A pashmina for the pet sitter, check. Sterling silver earrings for my sister, check. A mosaic for my mom, check. These souvenirs from Jordan complete my list for shopping in Jordan. Souvenir shopping is a memorable way to interact with people no matter where you travel. In the Kingdom of Jordan, it is no different. When you shop with a conscience, shop with your heart, the experience is elevated from memorable to meaningful.
Shopping in Jordan
Jordan, known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, offers shopping opportunities as diverse as its sightseeing options with something to please anyone with any budget. More importantly, souvenir shopping in Jordan provides unique opportunities for women of the world to meet with and support Jordanian women and their families.
Their handicrafts and ready-made souvenirs run the gamut from mosaics to jewelry to hand-spun yarn and are sold in shops and open stalls in awe inspiring ancient plazas. In the Kingdom of Jordan you can truly make a difference in the lives of these talented and industrious Jordanian women. Are you ready for some heartfelt shopping?
Shopping in Petra
This expansive archaeological site in southern Jordan, dating back to 300 B.C.E. is home to the Siq, Treasury and Monastery.
It is also home to Marguerite van Geldersmalsen, a New Zealand native who has lived in Jordan for the last forty years. Her open air shop in Petra’s interior showcases handcrafted and ready-made sterling silver jewelry.
The handcrafted pieces are stylized versions of images seen in Petra and are made by local Nabataean women – descendants of Petra’s first inhabitants. Marguerite also sells her signed memoir, Married to a Bedouin, at her jewelry stand that is beyond the Treasury near the Roman Theater. Visit her website for more details.
In addition to Marguerite’s stand, local women sell scarves or wraps in a rainbow of colors. Hiking off the main path up to the Urn Tomb or up the 854 steps to the Monastery will yield better bargains. You can ride a horse, donkey or opinionated camel for a small, negotiated fee if mobility is an issue.
If You Go: Petra is 236 kilometers south of Amman via the Desert Highway. Public buses, rental cars and cars for hire are available from Amman. Local tour companies, such as Petra Moon Tourism Service (www.petramoon.com), will provide customized tours and a knowledgeable guide into Petra and beyond. Petra’s entrance fee is 50 Jordanian dinars (JD) for one day and 55 JD for two days. Maps are provided at the entrance.
Shopping in Little Petra
This archaeological site is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra. The Painted House with colorful frescoes on the ceiling is a must see. Beyond the Painted House and past the elderly Bedouin man who sings and plays a primitive stringed instrument for a small donation.
An elderly widowed Bedouin woman, Temam Amareen, sells hand-spun camel hair yarn. She spins it on site while waiting for customers. She also sells trinkets, jewelry and scarves to fund her future trip to Mecca. Her goal is to save 3000 JD.
If You Go: Little Petra is eight kilometers north of Petra via Tourism Street. Entrance is free. The site is small and easily toured in about an hour. Steep steps lead to the Painted House.
Shopping in Madaba
Named the City of Mosaics, Madaba is home to 6th century mosaics in the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George and the Madaba Archaeological Park, neither of which should be missed. The Arts River for Mosaic and Handicrafts Center was created to keep this art form alive.
It teaches disabled women and men how to make colorful mosaics, paying them a competitive wage. The showroom has plenty of traditional (think Tree of Life) and modern mosaic designs made from local stone. Custom designs can be ordered to frame for wall hangings or place on tabletops.
The showroom has many other souvenirs from antiques, carpets and Arabesque furniture on the top end to magnets, t-shirts and ceramics at reasonable prices. Prices for expensive items are negotiable. The antiques are located in a small glass enclosed room in a corner of the larger show room. Ask about free shipping. Their online presence is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LaStoria.mosaic.
If You Go: Madaba is 33 kilometers southwest of Amman via Airport Road/Route 35. The Church of St. George and the Archaeological Park are in downtown Madaba within walking distance of each other. The Arts River Mosaic Workshop is about six kilometers west of Madaba on the road to Mount Nebo. You are welcome to observe the artisans at work.
Jordan’s rich culture is evident when you visit these ancient sites and meet these remarkable women. Being able to purchase their souvenirs supports them, their families and their dreams. Heartfelt shopping helps keep traditional handicrafts alive and enriches your life in the process. To quote Petra guide, Ogla al-Nawafleh, “Yalla!” – let’s go – Jordan awaits.
Read about Teresa’s adventures in Siberia on MilesGeek.