As the warmer weather breaks through the winter chill in Amman, Souk Jara is reborn every year. Organized by the Jabal Amman Resident’s Association (JARA), it opens in the spring just as people are really starting to ask when it will start. Souk Jara is located on a small street, lined with historic homes, just off of Rainbow Street. It continues to expand each year and now this little alleyway-like side street can barely contain all the patrons. In its sixth year, the souk is loaded with over 100 booths, completely lining both sides of the street from one end to the other.
Amongst the booths one can find everything from handmade traditional items to items made from recycled materials to kitschy nicknacks to antiques. There are a few NGOs there, including Operation Smile, who perform free surgery on children to repair cleft palates, and another that supports the planting of olive trees in Palestine. There is a weaver, set up by the front gate, who makes traditional Bedouin rugs as well as pouches and wall hangings. A beekeeper brings his bees – safely enclosed, of course – and sells his honey a little further down. Beyond that is Jo Bedu, the hip new original T-Shirt designer. Every expat buys some of their shirts to bring home as souvenirs. Raha soaps has a booth; they hand-make vegan soaps with essential oils. The Jordan Poetry booth has used books as well as books by local poets. A couple of booths make creative things from keffiyehs, such as bookmarks and dolls. There’s something for everyone, as they say.
The food booths are, for the most part, grouped together on a side street in the middle of the souk, next to a seating area. The Batatee5 guys are really popular with their watermelon smoothies and ‘watermelon pizza’. Another big hit with incredibly long lines is Chipstix. It is exactly that; fresh made-to-order potato chips on a stick with a sprinkling of flavor of your choice. There is also saj; a wrapped sandwich with sweet or savory fillings. Perhaps you’d prefer to relax with a cup of tea and and a shisha, which is also available.
Just past the food is an art gallery that hosts art from different artists in the region and beyond. In front of the gallery, there have been two brothers from Iraq, maybe 10-12 years old, who do their own paintings. It is really quite something to watch their technique. They are waiting for visas to settle abroad, so they may or may not be there when you go. There are also other local artists selling their work on site. The art scene at the souk has been expanding.
The souk includes a children’s area with games, competitions, and painting. Also, new in 2011 is ‘Jara Storytellers’, a place where the musicians hang out with a small audience and tell the stories related to the music’s meaning and memories. It has a separate entrance for 3JD. Musical performances happen every Friday evening.
Souk Jara, along with the entire Rainbow Street Scene, has been steadily increasing in popularity year over year. It is a great place to hang out with friends. If you prefer to avoid crowds, it’s best to go in the morning or midday. However, if you want to check out the bands and get the full impact of the scene, the night time is best for you. The souk is one of the best communities in Amman. Even if you’ve only been living in Jordan for three weeks, you’re likely to run into someone you know there.
Get yourself to Rainbow Street and anyone there can direct you to the Souk. Souk Jara runs from May through October, with a break during Ramadan. To stay on top of their schedule and their monthly program, check them out on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SOUKJARA