Insider's guide to... Jordan


What's the weather like now?

What's the weather like now?

Stinkingly hot. This summer has seen the worst heat-wave in the Middle East in living memory. A couple of weeks ago Amman reached 27C - at night. During the day, shade temperatures have touched 43C, and even the locals have been taken to hospital suffering from sunstroke.

What are the locals complaining about?

Lack of water. On the back of the heat-wave has come the worst drought in 50 years. Before this week's announcement that Syria will be donating supplies of fresh water to Jordan, the city has been under severe water rationing. Some areas received no supplies for two weeks, and people blame the government.

Who's the talk of the town?

The super glamorous Queen Rania. Ever since the accession of her husband King Abdullah in February 1999, she's been in the media spotlight, championing women's causes and pushing social issues to the fore. Things look set to move into top gear for her 30th birthday celebrations on Thursday.

What's the cool drink?

Lip-smackin' thirst-quenchin' Pepsi. With every throat parched by the soaring temperatures (and alcohol the preserve of foreigners and lapsed Muslims), Pepsi's marketing team has launched a continuous series of promotions all summer long giving away a brand-new Mercedes every week. People have been buying the stuff by the crateful.

What are people eating?

Same as ever - boiled fava beans mashed in olive oil with chilli and garlic for breakfast, falafel sandwiches for lunch, and Pizza Hut in the evening.

What's the latest outrageous stuff on TV?

Women discussing their breast cancer. A series of campaigns by the government to raise social awareness has included high-profile talk shows on JTV1 on topics such as breast cancer and child abuse. Conservative opinion is up in arms at the public disclosure of such private matters. Meanwhile, the country is breathing a sigh of relief that the dry state-run Jordan TV is finally to be privatised and they'll get the chance to catch up with ER.

Where wouldn't the locals dream of going?

Out in the midday sun.

Where are the locals going that tourists don't know about?

The Blue Fig, a brand new café-bar-restaurant opened last month just down the road from the seriously trendy Hard Rock Café. It's been designed by a team of young Jordanian architects, and is intended to be something of a cultural centre-cum-gallery. Coming in September is Chinese month.

Where are the chic people doing their shopping?

Abdoun, the hip millionaire's district of Amman, complete with gated mansions and rich kids cruising in convertible BMWs. Designer label outlets, department stores and Dunkin' Donuts effortlessly draw in the platinum-card classes.

What's the trendy place to escape to for the weekend?

The Red Sea. Those with less to spend take the bus to Jordan's own dowdy beach resort of Aqaba, others fly to Sharm ash Shaykh in Egypt, but both are after some five-star pampering in air-conditioned luxury and a spot of snorkelling. Liberal minded twenty-somethings prefer the excellent bars and dance clubs of Tel Aviv, a half-hour flight away in Israel, but Jordan's overheated political climate means that they have to keep it under their hats.

Matthew Teller is the author of 'The Rough Guide to Jordan'.

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