Jordan’s Women, like the country are Strong, Resilient and Beautiful

Jordanian women

Guest Post by Kishi Arora

If you watch any new action flick or even superhero ones {specifically the recent Superman!} then you’ll know that no longer are women just damsels in distress. Sure they’re still made to look pretty, but there’s no rule really saying you can’t look good while fighting for justice, is there? But you don’t even need to look as far into fictional book or television series to see women going from meek and helpless to powerful and resilient even if their kingdom means their homes or careers. A recent trip to Jordan, which really was an eye opener, proved that point.

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I won’t lie; I did get questioned before my trip. “Is it safe to go?” Will you be OK in the Middle East?” Of course, I couldn’t answer these questions with complete conviction then, but now I certainly can. In fact, I’ve come back possibly more inspired, and happy to say that being a woman in that beautiful country, wasn’t any different from anywhere else. As for it being the Middle East, well, the past decade has only shown that women have taken a stand and are making themselves more seen and heard. On the political front, for example, women are at the fore of protests, they’re talking about constitutions and more importantly, they’ve become a strong force to reckon with when their war-torn countries come to the fore. Perhaps they’ve always been resilient and silently strong, but the world only noticed recently. For me, it was as simple as a lady on the flight from Sharjah to Amman handling her kids. Quite the handful as I’d noticed on the flight, she didn’t let them mess about. Sure they yelled and played about, but when Mum said something, they’d listen. And as I stumbled out of the plane jetlagged and clumsy, there she emerged, not a hair out of place, all bags in hand and kids in tow. How’s that for power?

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Experiencing Jordan

Experiencing Jordan, especially the food – Kishi Arora

Sure they wear their hijabs, and yes they have a few more restrictions on clothing than most others. But they’ve weaved it into their lifestyle so seamlessly, you’d feel more out of place when they walk the streets like it’s a ramp. Warned that the men may look and leer, it was most refreshing to find that no man even glanced my way! In fact, I was so busy looking at the beautiful women, myself, that I can only presume the men are used to stunning beauty! Upon reflection, maybe I should be disappointed no one gave me the eye! But these ladies do mean business.

Jordan’s own Queen is a shining example of ‘the fairer sex’ having a strong voice. Middle-Eastern, Arab and a woman, Rania Al Abdullah is everything a leader should be. One look at her sharp and striking words on Twitter will convince you to not mess with this queen! She’s really mastered the art of being a mother to her kids, wife to a king and being a prime ambassador and faultless voice for women in the Middle East. And she looks so beautiful doing it! Even Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi is a lady of strength and grit. Ruling the roost as Minister of International Cooperation and Development in the UAE, I’m beginning to think that these ladies, who’re mistakenly thought to be meek, make for better leaders. Like Senator Amy Klobuchar says, “Women make some of the best leaders. Women tend to solve problems. We worth together.” And she’s right. Obviously George Clooney believes it too. Or else he wouldn’t have fallen so hard for Amal Alamuddin who’s Lebanese heritage makes her even more of an inspiration.

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Jordanian fashion

Fashion forward in Jordan

Of course, social change and education has brought tremendous scope, I daresay a confidence in the women of this region. Literacy, education and even a western influence surely, albeit slowly, is making a difference in how people think, and it’s not a given that men will dominate. Forget domestic walls, some fine women are breaking down walls of war and crossing borders to pursue dream, or at least, in pursuit of better lives. I was lucky enough to meet one such lady – Layali Nashashibi.


Layali Nashashibi

Layali Nashashibi with her hotel guests

Ten years ago, Layali joined the team at Mövenpick Resort and Residence Aqaba hotel as an Executive Secretary. Quickly climbing the corporate ladder thanks to her persistence and commitment, she now stands tall as the Director of Communications and Public Relations Manager, in a line otherwise dominated by men. Urging more women to be part of the hospitality industry, she says that there is no way to better represent the culture, traditions and true Jordanian hospitality than the industry she’s in. “There is nothing more rewarding than giving a tourist a piece of your culture and traditions. Hospitality gives back as much as you invest in it; it is not just about generosity, it is about going the extra mile to make sure that your guest is well treated and respected. It is about making the guest feel comfortable enough to leave with a mind set to return to Jordan for another visit. This is the true testimony of good hospitality”. And not only has she done her duty {so effortlessly}, but has gone beyond that because I for one would love to go back to Jordan!

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Speaking to the tour guide Salah, who very swiftly became a friend, only further open my eyes to how women are breaking away from stereotypes. Apparently, there’s no longer any fixed gender roles outside of the house, but inside the home there is still and will continue to be only one commander – the lady of the house! While they may be entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers outside or homemakers, they are raising a new generation of kids to repel gender roles, I learned. And anyone with a family to look after will know that it’s a tough job, if not the toughest. From instilling in them the values you choose, to helping them choose their own, it’s tough being a homemaker. In fact, as demanding as cooking might be, it sure seems the easier task of the lot when it comes to being a woman. It’s certainly one that I can safely say I do. I may not be able to replicate Queen Rania nor be the head of communication of a star hotel, but what I can pitch in, is with this recipe. It’s a beetroot hummus – traditional yet striking; like the women of the Middle East, I’d say.

Beetroot Hummus

A Jordanian special: Beetroot Hummus

Here is how to make it:

⦁ 2 medium sized beets, cooked by boiled and then peeled and cubed
⦁ 1 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
⦁ 3 Tbsp lemon juice
⦁ 1 small clove garlic, chopped
⦁ 1 Tsp ground cumin
⦁ 1 Tsp lemon zest
⦁ 4 Tbsp cup Olive Oil
⦁ Generous pinch of sea salt
⦁ Fresh ground pepper to taste
⦁ Garnish: 1 Tbsp Olive Oil and 1 Tsp toasted sesame seeds

Place all ingredients in a food processor (or blender) and pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings and ingredients as desired.
Garnish or Chill and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for longer storage.
Eat with pita chips/bread – “Gamila”(Beautiful in Arabic) Just like the Jordanian Women!

Kishi Arora is a Food consultant and a pastry chef who owns online bakery Foodaholics