It’s the day before Eid in Jordan, and needless to say, many people have taken this extra day off before their real holiday begins.
Much like a long weekend being extended with a Friday off back home, Amman has kind of shut down for the day, and so has the work…for now.
I decided to take a trip to the Abdali Mall, it’s in an area of Amman called Boulevard, and it’s being hailed “the new downtown.”
Some Jordanians aren’t too pleased with the new description, as Amman’s historical and original downtown is much, much different. It’s filled with markets, the smell of fresh kunafa being made (a local treat with baked cheese, fried breadcrumbs and honey), gold vendors, and a whole lot of life.
This particular topic has come up in conversation a few times with residents of Amman. They’re not insulted with the new designation, per se, but annoyed at the huge modern buildings making their way smack dab in the centre of the city, and the assumption that just because it’s new, it’s the official downtown.
It’s the eternal struggle of new replacing old, and trying to find a middle ground.
The first order of business on my way downtown: hailing a cab.
I walked outside of my hotel in the blistering heat – you’d think I’d be used to it by now – to catch a cab on the main street. I must have had a sign on my forehead that I needed to get somewhere, because a cab sped by me, quickly reversed, and asked where I needed to go. Easy enough!
I’d been warned about taxis and the drivers running the meter to charge a fare that isn’t justified. So, I asked the cab driver how many JDs (Jordanian Dinar) it would be to the mall. He didn’t speak a lot of English and pointed to the meter.
At that point, I was just eager to get out of the sun, so I accepted whatever fare was in my future.
A couple checkpoints later (there is a security checkpoint for all cars entering the “downtown” mall area), I paid my likely double the fare and was on my way to exploring.
Abdali Mall is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Grandiose and extravagant are two words that come to mind, but even those descriptors don’t do it justice.
It’s similar to the Toronto Eaton Centre, except it has a couple more floors, it’s double the size, has a metal detector at every entrance, has an outdoor market and an open roof. On second thought, it’s nothing like anything we have back home!
So what are some other similarities and differences between Amman and Toronto?
I learned yesterday that crosswalks aren’t really a thing, here in Amman. It’s all a big game of chicken when it comes to crossing the street. Most of the cars were nice enough to stop. I’ve learned that people will cross whenever they feel like it, so if you’re on the other side of the equation and driving, you’d better stop!
There isn’t really a recycling program in place here. There’s been a small movement, but the infrastructure to implement it simply isn’t there. I’ve found myself holding onto the dozen water bottles that I finish a day, waiting for a recycling bin, but finally giving up.
Speaking with different people, it was funny to note how similar we are when learning a new language. I was asked what words I already know in Arabic, and I shyly admitted that I know “thank you,” or shukran, and everything else is a bad word.
Everyone laughed because they admitted that they too, learn those when they’re first introduced to a new language.
Mohammed has also noted that I pronounce my city’s name differently than what he’s heard before. I say “Torono,” as any good local does, instead of “Toronto” with a second ‘t.’
I explained to him that it’s a funny way to decipher if someone actually lives in the city or not.
I also noticed that seatbelts aren’t the norm in taxis here. Either way, I made my way from the mall back to my hotel, negotiated a fare with a really nice Jordanian cab driver, and successfully survived my first trip in Amman by myself.
Tomorrow is an official holiday, so I’ll likely spend the day on the rooftop preparing for my workshops, which begin on Wednesday. I’m expecting 15 Jordanian and Syrian journalists from all different backgrounds – print, online, television, radio – and all with different stories to tell.
I’m excited to see how the workshops go.
Back to planning for me, I’ll have more in the coming days.