Motherhood

15 Surprising Things About Parenting in Jordan

15 Things About Living In Jordan

15 Things About Living In Jordan

For this week’s Motherhood Around The World interview, we talked to Kelly, who lives in Northern Jordan with her husband, Jeremy, and their two sons, Caleb, 5, and Evan, 3. She is a part-time nurse practitioner who is homeschooling her children, and Jeremy is a family doctor. Here, she talks about falafel for breakfast, grown-up slumber parties, and a lovely way to soothe babies…

15 Things About Living In Jordan

Kelly’s background: We moved from Colorado to Jordan five years ago, when Jeremy was offered a job here. Our first son was born a few months after we arrived. We live in a pretty traditional Bedouin town, which is more conservative than other cities in Jordan, and many people on the outskirts still live in tent homes.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On first impressions: As we drove into our new town, I remember straining my eyes to take everything in. I was struck by how everything seemed like it was the color of sand — it truly is a desert environment. Our feet got dusty and dirty so quickly. I was surprised to see so many trucks driving around with camels or sheep in the back. You find children running in the streets, pick-up soccer games, salons and little shops. In the center of the souq (the downtown area), you’ll find the big vegetable market. A cacophony of voices shouting products and prices always fills the air.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On their town: We used to live in the middle of the city, but we recently moved out to a small farm surrounded by olive orchards and fruit trees. We hear sheep and roosters in the morning, and our sons get a kick out of walking our neighbors’ goats out to feed. Our landlords are excellent farmers, and I love when they tell us about how they grew up doing things like making soap outside in a pot over a fire or making sheep’s milk cheese. They’re like grandparents to our boys and often invite them over for afternoon tea.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On making friends: When we first arrived, I was nervous about being lonely. But Jordanians are unbelievably welcoming, and the tradition of hospitality is so embedded in the culture. Inviting someone into your home — even a stranger — is basically the same as saying “hi” here. Almost every day, I would walk through the market with Caleb in his baby carrier, and we would buy things we needed and get to know shop owners. Often, women would approach us, love on my little guy and invite us to their homes. Plenty of times, I would take them up on it and we’d sit, drink tea and chat. I have made such lovely friends this way, and it has made our time here so special. I’d only had a bit of formal Arabic training, so I basically learned the language through the kindness of strangers.

On soothing babies: If Caleb got fussy, the women would calm him by sitting on the ground with their legs straight out in front of them, laying him on their legs (head toward their feet) and then gently rocking him. I do this sometimes now with babies — it really does relax them!

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On coffee and tea: Offering a warm drink is a gesture of friendship, and your hosts will be touched if you accept it. The classic type of coffee is “qahwa sada,” which is a basic coffee flavored with cardamom. The host will serve about two sips to you in a small cup. You gently shake the cup to show that you’re done. Tea is generally black tea made with lots of sugar. My kids love tea, and our friends have a way of pouring it back and forth between cups to cool it for them. It’s so cute to see the boys sipping from their little tea cups.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On religious sayings: One of the first things I learned when I moved here were all the prescribed responses. After a death, one might say “God comfort you.” After buying something, you usually say “God give you health.” A common blessing when someone meets or hears about your children is “God keep them for you,” which I think is so sweet.

A lot of these sayings have to do with God. Religion is so woven into the culture, even the language. You can hear the call to prayer across the city five times a day. The first is at sunrise, which can be early as 3:30 a.m. One of the things they say is: “Come to prayer, prayer is better than sleep.” If I’m at a Muslim friend’s house (there is also a large Christian community here) when it is time to pray, she will take out her rug, put something over her head, and go to the corner and do it quickly. Sometimes I will see a man jump out of his car at a stop sign, lay down a mat and do a quick prayer right there.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On the jealous eye: When noticing that a person has something nice — like a pretty couch or even a beautiful child — you must say “Masha’Allah.” It translates to “God has willed it,” but really means “You have that nice thing and God willed that, so there is no jealousy.” I have learned the hard way that, if I compliment something that someone has in their home without adding “Masha’Allah,” they are compelled to give it to me. I accidentally got some pretty earrings this way.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On having lots of kids: Of course it varies (some of our friends have two children, some have ten), but most people in our town seem very open to large families. The expectation here is that children follow shortly after marriage, so people often have their first child soon after getting married. As a result, lingerie shops will sometimes also sell baby clothes. A few days after I had our second son, my friend brought some cute clothes for the baby — and a sparkly gold lingerie set for me! It all goes together here.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

An aerial view of the refugee camp.

