A LOWLY TOWN CALLED IRBID
🎵 country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong,
West Virginia, Mountain mamma, take me home, country road 🎵
It was John Denver’s classic that was accompanying my ride from Amman to the third largest city in Jordan, Irbid. Even though the lyrics in the song were not related in any way to this place, it was the mood that the song brought made me feel eager to see what the city was all about having listened to what Irbid looked like beforehand.
Located 80 km north of capital Amman, Irbid is well known as university town. Even though their geographical structure is different to one another, both Amman and Irbid share the same color (which I think all other places in Jordan do). Irbid also anciently known as Arabella, which I’m not particularly sure if it inspired a certain band from Sheffield called Arctic Monkeys to write a song after this town’s old name.
It didn’t take me more than 10 steps into the Balad (downtown Irbid) to make me feel drawn towards this town. I was taken away by the liveliness and the ambiance. It was livelier than any town I had been into in my life. The smell of shai adni (cinnamon tea) chased me to every alley I wandered in, which I wish I could still smell it right now.
Trading is what makes that town alive. You would easily find street vendor in every corner and unexpected corners in Irbid. Local kids were selling things like socks and even balloons to the stopping cars at traffic lights. The sacrifice that people would take to make a living. It is one of the ways to get interacted with its people.
How were the locals like? Arab people can be hard on the outside but soft on the inside. They are not the best (or probably far from it) at making themselves sound friendly and affable towards new people. One of my freshest memories in Irbid, having a bizarre encounter with local people, was when I was trying to make a cross near one of the fast-paced road. It was almost impossible to make it to another side. There was this local guy beside me telling to my face something in Arabic that I didn’t understand. The tone was a bit tensed (more like ‘picking a fight’ tone!! The one that can make a baby cry non-stop upon hearing) thus making myself think if I was doing anything wrong.
“Just cross”. I ignored him.
“Just cross”. He repeated
It was understood later on that the guy was telling me to simply cross without concerning the incoming cars because they would slow down and let you cross the road first. Apparently that’s how they have been doing the road crossing. In my country, simply crossing the road would risk anyone’s health insurance. I put the ‘just cross’ advice to good use afterwards and it was really helpful. No honks heard. Daily routine resumed.
Nevertheless, people of Irbid are sophisticated, warm, actually friendly, and hospitable. They live a life of minimalism and hold tightly to their traditions. They are quite unaffected by international trends, and I found an untouched beauty in their lifestyle. They are proud of their rich cultural heritage.
Few days in Irbid made me realize the many things I took for granted in life. Happiness and contentment that sometimes can come from a simple gesture we show. I saw a lot of happy people from their appearance and hell I wish I could immerse myself into each person’s feelings. I have a lot of reasons to go to this lowly town again in the future. May our paths cross again, Irbid.