Just when you think you know everything about Amman, it seems to throw you a bit of a curveball. Or in this case, a hidden gem.
Despite being on my to-do list, I had no idea that the Jasmine House – a cooperative dedicated to raising awareness of displaced Palestinian women also functioned as a café and a restaurant. In the hilly city of Amman, full of noise and people and a heavy Arab atmosphere, the Jasmine house offers a glimpse into a hidden European oasis. Yet at the same time it isn’t European, nor is it trying to be. Perhaps that is what is best about the Jasmine House. It isn’t trying to be anything other than a location that happens to champion for the rights of Palestinians while serving contemporary home-cooked Italian cuisine. I cannot get over their kitchen. When you enter the Jasmine house and turn right you happen upon their kitchen and dining space. It looks so inviting almost as if you stumbled upon someone’s house and they encourage you to grab a chair at the breakfast bar and eat. At the same time, there are portraits hung alongside the wall of strong Palestinian women, with a placard placed beside each photo discussing the moving stories of these women. I can truly appreciate how these women are part of the entire atmosphere of the Jasmine House. One thing that I love about Amman is how green it is. Despite its desert topography, Jordan also boasts some elements of a Mediterranean landscape. Green shrubs, tall Cyprus trees, rich jeweled toned flowers, and even cactus and vine leaves trace their way along the walls and streets of Amman. That is one thing I will miss about this city. The hardest part though is not being able to fully express yourself in the language. Despite how hard I try, I can never fully convince my brain to memorize the words and curves of the Arabic language. At times my modest attempts at communication are met with brusque English replies or a flurry of the colloquial dialect that overwhelms me. It can be disheartening especially since the purpose of my trip to Jordan is to learn the language and develop confidence in my speaking abilities.
For now, all I can do is enjoy being in the moment, as the cool evening breeze begins to settle over the city. I have found myself in an oasis, the soundtrack of French and Italian songs set the scene of the Jasmine house and yet in the background I hear myself catching the sound of a car horn here and there, along with the melodies of the latest shaabi (local Arabic) song. The Jasmine House is a juxtaposition, like me. And somehow we manage to make it work perfectly.