I want to address my opinion on the question a lot of women have before they come to Jordan, or while they are living here…
“Can I wear shorts or above the knee dresses in Amman?”
And no, I am not talking about this short:
I’m talking about showing a bit of leg without the whole butt cheek thing.
Now back to the original question. Can you wear shorts and above the knee dresses in Amman? I have two answers and they are not based on any law, because in Jordan there is no law about how a woman must dress in public. The two options below are merely based on your own personal comfort level:
- If you have thick skin and can handle the occasional comment and the more than occasional stare, then by all means, feel free to wear something above the knee in Amman.
- If stares and occasional harassment are things that you want to avoid as much as possible, then I don’t advise wearing any pant/dress that goes above the knee.
Now you may not always stick to 1 or 2, there are some grey areas of course. For example, if you are going out to a bar, club, lounge you may feel more comfortable wearing shorts or a shorter dress then if you were walking down the streets of East Amman. The best way to figure out if you want to be 1 or 2 or somewhere in between, is to find out on your own what your comfort level is based on each situation.
Finding my comfort level
When I first moved to Amman I was quite cautious about what I was wearing. I made sure to always wear long dresses or pants, and didn’t wear any tank tops/spaghetti straps (t-shirts yes). But after a few months, I began to get the feel for each area of Amman and how comfortable I felt. The truth is, I feel very comfortable in this city and was surprised by the amount of more conservatively dressed women that would come to me and compliment me on something I was wearing, something that they themselves would not wear in public. Though I feel comfortable, this doesn’t mean there is no harassment, but it is only verbal and (thankfully) not physical harassment.
As time passed, let’s say I got more and more “ballsy” and my opinion on the matter of covering up more than was necessary began to change as well. At first I did it out of respect, but then I realized, respect needs to be mutual (more on this later). First, let me tell you about the day I decided to wear shorts out for the first time…
A shorts case study
Yesterday it was 29 degrees out and I had to walk 30 minutes, from Dabouq to Khalda, to get to my Arabic class. I was already wearing some linen shorts and a tee, and how ridiculous would it be to have to change, especially when I had to walk under the hot sun? So I stayed clad in my comfy and cool outfit and started my little trek.
The walk to class was fine, the occasional car would pass and I would warrant some stares and one person shouted something incomprehensible out the window, but that was it. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. I am not saying that getting stares or a shout is a normal thing or that it is OK, but this behavior I had everyday in Spain as well, so Jordan didn’t feel any different. On my walk back home, I had a lot more shocked stares from car windows, both men and women alike, and one man stopped his car and shouted at me “IT IS NOT NORMAL TO DRESS LIKE THIS IN JORDAN”. Which I responded “I don’t care”. This may seem insensitive of me, but hear me out on my reasoning on why I don’t feel disrespectful about not completely covering my lower limbs:
- Clothing should be chosen according to the climate: I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, something which is appropriate for the weather. I was not walking around in a bikini down the street as if I’m at the beach.
- Jordan is seemingly trying to be “westernized”: First and foremost, I don’t really like the term “westernized”, but I will use it for lack of a concise word that describes the situation. When it comes to “westernization” in Jordan, I am not saying all of the population is pushing for it, but you will notice it especially among the younger crowds. In Amman, you will also find that many people have attended university abroad and support more secular and liberal viewpoints and they couldn’t care less about what a woman is wearing.
- Jordan wants more tourists: The Jordan Tourism Board is running huge campaigns worldwide to attract more tourists to the country. If the country is going to have tourists, then they also need to accept the background of each tourist, including what that person chooses to wear.
- It’s about showing mutual respect: When someone wears something different than me I do not shout at them to change. In my native country I would never think to tell someone wearing hijab to take it off and I wouldn’t stare at them to make them uncomfortable either. I expect the same treatment here in Jordan and everywhere else in the world.
- It’s time to burst the bubble: I believe that if everyone who comes to Jordan tries to conform to their every way of living, from way of dress to viewpoints, then we will never have the beautiful outcome of a country that fosters the mixing of cultures, beliefs, ideas, etc. However, do not confuse this answer. I am completely FOR coming to a new country and learning about its established culture, traditions, language, etc. etc., but I believe a country needs to constantly be evolving and not try to force upon anyone traditional viewpoints.
So I leave you all with this summary for the answer to “what to wear in Amman as a woman?”: wear what you feel comfortable with and get to know the areas of Amman to make your decision.