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Colorful markets are among the stereotypical things that many people associate with the Middle East. And rightly so. These markets, known as souks (also spelled souqs), can be found in almost every city in the Middle East.
There are plenty of souks in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Souks in Amman are popular with locals and tourists alike. What’s a day to day activity for locals, is an attraction for foreign visitors, especially from Western countries.
What is a Souk?
Before we look at the best souks in Amman, let me briefly explain to you what a souk is.
Souks (souqs) are colorful and vibrant markets. They are an integral part of cities in the Middle East, especially of larger cities like Amman.
There are different kinds of souks. There are vegetable souks, handicraft souks and mixed souks. Depending on the type and size, you’ll find countless oriental and original treasures at a souk. Typical products range from fresh produce, spices, clothing, jewelry, pottery and glassware as well as local artwork.
Visiting a souk is a feast for all senses and an absolute must when visiting Amman. Let me show you the 5 best souqs in Amman.
1. Souk Mango
One of the oldest markets in Amman is Souk Mango. It can be found in downtown Amman, a stone’s throw from the Roman Theater.
Along the main streets towards the north (in direction to the famous Hashem Restaurant), you’ll see countless small shops that make up one of Amman’s oldest souks. These shops mainly sell clothes, perfumes, kitchenware, souvenirs and other traditional products.
Open during all seasons, downtown Amman is a great place to find traditional Arabic products and original souvenirs. By the way, some of the oldest restaurants and sweet shops are also located in this part of the city!
As this souk in Amman is very popular among tourists and locals alike, it can get very crowded here. Come in the morning hours if you want to avoid the crowds.
By the way, bargaining is an integral part of Arab culture. Don’t stick to the price tags (if there are any) and don’t be afraid to bargain. Sadly, overpaying is one of the most common annoyances for tourists in Jordan. If you have a bad feeling about a seller, just head over to the next one.
2. Souk al Khodra
Souk al Khodra is a small market hall where they sell mostly vegetables and spices. In fact, khodra means vegetables in Arabic language.
It’s located a few minutes from the main streets of Amman downtown, right behind the Roman Nymphaeum. Therefore, you can perfectly combine it with your visit to Souk Mango.
Souk al Khodra will probably fulfill the image you have of a typical souk. Get ready for an authentic Jordanian cultural experience here. The souk is full of colorful stands with huge buckets of spices, nuts and fresh produce. You’ll hear shopkeepers shouting their offers out loud from all sides.
If you’re into cooking, you might know that Middle Eastern food is very rich in flavors. Spices and herbs are an integral part of our cuisine. If you’d like to try Middle Eastern recipes at home, there’s no better place to buy high-quality spices than in a local souk.
But even if you don’t intend to buy anything here, wandering around Souk al Khodra is a great cultural experience. It’s literally a feast for all senses!
3. Gold Souk
The Gold Souk is another popular souk in Amman that you shouldn’t miss out on. This souk is also located in downtown Amman, a few minutes away from Souk Mango.
Gold Souk is basically a street full of small jewelry shops. It owes its name to the precious jewelry sold here. Most jewelry products at Amman’s Gold Souk are made of exquisite gold and silver.
The preferred type of gold in the Middle East is different from what you find in most Western countries. In Europe and the US, the most demanded type of gold is between 9K and 14K. This number refers to the gold’s level of purity. The higher the number, the higher the percentage of gold. In the Middle East, you’ll often find jewelry of 22K or 24K, which have a purity of 91.6% and 99.9% respectively (compared to 58.3% for 14K).
Not only is the gold’s level of purity higher, but prices are very affordable, especially if you have a knack for bargaining. The price consists of two factors. Firstly, the price of the material (depending on the type of gold) and secondly, on the craftsmanship. The latest determines roughly 20-30% of the price and this is where you can negotiate.
If you’re interested in buying jewelry, I recommend that you check out the latest gold price (as this varies daily). Make sure to compare prices between different shops and of course, never accept the first price they give you!
4. Souk Jara
One of the most beautiful and diverse markets in Amman is Souk Jara. Souk Jara is an open air market that takes place every Friday evening during the summer months. Located in a side street at the end of the famous Rainbow Street, you can combine a visit to Souk Jara with a visit to Rainbow Street.
Souk Jara offers a huge selection of mostly handicraft and artwork. What’s great about Souk Jara is that a majority of stands here are small local businesses selling handmade items. These include cosmetics such as handmade soap, traditional Jordanian clothing and jewelry but also books and antiques.
The atmosphere at Souk Jara is very pleasant. There is often live music, small food stands and activities for children. While it’s a well frequented market, it’s much less loud when compared to souks in Amman downtown.
5. Amman Friday Market
Amman Friday Market, also known as Souk al Joumea, is another open air market which takes place every Friday. In contrast to Souk Jara (where you’ll find mostly new, handmade products), Amman Friday Market is a flea market. Most stands here sell second-hand items, primarily clothing.
A visit to Amman Friday Market can be interesting if you’re looking for traditional clothing without spending too much. Traditional dresses, especially those with elaborate handmade embroidery, are quite costly in shops. If you’re looking for a bargain, you might find a hidden gem at Amman Friday Market.
The souk is a little away from the vibrant heart of downtown Amman. It’s located south of 2nd circle, about 10 minutes (walking) from the Jordan Museum. Note that Amman Friday Market is quite vast. You’ll need an entire morning to wander along all its stands.
Further Shopping Places in Amman
Souks are an integral part of Arab culture and provide an unforgettable cultural experience. Besides, they are great if you want to buy traditional products such as a Jordanian dress, Arabic perfumes, jewelry etc.
However, not every local is into bustling souks and constant bargaining. For this reason, malls are increasingly popular for shopping and entertainment.
If you’re looking for something less traditional, head over to one of Amman’s malls. There are a handful of malls across the city which incorporate contemporary shops. You’ll find many international clothing and cosmetic brands here.
The best malls in Amman are:
- Abdali Mall (make sure to take a stroll at the new Abdali Boulevard too)
- Taj Mall
- City Mall
- Galleria Mall
Tired of bargaining? Don’t worry, shops in Amman’s malls have their regular price tags which count for everyone.
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