I consider myself a pretty good driver, but since coming to Amman, I have realized that evaluation is completely by American standards. As we are forced to take taxis everywhere, we are exposed to Amman’s traffic on a daily basis. I have witnessed some pretty incredible behavior that would make American on-lookers scoff, but is normal in Jordan. For example, when transporting toddlers, many families simply place the child on the lap of the adult in the passenger seat. I haven’t seen a single car seat. Also, many taxis don’t have seat belts. They just don’t exist.
Driving lanes also are a figment of the imagination. There are lines painted on the streets but they are really just suggestions. I have seen drivers try to force their way from the far left lane to an exit on the right side of the road with only 20 feet left. As traffic is usually gridlocked, other drives simply stop to allow others over. Although there is a lot of yelling when drivers do stupid things (like drive slowly), Ammanis really exemplify the idea of sharing the road with each other.
Another interesting aspect of traffic is the honking. In America, we honk to show anger. In Jordan, honking is a way to say, “Excuse me, but I just wanted to let you know that I am driving next to you so please don’t scoot over just yet,” or “I am approaching this poorly lit and cluttered intersection so please don’t run into me.” It is really polite, but slightly unnerving for FOB Americans. However, the gridlock does provide ample time to take gorgeous photos of mosques! Each neighborhood has one which gives the skyline a unique look with minarets scattered between buildings.