Most towns have a souk selling everything from meat and live chickens to clothes and jewellery. Amman’s downtown gold souk is a special attraction – a cluster of tiny shops with glittering window displays crammed together just off the main King Faisal Street. The gold is usually 18ct or above and there is sometimes no charge added for the craftsmanship of items like bangles, chains and earrings.
Tourist-oriented towns offer many handicrafts, including carpet-weaving or mosaic pieces: Jordan’s mosaic school in Madaba trains young people to work with the colourful, locally hewn stone.
Another distinctive local craft is ostrich-egg painting: the paint is applied with needle pricks and designs can take weeks to complete.
Other hand-crafted items include sand jars, hand-blown glass and embroidered clothing. Bottled holy water from the River Jordan can also be purchased, as can skin-care products made from Dead Sea mud.
Some of the best souvenir shopping can be done at the Nature Shops run by Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (www.rscn.org.jo). These are located at nature reserve headquarters around the country, and also at the Wild Jordan centre off Rainbow Street, 1st Circle in Amman. The Nature Shops stock all sorts of handmade items, from jewellery and painted ostrich eggs to leather goods, paper and novelty home decor pieces – all sourced sustainably, according to local fair trade principles.