Amman shakes up perceptions
I suppose Lindsay Lohan and the Middle East have something in common: Both have bad reputations, both need better publicists.
With little positive news coverage of the Middle East in the mainstream North American press, many potential tourists are left with the impression the whole region is plagued with instability and violence. As a result, they miss out on visiting some great destinations.
Amman, the capital city of Jordan, is a good place for travellers to start shaking off those negative stereotypes.
With cool shopping, good eats and trendy places to hang out, Amman is hip and happening. It’s home to a growing demographic of young trendsetters: A new generation of citizens with an open mind, disposable income and a nose for nightlife.
Nai, one of the most happening spots in the city, has all the makings of a good club: Beautiful people, stiff cocktails and a swanky Moroccan décor.
After midnight, I roll into the bar, past lineups, valet parkers, bouncers and metal detectors. The club is dimly lit, the music hypnotic. A group of friends down vodka shots and order another round of high-end bottle service. As Justin Timberlake brings Sexy Back, girls in sparkly low-cut tube tops gyrate on the dance floor. This scene of revelry and indulgence certainly isn’t what most would expect from a Muslim country whose neighbours include Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
While standing near the DJ booth, I meet two Lebanese girls who give me the scoop on where to go and what to do while in Jordan. They tell me Thursday is the big party night; that Prana, Caesars and JJ’s are places to see and be seen. In terms of areas, they say Abdoun Circle, Swaifeyeh and Mecca Mall are where the in-crowd hangs.
So, the next day, I head out to explore cool Amman. In Abdoun I find groups of young people sitting on outdoor patios smoking apricot-flavoured tobacco from Nargileh waterpipes. It’s a pleasant and popular way to spend an evening. From there, I travel to check out the biggest shopping complex in the city. A five-storey air-conditioned shopping hub, Mecca Mall sells trendy Euro fashion, from United Colors Of Benetton to Mango. It looks like a typical mall you’d find anywhere in the world.
Turns out, Amman even has mall rats — and they come in many varieties. While some female shoppers wear the hijab, others wear skin-tight jeans, stiletto heels and carry designer handbags. From the shoppers to the boutiques, the mall is filled with contrasts. One store sells flimsy red lace teddies, while the one beside it sells traditional Islamic dresses.
Mecca Mall reveals itself to be a microcosm of Jordan itself, a blend of Western consumerism, traditional Arabic lifestyle and of-the-moment youth culture. And you should come check it out in person:I doubt it will make the evening news.
This was first published in Metro metronews.ca
For more by Julia Dimon visit thetraveljunkie.ca or juliadimon.com
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