There’s something magical about connecting with another badass black girl who travels the world, grabs at opportunities which come her way with both hands, and breaks the limiting social conventions we’re expected to abide by… I guess it’s all part and parcel of the #BlackGirlMagic phenomena taking the blogosphere by storm! Meet Keylee, a young African American woman living and working in Amman, Jordan… She shared insight into her experience of being black in Jordan!
I first connected with Key when she reached out offering to host me through the Couchsurfing travel community we’re both part of. I didn’t take up her offer, however I was intrigued to meet her. We met and took a stroll through downtown Amman, ending up at Wild Cafe where we had the most spontaneous open and honest conversation about our shared travel experiences as black women. Keylee’s insight to her intersectional experiences as a woman, black and American is a central part to the first episode of a brand new travel show I created with DoGoodFilms called Around the World and Black… CLICK HERE to watch the pilot!
What’s it like for you as a black woman living in Jordan? Any particular pros and cons?
I think there are slim to no pros of being a black woman in Jordan. My identity as a black woman alone is seemingly more of a disadvantage, but any particular advantage comes with the intersection of being a black woman that speaks Arabic or being a black woman that is also American. I would say perhaps since people think all black women are from sub-saharan Africa, I guess a pro would be less likely to get ripped off by taxi drivers or while haggling store owners because they think you have less money (but that comes at the intersection of being a black woman from another country).
I do think many people compliment me on my braided and natural hair. I also get called beautiful a lot by random people (including taxi drivers), but I am always skeptical of if they genuinely believe these things or if they are just intrigued by the difference of something ‘exotic’ and ‘different’ (I guess those who experience this will have to make that judgement call for themselves).
Dating is also very difficult because culture, religion (same religion has different expression), gender role expectations can make it really difficult. Also trying to date foreigners living in Jordan is difficult because the country is generally a transitional place where people live 6 months to 2 years.
At the end of the day Jordan is a male-dominant society and being a woman in general has its difficulties. I constantly feel I have to be ‘on’ or aggressive in situations when I shouldn’t, such as having to make the taxi driver give me my change when he would never try that with a man.
As a black woman (also as a non-Arab looking foreigner) men will think you are easy or a prostitute. Its very disturbing sometimes, especially when men in cars pull to the side of the road if you are walking and expect you to get in.
When I travel, I want to be the fly on the wall – observing people and not necessarily the other way round. How do you deal with the staring?
The staring is so terrible…like I have never been in a country where people stare so un-shamefully and its not just out of curiosity, from men it can be that lustful sexually repressed gaze that makes your skin crawl. Living here for three years has been really difficult when it comes to noticing and appreciating yourself because you are always being watched or seen.
In general, living in Jordan is a great international experience. I have learned how to navigate relationships and situations with people who have a completely different lifestyle than me. Truly an amazing opportunity. Being able to foster diverse cultural relationships and speak to people in Arabic on a daily basis is so rewarding.
And your overall experience?…
Jordan is an overall welcoming place and it is all about the people you meet and friends you make. Most people are welcoming and will invite you to their house the same day they meet you for lunch or dinner. Such a hospitable country of people!
Living abroad makes you more open-minded and I am blessed to have personal experience and understanding of the Middle East and Jordanian culture because post-9/11 rhetoric in the US does not do justice to the beautiful souls I’ve experienced here – (Christian, Muslim, non-religious etc). Although I have faced many challenges here, my experience has been something I will always cherish.
Look out for the next Key Discoveries post where Keylee shares her top tips and recommendations for anyone wishing to visit Jordan! Follow Keylee’s travel journey on Instagram @key.discoveries
As always, don’t forget to let me know your thoughts on this post in the comment box below!
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