As posted on Devour Blog
I haven't found a good answer yet for when people ask me why I chose to live in Jordan. I usually fumble around with starters like, "Well, Jordan is a hub for entrepreneurship in the region..." or "Amman has managed to foster local creative arts in a unique way..." or "People here actually get things done" or "Have you seen Egypt lately?"
Those statements (except maybe the last one) are all topics of debate here in Jordan. And while I've found myself on both sides of a particular debate over the course of the past several months, I think I've finally settled on where I stand. Allow me to illustrate through one of my favorite breakfast spots: Wild Jordan.
"Well, Amman is a hub for entrepreneurship in the region..."
Actually, Jordan is a hub for entrepreneurship in the region... as is Lebanon... as is Egypt... as is the UAE. Entrepreneurship has only recently become a buzzword here-- before then, it was just a way of life. The Middle East is quite literally in the Middle of things (geographically speaking), and centuries of trading and shipping through the Suez and across land have established a fairly firm culture of business.
Wild Jordan is an example of local entrepreneurship that, in partnership with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), serves seasonal food based on the local agricultural heritage and often sourced from the six reserves created by the RSCN. The breakfast menu reads like an edible nature trail: saj za'atar (thyme bread), dibs (date molasses) with tahini (sesame paste), seasonal jams (fig, apricot) and honey, and spicy, cured zeitoun (olives).
"Amman has managed to foster local creative arts in a unique way..."
The city's landscape of beige buildings hides so much of the creativity festering inside. Festering in a good way, I mean. For example, my breakfast that morning happened to be with a group of people who didn't know each other very well, but were connected by one person: a documentary filmmaker, photographer, and self-taught artist who hangs out in Amman's cafes with the city's artistic legends. Every time I meet her I'm exposed to some new facet of local creativity: a critique of local art galleries, a concert on the steps of the Roman amphitheater, a meeting with one of the city's secretive sculptors. So as I dipped a swab of bread into the dibs and tahini and looked at the crowd she had gathered around the table, I decided it was true.
"People here actually get things done..."
They do. They also don't. Similar to the way I get things done (this post, for example), and don't (a post I promised to write 5 months ago...for example), this is a truth as much as a falsehood. It depends on whether you see the glass half-full. Wild Jordan, in this respect, is a bulwark of optimism.
The RSCN, after establishing the first nature reserves in the Arab world, decided to create a mini-economy for people living on the land that made use of the natural resources while ensuring sustainability. The adorably-named Beit al Baskoot and Beit al Saboon (House of Biscuits and House of Soap) were established as training and production facilities. A network of locally-managed workshops like these produce high-grade foods and products sold in Wild Jordan's cafe and the nature shop upstairs.
So the next time someone asks me why I chose Jordan I think I'll have my answer ready. And if all else fails, I'll just force-feed them pomegranate molasses until they're giddy from all the sugar. And when they ask me where I got it, I'll smile and take them to a big beige building down the street called Wild Jordan...
Jabal Amman, 1st circle
Othman bin Afan Street
+ 962 (0)6 4633542