Having never been to the Middle East, I was super excited to not only experience an entire new region, but also see what fun things I could bring back.
Buying more local goods while traveling is something I plan on doing more frequently in the future. I totally regret not picking up things while traversing Asia and Spain just because I was too lazy to carry it around! Other times I’m too afraid of going over budget, and because of that I miss out on tons of cool little trinkets that could of one day decorated my future home.
Also, my Christmas and birthday presents for friends could have been so much more interesting if I just made a few more purchases!
Picking up a few souvenirs on the road doesn’t have to be expensive or take up a lot of suitcase space. In return you’ll have something unique to bring back. Jordan is the perfect place for this. Also, you can totally spice up your travel wardrobe for the time being by purchasing a few things. I love how unique my Jordan photos look because I wore the things I picked up along the way.
Here are a few both typical and creative souvenirs to buy in Jordan:
1. A traditional Jordanian head scarf
A symbol of the country, the red and white head scarf (known as a shemagh, or a keffiyeh in other Arab countries) is worn mostly in the desert and is traditional for the Bedouin culture.
When it wasn’t protecting my face from sand and sun in Wadi Rum, it was also a great fashion accessory. Other days I just wore it as a scarf. Not only is the red and white pattern patriotic, but it looks pretty cute too.
2. An Indiana Jones Adventurer hat
When I saw Liz’s old photos from Petra, I thought she must of brought the hat from home. Behold, they are available all over the place at Petra! Usually not the type to go all out tourist mode, I had to do a ‘when in (once was Rome) moment’ and check the prices.
As a “early morning price” I got a brown Indiana Jones style hat for a whopping $7. Best $7 I ever spent in fact! It totally adds to the photos, don’t you think?
3. Skin products from the Dead Sea
Whether actually miraculous or just a natural wonder, the minerals in the Dead Sea are definitely a special mix. There are over 35 different minerals found in the Dead Sea and many people claim they can alleviate and even cure a handful of ailments.
While you can give yourself a Dead Sea mud bath for free while visiting, you might as well also take some of the Dead Sea home with you.
Many spas and gift shops in Jordan sell products with Dead Sea mud, so it’s easy to find. I brought back a few aromatherapy Dead Sea soaps which smell amazing! Not only will they be great to use and give as gifts, they also made my luggage smell good!
4. Personalized silver jewelry
On the drive to Jerash the girls and I were brainstorming what type of special matching souvenirs we should all get to commemorate the trip. With all the silver and gold jewelry shops we’d seen in the country, the decision was easy. Silver necklaces with our names in Arabic! We asked our guides if they could order some for us, and after a few phone calls it was done.
While they turned out differently than we imagined (we didn’t provide much direction, so that was our fault) we all ended up completely embracing and loving them in the end.
Now I never want to take it off! Not only is it completely unique, but it’s special to me. This was one of the more expensive gifts I’ve bought myself while traveling (about $75) but I don’t regret it in the slightest. I love it!
If you’d like to do the same, you can walk in one of the many silver shops in the major cities and ask for a quote. Make sure you specify exactly what you want and also maybe track down recommended shops. Ours were made from Talha Odeh in Aqaba.
Spices just aren’t the same in the Western world. For this reason, take advantage of being in the Middle East and pick up all the spices you either can’t get easily, or are too expensive at home.
We popped into a small spice shop in Aqaba and I bought sumak (a purple spice sprinkled on many of Middle Eastern salads), a spice mix for chicken and tandoori.
There were so many more to choose from and each bag should only cost you a few dollars at the most, so go crazy!
6. One of a kind t-shirts
Having now visited the Middle East and having had an overwhelmingly positive experience, I want to be able to spread the word and support where I can. Although it’s a small gesture, supporting local artists is one way to do it.
The Arab pop culture t-shirt company Jobedu makes designs from local artists. They have a lot of cute shirts to choose from and I love the feminine one I’ve got. They also have a cute “camel crossing” design that I love.
Instead of supporting mass produced products, make one of your souvenirs to buy in Jordan something from a local grassroots company!
7. Hand painted pottery
Supposedly used by the King and Queen of Jordan, this blue and white Palestinian pottery can be found throughout the country. Some are hand-painted and some are not, so you’ll have to do your research. You can also get it shipped home depending on the retailer.
If you can’t fit something this large in your suitcase, there are a lot of other little hand-painted ceramic items to choose from.
I visited Jordan on behalf of the Jordan Tourism Board, but of course, all of the above opinions are my own.