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Smooth Talking in Amman, Jordan

Jordan museum amman

It was a hazy hot day when we were introduced to Jordan’s capital, Amman.

It’s a bustling, lively city where tradition meets modernity. Clad in a long flowing dress and light cardigan, I spent the morning exploring the Citadel and the most ancient part of the city. Nothing puts me in a great mood quite like historical travel.

Nerd alert!

Be warned, it only goes downhill from here in terms of my geekiness.

Jordan museum amman

After sitting down for tea and lunch outside a pigeon pet store (don’t ask –  I have no idea) our blog group had a decision to make regarding our afternoon itinerary. Explore the local markets and souks or get to see the Dead Sea Scrolls at the new Jordan Museum.

I love shopping as much as the next girl, but once you’ve been to several souks, they all start to blend together. “No thank you, I don’t need a $10,000 Persian carpet.” “I’m sorry, I can’t fit that hookah in my carry-on.” and my personal favorite, “Only one thousand camels? Seriously, I’m worth at least 10 times that!”

Sigh, I can already feel the hate comments start to roll in, but I defend what I write – I’ve been to heaps of markets across northern Africa and the Middle East, and they are pretty much all the same.

Jordan museum amman

Jordan museum amman

Anyways, surprise surprise, everyone voted for the markets! Travel bloggers can be so predictable sometimes.

Standing up with my hands on my hips, I said something along the lines of, “the Dead Sea Scrolls are some of the OLDEST biblical texts in the ENTIRE world and they are right here in Amman! How can you not want to see 2,400 year old scrolls that are the oldest copies of the Bible in existence?!”

Total. Silence. Well, except for pigeons cooing in the background. In fact, I don’t think anyone even heard me, except for one of the guides and the pigeons.

Honest to god I will never understand people.

Jordan museum amman

I repeat – the Dead Sea Scrolls quite possibly are the most important archaeological manuscripts to be found in the 2oth century.

Accidentally discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in the caves in Qumran in the West Bank near the Dead Sea in the 40’s and 50’s, the Dead Sea Scrolls are pretty much the earliest written accounts of the (Hebrew) Bible. That’s a big freaking deal!

I LOVE reading about these kinds of discoveries and archaeological finds; I often imagine what it must have been like to stumble upon something so priceless and historically valuable.

Jordan museum amman

Image Source

Jordan museum amman

Image source

Let’s just step back in time for a minute and put ourselves in Bedouin shepherd Muhammed Edh-Dhib’s shoes (if he was even wearing shoes) when accidentally fell into one of these caves in 1946 and found these jars of random papyrus that he sold for under $40.

I mean my god, can you imagine?

Why this hasn’t been made into a featured Indiana-Jones-style movie is beyond me.

Jordan museum amman

Jordan museum amman

Jordan museum amman

And to make matters even more EXCITING, of the 981 mostly papyrus and parchment scrolls found in the Judaean Desert only one, I repeat ONE was made of copper. And guess where that one can be found?

Amman!

Talk about special! Still unconvinced, my comrades still preferred the market. Shakes head.

So while everyone else wandered off to brush up on their bartering skills, I managed to drag one of our guides off to the museum with me. I like to pretend he was excited to see the unique-amazing-one-of-a-kind-copper-scrolls as I was.

Under a serious time crunch with the museum closing shortly, we rushed to try to make it there before the doors shut. Literally.

Jordan museum amman

Crawling in the back of a taxi, we made our way to the Jordan Museum to see the scrolls. And by made our way, I mean get totally lost for an hour while I hyperventilated in the back of the car freaking out that I was missing my chance to witness history.

With Flo Rida blaring in the background about furry boots and apple bottom jeans, we zigzagged around all the main streets in downtown Amman looking for this damn museum.

As it turns out, the Jordan Museum is brand spanking new, so new in fact, it hadn’t officially opened yet and was operating under very limited hours when it was open to the public.

Of course, not knowing where something is does not deter Jordanian taxi drivers from trying to take you where you need to go. It just means a lot of pulling over and chatting to fellow taxi drivers with a lot of hand signals and me understanding NOTHING and grinding my teeth in the backseat.

Jordan museum amman

Jordan museum amman

Finally we pulled into the parking lot of the museum 15 minutes after closing time only to be ushered around to the back lot to wait. This would be the first of many hoops that afternoon.

Hopping out of the taxi, the guide S, me and the taxi driver (for some reason decided to stick around to see what happens) tried to explain what was going on to security guard number 1. Cue lots of Arabic, hand gestures, smoking (none from me) along with one crazy loud American blonde in a rainbow dress smiling and nodding a lot.

I swear to god, smiling will get you pretty far, especially when men are involved. I smiled so hard and for so long that afternoon I thought my face was going to break.