On talking about the Syrian War with children: We are 10 miles from the Syrian border — so close that sometimes you can hear the fighting. Our home is a 10-minute drive from a refugee camp that has an estimated population of almost 80,000. It has been frightening watching the conflict unfold, but we try to stay hopeful. We encourage our boys to talk about what they’re feeling, and it helps to do constructive things like visit a refugee family or choose toys to share with kids who need them. A German friend does art therapy with refugee children and their families, and we go with her. The refugee kids are missing so much about their homes, their gardens, their communities, their houses — and they are so wonderful at creating art and processing their experiences.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On women’s fashion: Most women, including myself, wear a head scarf. There is a trend to wear a fluffy silk flower in your hair under the scarf to give it a pretty lift. Clothing is a personal choice, and it varies from town to town, but most women here choose to be covered up. Some wear jeans with long-sleeved shirts. Some wear a tunic that goes to your feet, and some wear an abaya (a long, black robe often pulled over relaxed clothes). Some women wear the niqab (a black veil that just shows your eyes) in public, including one of my closest friends here. She is a Bedouin woman with seven children — a friend introduced us because she thought we would get along and she was right! She told me that she feels most comfortable in the niqab and chose to wear it herself. I think every woman gets used to what she chooses and has her own set of reasons for it.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On date nights: In our town, men and women tend to do things as a family rather than go on date nights. Since our town is conservative, men and women don’t usually go to cafés together. My husband and I have found little ways to do it anyway — maybe the upstairs of a bakery or a little hike outside of town — and we’ve also gotten creative. Jeremy and I switched off planning something to do at home after the boys went to bed on Friday nights. We went through the alphabet as a guide for what to plan. One of my favorites was when Jeremy surprised me with a campfire on the roof (no fire codes for us in the concrete houses!) and had made gourmet hot chocolate (the letter was “C”). For “D” we practiced the “dabkeh,” a local dance that everyone does at weddings. We thought if we practiced at home, we could bust out our moves at the next wedding, but we ended up mostly laughing.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On female friendships: In Muslim culture, genders are often separated in social settings. I think staying with the same gender socially is so that everyone can relax and hang out without having to be covered or keep to a certain social code. Women don’t generally have male friends, but they have lots of male family around, and of course their kids. It took some getting used to for me — I would miss being with my husband when we would go out. (Still, at some visits we do all stay together — it depends on the family.) But since women spend so much time together, they have mastered the art of the slumber party, even into adulthood! They drink coffee and eat sweets, turn on music and have a dance party, draw on each other with henna and do a lot of laughing. When I go to Jordanian weddings, men and women are separate, so that always ends up being the most fun girls’ night. I sometimes go to a salon to get a taste of this, too — salons are everywhere and not too expensive. Because there are no men, the women relax and don’t wear head scarves. We watch music videos and chat while someone gets their hair done.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On celebrating with friends: During the whole month of Ramadan, life completely changes as every one is fasting (no food, water or smoking) during the daylight hours. As a result, the neighborhoods come alive after sunset. Families will break fast together every night starting with dates, yogurt and a special meal. Even after midnight, you’ll find families in the streets having barbecues and picnics. Because families are often so big, kids are trained to drop and nap almost anywhere if they are tired, so some children are running around and others are asleep. People still have this ability sometimes as adults — you will see a man lying under a tree fast asleep because he can sleep anywhere. We don’t fast (and eat our meals indoors during the day out of respect), but we love to break celebrate with friends and let our kids stay up late.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On food culture: We have become pita snobs — you can get it for pennies, fresh from the oven, at any corner bakery. Breakfast is often pita, falafel, hummus or moutabel (an eggplant and tahini dip), served with hot sweet tea. Our kids love zait and za’atar, pita bread dipped in olive oil and a thyme herb mix. Dinner is usually chicken or lamb with rice and vegetables. Another thing I love is the liberal use of herbs. A whole bunch of mint or parsley will take a front seat in a salad. Cooking is a big part of our family’s life here.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

On treats for kids: People don’t tend to discipline their kids in public. There are always exceptions, but generally parents will give their kids candy or chocolate if there is a meltdown. People also love giving treats to kids in general. One time I was walking down the street with my son and passed two women I didn’t know. They didn’t stop or greet me, but after we passed them, I realized they had stuffed cake into my son’s mouth! They just had to feed him! We really love it here. The people are so kind. We had planned to live in Jordan for only two years, but I’m so glad we’ve been able to stay longer.

15 Things About Living In Jordan

Thank you so much, Kelly!

P.S. Our full Motherhood Around the World series, including Northern Ireland, Turkey and Japan.

(Photos courtesy of Kelly. Interview by Megan Cahn.)

  1. Yilin says...

    I love the alphabet game part! So inspiring!

  2. Nora says...

    Thank you, thank you dearly for this post. I sometimes feel I’m less of a human being because I’m half arabic, like I can’t have the same expectations on being treated well. There is so much hurt in me, people degrade my origins so casually, like the time a guest in my own home (who didn’t know about my heritage since I don’t flaunt it) laughed about kicking a praying old man’s behind to make him fall over when kneeling in prayer… and I tried to keep the tears back because that old man he was describing could have been my grandpa whom I love so much.

    This post made me feel like my heritage is valuable. And normal. Thank you!

    • Agnes says...

      What a terrible thing to do, Nora! Never be ashamed of your culture, as it is very beautiful!

    • Menna says...

      I’m so sorry Nora. We should not be ashamed of our culture which has so much more to offer than what is portrayed in Western media. Btw, I love your name. I just gave birth to my daughter two weeks ago and named her Norah.

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  4. Laura says...

    Such a beautiful account and so so timely. Moved me to tears.
    -An Arab-American Mom in Seattle

  5. Trisha says...

    This is my favorite Motherhood Around the World post so far. I moved to northern Jordan after college and was a apart of a volunteer program there for years. I love that country and its people. The photos took me back and made me want to visit again soon. Thanks, Joanna, for this wonderful series.

  6. These are my absolute favourite posts. Thanks :)

  7. Odette says...

    So interesting. What an amazing experience.

  8. This is one of the best blog series I think I have ever read, I stayed up way too late the other night reading them all! Please keep it going.

