Although it pales in comparison to nearby Dubai, Amman has much to offer the keen shopper. From high end malls full of high street brands to designer boutiques in neighbourhoods such as Sweifieh and Abdoun to traditional Arab souqs, Amman has plenty of opportunities to indulge in a spot of retail therapy.
Like many other large Middle Eastern cities, Amman has definitely caught something of a mall mania. The Western part of the city has mall upon mall offering European and American fashion and home wares. On weekends, these places are full of young Ammanis browsing and buying. Even if you are not a keen shopper it is worth heading to a mall once or twice at least for an insight into this very Jordanian pass time. Groups of young people dressed in their best stroll the mall side by side with families and children perusing the stores and crowding the many eateries. From Abdoun Mall, Amman Mall, Mecca Mall, Barakeh Mall, Sweifieh Avenue, Istikalal Mall, City Mall and the Zara Shopping Centre there are plenty of places to while away an afternoon. However, City Mall and Mecca Mall are easily the biggest and best for those looking for a variety of products. These Dubai-style malls attract a wealthy crowd, including Amman’s Gulf visitors in the summer. Beware though, prices of many familiar Western brands might be 30 to 40 per cent higher than back home. If you’re looking for a bargain it’s best to wait until sales season. Baraka Mall in Sweifieh is home to most of Amman’s designer stores.
Those interested in local crafts and products can take advantage of Amman’s artesian stores for which Rainbow Street is a good choice. This pretty quaint cobbled street is lined with an array of charming boutiques and stores selling locally made products. Jordan River Foundation sells home furnishings such as cushions, camel bags, candles, embroidery, baskets and Dead Sea products (all at high prices and quality). Also try Balian Ceramics and Duinde Gallery which has a beautiful collection of locally made goods. A cheaper option is Souk Jara, an outdoor market which runs every Friday during the summer months. Souk JARA is an excellent place to pick up anything from handmade soap to jewellery to wall hangings. Both the relaxed feel and prospect of bargains draw a large crowd every week.
For budget shopping, the Downtown area is one locale where you can soak up some culture while honing your bargaining skills (bargaining is a must here). Most of the activity centres around King Talal Street and King Faysal Street where you’ll find everything from traditional clothes to locally made juice and ice cream, perfumes, olive oil soap, Dead Sea products, and spices. Gifts you can find downtown include keffiyehs, the chequered headpiece worn by men in the region, coffee and teapots, the ubiquitous argileh and traditional clothing. The market is also a good place to pick up household items at very low prices. Of particular interest is also the Gold Souq where you’ll find competitively-priced handmade gold and silver work. Although Amman’s downtown does not host an old Arab Souq on the scale of Marrakech or Damascus it is a great place to pick up everyday essentials and less catered to tourists than the Souqs in many other Middle Eastern cities. You’ll find almost everything you’ll need in its crowded, bustling streets and shopping is relatively hassle free as vendors tend to leave even tourists and expats to browse at leisure. Friday’s Souq Jumma (literally Friday Market) is also a must head to destination for those who like second hand clothes.