I have a great belt. It's really beautiful. I bought it in Amman in 1980. And like so many things, the memory of the adventure of buying it is the best thing about it.
I loved our first posting in Jordan. I embraced the culture, the people, the food, the city, the climate--everything. I was fascinated that everyone I met, including taxi drivers and shopkeepers, were so much savvier about world affairs than so many Americans. And I loved exploring the Old City for old silver and Bedouin jewelry. "Shifty" and other entrepreneurs came to the house (see first blog), but I also wanted to explore on my own. People told me I should visit the "junk souk" which was way down in the older central part of Amman, at "First Circle". We lived at "Seventh Circle", and so I would have to take a taxi . The city was safe and I had no worries about hailing a taxi and making my way down to the souk alone.
I remember that I had to step down, to this place, as one steps down to a basement in New England. It was dark, and filled with men working on metal—resembling booths of hardware and auto repair businesses. I had brought cash in my pocket, hoping to find some treasure in the form of a Bedouin amber necklace with silver beads, or coral, or lapis. I had, if I remember correctly, fifty dinars in my back jeans pocket, which was the equivalent of one hundred fifty American dollars. I walked slowly, peering right and left, and visited several stalls. What I found was not very different from the stuff on jebel weibdah, or jebel shmeisani, other neighborhoods in Amman. But then I entered one stall, and my eyes spotted a belt of silver and leather. I had never seen one like it. Huge etched silver pieces adorned a 3-inch wide, worn leather belt. In short, it was spectacular. I asked to see it, and tried it on. It could be worn at my hips and would work with jeans, skirts or dresses. Heck, I could wear it with anything. So I asked, "bikum hada? (How much is this?)" My Arabic was simple but I got an answer. “Ktir” –a lot, I said, in my feeble attempt at bargaining. I got them down from a hundred and fifty dinars to one hundred--still an exorbitant price. Well, it was a wonderful belt I told myself. I explained to the two guys there that I only had fifty in my pocket, but promised to bring another fifty next week. They said okay: fifty now and fifty next week. Then he said that I could take the belt home with me. I thought that was more than fair.
I was teaching tennis lessons, at 10 dinars an hour, so after five lessons, I had the second fifty within the week. I got a taxi on the street, and made my way down to the junk souk again. It was a little tricky finding them, but finally I recognized the shop where I found my belt. I caught the eye of the same shopkeeper, and proudly made the final payment. The surprise in his eyes made me realize that I was one foolish girl.
|silver belt from Jordan|