Featured, Jordan, Volunteering

Holy Heat Worship

14 Comments 19 January 2011

Jordanians, no matter what God they believe in, all huddle around it worshiping the black metal God. There’s one in every house I’ve been to…and it always seems to be the center of attention.
It’s the most used appliance in Jordan’s homes.

Ladies and gentlemen…I bring you the gas heater.

portable heater

The Center of Attention

Let me shatter a stereotype that you have. It gets cold in Jordan and other parts of the Middle East…surprised? January temperatures in Amman are around 36 to 55 degrees. Sure – it’s not like it’s freezing or anything – but consider this…the majority of the homes, buildings, and offices here do not have central heating – or even radiator heating at times. Many times it’s colder inside than outside the home!

This is where the ultra-versatile gas heater comes in. But the beauty of this heater is that everything seems to center around it in the winter. It’s like the sun, and home life in Jordan rotates around it. Obviously people huddle around it drinking coffee and tea, and the pets take naps by it. But then there are the un-obvious uses…warming up bread, making tea, and even warming up a cold pair of socks or jeans before you put them on. It’s mobile, and can be wheeled around so that you don’t stray far from its flame.  It’s also important to note that this style of heater with the space on top for tea and bread is made in Jordan.  This is a proud fact for Jordanians as they feel it’s much more versatile than it’s Korean and Chinese counterparts; no matter where you are in the world, national pride is important.

I’ve never seen so much attention paid to a heater. Yet – I’ve been converted; I too worship this black and silver metal God of warmth made in Jordan.

I get up in the morning and have learned how to start it myself. It flickers and builds into a flame and then a soft glow of radiating heat, which make my skin start to tingle. I stand around it warming up in the morning feeling the heat. I throw a piece of bread on top of it as if I’m giving it alms. The bread gets flipped from side to side until it gets nice and warm and then I rip off a piece and form it into a spoon-like scoop and enjoy some fooul (bean dip). My host mom puts the pot of tea on the top of the Heater God and a few more pieces of bread. This is where our breakfast meal occurs each morning.

I’ve grown use to the ritual…and I find comfort in the fact that any home I go into for the obligatory tea visits have the same rituals. It’s deeply ingrained in the winter culture in Jordan and so through my volunteering experience here – it’s become ingrained in me too.

Your Comments

14 Comments so far

  1. Anil says:

    The warm socks are the best. That temperature range is terrible, no snow and cold enough to make you uncomfortable!

  2. Donna Hull says:

    It’s amazing how the simplest of needs builds community and family time. Your heater sounds like a versatile tool for bringing the family together. I like the idea of warm socks.

  3. Having spent a couple of winter months in Nepal, where none of the homes or hotels have heat, I can fully relate. I never spent so much time huddling around small fires built from sticks in my life. What I wouldn’t have given for one of those heaters!

    • Sherry says:

      It was like that in China too…but they had buckets of coal to huddle around! I guess in the scheme of things – gas heaters are probably the best…at least I don’t smell like smoke!!

  4. i think it’s a great idea to be able to make your tea and bread right there in your living room. Now where can we get one?

    • Sherry says:

      Ha! I don’t think I can bring this back in my checked luggage for you! It is convenient though…it’s like a fireplace on wheels!

  5. Mark H says:

    It must be the middle eastern version of Television attracting everyone to crowd around…

  6. Shane says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only that finds the Middle East a bit chilly. While all the other tourists/travellers are in shorts and sandals we’ve been wandering around Dahab in coats and scarves feeling a bit silly.

    • Sherry says:

      Shane – I finally found your comment in spam! Have no idea why that is…but I have indicated that you are a real person now so hopefully it won’t happen any longer! How long are you in the chilly Middle East for?

      • Shane says:

        Thanks for fishing us out of there. I’m not sure exactly how long we will be in the region. We’re making our way home to Turkey, probably taking two or three months. Jordan is next so I will be following your site with interest.

  7. MJ says:

    You have a wonderful writing style.

  8. J Suleiman says:

    I’m commenting again! :)
    Our first winter here, we had a huge apartment and one tiny sobah (the gas heater). Boy, we sure did live around that thing. I did burn a pair of jeans ‘warming them up’ one morning; my daughter will never let me live that down. Tell me, did your host family make chestnuts on the sobah for you? That is a treat, indeed.
    We’ve since moved on to diesel-run radiators and split unit blowers, but I must say, the sobah has a special place in my heart.

    • Sherry says:

      No- I never had chestnuts – but it sounds yummy! I really did come to love that heater. I’m in Lebanon now and I already wrote my Jordan host family and told them I miss the heater as I can’t warm my bread anywhere!


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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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