What is famous in Jordan for shopping?

If you have already read our other posts on Jordan, you know now – Everything in Jordan is expensive compared to many other countries. So shopping in Jordan seemed to be extravagant for us. Still, we roamed to find something that falls under our budget and is unique to Jordan. As expected, most things were out of the roof. But, surprisingly, we got to know how rich Jordan’s craftsmanship is. So here is your guide to buying authentic things in Jordan, if you have saved enough money in your bank account.

Thanks to our driver Yusuf Jaber – He lived in Istanbul for 6 months and was a frequent visitor to Beirut. So he taught us how shopping works in Jordan compared to other countries.

Some Tips before you go Shopping in Jordan

Indian girl in red gown siting by he cliffside at Petra on a jordanian carpet

Look at those Carpets- Petra Viewpoint near Monastery

Most people know of Jordan’s famous places Petra and Wadi Rum. Somehow, people like us are unaware of Jordanians’ craftsmanship and art. It is hidden and this treasure is beyond beautiful. So when you plan your Jordan trip and shop for authentic Jordan things, fix an exclusive budget for shopping.

What is the souk in Jordan?

There is no bazar vibe like that of Khan-El Khalili or Istanbul’s grand bazar in Jordan. You can’t find a marketplace like Kashan or Isfahan’s with vaulted ceilings and artistic Mukharans in Jordan. So you find a few big outlets, smaller souks and shops selling Jordanian handcrafted items near tourist places.

Can you haggle in Jordan?

Most shops (including those petty shops inside Petra) have fixed prices. So bargaining and haggling aren’t a thing to try in Jordan. Neither with taxi drivers nor with camel owners! But we had to haggle with camel owners Petra because their prices were over the roof.

Bedouin on a mule climbing uphill beside caves selling Jordanian souvenirs

The local Bedouins, even at these tiny shops in the caves of Petra, don’t like it when you haggle

Do and don’ts in Jordan?

The three rules our driver Yusuf Jaber asked us to follow while we went window shopping are –

Never start the bargaining process unless you are sure of buying; 
Never utter a price you are willing to pay even by mistake if you aren’t ready or can’t pay that price, thinking you will ask for a further lesser price later. Because it is usually the “This is the price, take it or leave it” attitude among merchants.

Never lose your temper if you aren’t getting what you wanted. Jordanians aren’t impolite, but they aren’t used to this Istanbul Grand Bazar type of selling.

Clicking photographs in most outlets and bigger shops is prohibited. Plus you must inform the store manager if you are there to see and not shop. Jordanians never said no to our window shopping. Still, definitely, they don’t want to spend their valuable time on window-shoppers – Personal experiences.

Pictures from Al-Afghani Store

Where to buy souvenirs in Jordan?

Jordan is a compact country. Amman being the heart of its commercial activities, you find many art galleries and craft selling shops in Amman. If you haven’t been to any workshops to see weaving and Mosaic making, visit shops like the Al-Afghan store (recommended by many foreign travellers) and Nadia Dajani for shopping/window shopping.

Very likely, your tour organiser or taxi driver gets a commission when he gets his guests to particular shops. So you can’t always trust their recommendation. Do your part of the research, too, before spending your fortune in Jordan.

What products are made in Jordan?

The Mosaics of Madaba

Te of life motif mosaic in making

What is Madaba known for?

The city plan of the ancient middle east on the floor of Madaba’s church is considered the second most beautiful mosaic work globally. So Mosaic is Madaba’s thing.

Making mosaics dating back to the 6th century are still being preserved in Jordan, especially in this town mentioned in the Biblical era. We visited a workshop on the way back from Mount Nebo. The name is a bit boring,” Handicraft centre Mosaic workshop”, but their works are outstanding. When you touch their mosaic work, you can feel those infinite small stone pieces that collectively form a masterpiece. 

The “Tree of life” motif and concept have been part of many other religions and traditions, including Assyrians and Egyptians.

The classic “Tree of Life” design represents the power of nature that makes people live in the harsh deserts. Some even say that it signifies the importance of one’s routes and fruits obtained after good deeds. Other than this ancient symbol, artisans here create a replica of different older designs from natural stone pieces and meticulously place those tiny pieces in the tradition handed down from generations. You can get vases, tabletops, ledge tops, plates, dining cutlery sets, simple rectangular mosaics framed with wooden frames and so on. If you buy, you need not carry the items throughout your trip as they do ship overseas at an extra cost.

There is no second thought about the skills and craftsmanship of people here. We clearly told the store manager at the beginning itself that we were there to see and we could not afford to buy anything. Still, he was kind enough to take us around and showed us artisans cutting stones into tiny pieces and arranging each piece to create a work of art. 

Is there a place to learn Madaba Mosaic ar in Jordan?

We also learnt that there is a school run by Jordan’s kingdom where they teach Jordan people this magical art of making Mosaics.

The Black & red embroidered women clothing.

Bedouin moti handbags wih heavy thread work and embroidery

The embroidering on the Kaftans was similar to what you see at the centres of this handbag – A picture from Petra.

On both days in Petra, I walked into those little shops to touch that short black kaftans with thick red thread works with lots of mirror works. These Kaftans are inspired by traditional Bedouin women’s outfits and suit contemporary trends. Most of the embroidery was handmade in Jordan, but I am not sure of the origin of the average quality fabrics. One Kaftan cost around 20JD (2000 INR). Though the design is authentic to Jordan, I find it worth half its price. You see a few galleries on the way to Wadi Rum selling these, which are much more expensive than Petra’s.