  9. Erica says...

    Never stop this series! 💕💕

  10. Susan M. says...

    Wow, great post. I wondered why Kelly didn’t write about her deliveries, how people care for children (aside from cakes and sweets and affection), her profession, breastfeeding, and other aspects related to motherhood. Perhaps it was out of modesty or not wanting to include details that would be too hard for us to understand (or be interpreted negatively)? Or perhaps it seemed obvious and so not necessary to write about? One of the best parts was about the refugees and her compassionate view of them, but that also is not as related to motherhood. Very respectful, but perhaps overly circumspect? Perhaps out of respect for her immediate neighbours, to protect them? Thank you for sharing.

  11. Estelle says...

    Thank you “Cup of Jo” for this beautiful post. Islam is truly about hospitality, kindness, love for children and respect. Thank you for showing that in this post.

  12. We lived in Jordan from 2008 -2010. I miss the pita. I miss having a corner grocer that knows me so well that when I go to pay and realize I’ve left my wallet at home, they let me take the groceries anyway and know that I will be back to pay them. I miss just watching the street and observing things I never would in Suburban America. I miss tea sellers in the street. I miss goat herders in traffic without a care. I miss giving directions by landmarks rather than street names. I miss the Biblical history all around me.

    I don’t miss feeling dusty all the time. I don’t miss the flies (particularly at the Dead Sea). I don’t miss men trying to secretly photograph me because I’m showing my arms. I don’t miss the dismissive attitudes toward women. I don’t miss honor killings. I don’t miss covering up.

  13. What a fantastic post. Thank you so much for sharing :)
    – Krys

  14. Slb says...

    I’m reading this from Jordan now! I’ve been here for two weeks and am leaving in a week. It’s been an amazing experience and I’m so glad that I came even though many people were urging me to cancel. I feel like this post helps a lot in shaping a more accurate perception of the Middle East.

  15. Shannon says...

    I love each motherhood around the world series more than the last. Thank you. It was great learning about Jordan and it’s inhabitants. I had no idea how close they are to the border of Syria. Reading about the social culture and the perspective that it is a women’s choice to wear what they want was so different that what we sometimes think in America. Also enjoyed the menu for breakfast. I would love to eat fresh pits, hummus and falafel every day!

  16. Danielle says...

    Oh this makes my heart hurt! I lived in Egypt for several years in college, and loved exploring Jordan and other Arab countries. Now that I’m a mom, I’m counting down the years until we’re able to move back and I can share that world with my kids.

  17. Svetlana says...

    So great to learn about lives of families in different countries. I would love to read about take on a family that moved to Russia from another country.

  18. Leslie says...

    Hi!
    This question is for Kelly: are you able to work at all as a nurse practitioner while living in Jordan?
    Thanks for the insight!

  19. Ruth Rahadiyan says...

    KEEP ON POSTING Motherhood Around the World series. I really love it, Joanna :)

  20. Chrissy says...

    I absolutely love these motherhood posts!! Thank you for broadening my world.

  21. K Smith says...

    Absolutely love, love, love this series and I also enjoy reading the comments!

  22. It’s interesting to see a family living in a part of the world where (seemingly) so few Americans choose to live, and I must admit I feel a bit relieved to see mention of the refugee crisis within the context of this motherhood series. I often feel uncomfortable clicking from news coverage of drowned children and mothers trying desperately to bring their families to foreign countries to blog posts here with smiling American families extolling the charms of foreign breakfasts and baby wearing. It’s so hard to find balance in this extreme world! Thanks for taking a stab at it. I hope we can recognize the tragic truths that we never have to confront as American expats without taking away from the simple pleasures of the experience.

    • Rebecca says...

      Very well said!

  23. Jess says...

    Loved this edition of motherhood around the world! I went to Jordan two years ago with my father, we were in a cab headed to a hotel when the driver veered off track. I immediately panicked only to realize he had stopped to buy us each a Coca Cola. The generosity of Jordanians knows no bounds!

    • Megan Cahn says...

      I love this story, I had a similar experience when I was there. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Kelly says...

    Lovely. I’ve known many people from this part of the world – the most generous, kind people you will ever meet. The Salt of the Earth. Thanks so much for this story.

  25. I loved reading this post! So much love! Thank you for sharing your experience with us! You have such a beautiful family! I think Muslims in general are quite welcoming, especially if you’re visiting or living in their country. They’ll always make sure that you’re looked after, whether that means feeding you all the good food. We also say “Mash’Allah” to everything, even if you’re complimenting how beautiful a person is to prevent evil eyes lol. Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I hope to one day move abroad with my family and experience another culture, and learn a new language!

  26. april says...

    I think this is my favorite of the Motherhood Around the World posts you’ve done and I’ve loved them all. Thank you for sharing, Kelly.

  27. Cheryl says...

    After exploring the hashtag #prayforsyria on Instagram last night I have been longing to help in a personal, meaningful way. I wish we could send Kelly a care package as big as Texas to hand deliver to the refugees living nearby.
    The last picture is everything.

    • Jenny says...

      That’s a great idea! Count me in if it’s a possibility.

  28. Roxana says...

    LOVE THIS! Love this post and love this series!

    But I’m out of hummus :(.

  29. Kiya says...

    Beautiful post! I also had our first child in Jordan. My husband was a teacher in Amman and we lived there for 16 months back in 2013. I felt a little homesick reading your words, especially for the kindness of the Arab women, and the falafel. :) So sweet to hear another mother fall in love with the Hashemite Kingdom!

  30. Nadia says...

    Loved this post! Sounds like an incredible experience – and we can all use more nice people in our lives!

  31. Chesley says...

    THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. So grateful for this blog and especially these posts about mothering around the world. Thank you!!

