Sharing girl talk with young women in Jordan
julia dimon/for metro toronto
Trolling the streets, looking for cool young Jordanians to interview for my column on happening spots in Jordan I spot four attractive young women sitting outside a popular ice cream hangout. I’m drawn in by their confidence and their clothing. They wear skin-tight jeans, stiletto heels and Islamic head scarves — the perfect blend of trend and tradition.
A minute after introducing myself, I’m handed a bowl of ice cream and invited to join the group. Over a malteser-flavoured dessert our conversation quickly moves away from hip hangouts to the good stuff — the life and loves of young women in Jordan.
Do you date, I ask the girls. They tell me they have close relationships with their mothers and are allowed to date openly. It’s not the case with all parents from an older generation, as tradition and family values are still strong undercurrents, but things are changing.
One girl is engaged, the other has just broken up after an eight-year relationship, the youngest is smitten with her new cute boyfriend and the last is single and on the prowl. “A good man is hard to find,” she confesses. “Tell me about it,” I joke. I guess that’s a universal problem women bear in all parts of the world.
Sharing cross-cultural girl talk I’m told virginity before marriage is revered and expected. Picking up people at the bar is uncommon. One-night stands are as rare as tuna tartare. Sex is still a bit of a cultural taboo and those who do “do it,” don’t talk about it.
I bring up the stereotypes that plague Islamic culture. I tell them many people in Canada think life as a Muslim woman in the Middle East means you’re oppressed, you can’t go to school and you are forced to cover your body. A resounding “Nooooo!” comes from the girls.
In their experience, women and men have equal opportunity. The girls are all university educated, each studying in a different field: Computer engineering, fashion and physical education. Life in Amman is one of freedom, peace and political stability.
“This is not Iraq. Jordan is perfectly safe.” Life is normal, “we eat, we laugh, we pray.”
Like many young people in Amman, they honour the principles of Islam and don’t drink alcohol. They spend their weekends meeting friends for coffee, smoking the argileh and gossiping over sherbet.
I ask about the head scarf. Some girls wear them, some girls don’t — it’s a personal choice based on their individual religious beliefs.
“A few years ago, when I travelled to the U.K., people stared and made fun of me for wearing the hijab,” one of the girls admits. She says people judged her and seemed almost frightened. “I don’t understand why they stare? It’s my choice and I wear the hijab proudly,” she concludes.
The girls have personalized their head scarves by tying them in unusual ways and decorating them with flowers.
After a remarkably candid and fun conversation, we snap a few photos, share e-mail addresses and say goodbye.
I’m moved by the realization that our similarities far outweigh our differences.
- Watch Julia’s exploration of Jordan’s happening capital city tonight on Word Travels at 10 on OLN.