Packing Lists, Travel, USA

I’ve just returned to Amman after four weeks of traveling in Germany and Turkey – mostly for grad school and work, with a few days of relaxation in between. I couldn’t wait to be unpacked and back home – and I did unpack very quickly – but now I’m continuing to pack for an eventual move back to the United States.

A few months ago I was interviewing for a job in New York that unfortunately didn’t work out. But at that time, I started getting ready to move by packing up all my winter clothes and trying to get more organized. Now I’m interviewing for two more jobs (and applying for more); I’m considering heading to the US in the near future, with or without a job, mostly due to some family concerns. So I’m again in the situation where I could be moving in three weeks, or waiting a bit longer.

Fortunately, last year I went through a major purge and got rid of probably 75 percent of my wardrobe. I’ve bought some things since then, but I expect I can fit all my clothes, shoes, bags, etc., into 1.5 large checked bags. Half of my wardrobe (winter clothes) is packed into one suitcase with room to spare. I’ve started packing up non-essentials like carpets, pillow cases, and a few decorative items that I don’t need everyday right now.

This is me with one of my best friends, loading up the car in January 2015 when I was moving from DC to Turkey. I traveled with one large Samsonite suitcase, an Osprey 65L backpack, and my carry-ons were a small blue suitcase and another smaller backpack.

Looking back, I’m not sure what all I came with, but I remember packing a fair amount of unnecessary things out of sheer panic. Almost four years later, I feel ok about moving with three checked bags – full of things I like, that have memories and will help me set up a new home – and with a carry-on suitcase with my camera gear. Going with only two bags would mean leaving behind a lot of stuff that I like, and four feels excessive. After all this time abroad, and perhaps with getting older, I feel like I have clothes that suit me in either environment (when I moved to the Middle East, I came with lots of outdoor clothes/gear that for some reason I thought I needed) and that are better quality and worth moving halfway around the world. So far, I don’t think it will be necessary or worth it to ship anything, but obviously some people choose to do that. Lots of stuff is just easier to buy once you land, especially if you’re moving to the US, where clothes and household goods are cheaper than the Middle East (I’ve brought bedsheets from the US, but I’ll never understand people who fill an entire suitcase with just a duvet). Basically, I’ll be moving with the same amount of suitcases an Emirati lady takes on a weekend trip to Beirut!

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Life, Middle East

Well, after a marathon of bureaucracy resulting in the best marriage contract-signing photo ever, we got married on February 17, 2016.

Our day started with picking up our witnesses, two of Layth’s friends, and all meeting at Sharia court in Wadi al-Seer, which is in an extremely nondescript building that I only managed to find again because I recognized a guy selling bananas one street over.

The day before, Layth’s mom went to court with all our papers and asked if we needed anything else. No we didn’t. Of course we did. Continue Reading


Tomorrow is our katb al-kitab day. Big inshallah that everything goes according to plan and no one decides some part of our paperwork is wrong. For lots of Jordanian couples, katb al-kitab is the “engagement,” but it is a marriage contract, and after it’s done, you’re legally married. So even though our wedding isn’t until July, after tomorrow, we’ll be married. To each other. Between work and running around getting documents stamped, I haven’t really had time to freak out about the fact that it’s my last day as a free woman. Joking.


Since Layth’s mom and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what offices we needed to go to, and since we accidentally went to divorce court instead of marriage court, I’ll write what we did here, since I’m not the only foreign woman out there getting married here.

1. A letter from your embassy stating that you’ve never been married, and if you’ve been divorced, you’ll need proof of that, too. The US embassy doesn’t keep centralized records of marriage, so when you go to the embassy, they will only give you a very generic letter stating that they can’t give Jordanian authorities proof that you’re not married. So far this letter has worked for me, as the half-asleep civil servants who stamped it didn’t even read it. However, other women I know have had the letter rejected, went back to their office and had a colleague type up a “proof” letter stating she was single, and had two witnesses sign it. Somehow this was accepted. Others were skeptical of the embassy letter and made her swear up and down that she was not already married. I think it depends on the mood of the employee you get that day. 

This letter has to get stamped by the Ministry of the Exterior (Shmeisani) and the Sharia Court (Gardens).

2. Translation of your passport into Arabic. After a lifetime of battling with people not to pronounce the silent R in my last name, the guy at the translation office insisted that spelling it phonetically, as it would be pronounced in French, would raise red flags. I wanted to tell him I have relatives named “Thibodeaux” – how would you transliterate that, I wonder? Oh well. At least the Arabic pronunciation sounds nicer than the American version.

3. Blood tests for you and your fiancé. They check for Thessalemia and HIV. I hear a lot of people complain about how the Ministry of Health basically doesn’t look nice and they’re afraid they won’t get a clean needle, but there are plenty of very modern looking, very clean medical labs where you can get any number of tests done for a reasonable price (seriously, like $10). These tests have to get stamped by the Ministry of Health.

4. Defter al-’aile (family book). This is basically proof of the Jordanian partner’s marital status, lists his immediate family, place of birth, etc. Since Layth’s parents are divorced, his father has this paperwork, so Layth had to go to the Civil Status and Passport office to basically get a substitute copy.

Now to go eat some celebratory shawerma…