  32. Soooooo interesting!!!

  33. My Palestinian mom always has zait and za’atar at her house. I dip anything and everything in it. Also, as someone of Middle Eastern descent, I would like to add my voice to the chorus of commenters who are pleased to read a first hand account describing people who are so often dehumanized by the American media and politicians.

  34. Ti says...

    Add my voice to the “I love this series” chorus! Perhaps it has already been suggested, but I would love to see a similar series on life in the USA through the lens of women from other cultures. (Somewhat the reverse of the current series.)

    • Amy says...

      That’s a great idea!

  35. Tiffany says...

    Refreshing. Love the bit about the cake, the generosity and desire to spoil another’s child, warms me up and restores my spirit. Thanks for sharing.

  36. Alex McKellar says...

    What a brilliant and timely post. These are the stories we need to be hearing, the narratives that should be filling our heads. Stories of hospitality overflowing, love and friendship across cultures and religions. Thanks xx

  37. Ingrid says...

    I loved this one! I hope we would be as kind to someone from Jordan as they have been to her. (It makes me sad to think we would not.)

  38. Claire says...

    What an informative, fascinating post! Jordan sounds like a really amazing, beautiful place. I love this series, and I think it is such an important one to share. It also makes me want to sell my house here in the US and live abroad with my family.

  39. zulejka says...

    I love reading these posts. They broaden my view of life in general, give a wonderful insight into culture that I knew very little about, and they feel me with hope and wanderlust, too!

  40. Kate says...

    This one of my favourites! Fascinating to learn about life in the Middle East. She is so chilled about being so close to the Syrian border, I don’t know that I would be. I find it interesting how many of the comments are about feminism and how the women in Jordan must be suffering in their current culture. We must never be so arrogant as to assume all women want the Western way of life. You can see this when she describes her friend who chooses to wear the niqab.

  41. I loved reading this! It really feels like a genuine peek into a culture so far from my own. Kelly, the way you describe everything is so gracious and lovely. Thanks!

  42. Ana says...

    This is amazing. I really appreciated getting to know a bit more of the culture and habits of Jordan. All I really know about it is Petra and beautiful Queen Rania :)
    However, like I once read here, I make mine Amy Poehler’s words: “Good for her. Not for me.” I admire Kelly the most because I know I would never be so un-judgemental and open, no matter how hard I tried.

  43. Jenny Leigh says...

    An absolutely fantastic post, and photos. Thank you.

  44. This interview is incredible, and it’s such an eye opener to a completely different culture. I love it.

  45. Loved this post! I live in Lebanon with my husband and daughter (who was born here), and although most of Lebanon is not nearly as conservative as Jordan, so much about the culture of hospitality, closeness of families, and kindness of people rings true here as well. Often I’m struck by how Lebanon feels like one big family–which can be challenging in some ways, but I’ve honestly never felt so cared for by a country. I wonder if Kelly feels the same way about Jordan–the sense that everyone has your back. I’m originally from New Jersey, so going from a place that values independence to one that values communal dependency took some getting used to, but it’s really lovely. Thank you Kelly!!

  46. Tess says...

    Thank you for this lovely post which gave a real insight into life in Northern Jordan. I live with my family in Amman and was struck by the differences of expat life here in the capital city, compared to a more rural part of the country where there are much fewer expats. Of course there are plenty of similarities too, but it’s so lovely to hear about your friendships and being embraced into your friends’ families too. Let me know if you are visiting Amman as I would love to invite you in for a very British cup of tea :)

  47. Can’t tell you how grateful I am for this series! I am always excited when I see a post in this series but this was specially amazing because it gave insight into a Muslim culture. I am a Muslim-American who grew up in Pakistan and though I have never been to Jordan, I can relate to many of the things she mentioned above and felt almost emotional to have an ‘outsider’ find the beauty in the ‘prayer call’, ‘mashallah’, the sisterhood of Muslim women etc. Joanna thank you so much for doing this. Means alot!

  48. Meggles says...

    It was such a pleasure to read about this family’s experience in a Muslim country (especially in our current divisive political climate). A few of the beautiful pictures, the faces, brought tears to my eyes.

  49. This is such a good post. I live in Abu Dhabi and the experience is very different to Jordan but also very familiar. The traditions are very much the same as is the language but we live in a much more urban environment.

    I’ve been here now for 5 years (the time has flown by) met my husband in the first year and don’t yet have any plans for moving back to the states

    Amy | http://www.yankified.com

  50. Rosie says...

    I LOVE this post. I feel like I’ve learned so much about a culture and place which can often seem so ‘far away’ in the usual media coverage. Thank you for continuing this awesome series!!

  51. I lived in Jordan for two years as a young child (almost 20 years ago). My sister and I were fluent in Arabic at the time (not anymore!!), and likewise lived in a more rural, conservative neighborhood. We visited again when I was twelve and have been and lived elsewhere in the Middle Rast. This brought back so many wonderful memories that feel so distant now. It makes me a sad how foreign it feels again, when it’s such a beloved part of my past. I will always love Arabs and their culture (and food!).

  52. Karen says...

    Enjoyable, insightful, informative…what an awesome post!

  53. Amy says...

    I love the translation of Masha’allah. My husband’s parents are Iranian and they keep saying that about our baby so now I truly understand what it means! (I translated it to “God bless”)
    My mother in law also does the leg rocking thing with the baby and I love learning that and along with other traditions in the Middle East.

