Saturday, February 5, 2011

First days in Amman

This morning was the best weather I've seen in Amman.  It has been raining on and off since we arrived Monday night and the temperature has been unusually cold (mid 40s-50s).  Thus this merited the first daylight run I've done here, also my longest run.

 view from the hotel on the first morning
I headed out from the apartment building my family lives in.  Almost everyone in the building is part of my family.  My host-father is intimately called Abu Musa as his eldest son is Musa, but his full name is Sa'ad al Din Zeidan.  Abu Musa is apparently one of the most popular Imams in Amman and this Friday I watched him deliver a long and impassioned sermon (of which I only caught a few words) in his mosque--packed for Friday noon prayers.  His website is here (if you use Google Chrome it can translate the page for you). It was interesting to think during the service that just a few hours south in Cairo, thousands of men were doing what I was doing, but upon leaving the mosques they headed to protest, while I headed home for lunch. 
our building.  the balcony off my kitchen is top the right

I live upstairs from Abu Musa and his wife with two of their sons, Mohammed and Omar.  I have my own room and bathroom, which is very nice.  Mohammed is getting his Masters in translation, so in addition to speaking English with him, he can tell me what the problems are with the Arabic I use.  Often I ask him questions in Arabic and he responds in English.  Abu Musa speaks good English, but his wife speaks hardly any.  I have met a few of their ten children and all speak at least a little English. 
Mohammed watching Abu Musa back out the Benz to go to mosque

On that day I actually ate downstairs with another kid on my program, Fernando, and his host-family in their apartment.  Fernando is a Muslim convert from Brooklyn whose family here is very close to mine.  He has taken no Arabic, unfortunate as his family speaks almost no English except for their 9 year old son, Nayef.  Jordanian culture is very big on eating, and a way of showing hospitality is by offering food.  Thus long after we had eaten our fill, Fernando's host mom kept telling us kul! (eat!). After all this eating and the hookah I smoked with Mohammed last night, chatting about Arab politics and culture (in English), it felt good to get out for a run.

I ran north on Istiqlal Street, one of the major thoroughfares in the city, for about 2 miles. I turned off and wound my way through side streets carefully examined on Google Maps until I reached my destination.  I had seen Sport City on maps, but a websearch of 'running in amman' confirmed my hunch about a good place to run.  Called in Arabic Medina al Hussein Shebab, the complex boasts multiple soccer fields and tennis courts, basketball and squash buildings, national sports administration, and a dirt running trail.  It was nice to get away from the streets full of cars with no care for pedestrian right-of-way.  Running in Amman isn't that difficult: bad air, lots of highway, a lot of curious looks and few honks from cars.  In short, not too different from running in suburban LA county. 

Back home I made Arabic coffee and did reading for class tomorrow.  At 8am Fernando and I will take a cab (cabs make up a 1/4 of all cars in Amman, by one figure I heard) to our program building.  A three story house in Abdoun, an upscale westernized neighborhood to south of us, holds the offices and classrooms for all of School for International Training (SIT) Amman.  A total of 25 students take classes together about modernization and social change in Jordan and the Middle East and about how to conduct research, in addition to three hours of Arabic a day (both colloquial and standard, split into four levels according to experience). 

Abdoun suspension bridge to the Abdoun neighborhood

There's still time for a short (or long, actually) nap before the large dinner of mansaf planned with all my family and Fernando's family to welcome us into their homes.  Dinner here is really late, like 1030 or so.  More later. 
from King Hussein Park looking east over Amman

the Children's Museum in Hussein Park
driving in Amman
half of my bedroom


  1. Paul! I'm so glad you found Sports City and were able to get for a run. Great photos, isn't the Abdoun suspension bridge pretty at night?! Can't way to hear more about your experiences! :)

  2. Excellent job finding good option for running. Crazy the weather in Amman is basically Portland weather--40/50's and rain. Although we had a sunny weekend for my run out Tillamook, up and over Rocky Butte, and home. ":>)