The Arts of Begging in Jordan

The Arts of Begging in Jordan

Beggar crossing the street to beg of cars pooled at a parallel traffic light

“Allah Yekhaleeki”… “Allah Ye7fazek.. “Allah Ywafgek”… “Min Shan allah warai 3or wlad Ata3meehoum” have become some of the most common sentences exchanged between beggers at traffic lights and streets crowded with markets during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

It seems you can’t walk two blocks without being hassled by a handful of beggars at a time this Ramadan, children are hovering over cars at the traffic light begging for a handful of coins, where as older women are on the sides of the pavements in a more shaded area, covered, brooding, and begging for money from their shady corners. This has become the Ramadan of West Amman before Iftar.

Is it possible that those so-called beggars have increased and multiplied in size and population this Ramadan to take advantage of the generosity of people during this month of spirituality?

The Ministry of Social Development on Monday warned the public against encouraging street peddlers and beggars as the majority of them are not in need. In Jordan, begging is considered a crime and those arrested for the first time would be given a second chance, and those arrested multiple times for vagrancy, however, are subject to penalties ranging from one month to three years in prison, in addition to fines. But that doesn’t seem to make a difference, I believe I read in the Jordan Times a few days ago that Bail is set a JOD 50 and can reach a fine of 10,000 dinars.

But the question is does begging only count if your not a street vendor attempting to sell fruits, vegetables and you’re only asking for some coins or a batch of change. How many people nowadays are hassled with men at the traffic light selling the newspaper?

On some days, I used to buy the Jordan Times before heading to work, now I think twice before stopping at a traffic light to buy one, as my attempt to pay for a 25 fils daily paper  turns into a hassle of “allah ykhaleelek hal khetyrar (referring to my father who drives me to work every day) sam7eeni bil ba2i”.

Translation: May God Protect the Oldman ditting next to you… let me have the change. The only thought on my mind is, you work for a living, you sell the paper and get paid for doing so, do you really have to beg for more money?

I know Jordan is going through a huge economic/financial crisis and I know people would do anything for cash, steal, beg, scam, whatever it takes to keep food at the table, but before anyone judges me as a heartless writer who’s criticizing the newspaper man for mooching extra money off me in the morning, I think we’re all citizens struggling with underpaid paychecks, and when your stopped 10-12 times on average by another beggar of moocher asking for money it gets rather frustrating as most of us out there are trying to save up a bit at the end of each month.

For some reason, at some point in my life, I saw this boy who broke my heart, every time I’d pass by someone has knocked over his little box of Sharawi Gum all over the street and he’s just crying miserable collecting whatever remains he can get away with in order to sell it for cash. There are so many occasions where I have reached into my purse and handed over more than the coins stuck around the corner because I felt really bad, what will happen to that boy if he goes back home to his parents with no money or merchandise? Will his father or mother or whoever is sending him on to the street beat him up for not bringing in enough money? But my thoughts where over-washed with anger when I realized this is nothing but an extraordinary performance, I think we need to fly in some film producers from Hollywood to hire those kids, they play it so well, that I have fallen for this charade a few times, before realizing its nothing but a scam aimed to make people feel pity and attempt to give in more money to compensate whatever was lost.

When did begging become an art in Jordan? Or a performing arts skit appropriate for Broadway? The sad part is, those people have enough time to come up with skits and creative lines and beg for money for non-stop hours instead of hunting for a job and working for a living like everyone else. I know they wont make enough money working, because begging generate more money than a monthly paycheck, but I assure you they will at least have some pride.


Director of Digital Marketing Strategy by Day, Blogger by Night. Mother to my lovely Hana and a food addict.

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  1. Hello,

    While i was reading about what you wrote about begging in Jordan, i was so soothed that its not only me who thinks and feels the same way you do Lara.
    Im yet also at anger for calling Amman manucipality several times informing them of more than 7 beggers/traffic light seller working every day from the break of dawn until the last light of day. This is not only during Ramadan, its almost every day of the year.
    I almost got in a fight with a car that was parked next to me whos driver bought flowers from a traffic light seller, i opend my window and asked the driver not to buy the flowers coz he is encoureging them to keep on selling on traffic lights, he replied “sho da’7alak” !!
    a word from me, a word from him, i got so upset and just closed my window with rage inside of me.
    Why do we dont listen to the sound of reason, why do we do this to our selves. Are’nt the so called “zo3ran” who stole my MP3/CD player from my car part of this cult who wonder the streets selling and steeling?
    Are’nt they are the same people who faked an run over in front of my friends car to scare her out of all the cash she had on?
    Those sellers and beggers MUST be jailed away without any consideration to gender or social status.
    The same faces every single freaking day, dozens if not hundreds of police patrols and government officials pass by the same traffic lights everyday yet no one is willing to ask why pick up the phone and call some lazzy ass official who can make a change but just dsnt care to.
    Hmmmmm, i got upset again up there… after a couple of minutes of thinking calmly i say “Please do not give beggers nor buy from a traffic light seller”
    If you want to give to a needy, i will drive you to people who really need.
    Thank you Lara for your wonderful thoughts

  2. Hey,
    First off, since I don’t drive on my own yet, I’m mostly with my mother or father. Now my mum, is like you, she lets her heart get in the way. But my father never gives them anything, at all. I don’t know why, it pains me to see all those kids, but I think that I would be like my dad. At least, I wont give kids, however I give old men (jiddos). I really feel sorry for them, they can’t act that they’re old and helpless, most at least. I just don’t have a backbone evidence to prove that this person is lying or not. It’s a very hard decision to make, and it makes me feel guilty! I’m confused, I guess you already figured that part out 🙂
    Anyways, nice topic 🙂

    • Glad to know we’re both non drivers Eva! I cant wait to get my license, and am sure you feel the same way! 🙂

      Yes Jiddo’s get to me too they are so helpless, but you know how many times I saw one of those JIDDO’s get out of a 7-Series BMW or an SUV car early in the morning, beg for money all day long and get back in and drive off at night, it’s sad and hard to believe, but I swear to you I’ve seen it twice. It was less than a year ago, when I used to walk my dog around 5:30 – 6:00 a.m in the morning.