  54. Meg says...

    Oh my gosh! I worked in Jordan for six weeks in college, and I cannot say enough how much I loved reading this. It brought back so many wonderful memories, and I was definitely smiling and nodding as I read through this! Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  55. Pam Decker says...

    Absolutely loved this post. This series is the best, as is Cup of Jo!

  56. Christy says...

    What a great post. I went to high school with Jeremy and it is wonderful to see his beautiful family and how they are thriving in Jordan. Thanks for sharing Kelly !

  57. Lindsay says...

    What an impactful glimpse into Jordanian life! Kelly, I especially appreciate how you explain common practices without stereotyping a country of diverse people. Thank you. Jordon, and the entire Middle East, is full of loving, intelligent and inclusive people. Responsible glimpses into the lives of others is beautiful and so desperately needed at this time, when stereotypes, racism, and xenophobia is rampant. We are all more alike than different.

    • Well said!

  58. Stephanie says...

    What a beautiful piece! My favorite so far. As a mom who is raising my own kids in abroad, I so admire Kelly’s appreciation for the surprising but beautiful ways in which cultures are different and amazing universality of family and love.

  59. Nathalie says...

    Thanks for a lovely read! I am curious about breastfeeding there – is it acceptable in public? Do the majority of women breast or bottle feed?

  60. Sasha says...

    Baby stores next to lingerie shops! Drop and nap kiddos! So so much to love in this post. Thank you for this little window into another world, reading posts from this series just makes my day.

  61. Amy Cook says...

    Kelly, please write a book about your experiences in Jordan! Everything about this piece was so fascinating. I felt some culture shock just reading your words and looking at these pictures, and I’m so impressed at how open and willing you are to embrace everything/everyone around you. You inspire me!

  62. Love your series :) this is how women in India soothe their babies too and the dating ideas had me in splits, I will try it too ;)

    Shruthi
    http://nyambura.co

  63. Meg says...

    So curious what giving birth in Jordan is like! Would have loved some details :)

    • Sasha says...

      Yes!!

  64. Sarah says...

    Trully fantastic. I love this series so much and this was a really fantastic episode. Thank you ❤️

  65. Hopefully this has been suggested already, but why not consider a Motherhood Around the World series with local mothers? It would be great to give a platform to the women who grew up in the areas you profile, instead of just hearing from women like us living abroad.

    • I think it helps to feature expats because they can see the differences a little easier.

    • Victoria says...

      What a wonderful suggestion. I have had a hard time really “loving” these posts for that same reason!

    • Georgia says...

      I was thinking the exact same thing–not all of the readers here are Westerners so there’s no reason to assume the expatriate experience is relatable. I do enjoy this series, too, and I don’t have or want children anywhere!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      good question, magoo! here is the introductory post to the series, where i explain why we chose to feature american mothers:
      http://cupofjo.com/2013/07/american-mothers-around-the-world/

      “We spoke to American mothers abroad–versus mothers who were born and bred in those countries—because we wanted to hear how motherhood around the world *compared and contrasted* with motherhood in America. It can be surprisingly hard to realize what’s unique about your own country (“don’t all kids eat snails?”), and it’s much easier to identify differences as an outsider.

      A disclaimer: We wanted to hear from these individual mothers about their particular experiences, but of course everyone’s impressions, circumstances, social-economic levels and lifestyles are different, so these interviews are in no way meant to explain, describe or reduce entire cultures. (I can’t imagine if someone tried to explain America as a whole!) These interviews are more about women’s personal stories and observations. That’s probably a no-brainer, but I wanted to point that out regardless. We also chose women who were more or less from the same demographic so we could see what it was like within that similar demographic around the world. I’m curious to hear from people born and bred in each country as well, in terms of what you think rings true and what surprises you; and also from people from other countries who are living in the United States.”

      thank you so much, and i hope that helps! i can see really good reasons for featuring local mothers, too, but for this particular series, we chose to feature expats for the reasons above. thank you so much. xoxo

  66. Nubia says...

    . This series is absolutely my favorite. This story was so touching!! Thank you!

  67. Michelle says...

    This is my favorite post in this series yet. How beautifully you have embraced Jordanian life, Kelly! I find myself more and more enamored with the Middle East, in all its complexities, and have a special place in my heart for Jordan. Petra is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Thank you for sharing a piece of your special life!

  68. Carly says...

    So interesting! I love learning something new when I come here. I can honestly say this is my favorite blog and has been for a good 5 years. xx

  69. Cynthia says...

    These motherhood around the world posts are a great insight into motherhood and family life in other countries. They’re a great way to start the workweek.

  70. Jessica says...

    This is the best series ever. I hope it never ends. Thank you!

  71. Kate says...

    I loved this! I used to live in Jordan and now live in Jerusalem, and it’s funny how familiar all of these things are!

  72. Maureen says...

    I love all the pictures, but especially the last one… such a good reminder. Thank you for this lovely series!

  73. Courtney says...

    I love this series so much. The similarities and differences are so interesting and I love hearing it from these women’s perspective. It makes me very thoughtful regarding experiences that I would like to provide to my future children.

    I’ve shared with friends and co-works. Thank you, Joanna!

  74. JCR says...

    This is so beautiful. It’s so easy to lose the people in the politics. May this world find peace.

  75. Keegan says...

    That was beautiful, this is one of my favorite series on any blog EVER! I thought their alphabet date night at home idea was really clever and fun, totally going to steal that idea for myself!

