We arrived in Amman just over a week ago, and we’re slowly getting into a rhythm for how we’ll spend our time here. We flew out of Nashville to Chicago, and then had a direct 12 hour red eye from Chicago to Amman that went surprisingly well. Remy fell asleep for about 6 hours on Greg’s lap, and we found various ways to keep him entertained the rest of the time, including some of these great ideas about traveling with a toddler. Our attempt at traveling as light as possible came out to on one checked bag per person, our carry ons (with our study/work necessities included), Remy’s stroller, and of course, his potty seat;)
When we arrived, there was a man waiting to take us into town, which is about 45 minutes away. We piled into his small car and quickly realized seat belts were not the norm here. Nor are car seats. Remy rides on my lap anytime we take a taxi, which is usually at least once a day. On the highway heading into Amman, we passed cars with children piled in the back seat hanging their arms out the window. And then we passed an Ikea, and then a half dozen camels and a shepherd with his herd just a kilometer down the highway. It was the perfect introduction to this interesting city. To be honest, I knew very little of what to expect. I’ve never been to the Middle East and all I carried with me were my assumptions about day-to-day life in an Arab city. We chose Amman because it is the best option for Greg to be immersed in both the language and the culture, getting every opportunity possible to use his Arabic, and it is a safe city unlike other countries bordering us. What I’m quickly learning is that its a city of sensory overload. So much to see, so much to take in. We’re currently living in Jabal Weibdeh, one of the oldest districts in town with steep winding streets overlooking the city center. Being in this area has allowed for us to truly get a sense of what life looks like for the locals. Our guest house was originally built for a member of the Ottoman army over 100 years ago and still has many of the original aspects to it, including these floors…
It’s quickly becoming routine to stop for a cappuccino and fresh apricot juice at our favorite spot up the road, Rumi Cafe…
The facades of most homes and buildings are white limestone. Greg and I both agreed it reminded us of parts of Greece we’ve visited. The city is built around various hills so in the evening as the sun sets, the homes built into the sides of the hills glimmer with light, and its so very beautiful to see. We can walk down the winding streets to the center of downtown in about 15 minutes. It is there where you get the most authentic Arab experience from anywhere else in the city. It is loud, busy, and full of people who will stop to look at you if you are clearly not from around here;) And everyone, men and women young and old, stop to pinch Remy’s cheeks or offer a smile to him. There is a vegetable souq (market) where vendors yell back and forth with competing prices trying to get customers to buy from them. There’s some of the best falafel and kanafeh you’ll ever eat in your life. And its all right off the street – nothing fancy but oh so very delicious.
Another district up the hill opposite of us from downtown is called Jabal Amman. It’s an area we’ve really grown to enjoy with wider streets and large side walks shaded with beautiful trees. I didn’t expect there to be much greenery in this desert land but where they do have it, it is quite beautiful.
There are things that remind me of home where I find comfort, such as the garden and grounds of our guest house, the cafe up the road with freshly made juices and coffee, the kindness of the people both here at the house and on the street, the American friends we’ve connected and gotten to spend time with so far. But there are challenges as well. The language barrier is the most obvious, and Greg is doing a great job utilizing his knowledge of it wherever we go. While he’s in his lessons, I often times feel helpless when I want to run into the grocery or stop by the market to pick something up. And I don’t take taxis without him so Remy and I are limited to our little area of town while he’s away. I’d say having a toddler is probably the most challenging aspect for us yet. It’s our first time traveling out of the states since becoming parents, and we’re learning that the way we used to travel without a little one isn’t necessarily the most practical way to travel with one. We’re trying to figure out how our every day lifestyle should look so that we’re able to get the most out of our time here. For example, we don’t have air conditioning (and the high today was 99 degrees!). And we don’t have our own kitchen to be able to cook meals while Greg goes to his lessons for the late afternoon/evenings. It means I am trying to figure out how to feed Remy and myself without eating falafel every single night;) Not being able to speak or read the language leaves me with limited options (most signs in our neighborhood are only in Arabic, very little English). So while we are truly enjoying this city and its people, it doesn’t come without its unique set of hardships that are growing and shaping us – and making us quite thankful for little things we take for granted back home. Please feel free to drop a note or say hello if you’re reading this. It means a lot to hear from friends and family since that is an obvious thing we miss dearly from our lives this side of the pond! Enjoy the day. xoxo, holly.
PS – follow along with me on instagram for day-to-day images of our time: @maisoneverettAugust 26, 2014