      Yes its confusing and despite my feelings about this whole thing there are so many times when I just reach into my wallet for spare change and give it away, but you got to remind your self, someone else really needs it!

      Save your money and buy some food for a family who doesn’t go out begging on the streets, the ones who have too much pride to extend their hand for money 🙂

      • I got my license but I’m not allowed to take the car alone! oh well… good luck with the license 🙂

        Omg, this is getting even more confusing right now. I can’t believe it (I do, but I don’t want to). I just can’t stand the idea that a certain person might actually be in need, but because of the general idea of beggars being liars he/she doesn’t get help.

        I’m going to take your advice into consideration and stop thinking about it! 🙂 Thanks 🙂

  3. You welcome Lara 🙂

    I guess what you said solves the issue of being guilty enough to give jiddos on the streets, there are a lot of old men ad women who need the money but cant even go out on the streets to even beg for it. Eva dear, Try going to a nursing home for old men and women (Dar 3ajazeh) and you will find men and women who are in true need.
    Im not surprized at all to see some old men owning fancy cars and beg on the streets, i once followed a woman with 2 kids on a friday who went to 3 mosques within 45 minutes using a taxi to beg. the taxi was waiting for her to finish her work at a mosque to drive her to the next!!
    How would she know which mosque finishes friday prayer first to catch people on thier way out? How could she afford a taxi if she is soo poor to beg for money? most probably the taxi driver is working with her.
    Street sellers are making profit out of what they do; if it is not a proftable business, they would not have worked it.
    wallahi the swafiyeh traffic light, the one right after the 6th circle tunnel towards swafiyeh has between 4-8 sellers every day. How many potential accedents would this cause? How many girls get picked on every day?
    Imagine urself in a convertable or ur windows down and a guy who smells like an armpit sticks his head half way through ur window to annoy you enough to give him money and get him away??
    wallahi i prevent myself from beating the living crap out of these guys every single day and im almost certain that one day i will just snap and get myself into a load of trouble just to teach one guy a lesson and get it over with :-p
    People have to embrase the reality that it is wrong to give or buy on the streets

    • Thanks Moh’d, you and “Sleepless” have given me good reasons to actually convince myself not to help those people 🙂
      And yes, faculties and communities like “Dar il 3ajazeh” that help people are more trusted to follow.
      Rawe2 Moh’d, mish mistahleen itwarret 7alak min warahom!
      Thanks again 🙂

  4. It’s all thanks to “Sleepless” 🙂
    Spread the word Eva

  5. I am flattered!
    And I think am getting used to being called “Sleepless”

    Thanks for all the Support


  6. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm, it`s an art now! I miss Jordan , lol


  7. I don’t believe it is Art at all. I think it is a very bad social problem that needs to be addressed on the highest level. Very young children begging and soliciting on traffic lights, Old woman causing traffic jam, cursing and causing drama while they put themselves and others in serious danger, flirting, Cursing and spitting on drivers and cars among so many other repulsive seens. It is a problem far too serious to be thinking about the humor side of it.
    On the airport road coming from 8th circle and the industrial street intersection there are some sort gypsy/nomadic community growing on begging and young little girls flirting with men, this little community seems to have found a way of living, breeding for begging and god knows what else. I think for this and for the noisy pickup truck drivers who are soliciting with loud speakers around the country annoying the life out of everyone and causing stress to so many hundreds of thousands of people we have a real social problem in addition to hurting out economy. I would have expected someone would step forward already and chopped some heads over killing Jordan like this. Yesterday someone told me you have to adapt to living here. Do I really? Is this adapting or submission? Who really have to live like this in chaos, dirt and noise?

    • Hello Dean,

      I believe the title “The Art of Begging” was merely sarcasm as I do think people get creative on how they can start begging for money that it’s quite the talent. Why I think of the humor in it, mainly because no matter how much we complain about it, nothing seems to happen, people do it over and over and Social Services seem to sit in their offices saying that have done stuff about it while we all know that they haven’t, seeing all of those beggars on the street, which rest assured, are far richer than you and me. I wish something could be done about this, but I highly doubt it, and the gypsies you are talking about on the 8th circle, I have wondered for a while now where they have emerged from, I know there are a lot of them in Jordan, their quite the nomads they never settle, have you been to Petra and met the gypsies who live there? I just didn’t know they have settled to begging and flirting. Something definitely has to be done.

  8. Lara, I had no intention of accusing you to humor a serious problem. I actually think you are very smart and really hit the nail on the head. I was also referring to how this problem is taken so lightly by people. I apologize if my post was taken in a different manner. Please keep up the good work. I believe that this blog speaks my mind as well as the mind of many others. I do also believe a very powerful tool for reform in Jordan. I have lived here many years and then lived abroad for 8 years. Now after 6 months I can’t wait to get the hell out of here and I will next week. Life here became unbearable and people are not allowed to voice out their concerns. Where I am checkinging out and leaving, I hope you will do your best to promote awareness among Jordanians. The situation is far too dangerous here. I will keep visiting this blog and share some ideas. God Bless Jordan and True Jordanians who care for Jordan, not those who claim to be only because they have a certain last name.

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