  76. Judy says...

    How wonderful to learn so much in this one post! Thank you, dear Kelly, for loving people with your medical care. Now, I want to know more! Would love to hear how the Jordanians mother their children–what traditions, wives’ tales, dreams, etc., do they have for their children? And to see photos of Kelly’s home! Is it common to hire house help? How do they feel about Americans? More! Please :-)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      agreed! i could have read a book!

    • Belinda, I love that book!

  77. This is beautiful on so many levels.

  78. Samantha says...

    I live in a super Catholic country and people feel the same about the evil eye. If they compliment a baby or a kid (either by saying they’re cute, or they’re smart), you must say “God bless them”, otherwise people feel like you’re putting a spell on them. If you compliment someone’s body part it’s the same, like “oh, your hair is so long, God bless it”. Even if it’s your own body part, you should say “oh, my hair has grown so fast, God bless it”. If it’s a thing, like someone has a new car, it’s something like “nice car! may God allow you to enjoy it”. Some people might get seriously offended if you don’t give them your blessing, so it’s better to be safe that sorry. My family is Jewish, so they didn’t teach me about that type of stuff and I had to learn it the hard way too.

    • I’m Iraqi Jewish and grew up hearing ma’ashallah. Muslims who say it to me are surprised when I tell them I’m Jewish (as they assume I’m Muslim) and that I know what it means. I really like the phrase even though it’s religious and could be argued has no place in a secular society

  79. Sarah says...

    I felt so emotional reading this piece. Thank you for helping me—and all of your readers—to better understand a beautiful culture.

  80. This interview really touched me. Thank you for such an inspiring and eye-opening post on an oft misunderstood culture <3

  81. Kathleen says...

    This was so lovely to read – thank you for sharing it! And, as some other commenters have said, I wish more people would read this. It provides such beautiful insight into living in a Middle Eastern community, and embracing the culture. These are such difficult times, and I am thankful to read this rich and heart-warming perspective on Middle Eastern life.

  82. Maria says...

    How cool! Love seeing stories from non-European countries!! The Middle Eastern ones are such a treat; so good and interesting to hear the daily routine. A real insight. Thank you!

  83. Loribeth says...

    So, so beautiful. Gosh, I’m not even a mom but this is one of my favorite series on the whole internet!

  84. Kelly says...

    What a lovely glimpse into life in Jordan! Thank you.

  85. I was so touched by this story. I love the way this humanized the people living over in the middle east, which sometimes feels like this place which is only depicted in the worst possible way. I loved her words on female friendship, and how silly and free they are when together. The idea of separating the men from the women seems so archaic, but I appreciated reading her take on it and how she has come to enjoy it. Wonderful read!

    xoxo http://www.touchofcurl.com

  86. Kate says...

    I’ve made the mistake of complementing someone’s belongings before and got a new purse out of the deal – I wish I’d known Masha’Allah!! What a lovely post. My heart goes out to the children of Syria, and the ones learning about those difficult things long before they should have to.

  87. Amy says...

    I love the part about the women stuffing cake into your sons’ mouths! How cute.

  88. Sarah says...

    I happened to be in Jordan during Ramadan about ten years ago, visiting a friend in the Peace Corps in Kerak, and everyone I met invited me to break the fast with them at their home. Literally everyone! It was awesome.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how amazing and wonderful.

    • Aya says...

      This made me tear up!

  89. kayla says...

    SO interesting! I love it.

  90. Bianca says...

    Wonderful piece! I grew up in the Middle East, and the emphasis on family, culture and food, rang so true. We need to be reminded in these difficult times about the common bond we all share. Thanks for the diversity in these glimpses into motherhood!

  91. Maybe is because I’m going through PMS, but I cried at the end of this one. Bringing universes together. Thank you Joanna.

    • Amy says...

      Haha. Yes!

    • Lula says...

      Me too! I had tears in my eyes! My favourite so far!

      Sorry for the over use of exclamation marks but I *really* loved it!

  92. Caddea says...

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  93. I was in Jordan some years ago and absolutely loved it. I feel really bad for the Syrian refugees, as well as the many Palestinian refugees who have been there for so many years. It seems that the best thing for Syria would be to give the refugees a ton of support in the neighboring countries so they can go home when peace finally arrives and rebuild the country, which will need them desperately. My best wishes to Jordan!

  94. Lauren E. says...

    What an important post. I’m sure I’m not the only one with biased ideas about what life is like in the middle east so thank you for shedding some light.

    • Lauren says...

      So I devour the posts in this series about parenting in other cultures. But this one left me a bit unsettled. Comments like yours and others on this post are so on point, about how Americans especially need to take it upon ourselves to get a glimpse into what life is really like in middle eastern countries, and to attempt to get over our biases.

      They *are* so much like us, but I think this piece glosses over some notable ways that we are still so different. Jordan is one of the most progressive countries in the middle east, sure, but it is still not an easy place for women to live.

      In the “On female friendships” section, for example, it says: ” I think staying with the same gender socially is so that everyone can relax and hang out without having to be covered or keep to a certain social code. ” Well, OK, but that’s a rather rosy picture of it. The underlying reason the genders have to be separated for women to have the ability to feel relaxed and stay uncovered is because women are still very much unequal in society in Jordan. I wish this piece had touched on that, and about ways women in Jordan are fighting for their human rights.

