September 25, 2002:
Last night E and I walked downtown. The souk (market) area was largely still open; we wandered, and took in the same sights I'd seen during the day (how fun, to be able to show them to him). Stopped into a perfume booth where he and the parfumier mixed me a custom scent, with no language in common between them.
Strolled the ruins of the Roman Forum and ampitheatre, lit by flood lights; climbed 4 flights of stairs to the Al-Sendebad coffee shop where we sipped sweet mint tea and tried a nargil, a water pipe, with molasses-sweetened tobacco. We were the only Westerners (and I the only woman) there, overlooking the downtown's hustle and bustle. It was amazing: one of those "we're-really-NOT-in-Kansas-anymore" moments. Then dined on mansaf, a traditional meat-and-rice dish, outdoors at a cafe in the park...
That's an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote on my first trip to Amman. Ethan was there on business; for me it was vacation. During the days, I explored on my own -- first Amman, then the ruins in Jerash, and eventually a day trip to Madaba -- and in the evenings we went out together. At week's end we went to Petra and to the Dead Sea. (I wrote an essay about our Dead Sea experience, "Swimming at the Bedouin Beach," which ought to be in the Generation J archives from 10/02 though I can't seem to find it now.)
Amman was the first Middle Eastern city I had the chance to explore on my own. I had wondered whether I would feel safe there as an American Jewish woman alone, particularly given that the U.S. was at that time about to invade neighboring Iraq. But everyone I met was friendly and welcoming. I met a dress merchant who had a cousin in Chicago, and a tea-seller who, once he learned where I was from, insisted on giving me mint tea for free. I came away enchanted with Jordan, and specifically with Amman.
I haven't been back over the last few years, though thanks to Global Voices I count several Jordanian bloggers as long-distance friends. The bombings in Amman today are heartbreaking, and my thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has lost friends and family there. May God spread a shelter of peace over Amman, and bring comfort to all there who mourn.