The Ultimate Thrift Shop: Souk Abdali

People have blogging schedules, maybe they wake up early to write or jot down ideas during their morning cup of coffee, or they blog after dinner as a way of letting out the stress of the day. But sadly, my blogging schedule usually consists of blogging an average of 5 days after the fact, and I’ve fallen into that unfortunate habit.

We are currently in our last days of Ramadan, and coming up quickly is the end of my summer program here in Jordan – there are only 5 more full days of class left!
I still have 2 weeks here, and will hopefully get my 800 word research paper on human rights abuses in Syria (in Arabic) out of the way soon, as well as a handful of other annoying assignments, because I am SO EXCITED that I am going to Wadi Hidan after tomorrow for a hiking, climbing, and swimming day trip.
And then come Monday morning, I am finally off to Wadi Rum and Petra, the crown jewels of Jordanian tourism, and from everything I’ve heard, for good reason.

However, since I’ve gotten behind on my blogging, I wanted to share one of my favorite experiences in the city of Amman so far – going to a giant flea market called Souk Al-Jumaa or Souk Abdali nestled in the center of Amman.

Saturday through Thursday morning, the giant area that is at least 350m long and 100m across is used as an enormous parking lot for large tour buses, but come late Thursday afternoon, dozens of venders begin unloading their wares onto racks and folding tables under their giant canopies. This ritualized flea market is filled with everything from children’s toys to accessories, to shoes and fresh fruits and vegetables. And naturally, there are mountains and mountains of second-hand clothes for men, women and children. IMG_0899

One of my favorite things about Souk Abdali was its authenticity, since so many of the shopping areas in Amman that are fun to browse are targeted towards tourists and foreigners. Locals are regulars at the market because of the deals you can get at this secondhand market. Finally, I felt like my deprivation of cheap and fun thrift stores in New York City had been rectified.

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I had the most fun browsing through men’s and boy’s sports jerseys, looking for familiar sports teams, colleges, and just reading the ridiculous stuff off of shirts that had found their way to this market. Lots of clothes had “housing works” tags on them, and a lot of the clothes looked like they had found their way from the west, particularly from the States, and onto the racks of this market. I browsed for the first hour without speaking to anyone or asking for prices, just listening to the colloquial, laughing at the random clothing that I saw, and eventually making my way through rows of fruits and vegetables and into a quiet “shop” filled with flashy ball gowns (yes, you can find anything at Souk Abdali).

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My goal was to find myself a pair of light, colorful cotton pants because I had grown bored of knowing every pair of pants and every skirt I had brought with me to Jordan. I probably turned over a minimum of 300 pairs of pants that were mostly all absolutely gigantic before finding my diamond in the rough. I finally found a pair of extremely airy, orange and red pants with drawings of leaves on them that I paid 2JD for – that’s $3.40.

Earlier that day, I had parted with another pair that after arguing with the shopkeeper’s son, I was told was 3JD and no less. I found my bargain!

I also picked up a funny t-shirt as a souvenir and a few beaded bracelets with pretty charms that a man was making by hand right in front of me.

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The deals, the zany variety of shopkeepers and their wares, the noise, the heat in the middle of the day during Ramadan (I did not drink water in public during this period out of respect), and the range of sounds and smells (sometimes there were delicious spices and sometimes I was reminded of New York City in the summertime) made my lazy Friday exciting and refreshing. IMG_0892

The best part was that I had left my apartment with only 16JD in my wallet, worrying that I would have to skip out on some cool purchases because I had forgotten to get more cash, but truth be told, if you aren’t trying to buy several outfits, a budget of less than 20 JD is completely reasonable budget for this venue.

For anyone traveling to Amman and reading this, make time between traveling out of town and your academic and professional responsibilities to drop by Souk Al Jumaa!


After shopping I came home and not finding any watermelon in our refrigerator, dedicated myself to making a pitcher of lemonade and listening to dance music. In the evening, I went out with some friends to Rainbow Street, the popular, westernized street full of cafes, galleries of traditional wares largely for tourists and restaurants – for all of my fellow Hoyas, its ambience is very reminiscent of M Street. We ended up browsing one of the galleries filled with beautiful items that were all unbelievably expensive and rare, such as this mother-of-pearl covered jewelry box in the shape of a mosque. There was a showroom of rugs, but my favorite were the gigantic mother-of-pearl encrusted sets of chairs and mirrors.

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After eating my Nutella, peanut and banana crepe that night, I was fully satisfied with my lazy but very culturally and flavorfully fulfilling weekend spent in Amman. IMG_0888

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