      Another part: “Since our town is conservative, men and women don’t usually go to cafés together. My husband and I have found little ways to do it anyway — maybe the upstairs of a bakery or a little hike outside of town — and we’ve also gotten creative.” To me this reads a bit too cutesy a way of acknowledging a very real problem that other couples in Jordan are unable to solve in the same way.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, I think we need a little more acknowledgement that the author is writing about Jordan through her lens of privilege, as an educated white woman living there who can break taboos without much fear of consequence, and leave at any time without it being a devastating upheaval for her family.

      I hope all that doesn’t read as too harsh. I have no doubt that Kelly is a lovely woman with a huge heart, and I enjoyed learning from this essay.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, lauren.

    • Lauren says...

      …and thank you for *your* thank you, Jo! Lol. I see and appreciate all the work you are doing to make CoJ a place that celebrates diversity and inclusion. CoJ continues to be one of my favorite websites!

    • stacey says...

      Excellent points here. Something wasn’t sitting right with me and you hit the nail on the head. Really lovely family though!

    • Alison says...

      Lauren, I think the only lens that the author has is through her position as a foreigner and while you bring up valid points about the position of women in Jordan I think it is important to appreciate that this series is a commentary on a foreigners experience raising children in a different land and culture not a critique about that country and culture and why some of those differences exist.

    • Liz says...

      Thank you, Alison! I agree and would add that to try to do a feminist critique of Jordan from an outsider perspective risks blindness both to the specific ways that patriarchy manifests itself there and the ways that women might ‘resist’ or negotiate it. I think this type of outsider critique also tends to make it appear as though patriarchy were a thing of the ‘past’ in the U.S. when clearly it is not.

    • Anna says...

      Love all the above comments, but feminism doesn’t equal priviliged white lady feminism. I don’t know that much about Jordan, only what I have read in history/geography/political science, novels, news articles and blog posts, but there’s definitely power when women come together and share their love and knowledge and support each other. xo

    • Meg says...

      I agree that she is definitely writing through a privileged lens, but I suspect she’s also putting a positive spin on things that do upset or frustrate her. My mom lived in Saudi Arabia for the first four years of her marriage to my father, and undoubtedly, she would have said many of the same things, including that she enjoyed spending time with Saudi and American women, even when they were separated from the men. Now, as she’s had time to reflect on it (thirty years later), she talks about how frustrating it was that she couldn’t drive, had to work illegally, and rarely got to spend time with her husband. But she felt strongly about making the best of it, and I suspect that’s what Kelly is doing also.

    • Anna says...

      In reply to Lauren’s comment -“Well, OK, but that’s a rather rosy picture of it. The underlying reason the genders have to be separated for women to have the ability to feel relaxed and stay uncovered is because women are still very much unequal in society in Jordan. ”

      Coming from a similar background I disagree, I and many more truly do enjoy our time being separated from men. What Kelly had said does make sense to us. Just because it isn’t the same everywhere else, don’t be so quick to come to the conclusion that we’re all “suffering” as women in the middle east.

    • The material on gender segregation and head-scarves is hard to read from my perch in California. But maybe two conflicting ideas can be true, one, that it does feel good to be separated and safe, two, that here we are fighting to be desegregated through all realms of society, and the reported safety and comfort can feel like a betrayal of what we know we want.

    • Sarah says...

      Lauren I think its very important to know that feminism hurts most when it fails to be intersectional. Women of color don’t need to be saved from men of color and white men and women are not the ones doing the saving. Its often more constructive to understand how to defeat patriarchy in the US (which we believe is a thing of the past when in fact it just manifests itself differently) and how to make dialogue happen. Just some thoughts :)

  95. This was such a great piece, thanks for sharing! Kelly, how did you and your husband find jobs in the medical field in Jordan?

  96. I have several good friends living in Jordan and raising their children there. This was a lovely window into life there! Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kelly!

  97. sugarcactus says...

    Thanks for this very fascinating and special glimpse into this family’s lives! Stories like this are also a great way to combat anti-Muslim bias by reminding us of our common humanity. Sometimes I wish my community was more community oriented and welcoming to those who are new. Many blessings!

  98. AmyB says...

    Everyone should have to read this, and more stories like it. I’ve grown so frustrated at and so tired of the ignorance that SO many Americans have about Muslims. I understand where the fear stems from, but I wish more people could see what the average family is like. Thank you for including so many cultures in this series!

  99. Sarah says...

    I love this. My husband and I are considering moving to Beirut to live with his family for a few years, and this warmed my heart to see how easily she blended in with the culture in Jordan. Middle Eastern people are SO welcoming, SO loving, and SO involved with family. It took a long time for me to adjust to my husband’s family weaving themselves into every part of my life (health, social interactions, clothing, hair, makeup, food, etc) and now I can’t imagine myself without this enormous group of people who love me more than I could ever have imagined.

    • Sarah says...

      AND THE FOOD. Seeing that table with Kibbeh, Hummus, Tabbouleh, etc made my heart ache a bit…there is nothing like a Middle Eastern Mama cooking for her people. That is one way to make a woman happy in their culture- eat the food and compliment the cook. I knew I would marry my husband when I ate a dinner cooked by his mom.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      agreed! the food looks and sounds so good. i would love to try zait and za’atar.

    • Keeley says...

      I love za’atar, Joanna, we can get it in our local Mediterranean Deli so you can likely find it in NYC :)

    • Kaycee says...

      Joanna, try the restaurant Tanoreen in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. It is a Palestinian restaurant, and they have za’atar spiced dishes. Their entire menu is delicious!

  100. Julie says...

    I love this loving glimpse into a mostly Muslim culture. It’s so good to be reminded that we are all the same no matter the beliefs or culture.

