Name: Ethan Beaudoin
Attractions: Amman claims to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.That being said, the city has had its most rapid period of growth in the past sixty years following the establishment of the state of Israel, two American led wars in Iraq, and a civil war in Syria. This rapid population expansion has forced the city of Amman to grow at a slightly unnatural pace making traffic, and other infrastructure related issues, a common occurrence. The most “Middle Eastern” part of the city is ‘wast al-balad,’ or the center of the city. Here you will find the vegetable souk (market), clothes souk, Yemeni souk, fish souk, gold souk, knife souk, and just about any other souk you could thing of. The city center also is host to the Roman amphitheater and the Umayyad ruins. and Another famous shopping attraction is the Ras al-Ain Friday Market (formerly the Abdali Souk). This is one of the largest collections of second-hand clothing in the world. An assortment of seasonally appropriate clothes can be purchased at this market for less than 10 USD. Rainbow Street runs along on of the ridges that ends at wast al-balad and is one of the most Westernized areas of town. There are burger restaurants, hookah bars, and even a sports bar. Abdoun is also one of the other heavily Westernized area of town and is also one of richest sections of Amman. In Mecca Mall you can watch a movie in an Imax theater, eat PF Changs, or buy a pair of Levi’s from the Levi’s Store.
Faith: Jordan is a majority Muslim nation with a small Christian minority. The week runs Sunday–Thursday with the weekend being Friday–Saturday. There are many mosques scattered throughout the city (I could see seven from the top of my host family’s apartment building). In my experience, the three most interesting were AlHussani mosque in wast al-balad, King Abdullah I Mosque in Abdali, and King Hussein Mosque in Dabbouq.
This being said it is still possible to find Catholic mass in both Arabic and English. A majority of services are vigils on Saturday evening since Sunday is a work/school day. The largest church is located in Swefieh and has an Arabic mass at7pm on Saturday.
Food: -A meal of hummus, falafel, and tea from Hashem’s followed by khenafah from Habibah is a must for anyone in Amman. This is probably one of the cheaper options, running around 4JD. Located in wast al-balad.
-Abu Jabar has several locations and has very good hummus
-Dar al-yemani is located at the North Gate of UJ and serves traditional Yemani food.
-For a quick and cheap lunch the UJ cafeteria is a very good option. For less than 2JD one can purchase a meal of rice, hummus, half a chicken, sauce of choice, dessert, and a drink.
-When you start to miss good American food go to Burger Shack in Abdoun. The burgers are on the more expensive side but it will undoubtably be one of the best you have ever had in your life.
A majority of the meals that I ate while in Jordan were provided by my host family. A majority of the meals I ate that were not homemade paled in comparison. The homemade meals I enjoyed the most were mansef (goat with yogurt sauce), magloubeh (chicken or beef served with vegetables), and mouskhin (chicken cooked with onions and sumac). Whenever you get a chance, you should eat a home-cooked meal.
Housing: Housing differs depending on which program you are accepted into. In the Arabic Language (AL) Program, host families are required and you get priority when matches are made. Overall, host families are hit or miss. Of the families that hosted while I was in Jordan %85 were very solid while the other %15 were less than ideal. Students were assigned to families from all income brackets, religions, and sections of the city so every experience is unique.
Transportation & Travel: Outside of Wast al-balad, Amman is not a very pedestrian friendly city. The three main modes of transportation are Taxi, Service (a taxi that runs along a set route), and Bus. Figuring out how the Bus system works is one of the biggest time and money savers for living in Amman. There is no centralized schedule and routes sometimes change on the fly, but overall buses are fastest, cheaper, and there is less chance of harassment.
Name: Becca Macdonald
Attractions: There is much to see in Jordan, from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, Petra, the desert, to the green hills and Um Qais in the North. Luckily, Jordan is approximately the size of Maine, so you will have the opportunity to see much of what the country has to offer. You can make day trips to the hot springs, or to the ruins of Jerash and Ajloun. I particularly enjoyed spending weekends on the Red Sea, where you can see Egypt, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. In Amman proper, my favorite area was Weibdeh. It’s an artsy area with lots of cafes and a relaxed atmosphere.
Faith: There are many Christian churches in Weibdeh, and in Amman in general. I either went to an Orthodox church with my host family, or to a non-denominational missionary church with some classmates. There are many opportunities to become involved in the Christian communities, though you will, inevitably, have to deal with people who feel it is necessary to try and convert you to Islam. Have conviction in your beliefs, but I would recommend not sharing. In fact, it is illegal for Christians to proselytize in Jordan, but very common for Muslims. It is best to keep your opinions to yourself and just listen.
Food: The food is incredible! Wast-al-balad offers some of the city’s yummiest restaurants, most notably, Hashems. In the same area there is Jafra, Al-Quds, and the famous Habiba. Your host family will take great pride in feeding you, and your host-mom will without doubt be an amazing cook! You can find any American chain in Amman, including Subway, McDonalds, Burger King, Fudruckers, Hardee’s, Applebee’s etc. There are also supermarkets with American products, like Safeway and Cosmo’s. For lunch, there are many restaurants around campus, and you can get a falafel sandwich for 50 cents.