Jordan museum amman

Eventually security guard number 2 came out and talked to us and we (and by we, I mean S) explained what was going on while I just smiled and nodded enthusiastically.

After more waiting around a manager or office person came out and talked to us, this time I could contribute to the conversation explaining my situation without using the world blogger (my god, can you imagine?) and we were invited inside.

Bidding farewell to my new taxi driver friend, we made our way through the bowels of the museum to the offices. Expecting to see behind the scenes skeletons, dusty wooden boxes and hidden treasure maps haphazardly thrown around the room, I was mildly disappointed to discover that offices are universally boring around the world. It even smelled bureaucratic.

Jordan museum amman

Jordan museum amman

After a lot of phone calls, and me becoming increasingly more desperate, I decided to just run with it.

No shame, I would see these scrolls or die trying, and I began “elaborating” my position. It’s not lying if there’s some truth to it, right?

According to office man, the person in charge of dispensing permission to let me see the scrolls after hours was off. As it turns out, it was Orthodox Easter and the boss was off work celebrating. Just my luck!

“This doesn’t look good for you,” office man stated several times, in a very pessimistic, nonchalant way. Glaring at him momentarily it took all my self control not scream “just let me see the goddamn scrolls!”

Be cool, Liz. Be professional. Play nice.

But I mean seriously, how many people under the age of 60 want to see these scrolls as badly as me? I reckon none.

Jordan museum amman

Jordan museum amman

Cue more phone calls and more waiting.

I hate waiting by the way. I have the attention span of a toddler.

Time is a very fluid concept in Jordan. As I glanced at the clock, I realized it had been almost 3 hours since we hopped in the cab trying to get to the museum.

Personally I think this was a tactical maneuver on the part of Jordanian officials to get me excited about seeing the scrolls. They wouldn’t keep me waiting for so long only to say no, right?

I started smiling even more, if that’s possible.

Jordan museum amman

Jordan museum amman

With the clock literally ticking, I was starting to get desperate. What could I say to let me in to see the scrolls?

“I also write for National Geographic.”

Oh my god, why WHY did that just come out of my mouth? What is wrong with me?

Resisting temptation to physically clamp my hands over my mouth and rescind that statement, I really started to freak out. I’ve never actually written for NatGeo; I have been featured by them a handful of times and I’ve had drinks with some of their crew in DC, but that’s it. Oops.

Eventually the phone rang again and with it came the permission I needed. God knows what the pessimistic office worker told him, but as it turns out he was on Team Liz. Wahoo!

I actually hi-fived his secretaries on the way out of the office! True jubilation!

Jordan museum amman

Jordan museum amman

And we were off to see the scrolls. At this point, I had a shadow of about 10 people trailing behind me as we made our way towards the glorious scrolls.

Am I just showing my nerdiness again or do all kids dream about getting to explore a museum after hours? With the lights dimmed around the various exhibits, I started to have a total From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler moment and would drift off towards the darker corners only to be ushered back in line towards the scrolls.

I guess I don’t want to push my luck. 

Jordan museum amman

 Image Source

Jordan museum amman

Image Source

And then finally, there we were, in front of the thick glass that protected the curved copper scrolls. Pushing my nose on the glass, I spent a solid 20 minutes staring at each and every scroll, trying to take a mental picture and observe them the best I could.

Because the scrolls are copper, they couldn’t be unrolled which means that had to be sliced, leaving you with these curved, copper pieces. Unlike many of the other scrolls that are biblical texts, the copper scrolls are written in a more colloquial Hebrew listing locations where gold and silver are buried.

That’s right, the copper scrolls list out buried treasure. EVEN COOLER, am I right?!

All to soon, I had to say goodbye to these magnificent artifacts and make my way back outside in the hot Jordanian sun. I think the adventure of getting to see the scrolls made it all the more exciting and worthwhile, don’t you?

Just keep smiling!

Have you been to Jordan? Now tell me, are you Team Market or Team Dead Sea Scrolls – be honest!

Jordan museum amman

A million thanks to the Jordan Museum for putting up with me and letting me in after hours without any advance notice and for understanding my love for such important historical artifacts. Also thanks to My Jordan Journey for hosting me in Jordan – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own!

59 Responses to Smooth Talking in Amman, Jordan

  1. Kate M April 22, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    Obviously, team scrolls here. I have dreamed about seeing them for years! Also, I would totally have lied about writing for Nat Geo as well. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

      exactly!

