Tetris, Taxis, and Fairouz in Jordan

Lydia Shippen is a student at University of North Carolina, Wilmington and is an ISA Classmates Connecting Cultures  blogger corresponding with her Arabic professor at UNC Wilmington. Lydia is currently studying in Amman, Jordan on a Fall 1 program.

Amman is a very unique city.  In your first glance you will see tall cream-colored buildings that are built out of stone and cement.  You will experience the chaotic traffic and be afraid of crossing the street, but then you will soon realize that it functions in an organized chaos that can be likened to a game of Tetris.  Even with the pieces moving quickly and fitting into their spaces at the last second, it is surprisingly safe to cross the road.  In addition to the traffic, you will be amazed by the extremely talented taxi drivers.  Many of them multi-task with ease; they can smoke a cigarette, talk on the phone, and drive a manual car while somehow successfully navigating through the traffic.  A simple ride through the city can quickly turn into an adventure.

A picturesque view of Amman and the Jordanian flag.

In your first few moments of listening, you will hear one of the most famous Arab artists singing love songs to you.  Her name is Fairouz and she is a Lebanese singer.  Her music is older, but it brings people of all ages together.  Fairouz sings to me every morning on the bus ride to the university.  Her songs are fairly simple so a friend is encouraging me to memorize her songs in order to help me learn Arabic.

Many of the taxi drivers play up-beat music and so another artist that I am hearing a lot during my rides is Amr Diab.

If you find that neither of these artists pleases your ears, then maybe you would like the Alternative Arabic music scene that includes a band called Akher Zapheer.

I never thought that I would come out of the “honeymoon stage” of being in Amman.  The city is refreshingly different than what I am used to at home and the food is so amazing.  But the change was bound to happen eventually.  Now I am three weeks into my trip and the day that I found myself being sick of the delicious khubz (Arabic bread) and falafel (a vegetarian’s delight) was the day that I realized the “honeymoon stage” of my time here had come to an end.  Now I know my limits; as much as I love falafel, I should only eat it a few times a week.  Growing out of that stage is a good thing and now the true work can begin.  This work includes forcing myself to learn Arabic, even though most of the people here can speak some English, and by digging deeper into the culture by continuing to ask questions, listen, and observe.  Hopefully this will lead me one step closer to feeling less like an outsider and more like I belong here.

This is me being a tourist with the ancient Roman Citadel in the background

Author: Lydia Shippen

I am a double major in Spanish and International Studies, but I decided that knowing Spanish was not enough. And so began the long journey to learn Arabic that has led me on a road to Amman, Jordan!

3 thoughts

  1. I once had the same experience. I ate the khubz, falafel, and shawarma almost every day. Absolutely loved them. I lost my love of them eventually. But years later, I hardly ever eat them. When I do, however, it’s a instant portal back to my time in Jordan. Perhaps it will be for you too (in a few years).

    1. I think that will happen to me as well. Thankfully I still think that hummus and falafel are amazing! Although, my love of falafel is more likely to go away faster than my love of hummus.

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