Housing: I would strongly recommend living in a homestay. It will provide insight to how family networks work, which is quite reflective of societal norms. Living with a family allows you to use your Arabic constantly, and gain proficiency in dialect. My friends who lived in apartments loved their experiences, too, but I felt a part of a family, and had the opportunity to hang out with host cousins and family members, and develop a network of people I felt like I belonged with, and they taught me most of what I know about the local perspectives in Jordan. Remember to bring gifts for your host family… they will love you for it!
Miscellaneous: The weather in Jordan is unpredictable. I have never experienced such torrential downpours! When it snows and rains, the city will shut down (there basically is no intrastructure)! Bring rainproof winter boots because it will be cold in the winter, and rain (and perhaps snow) a lot! In some school buildings and host family homes, there is no heat, so it is freezing at nighttime. There may be a space heater in your room, but most likely not, so bring clothes as if you were going skiing.
There is a sever lack of water in Jordan, and for many families, the weekly water ration is delivered on Tuesdays, but delivery dates vary depending on the neighborhood. Ask your host family how many times a week you are allowed to shower. I was allowed to shower every day in the spring and fall, but they asked me to limit my showers to three days a week when it was winter due to the lack of hot water. All students join gyms because that is primarily where all students shower. Regardless of whether or not you intend to work out, joining a gym is a must because there is unrestricted use of water for showers. I would also recommend bringing dry shampoo!
Transportation & Travel: Transportation in Jordan frustrating! There are busses, which are typically unreliable, but generally safe and incredibly cheap. You will probably take a taxi to and from school each day with a carpool of students who also live near you to cut down the price. There are yellow taxis and silver Mumayaz taxis. Mumayaz taxis are slightly more expensive, but safer and all cabs have the proper registration that some yellow taxis lack. Most students develop a system with a driver they like, and he will pick you up and bring you to school every day.
Transportation around Jordan in general is fairly efficient and cheap. You can take buses to the Jerash and Ajloun for like 4JD, and a trip to Aqaba on the Red Sea (4 hours away) for like 9JD. Definitely take advantage of the transportation to go visit other areas in Jordan! There are many bus companies and stations, so it is not difficult to organize trip
Attractions: Wasat al Balad is the Center of the city. There are a ton of souks here, as well as the Roman Amphitheater and Citadel, both of which have great views of the city. The Souk abdali is like a flea market but wtih cool windbreakers and good food. Surprisingly (or not) people have found a ton of ND gear there. Rainbow Street is probably the most Westernized area of town in case you need a break from the Middle East.
Faith: Islam is the predominant faith in Jordan and you can generally visit mosques on certain days of the week. Check ahead of time to see when specific ones are open and remember to dress appropriately (e.g. covered up; women must cover their hair so bring scarves). There are famous churches in the region, though generally not Catholic ones. In Madaba (a nearby city in Jordan), St. George Church.
Food: Falafel sandwiches are about .35-.75 JD depending on where you buy them and what size you get. Shawarma sandwiches range from about 1-2 JD. Pita bread will replace your use of forks for the semester, so mentally prepare for that.
Student Recommended Restaurants:
Reem (shawarma, 2nd circle)
Al Quds (Falafel, Rainbow Street)
Books@Cafe (American food, Rainbow Street)
Hashem (Falafel, hummus, fool, AMAZING and really cheap, wasat al balad)
Canteloupe (really nice, great views of the city, Rainbow Street)
Housing: Through CIEE (depending on which program you’re in) students can live in apartments or with a family. Both have pros and cons. Apartments tend to give you more freedom (for instance, no curfews, which can be as early as 9 pm for girls in home stays) but it can be more expensive because you have to buy all your food and other necessities. Home stays give you a better cultural experience because you’re actually living with Jordanians. However, you don’t know much about your family until you get there and some people had pretty bad experiences (like they shared a room with 3 kids under age 10). Choose wisely.
Miscellaneous: There are gender-specific gyms where you can basically wear whatever you want, as well as co-ed gyms where girls generally have to cover up. Ask CIEE staff about which ones to join.
Transportation and Travel: Getting around the city — In day-to-day life you will be using a lot of taxis because Amman is not walker-friendly (all the sidewalks are destroyed and covered in trash). Always insist to have the meter on so you don’t get ripped off. Average cabs cost between 1-3 JD. Cabs to and from the airport are about 25 JD.
Exploring the region — There are buses that go to major tourist attractions (Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba, etc.) and are pretty cheap. Ask CIEE staff members where to get tickets. Use Tropical Desert Adventures to take excursions around Jordan’s many natural sites.
Um Qais- city in Jordan with really good views of Syria and Israel
Madaba- famous for wine and mosaics
Aqaba- fun beach town with great snorkeling and scuba diving; you can see Egypt and Israel across the Red Sea
Dead Sea- you can take a bus or taxi, it’s like 45 minutes max. There are tons of hotels that let you hang there during the day. Go before it’s gone! Literally gone.