As I prepare to return to the West, as a I brace myself for re-entry into a world nearly alien to the one I have been living in for a year, I have been coming up bit by bit out of my “Palestinian Experience”. Jordan is a great place to lose the bends and refocus on the West. Less than 100 miles away from Jerusalem, Amman sits as a shining city on 7 hills, a prime example of a “good” Arab country in a region torn by strife. What makes Jordan so good?
A friend of mine asked me to describe Jordan to her and I said, “Jordan is a Harley-Davidson dealership”. It seems silly to launch into prose, but Jordan is a Harley-Davidson dealership, a strip of Popeyes, KFC, McDonalds, Audi dealerships, Burger King, Western Union, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Holiday Inn Hotels, Louis Vitton Boutiques, and shopping mall after shopping mall after shopping mall. If Cairo is the city of a thousand minarets, then Amman is the city of a thousand shopping malls.
There’s no old city in Amman except for the relics of Roman imperial history. One wonders what the legacy of American imperialism will leave standing. Will it be as majestic as the Nabateans Petra, or as impressive as the Philidelphia Theater? Will the rotting and stagnant dollar leave something behind as priceless as a springtime in Jerash?
What modern day imperialism will leave behind is the very state of Jordan itself, a shining example of neo-colonialism. Her inhabitants are made up of a mishmash of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, Bedouins, the Circassians, and the royal family and their cousins called “Real Jordanians”. All together they seek a common national identity only an absolute monarch and the helpful excess of foreign capital can provide.
Yet for me it is a fitting segue back into the loving arms of my homeland. Likewise a nation shattered by conflicting identities, ravaged by the forces of capital, likewise authoritarian in its methodologies but not its heart – note the photos of the king playing golf, spending time with his family – Jordan has been good in reminding me what I will encounter when I am home for some time. As my stomach turns at the subtle draining of this Hashemite kingdom, I can at least look forward to the pleasures of home, where the people have already been drained and at least everyone in Wal Mart will speak English.