Yesterday, I swept away with Alia and no kids in tow for a tiny shopping excursion. We needed to take something in for repair, but decided that this moment free of tagalongs deserved some impulse shopping. With most of my money dogmarked for groceries, we set a 5 dinar budget each and set out for Swefieh.
A friend told Alia that her favorite nail polish could be bought at Zaza for half the price. Considering they were only a dinar to begin with, Alia had dreams of technicolor nails. We found them to be a dinar each, and no haggling to be done there. We looked a bit more and she very well could have spent the entire five dinars on a belt she was eyeing, but I dragged her against her will to Bayader.
Just a few blocks away, but the flavor of the stores was so much more tempting. Here you can look without being followed every two steps and if they do talk to you it is usually to show you an even better bargain than the one in front of you. Our stores of choice are accessories and housewares, where you can get plenty of bang for your buck, or shall we say ding for your dinar.
Usually the best stores were those just off the beaten path. Some even extending their area by pulling tarps out as roofs and displaying their wares on the ground. Alia found her nail polish, although we could not get them to go under a dinar. She also found bobby pins for a half JD. She ended up with some money to spare so she bought some necklaces for her sisters and a wallet for her brother. I also splurged for a dinar liquid eyeliner which we have initially given two big Even Cowgirls Get the Blues thumbs down. Maybe it just takes more patience and precision than Alia gave it on our first try.
Always on the lookout for things to make my life more organized, I was excited to find three big canisters for rice, sugar and flour. I threw in a cake cover and tried to haggle for a half dinar bargain. It was a deal to begin with, but I still showed my best poker face and gave it my best shot. He wouldn’t budge. I gave in and paid his price. We were getting nowhere with him, so we moved on down to the next shop where I found lots of tea glasses that caught my eye but nothing quite good enough for my guests.
The next store, which very easily could have been overlooked on this street of bargains, was the best one yet! I saw so many things that I want that Alia started taking pictures of everything as a visual shopping list for her dad. She is planning on dragging him there and talking him into buying me everything. To that, I say good luck.
There is one final item, which everyone should know about, an olive and cherry pitter for dinar wa noos buss (only a dinar and a half)! What a wonderful addition to my kitchen! Fun and easy! I remember once being this excited about a handheld garlic press, until it came time to clean it. A mortar and pestle work just fine by me, or a grater in a pinch. Back to the olive pitter. You just stick in the olives, one at a time, and squeeze. The pit pops out and you are left with fancy pitted olives just like the ones you get in the cans! Olives in Jordan are more than just an hors d’ouvre. Olive trees line almost every street. Most of Amman was no more than farm after farm of olive trees. We buy olive oil by the tank (well almost) and olives fill several containers the size of the ones I just bought for my rice, sugar and flour and are served at anytime of the day. So this little item should find its way into everyone’s kitchen.
This is the kind of shopping that I love. I could live without ever setting foot in another mall in my life. I love downtown yet am somehow intimidated by it. Jabel Amman and Bayader are my style. Walking in and out of little shops, buying or looking, trying my best to haggle. I back down too easily and I am sure get a higher price than native shoppers. But the experience is something to be savored. This is Jordan.
One final footnote: One is never too young to haggle. Petra, my little second grader, came into the kitchen while playing school with her sister and brother. She picked up eight notebooks that were at my desk and said “How much?” I told her two dinars (fake, of course). She said, “I’ll give you one”. I said, “Sold!”