    • Jackie May 9, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

      I just favorited this post on bloglovin because it is the perfect example of what a blog post should be! Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. Shayla April 22, 2014 at 12:28 am #

    Umm I love this story! I would have been right there with you in protest against the other bloggers (you’re right about the markets, they are the same in Tangier, Morocco) and dying to see the scrolls. Props to you for not giving up! I’m amazed at your patience, I probably would have stopped smiling and shed one, lonely tear…that usually works too 🙂 Jordan is on my list for 2014!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      tears were my last resort, but I waS prepared to use them 😀

  3. Synne April 22, 2014 at 1:56 am #

    Scrolls!! The market is usually pretty much the same as in other cities/nearby countries, and well, the scrolls are one of a kind and is only in Amman!!! For me it’s a no-brainer, I looove ancient history, Indiana Jones and the lot. I’m only 20 but have at times ended up ‘hanging out’ with pensionists when travelling, visiting museums and such:)

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      It’s the best way!

  4. Trevor Huxham April 22, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    #NerdAlert FTW!!!!! I’m so glad you were able to weasel your way into seeing the Dead Sea scrolls…I had no idea there were *copper* scrolls at all…wow! I think like ten years ago I went to see a traveling exhibition about the papyrus/parchment scrolls, was really cool, eerie feelings about just how damn OLD some of that stuff is. Thanks for sharing!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      I know, right? It’s so cool to see paper that’s survived thousands of years!

  5. Mare April 22, 2014 at 3:02 am #

    TEAM SCROLLS!! You can shop anywhere… I’ve been on similar trips abroad (where I bicker with the airheads in my travel group_ and find shopping vs viewing unique history the equivalent of Americans wanting to eat at McDonald’s rather than trying local cuisine. I find it sad that our younger generation is not very educated on the scrolls–they are fascinating! They actually have an exhibit going on now in SLC featuring them! http://www.theleonardo.org/exhibits/discover/dead-sea-scrolls-life-and-faith-ancient-times/

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      too cool, thanks for teh link!

  6. Rachel of Hippie in Heels April 22, 2014 at 3:33 am #

    I’m a lover of shopping BUT only when I’ve covered the cool shit there is to do in each town. For example in India, every city has very similar stuff… you can only do so much, at the same time the temples start to look the same too… so I think I would go scrolls even though I didn’t know about them until you wrote this! And PS Mare, I don’t think it’s super cool to say Americans in particular eating mcdonalds. They are all over the world because people from all over the world eat it.. and I most people find that Americans they meet that are breaking from mainstream are the ones that really want to experience and try new things/cultures 🙂

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

      Yeah abroad I find it’s mostly locals that eat at mcdonalds, really weird. europeans love their ice cream sundaes!

  7. Syd April 22, 2014 at 4:43 am #

    I took a college level course on the old testament when I was 15 (I think “nerd alert” might be an understatement for that one…full on nerd fire alarm?) so I think it’s pretty obvious which team I would be on…

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

      that makes me happy to hear!

  8. Laura April 22, 2014 at 5:20 am #

    I love historical travel, too! Your quest to see the Scrolls sounds kinda epic – glad you prevailed in the end 🙂

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:33 pm #

      Me too!

  9. Polly April 22, 2014 at 6:39 am #

    Totes team scrolls! And team smiling and nodding until you get what you want! Congrats on making it in, I can’t imagine how cool they are in person!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

      haha I guess it was epic!

  10. Polly April 22, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    I love the back-and-forth between your gorgeous pictures and hilarious story. Glad it all worked out and you got to see the scrolls after all! My mental picture of them was not at all what they really look like, so that’s neat to see.

    Count me in for Team History as well. I mean, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler references and pictures of well-presented dynastic signage, and I’m there…

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      they’re so cool!

  11. SnarkyNomad April 22, 2014 at 9:15 am #

    Reminds me of the time I had to spend 2 hours waiting in line to see the Sistine Chapel, and they closed early that day anyway. I had to dodge (shove) people to get there in time, but I saw it dammit!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      hahah good job!

  12. Colorado Gal April 22, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    I actually JUST got back from a press trip to Jordan last week! The museum wasn’t on our itinerary sadly, but I did love the country. Still can’t get over the epic beauty in Wadi Rum!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

      bummer you should have snuck away haha. Wadi Rum is just spectacular!

  13. Christine April 22, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Story of my life! Anytime I’m traveling with friends, they’re all about shopping and beaches and I’m like HOLD THE PHONE – do you have any idea what you’re missing out on?! There’s history to be witnessed here, friends. Team Dead Sea Scrolls, fo sho.

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      yikes! That’s why I travel alone so much!

  14. Jen Seligmann April 22, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Such a fascinating city. Its very high up on my list of places to visit soon. And love the dress BTW.

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

      thank you!

