Holy Heat Worship

January 19, 2011 14 Comments »

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.

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