by Alex Ray
On Friday mornings – the one time of the week when the daytime clatter of Amman settles momentarily – one spot is already buzzing with activity.
Souk al-Juma’a (The Friday Market) is Amman’s weekly clothes and fleamarket, located in Ras al-Ain, south of Second Circle.
It opens on Thursday evenings and goes all night until the next day around 3pm. The sprawling asphalt compound fills with dozens of vendors forming a maze of clothes racks bearing every type of garment. Their competing and often humorous and poetic calls advertise the non-negotiable prices of their garments – “Any piece one Lira [Dinar]!”
Ashraf, who sells children’s toys and kitchenware tells me the allotments are highly prized by vendors, but can be sublet for 20-30 JD per weekend on discretion of the licensee. The allotments are assigned by the Greater Amman Municipality and “rarely change,” says Ashraf.
Most of the traders only sell here, while some also sell at Souk al-Sabt (The Saturday Market) in East Amman.
The most peculiar aspect of the weekly souk is the high quality of the clothes and their cheap prices – the most expensive heavy winter coats rarely cost more than 10JD. The most of the clothes are European or Turkish, and in very good second hand condition. I was once told by a dry cleaner that the winter coat I bought there for 10JD was worth US$500.
Ashraf and another young vendor tell me that the clothes come by ship from Europe, and even after customs duties are paid on them, they are still very profitable. Ashraf doesn’t know how the clothes are purchased in Europe but says the traders only pay a “symbolic price“ for them.
Farhad, my taxi driver on the way home says that the clothes are ‘thrown out’ in Europe and bought ‘by the kilo’ for very low prices for sale overseas. An old rumor in Amman has it however that the clothes are ‘obtained’ from charity donations in Europe and sold in Jordan and other developing countries.
“It’s better than buying the new Chinese clothes that only last one month, they [used European clothes] are great quality,” says Farhad. “There’s amazing value there, some times you see people pull up in luxury Mercedes, go and fill up a huge bag of clothes, and then the next day they are wearing them as fashion!”