People usually associate a flea market with old, dusty clothes and other “junk,” consider it a sort of yard sale collision. In Amman, however, Souk Jara is deemed a flea market and is a far better cry than that notion. A sort of upscale summer flea market, Souk Jara lets guests feast their eyes on a plethora of new, unique, handmade items on display by local artists – but that is not to say that antiques are not sold, too.
There is no rummaging through piles to find what lies underneath, as in typical flea markets. But it’s a give and take: tediously combing through the crowd is always necessary, as the wide outdoor aisle that splits the merchant kiosks into two rows is packed with people.
Souk Jara is opened off of the end of Amman’s hip Rainbow Street nearest the downtown area. Held regularly every Friday (except during Ramadan – the most recent picture posted on the Facebook page gives a “Souk Jara is Back!” notice) from 10am to 10pm during warmer weather, the market is a hotspot for tourists. When I visited, I probably heard at least five different languages being spoken around me.
The same merchant kiosks can be seen every Friday. Hand-painted glassware, woodworks, and ceramics; sand art; Arabic language books; and even Arabic Barbie dolls are among the treasures you’ll find here.
I fell in love with oil-painted cups and plates depicting palm trees and houses of bronze and gold, so I got to talking with the artist who created them. It turned out that she had a store almost right around the corner which housed a greater selection of her merchandise. I went there a few days later to find slightly cheaper prices, so it pays to talk to the vendors about their whereabouts around Amman!
A trip to Souk Jara is just not complete without taking a sharp left about halfway down the main aisle to find a wonderful array of food booths…with free samples! (I’m the kind of girl who loves taking free pens at offices and mints at restaurants, so freebies at Souk Jara definitely made my day.) Smoothies and slushies flavored with watermelon, lemon and mint, and lemon and strawberry, to name a few, are offered on trays held by enthusiastic young workers.
I was surprised to see an “MMM S’mores” stand with a Pokemon-esque marshmallow mascot, but then again, who doesn’t like gooey marshmallow and melted chocolate stuck between layers of graham cracker? This booth even one-upped the classically American treat by offering to include Fruit Loops, too.
The International Relief & Development fund also has a permanent spot at the market. Homemade goods are sold, and the proceeds go to vulnerable communities.
There are more food options, although traditionally Arabic, and hookah at the very end of the main promenade. This “Souk Jara café” opens up to an outdoor concert setting, complete with folding chairs and a small stage for the scheduled evening’s live music performance.
Admission is not free but cheap, and local talent gives a great show.
Souk Jara is a dense market; step inside and start walking, and there’s something completely new to see on the left and right within a couple steps. Although you shouldn’t expect a typical “Sunday flea market” experience, do look forward to a unique shopping and browsing (and free-sampling!) experience now a trademark of Ammanian summer culture!
Image of Souk Jara signage from youinjordan.com
Following images courtesy of Kelly Vaghenas