Thoughts From the Jabal: A Jordanian Immersion

Story and photo by Samir A. Habib, habib.sa@husky.neu.edu

Jabal Amman is one of seven Jabals or hills that comprises the vibrant and busy city of Amman, Jordan. I arrived here on August 1, 2016, unsure of what to expect. My apartment that I would call home for the next four months blinded me with white lights as I ate fresh za’atar (Arabic thyme) bread overlooking the city by night from my window. I was about to embark on a four month journey that would change my life in more ways than I could have imagined.  

This four month journey of mine has been my international co-op experience in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Located in between Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Israel, Jordan is a melting pot of culture and history. From the ancient ruins of the Ammonites from 1000 B.C., to ancient Petra, and Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad structures, this part of the World has been home to thousands of years of history.   As time has passed, the city of Amman as we see it today has grown and developed. What was a bustling center for trade for the Romans, Amman in 2016 seems to have kept its ancient practices of global acceptance, cultural exchange, and development. Throughout the city, the Muslim call to prayer echoes in the background while you walk by the walls of a catholic church. Taking a stroll down the infamous Shara’a Al-Rainbow, you pass by Jordanians, Westerners and Asians, with imported cars honking as means of communication as they slowly drive down. You can eat the best falafel sandwich at Al-Quds, or grab a quick burger from Firefly Burger down the street, right before indulging in ice cream from Gerard, fresh Syrian Knafe from up the street, or a fancier Jordanian desert from Sufrah. And of course, with a cup of addicting local black tea with na’na’ (mint) and a fresh shisha (hookah). Finally, if you’re keen, the bars are open and busy till quite late for an after dinner drink. The city’s culture truly speaks for itself.

With this thriving pool of culture comes a wave of development. I work at a company named Oasis500, a seed-stage start-up accelerator. The company invests in the technology and creative industries (and soon, space-tech companies), and fosters the growth of both the Jordanian and Arab entrepreneurship ecosystem. I work with the investment team as an investment analyst. My job is to be the first screen between the company and potential investments by reviewing pitch decks, conducting due-diligence and research, and assisting the investment team in any way possible. It has been incredible to witness the sheer amounts of innovation that has emerged in just four months, and learn from some of the most skilled individuals in the industry. Frustrations certainly exist in the daily lives for those who live here, and thus the determination to make life better with technology has fostered incredible thought-leaders and businesses. From on-demand home maintenance, to disruptive online payment and financial tools, the ecosystem in Amman is raw and full of expertise and potential. What an exciting time to be in such a unique place.

As my time here comes to an end, I leave the city and the company learning tremendous amounts of the emerging industry and those creating it. In parallel, I’ve learned a lot about Jordanian culture, and finally- I’ve learned a lot about  myself and future career prospects. I feel melancholy to leave my life here, and return to the life I have in Boston. I highly encourage students seeking an international business or venture capital/entrepreneurship-related co-op experience to consider applying for positions at Oasis500 or similar start-ups throughout Jordan. Ma’asalaam.