For a meaningful memento of your trip to the Middle-Eastern kingdom, step away from tackiness and bring home traditional folk art created by locals
Watch artists restoring mosaics on a tour of Madaba Institute for Mosaics Art and Restoration, or observe artists creating new mosaics at Jordan Jewel nearby. Firas Abdullah says, “Jordan Jewel’s artisans create scenes by hand with colourful stones harvested from the wild.” To make a mosaic yourself, book a class at Mosaic House in Amman.
Byzantine-era mosaics often depict ostrich eggs, which were used to store water or as lanterns. Today, locals use needles to dot-paint farming scenes and ibex on them. Ashraf Barqawi, director of eco-tourism for The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), says, “The RSCN trained artisans to dot designs on eggs at Azraq Wetland Reserve. Visitors can try in its workshop.”
These decorative and functional rugs are still produced using traditional techniques. Bedouin women spin sheep wool and goat hair by hand at Bani Hamida Weaving Centre in Mukawir in central Jordan, then weave it on looms and colour it with dye from the indigo plant, pomegranates and mulberries. Enquire in advance about joining a weaving class.
If you’re fascinated by the swirls and flecks of Arabic calligraphy, take a class at Deewan Institute for Languages and Cultural Studies in Amman, during which you’ll write the Deewani and Ruq’ah scripts using a bamboo pen.
The Nabateans – the people who built Petra – used local sandstone to create lightweight pottery, which they painted with images of plants and wildlife. Watch women making ceramics at Petra Pottery Association in Taybeh village near Wadi Musa, or try it yourself at Creative Art Centre Amman.
Mosaics Prices aren’t fixed at Jordan Jewel so take note of them in various workshops before making an offer and bear in mind that a 1 sq m mosaic takes around 300 hours to complete. Shipping can be arranged.
Ostrich eggs Ostriches are bred in Shaumari Wildlife Reserve near Azraq, painted, then sold in Azraq Lodge’s workshop as well or the souk-like shop by King Abdullah Mosque in Amman. When bartering, keep in mind that prices range depending on how complex the pattern is.
Kilims If you’re interested in kilims, buy one direct from its creator in Mukawir – when haggling, do so with a smile and never suggest a price you’re not willing to pay. You can also buy rugs made by Bani Hamida women at Jordan River Designs Showroom in Amman. Prices are fixed.
Calligraphy Learn about calligraphy at the House of Calligraphy in Ajloun Forest Reserve and buy stationery decorated with the script. Pre-book an appointment.
Pottery Local artist Aya Bataineh creates pottery by hand in Spaceulous in Amman. Products include finjan coffee pots, which are painted with images of cacti, pomegranates, palm trees and calligraphy.
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