Heads Up – Taking photos of Bedouin women as irresponsible tourists.

Bedouin women are shy and I observed that they were sick and tired of tourists clicking photos. I was clicking the photos of these bags and dresses and two woman shopkeepers went inside to hide. So I convinced them that I wasn’t taking their photo and showed them the above picture. They smiled and said shukriya.

Jordanian Carpets

Indian traveller sitting on Bani Hamda waving cart by the cliffside seeing treasury of Petra from above

Red-Black-White-Yellow and lots of triangles / straight lines = Bani Hamida weaving

In every Middle-eastern country, I have been to, I have checked for their excellent carpets and returned empty-handed (except in Egypt). Jordan is no exception to that because of the price. Persian rugs are dominated by floral motifs, while Jordanian rugs are all about geometrical patterns like triangles and rectangles. Be it a Bedouin tent in Wadi Rum or a traditional cafe in Amman, you see these simple and elegant carpets laid on the floor mainly dominated by red, black, and white majorly along with a hint of green and yellow at times. The straight lines dominate the pattern creating an alluring design. These types of rugs are unique to the Bani Hamida tribe.

Bani hamda weaving carpet hung on the stone walls near Kings Highway at Jordan

You find many shops selling Carpets like this at major tourist spots – Picture from King’s Highway

What is special in Jordan?

On our way to Petra from Amman, we often stopped our car for goats crossing small villages. Besides their milk, wool is the primary source of Jordanian rugs. So You find lots of outlets in and outside Petra, Amman, selling woollen rugs for fixed prices. The carpets may be worth the price for their handwork, but our wallet couldn’t take the load of high cost. The best place for those interested in buying and seeing the traditional Bani Hamida weaving is Mukawir village.

Traditional keffiyehs (scarves)

Jordanian wearing a white and red checkered scarf- Keffiyeh

You can’t exit Jordan without spotting a man wearing a red+white checkered scarf on their head. Though it’s traditionally worn by Bedouin men, tourists find it fascinating to wear one- Both men and women. If you haven’t carried a scarf to save yourself from the scorching heat in Petra, buy one of these in Wadi Musa. The visitor centre in Wadi Rum sells Keffiyehs. Needless to say, souks near Rainbow streets also sell these scarves. The starting price was around 5 JD (500 INR) in 2018.

Petty shops at Petra selling Jordan souvenirs like metal statues and scarfs

Agricultural products of Jordan

Fresh and giant broccoli and sunflower seed

What produce is grown in Jordan?

Most of us wonder what agricultural products you can buy in a water scarcity nation, where 75% of it is desert. On our way to Amman from Wadi Rum, we came across green fields in the middle of the desert where they grew tomatoes and broccoli. Well, you can’t get those at home, but Olives grown in Ajloun (North of Jordan) are considered to be one of the best in the world. So along with spices like Cardamom(which is an essential part of Jordanian coffee), Sumac powder, and Zaatar (that yellow sprinkles on Baba Ganoush), buy some good quality olive oils at Ajiloun or Amman downtown. 

Nabatean Jewellery.

It is rare to see Bedouin women outside their homes anywhere in Jordan, but their exotic metal jewellery is always visible hanging outside the shops in Petra. The Bedouin motifs revolve around simple circles and crude lines creating a human figurine. Definitely, they are unique – yet expensive The Bedouins inside the Petra archaeological site sell so many fake items that it was hard to recognise if they were genuine. But if you think of helping the tribe,

Our driver Yusuf suggested Nabatean Ladies Cooperative for silver jewellery near the Visitor centre to buy silver jewellery truly inspired by Nabatean motifs. So whether you want to buy it or not, visit this shop to see simple yet unique metal jewels.

Dead sea Products.

The Dead Sea salt is supposed to be excellent for skin and hair. These could be the best souvenirs to gift your family and friends. Saying that I don’t mean it’s cheap. There are many factories en route to Amman from the Dead Sea. Our driver Yusuf took us to one such factory outlet of Dolmen Dead Sea products near Amman.

A pretty lady from their factory took us around. She was extremely good at convincing people. Her skin was radiant. She said it was because of these Dead Sea skincare products she has used for the past ten years. I was impressed. I thought I would get my skin glowing like hers and ended up buying skincare products worth 10K INR. We used every last paisa we had brought for the trip here. 

Are Dead Sea products worth it?

The bitter fact is, even after using the masks and cream for a year almost, my skin remained the same. I can not say that the products are worthless, but they did not work for me. It neither harmed nor helped me.

Other things you can consider buying in Jordan are perfumes, sand art in a bottle, more spices, and camel leather (I don’t use any leather product, though) – These are common in many middle eastern countries. Of course, not to forget magnet stickers at Petra caves (the cheapest thing we could buy in Jordan was 5 magnet stickers for 1 JD at a Bedouin cave shop at Petra)

Indian traveller pouring tea from copper vessels in front of camp fire with black and red coloured carpets hung in the background

The Jug is empty; I wasn’t making Bedouin tea – I loved the carpet behind so much that I had to pose faking tea making in those beautiful copper vessels.

Was this encouraging to go shopping in Jordan or discouraging? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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