Ears wide open

Ears wide open

Travel is always a sensory experience, but prior to my current visit to Jordan, I can’t recall any trip on which I have heard almost as many interesting things as I’ve seen.

Traditional meets trendy

Upon arriving in Amman on Sept. 9, our group of Christian journalists was taken to dinner at a trendy restaurant called the Blue Fig. The food was delicious; the atmosphere stole the show, though.

The Blue Fig easily could fit in any major American city. Its modern architecture featured wood and glass, the menu was a cosmopolitan  mix of cuisines, and the sound system played modern electronic music reminiscent of a hipster night club.

It was over that dance beat that I heard the sound of the Muslim call to prayer soaring out from a mosque’s minaret. It took me a moment to recognize the call. It was so ethereal and haunting, it seemed to be part of the music thumping out from the speaker above our table.

As times and worlds collided, I felt a thrill to be back in the Middle East.

‘Amazing Grace’

A bagpiper entertains visitors in the Roman theater at Jerash.

On our first full day, we spent an afternoon exploring the site of Jerash. Remarkably, a site located in Jordan and once occupied by Romans and Greeks brought to my ears the sound of … bagpipes.

Indeed, as I set out to explore the ancient Roman theater, I had to check to be sure I hadn’t just stumbled into Brigadoon. Because of the British colonization here, bagpipes planted a plaid flag in the Jordanian musical landscape. The entertainers performed “Amazing Grace” and a rendition of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” — all as a Muslim woman, fully covered in black, sat in the theater waiting on her family. She carried a large purple handbag and wore a green bracelet that sparkled in the bright afternoon sun.

‘Cumpleanos Feliz’

That evening, we had dinner outdoors at our hotel. The restaurant we chose served fantastic Lebanese food, but the other restaurant opening to the courtyard was an upscale Mexican cafe.

So there I sat, on my second night in Jordan, listening to a live band playing Latino, salsa-style music — including a Spanish-language version of “Happy Birthday to You” — as I dined on tabbouleh, hummus and fatoush.

Surreal. 

A surprising symphony

 

A Muslim woman relaxes under an arbor overlooking East Amman.

On Sunday, we drove to the top of the Citadel, an ancient site full of gorgeous ruins dating all the way to the Neolithic period. The structures are amazing,  and the views down over the sprawling city of Amman are astonishing.

As you look out over the metropolis, the sounds of urban life rise up to meet you. The noises of busy traffic and honking horns surround you, broken by the occasional rooster crow.

When the call to prayer sounds, hundreds of mosques beckon their faithful from every angle. The timing of the call is just varied enough to create something like a hall of mirrors in a sonic fun house.

Somehow, the calls and their echoes intermingle in a music that is at once dischordant and melodic. It doesn’t make sense, yet it comes together beautifully.

Life goes on, a million different ways, all around us. It might not be what we expect, but it’s probably kind of perfect.

 

 
 

About the Author

Jennifer Scroggins joined Franciscan Media in July 2010 as division director of content creation and services. A northern Kentucky native, Jennifer is passionate about travel, sports, cooking, fitness, music and the Catholic faith. She is a member of St. Paul parish in Florence, Ky.