Culture · Jordan

The ugly side of Irbid

Today, I witnessed something I have never thought I will see in my life, it made me decide to write this post at last. I have been contemplating on writing about Jordan’s epidemic sanitation problem since I came to Jordan, nine months ago, but I never did.

Couple of months ago, I listened to an interview on NPR titled “‘Dirty Old London’: A History Of The Victorians’ Infamous Filth.” The interview was with the author of the book “Dirty Old London: The Victorian Fight Against Filth.” Here are some quotes from the book and the interview.”

“In the 19th century, London was the capital of the largest empire the world had ever known — and it was infamously filthy. It had choking, sooty fogs; the Thames River was thick with human sewage; and the streets were covered with mud.”

“”It takes decades for people to accept that the state perhaps has a role in how they manage their household, how they manage their rubbish, their toilet facilities even,” Lee says. “The state basically does intervene and it is that idea of a central authority that is actively concerned — what the Victorians would’ve called ‘municipal socialism.’ … That mission to improve people’s lives on a very day-to-day basis was carried on throughout the 20th century.””

I highly recommend listening to this interview. It will shock you how filthy London was. Things about sanitation that we take for granted were not at that time. I liked what the author said in the interview because it gave me hope that one day we [in Jordan] may achieve the same level of cleanliness London has now. Luckily, we have a sewer system and our streets are clean from urine and dungs. I also have to mention that the municipality [in Irbid] is doing its best to keep the streets clean. I see the sanitation workers work all the time with the little equipment they have. I have also to commend on their continuous and double effort especially with more residents coming to Jordan from troubled neighboring countries. 

My rant is not about what the city does but what the residents do. This culture of treating public places like dumpsters is something I can’t understand. Drivers throw their trash from their cars. Shoppers throw all kind of trash on the sidewalks and on the streets. Depending on where you live, you may wonder why people do this. I wish I know. It truly baffles me.

Here is what I witnessed today that struck a nerve to write this post:

water cups

Today, I saw something I never thought I would see. I was in a cemetery attending a burial of a neighbor. Because it was hot and sunny, some individuals thought it would be a nice gesture to distribute water cups. It was a nice gesture of course. Guess what? People throw the empty plastic cups in the cemetery. I am not joking. It wasn’t the act of one or two or three persons. Almost everybody who drank from these cups used the cemetery as a dumpster. I was shocked. I have never seen anything like this before. Maybe, because we are not used to passing these water cups in the cemetery that I have never seen this horrendous act before. I really hope no one ever passes any consumable items again during a burial. I wanted to collect these cups but there were close to 150 man. I didn’t want to act in a way that raise eyebrows. 

Beside the sanitation workers there are some groups that took the initiative to clean the city. Unfortunately, without the help of the residents their effort will go unnoticed. The two groups I am aware of here in Irbid are the Malaysian students who every now and then clean some streets and another group called Ahel Al Balad. I know there are many people who are disgusted by this habit of throwing trash everywhere but this needs a nation wide effort.

Irbid is indeed a very beautiful place, it was never like this. For centuries it was populated by civilizations like the Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and even others before them.

Below, are some pictures I took in different neighborhoods and places in Irbid:

2014-02-01 10.00.26
Unfortunately, this is a common scene when you go out to the mountains. Some people learned to take two big trash bags; one to clean before they sit and the other to clean after they finish their trip.
2014-02-01 10.04.01
Same spot after we cleaned it.

7 thoughts on “The ugly side of Irbid

  1. I can see why you are fed up with that! Interestingly enough one of my FB friends posted a picture today from Bahrain. Someone had just thrown litter onto the street from his/her vehicle.


  2. Wow, that is bad. I thought New York City was bad with people just throwing their trash on the ground or not bothering to take it with them when they get off the bus or the train, but those pictures are on a whole different level. That’s terrible, especially in a cemetery. It’s good that you cleaned the spot where you were but it was probably covered with garbage within a few hours of your leaving.


    1. Compared to Columbia, MO NYC is not as clean. But Columbia’s population is 100,000 only. From experience I know that big cities are usually not as clean as smaller cities. Still, I think NYC is clean enough given its dense population.

      Yes, these pictures are on a whole different level. The situation was not like this before. So, one can only hope this is a temporary thing.


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