatory because we can smell it.” We all got a little scolding but I don’t think anyone suffered the wrath of the Federal Aviation Regulation Commission.

After clearing customs, grabbing our bags, and picking up a couple of bottles of booze at duty free we walked out into the main terminal and were greeted by our smiling driver, Rami. We loaded up the car and were on our way. As he honked and weaved through traffic, Rami informed us that everyone was “kind of angry because of ramadan, no smoke, no drink.” He also said that if the police saw a muslim driving and smoking or drinking they would go to jail. Non-muslims are encouraged to be respectful of the fast by not publically eating or drinking.

We arrived at our hotel in the fifth circle, dropped our bags, and set out to explore a bit. Amman is a city of around 2 million inhabitants, quite developed, and buzzing with activity. There are a lot of Burger Kings. We cabbed into the downtown area and arrived just after 7:00pm which marks the beginning Iftar and the time when Muslims can break the fast. It’s quite incredible to experience: all at once the city is remarkably calm and everyone is seated and eating. Restaurants set up tables which spill nearly onto the streets, shop-keepers sit on the floors of their shops with hot plates of food, and people of all ages set up makeshift tables on the sidewalks and share large plates of hummus, rice, chicken, falaffel, and pita. Not a piece of cutlery in sight, not a person seated alone, and all the food is shared. You can feel a sense of relief as everyone sits quietly and eats. Within about 45 minutes almost everyone is finished, tables and chairs are picked up, cigarettes and hookahs light up, and folks go back to their routines.

Over the next couple of days I will start to look for an apartment before beginning an in-country orientation this Sunday with the folks in my program and a crop of Fullbright students and scholars. Eid is scheduled to begin in six days and marks the end of Ramadan. The word on the street is that there is an exodus from the city as folks flock out of Amman towards the coast on the Red and Dead Seas. Should be a good time.