What to buy in Jordan

If you have already read our other posts of 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 are 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 the shopping guide to 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. He also worked in the USA for a few years. So he taught us how shopping works in Jordan compared to other countries.

The things mentioned here are in descending order of personal picks. 

Some Tips before you go Shopping in Jordan

Look at those Carpets- Petra Viewpoint near Monastery

Since Petra and Wadi Rum is the highlight of the nation, many like us underestimate Jordan’s craftmanship. So when you plan your Jordan trip and shop for authentic Jordan things, fix an exclusive budget for shopping.

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 and smaller shops selling Jordanian handcrafted items near tourist places.

Most shops (including those petty shops inside Petra) have fixed prices. So bargaining and haggling isn’t a thing to try in Jordan.

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

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

  1. Never start the bargaining process unless you are sure of buying; 
  2. Never ever- utter a price 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Clicking photographs in most outlets and bigger shops are 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.

Pictures from Al-Afghani Store

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.

Things you can consider buying in Jordan

The Mosaics of Madaba

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 is still being preserved in Jordan, especially in this town mentioned in the Biblical era; Madaba holds the traces for many sites mentioned in the Old Testament, including Jerusalem. We visited a workshop on the way back from Mount Nebo. The name is a bit plain,” 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. 

“Tree of life” has been part of many other religions and traditions, including Assyrians and Egyptians. . The classic 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. We also learnt that there is a school run by Jordan’s kingdom where they teach Jordan local’s this magical art of making Mosaics. 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. 

The Black & red embroidered women clothing.

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, 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, which are much more expensive than Petra’s.

Jordanian Carpets

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, white majorly along with a hint of green and yellow at times. The straight lines dominate the pattern creating an alluring pattern. These types of rugs are unique to the Bani Hamida tribe – (Our driver Yusuf’s information)

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

On our way to Petra from Amman, we often stopped our car for goats crossing small villages. Besides their milk, their wool is the primary source of Jordanian rugs. So You find lots of outlets in and outside Petra, Amman, selling this shop 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 Mukawir village is the best place I read.

Traditional keffiyehs (scarves)

The white and red checkered scarf- Keffiyeh – Petty shop at Petra

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 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. Starting price was around 5 JD (500 INR) in 2018.

Agricultural products of Jordan

Most of you wonder what agricultural products you can buy in a water scarcity nation, and 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 tomato and broccoli. Well, you can’t get those home, but Olives are 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, 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 Bedouins inside the Petra archaeological site sell so many fake items that it was hard to recognise if they were genuine. So if you think of helping the tribe, buy a few glasswares, soorma ( Bedouin eyeliner) or bags.

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, a visit to this shop to see simple yet unique metal jewels.

Dead sea Products.

These could be the best souvenirs to gift your family and friends. Saying that, I don’t mean it’s cheap. The Dead Sea salt is supposed to be excellent for skin and hair. 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. The sales rep there knows how to polish you nicely to end up buying a lot of stuff. We were taken around by a beautiful lady who was extremely good at convincing people to buy their products. 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 her’s and ended up buying skincare products worth 10K INR. We used every last paisa we had brought for the trip here. 

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 are perfumes, sand art in a bottle, more spices, camel leather (I don’t use any leather product, though) – These are common to 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)

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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