'The inhabitants cultivate figs, pomegranates and plums in large quantities but they do not sow their fields. They purchase their wheat from Karak, which their women grind: and at the passage of the Hadj they sell the flour as well as the fruits to the pilgrims.’
- Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (Swiss traveller and orientalist, 1784-1817)
on Ma'an in his book 'Travels in Syria and Arabia Deserta' (1882)
A man came into my hotel room, uninvited, he sat down and turned on the TV. Not that I really mind anyway. I am in Ma'an, a deeply conservative but a closely knitted community situated in remote southern Jordan.
Ma’an has in recent years been known as a town of instability and unrest. With a high proportion of Bedouin tribes who might prefer tribal rules to national laws - Ma’anis were often being stereotyped as an uneducated people from the backwater of Jordan. This feeling of humiliation, coupled with economic distress and isolation from the national mainstream, Ma’an has for the past few decades become the launching pad of several nationwide riots.
To add to the humiliation, in recent years Ma’an has attracted international media’s attention as the ‘hotbed of extremism’. The signs are not entirely visible today, the ISIS flag hoisted at the traffic circle was long gone – but the moment I arrived at the bus station, the now defaced graffiti and slogan by ISIS sympathisers were all rather visible with a little attention.
It’s must be even more humiliating to the locals once you looked deeper into history. For centuries, Ma’an was a thriving oasis town and known as the 'Gateway of Arabia'. It was the major stop on the historical Syrian Hajj Road between Damascus to Mecca and Medina, Arabia's own Silk Road of pilgrimage and trade.
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I like to travel, and I like to find out about things so I have created this blog to share what I saw on my journeys.
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