Thinking Aloud: Dispatch from Amman

Feb. 5, 2015 by Darius

I am working on my Arabic in Jordan.  I thought some of you might be interested in a snapshot of life in Amman this week.

~~~

Yesterday, my professor invited me to attend a protest/anti-Daesh (ISIS) rally being held last night by the Jordanian Association of Writers.  I decided to go.

I arrived at the site of the rally about 20 minutes before it was scheduled to start.  There were already a few dozen people, almost all young men, clustered there, and I could see signs and flags stacked up.

Just before 6:00 pm, flags were distributed and chanting began.  I was rather amazed to see that most of the flags being waved featured the hammer and sickle: the Jordanian Communist Party (a) exists apparently and (b) was out in force.  At the outset, the rally consisted almost exclusively of young Jordanian men waving red flags and chanting, but a few minutes later more older men, women, and children joined the crowd.  Things were totally peaceful, even when I noticed that one of the signs read (in Arabic) “America is a terrorist country.”  Aside from the sign, though, America didn’t come up at all.  A few of the chants I understood: “No to the idea of Salafism, no to the idea of takfirism,” “We are united against Daesh,” and “The Jordanian youth is red” (these were Communists, after all).

When the call to prayer came, the chanting stopped, and the other students from my language school and I decided to go to a nearby restaurant.  We had an excellent meal of hummus, falafel, and bread.  When we finished our extended food and conversations (including with a Jordanian guy who had worked for USAID for 30 years), we went back out to the circle where the rally had taken place.  By this point, most of the people had left, the signs and flags were gone, and it had turned into a candlelight vigil.  We all got candles and held them solemnly (and got wax on our hands) until, by some unknown signal, people started putting their candles on the central monument in the circle.  Then people dispersed.

It was kind of emotional but never either hysterical or threatening.  Even the Communist Jordanians seem rather orderly.

Anyways, I’m alive, and I’m glad I went.  I’ll be back in two weeks.

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