Retail Therapy, Syrian Style


There is nothing to buy in Amman. Sure there are shops and malls, amazing ones too. There are the usual designer boutiques: Louis Vuitton, Burberry…, all of the familiar mall brands: MAC, H&M, Gap, (no Anthropologie)…, but I cannot afford anything here because everything is about three times more expensive than what I’d pay at home. I suppose it’s a good thing that there’s nothing to buy because it makes Raj all the more willing when an opportunity to spend arises, as it did last week at the embassy.

Before arriving to Jordan, Raj and I discussed our desire to purchase some sort of furniture or artwork reflective of the region without going overboard with a middle eastern theme. The uprisings in Syria began shortly before Raj arrived, seriously impeding our travel plans to visit and buy Syrian furniture. The Syrian situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better so I’ve accepted the fact that Syria’s not in our future travel plans. Luckily for us though, a Syrian furniture salesman braved the border crossing to sell his wares at the Embassy.

I’ve been relatively good so far, limiting purchases to a couple of camel-hair rugs, some Arabic looking pottery, a brass lantern, a large mosaic, and now a Syrian chest and mirror to place in our foyer back in Old Town. I don’t know much about Syrian furniture, other than what the salesman shared and what I saw, but it seems to be easily identifiable through its use of walnut wood, mother of pearl inlay, and traditional Arabic design.

Detail of the mother of pearl inlay medallion
The mirror (set aside on the floor temporarily)

The guy arrived with a truck full of tables, chairs, armoires, a few chests, and a fantastic array of lanterns (these were amazing but were the first things to go). He got delayed crossing the border, creating a stir for the eager shoppers (money in hand) anxiously awaiting his arrival. He began unloading the truck while a small swarm of embassy employees pretended to feign interest, casually eyeing each piece as the packaging materials were removed. People began posturing and sidling up close to the things they liked, lest something better was to be revealed from the truck. I soon became afflicted with the buying frenzy as nearby shoppers discussed the worsening situation across the Syrian border and how this might be our ‘one and only’ chance to buy authentic Syrian furniture. I was determined to buy something, anything in case this was true. Cost and reason flew to wayside as one chest and then another were quickly spoken for. I swooped in on one of only two remaining chests and had Raj settle the price. (This guy had a captive audience so there wasn’t much in the way of haggling). We added in a mirror to be hung above the chest and sealed the deal.

The chest’s storage

The chest we bought has grown on me significantly since we brought it home. While it was sitting at the embassy, side by side among the other pieces, I was a little overwhelmed. I was having a hard time deciding whether I loved it or not because I felt the pressure to buy, buy, buy. I’m happy with the purchase. I can’t say we got a great price, but who knows? It’s beautiful without being overly ornate.

Top of surface of the chest
Side panel detail
Detail of mother of pearl inlay on mirror
Key to open chest
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28 thoughts on “Retail Therapy, Syrian Style

    1. Thanks. I’m not sure what I’ll be storing in it, but you’re right, it’s useful too.
      BTW, how’s your training for a marathon going? I remember reading something like that when I was checking out your about page.

  1. How about bringing back some beautiful,handmade Persian rugs! I do not know whether they are still available over there.

  2. Beautiful piece with an interesting story to tell. If you just got to walk into a store and casually pick it from other pieces it wouldn’t have the same flare.

  3. Very pretty. Glad to hear that you didn’t haggle. The guy was risking his life. I hope it didn’t come from someone who died or was hurt in the fighting. Sorry to be Debbie Downer- just saying.

  4. As they say in the Palumbo household, “things must be good”. Now they are saying that in the Maan household.. The treasures look great and the story you will be able to tell makes it even better.. My story would be that Raj had to fight the man to his death to get such a deal… I am sticking with my storyline.. Dad

  5. Jen, the chest and mirror are absolutely beautiful. What a treasure to be bringing home with you. Mom

  6. How beautiful, it will grace your home. It looks very exotic! It’s a shame you couldn’t buy it as a souvenir from Syria but hopefully one day you will get there. I loved reading this post xxx

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