  15. Sam April 22, 2014 at 10:39 pm #

    I have been to Jordan, but I didn’t actually stop in Amman at all (just changed buses) and didn’t know the Dead Sea Scrolls were there…or in fact, what they were: I’m not big into biblical history. Nonetheless, this story was a lot of fun to read, and I can certainly relate to a lot of the things you describe – I’m like a toddler too when it comes to waiting!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      Bummer! I guess you have to go back 🙂

  16. Audrey April 22, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

    That’s totally awesome! Good for you. I am with you here an glad you could get in and see the scrolls. I am history nerd too and agree with you that markets anywhere become all the same. Shopping eventually becomes stale after awhile. I’ll go with historical artifacts any day!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

      wahoo love that!

  17. Debbra April 23, 2014 at 2:05 am #

    There’s nothing nerdy about wanting to see the Dead Sea Scrolls! If so, then count me in. I LOVED your account of all you went through to get to see them. I also did not realize there were copper scrolls! Love all the photos, too!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

      I didn’t know they were copper either! So cool!

  18. Alison April 23, 2014 at 2:28 am #

    Wow, this is amazing. I seriously never really considered visiting Jordan, but this post is changing my mind!

    • Liz April 23, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

      yay! that makes me happy to hear!

  19. Marie @ Budgeting for Travel April 25, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    Wow the historic photos are sooo impressive! And that one giant hand holding is very perfect!

    • Liz April 28, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      Thank you!

  20. Mary Beth April 27, 2014 at 5:34 am #

    Liz, you are my most favourite traveler EVER! We need to go on some adventures together when I get my butt out of Panamá. Let me know if you ever come here!!

    • Liz April 28, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

      Will do!

  21. Echo Santos April 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Great story! I’m going to use the “I’m-a-Nat-Geo-Writer card” if I run myself in tight situation on the road. LOL.

    • Liz April 30, 2014 at 8:53 am #

      ahaha totally works 😉

  22. Anna Herbst April 29, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Wow! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your travels. I’m about to move to Amman in June and this post had some great insights into the history and culture there!

    • Liz April 30, 2014 at 8:57 am #

      Jordan is such a cool country, I hope you love it there!

  23. Farah May 2, 2014 at 3:26 am #

    Wow, your post makes me miss Jordan. Everything you mentioned sounds so typical haha, However, I’m glad you enjoyed it, it’s a great place. Definitely has its own way of getting things done tho 🙂

    • Liz May 2, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      hahah it does doesn’t it haha

  24. Heather May 4, 2014 at 5:30 am #

    This is spectacular. I definitely would have chosen the museum over yet another market. Love your persistence in seeing the scrolls and the generosity of the museum staff (not to mention your taxi driver and guide!) I tried convincing the guards at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing to let me in 15 minutes after they had closed the gates (and 1.5 hours before the temple officially closed) and no amount of smiling or pleading would get me through. Of course, the guards were all female so maybe that had something to do with it 🙂

  25. amelie88 May 13, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    I remember learning about the Dead Sea Scrolls in CCD (catechism) class in middle school! They had some really cheesy illustrations in the CCD textbook to go along with it. For some reason, I just envisioned rolled up papyrus lying in a cave somewhere and always found the story kind of boring. Not to mention I hated CCD… but I didn’t realize some were engraved on metal like copper! Makes them way cooler. What happened to the rest of the scrolls? Why did they end up separating them?

    And I’m equal parts shopper equal parts historical sights. It depends what kind of mood I am in.

  26. Anwar May 21, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    Awesome story. Having lived in Jordan recently I was lucky to have seen both. I do remember going to the museum my first day in town and being told it was closed come back tomorrow. “tomorrow” as it turned out was Months later when it finally opened for the soft opening and we were one of the first few to actually get in and see the place. It was awesome. I can’t believe it is still on a soft opening and hasn’t been opened fully yet! Great story, makes me miss Amman. Hoping to be back there this summer or at least soon after.

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  28. 0504Traveller June 25, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    In Jordan went to Amman, the Dead Sea, and Petra and all were amazing. We did Dead Sea and then Petra, and if I had to do it again I would reverse it as better to relax after a hike
    Tip: if you are going to the king hussain mosque – have a taxicab waiting as there is nothing around it and taxicabs are not frequent in that area

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  31. Amrita February 9, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    Just curious – did you travel to Amman alone, or with a tour group? I’m concerned about my lack of conversational Arabic.

    • mytriptoPetra April 19, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

      Hi Amrita and Liz;

      There are several options to travel to Jordan with group or just by your self… you don’t have to speak Arabic though everybody speaks some english.. all the best

  32. Alexandria D. August 14, 2015 at 4:02 am #

    Team Dead Sea Scrolls in the house lol!

  33. Rachel Davey February 5, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    We’re on Team Dead Sea Scrolls! We travelled to Jordan a few months ago and found Amman was a cool city. We spent lots of time in the evenings searching for the ultimate falafel and hummus available! Best time to wander around because it’s not so hot. Did you enjoy the food Liz?

    • Liz February 9, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

      LOVED IT!!

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