House of Nidal

Sydney Wise, CSSH'21

I'm Sydney, a second year Political Science & International Affairs major at Northeastern! I love using writing as an outlet for my political thoughts, and I think reporting has become more important than ever in the present day. I can't wait to see the influence both travel and immersion in the Jordanian culture have on both my thought process and my writing!

“It’s great to be in Amman; but Amman is not Jordan.”

Last night, after a day at Umm Qais, we were welcomed into the home of Abu and Om Nidal. Abu Nidal, father of our tour guide Nidal, is also the leader of the Bina Issa tribe. A Bedouin community tracing its origins thousands of years back, the Bina Issa tribe has made a home for itself in Irbid beginning in just 1983. Jordan itself is a melting pot of different nationalities; outside the hustle of Amman, however, we were able to see the roots of the country. 

Single file, we lined up outside of Abu Nidal’s home to take our shoes off before entering. We congregated outside on the terrace, where mats lined the floor for us to sit on. You couldn’t imagine a better scene; barefoot, outside, and all sitting together under the sunset. One by one, Nidal’s brothers laid down plates of steaming Mensef in front of us, all of which were prepared by Om Nidal and her daughters. Once the sun had set, Abu Nidal traversed the lines of students eating, sitting to show us the proper way to eat Mensef with our hands. It was funny; as simple as his directions were (rolling the rice in your palm and pushing it into your mouth with your thumb), we just couldn’t seem to follow them properly. After dinner, we sat nursing our food comas with a pot of cardamom tea while Nidal spoke to us. He spoke about the life of Bedouins in Jordan, and implored us to imagine being without electricity, a certain source of water, or concrete walls to lean on. In the same thread, he spoke about the importance of Ramadan; when most who celebrate Ramadan begin their daily fast, they do so with the knowledge that they can expect food at sundown. For many in the world, this is not the case. Ramadan is a time of sacrifice in honor of them.

In the most heartwarming turn of the night, Nidal wished a happy birthday to the students who have celebrated theirs on the trip. As it turned out, it was also Nidal’s nephew’s birthday, a young boy named Safwan. As we made our way into the living room, we were met with four cakes waiting for us. Renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ in both Arabic and English ensued, and I don’t think anyone in the room could have felt anything but warmth.

This is Jordan.

As I’ve been in other homestays I’ve experienced, I was inspired by the hospitality of our hosts. With over a dozen people already living in the family home, they welcomed another forty. I can’t imagine the time that the women must have spent preparing the home and the meal for us— their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as they called us. I don’t have the fluency to express my gratitude adequately in Arabic, but I tried; when I tapped Om Nidal on the shoulder and smiled “Yatik Al-Afia,” she pulled me in and kissed my cheek.


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