    • Lindsay says...

      I agree! Someone said that we might have more reconciliation if we take the time to “hold each other’s babies”. This series has been inspirational proof that we are all really, elementally the same as we navigate life and parenting in various geographies and cultures. We want the same things. I’m grateful for this series – perfect timing with everything going on in the world right now.

    • Double yes!!
      I am thrilled to see a post of a family living in the middle east. And to Lindsay, your comment about reconciliation and “holding each other’s babies” is so simple and monumental. What a game changer – it totally brightened my day. God bless Kelly and her family!

  101. Sofia says...

    Wow. This was a special one for sure. Kelly seems like the most sweet, open-hearted person. Thank you so much for shedding some light in this beautiful middle eastern culture, specialy in these challenging times we’re going through. What an interesting way to make us focus in what brings us humans closer instead of what drives us apart.

    • jj says...

      She really is the sweetest!

    • Sofia says...

      That’s right JJ! The sweetest, not the most sweet. ;) duh me. My english is kind of rusty!

    • Jeanne says...

      Sofia: I thought your English is excellent! I would have never guessed it wasn’t your first language.

  102. Mallory says...

    My heart, mind, and soul are full! Thank you for this beautiful piece.

  103. sarah says...

    love it… Jordan is one of my favorite places I’ve has the opportunity to visit… I’ve always dreamed of raising a family there or in Israel. love this series!

    • Samantha says...

      My dad’s family is Israeli and I’ve been there for months at a time, I can tell that there are many similarities. Breakfast is usually lighter, more like an omelette with tomato and cucumber salad, soft cheeses and bread, maybe some za’tar. The humus and other dips and salads are usually eaten before dinner (there’s always food after all of that food). Israelis love to have people over too, and they don’t care if you just ate, they will bring snacks and drinks without even asking, and they love to treat kids, there’s always a lady in synagogue that brings candy for the kids. Depending on whether people are religious/orthodox or not, gender dynamics can be very different. Men and women usually sit on different parts of the synagogue, but I haven’t been to a religious event where men and women are completely separate even after the prayers. Same happens with women’s fashion, it depends on how religious they are. Jews fast for Yom Kippur once a year, it lasts for about 26 hours, and people are very respectful of that, even if they don’t fast. Everything is closed and you won’t see people eating outside. When the fast is over the first thing people have is baked goods that were prepared before the fast and coffee with milk or tea. And that’s pretty much it :)

    • Leah says...

      Israeli society is nearly entirely secularized. The religious live in their own enclaves in Jerusalem or the territories while most Israelis wouldn’t dream of gender segregated anything. Not terribly similar, really, aside from climate and food.

    • I am an Israeli-American (moved here 6 years ago) and I raise my two sons (2.5 years and 6 months) here with my Israeli (Jerusalem born) husband here in Jerusalem. We are modern-orthodox and I see many similarities with this piece…the warmth of people, the food(my kids also love pita, zaatar, hummus, etc), the atmosphere of the souk, the way sweets are given to children all the time in public, and even the gender separation…however in our community it is mostly only in the synagogue and during weddings (usually in our community just the dancing is separate, but you sit together to eat). Also many religious sayings are used against evil eye and always thanking gd for what you have. I also cover my hair in public, usually with a scarf or hat…but the Jewish women do it a bit differently…

      I have some ultra orthodox friends, and I have been to many fully separated weddings, and I can agree on this “special women time” where it is a bit more relaxed, you can dress a bit “down”. There is a special energy. I know it is a hard concept for those who live in fully Western cultures to grasp….I think you need to live in a culture where gender separation is more common to appreciate the beauty of adult women together in this way.

      What I think is that because she lives in a village, it is must more conservative…if she was in Amman I think she would have a different experience and not have issues of going to cafes with her husband.

      Besides the very ultra-orthodox neighbourhoods, I do think Israel might be a bit more secularised in general than Jordan, but you have a lot of similarities in the culture.

  104. Yeah, I would not be down with strangers putting cake in my kids’ mouths. To each her own!

    • Samantha says...

      Agree, who knows where their hands have been. Yikes.

    • Agnes says...

      Hahaha Samantha!

  105. Chelsey says...

    Love this one! Kelly you seen so open and kind. No wonder the community has embraced you and you’ve made great friends.

  106. This is my favorite of your motherhood around the world series. I am an ESL teacher in California and have many Muslim friends/students and have met many people from Jordan. I smile all the time when I’m in their presence. They are truly so kind, fun and open–I have really wanted to visit there, and I can imagine that living there would be refreshing!

  107. NSH says...

    My MOM and DaD lived in Amman, Jordan from 1970-74 and my older brother was born there. Later they moved to Kuwait in 1974 and had my other brother and me. We loved the Arab Muslim emphasis on family time, good food, and community. Ramadan is such a lovely season of time too. We had to leave during the 1990 Gulf war but we often think fondly of our time there. I love zait waa zaatar too!!

  108. Sarah Beth says...

    This is one of my favorites in this series! I love learning about other cultures through the common bond that is motherhood. This one, in particular, was extra special, though, because my brother also lives in the middle east– learning about day-to-day life over there makes me understand a little bit more about why he lives so far away! He is in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, but I know that much of the friendliness and generosity can be found throughout the middle east. Thanks for this lovely post, Kelly!
    I hope there are enough places in the world and generous moms to keep this series going forever! (I’d be happy to offer a dispatch from the exotic chicago suburbs… haha)