A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

The dangers of women

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 9, 2007

This article left me torn between the desire to snicker and the urge to shake my head in horror.

Prostitution is so much more visible – and accepted – in this part of the world than in the United States. I find it appalling, but also an effective rejoinder to those who criticize our high divorce rate. After all, who values the institution of marriage more: those who end it when marital differences become ‘irreconcilable’, or those who make a farce of a lifetime commitment to honor one’s spouse with one’s fidelity?

I must also note that Jordan’s fear of single women travelers might explain a rather curious experience I had while staying at the Grand Hyatt in Amman several summers ago.

The hotel’s emails to me always began, “Dear Sir,” which I thought understandable. After all American names are not always identifiably male or female, and regional norms would predict that a single traveler would be male.

What was strange, however, was that once I arrived, the hotel staff continued to address me as “Sir” and “Mr”. I should point out here that I am not at all masculine looking; certainly I have never been mistaken for a man in any other context.

When my parents called the hotel one evening to speak with me, the concierge refused to put them through until they agreed that yes, I was their son, and they were calling in order to be connected to the room of Mr. Diamond.

At the time, it was baffling. Not offensive – just strange.

Thanks to this article, however, I feel that I have solved the mystery. By refusing to acknowledge my Miss-ness, the hotel staff was kindly glossing over any morality problems that my presence might pose.

Either that, or I really do look like a man.


An outcry from Jordanian tour operators has compelled Amman to backtrack on a controversial new regulation that was intended to limit the entry of single eastern European and North African women into the country.


Tour operators throughout the country were notified earlier this week of a new visa regulation issued by Jordan’s Ministry of Interior. The directive stipulated that women traveling alone to Jordan from several eastern European and North African countries would be required to obtain special entry visas.


The ministry notice gave no reason for the new regulation. But tour operators said the conservative government was trying to clamp down on the growing trend of prostitution in Jordan imported by women from these countries.


The decision was retracted on Wednesday morning after tourist operators working with these countries protested to the government. Industry people were concerned this would damage their incomes and discourage tourists from these destinations to come to Jordan.


Interior Ministry officials explained the retraction, saying they wanted to avoid any misunderstandings with nationals of the countries targeted by the decision, the Jordanian daily A-Rai reported.


The original regulation singled out women between the ages of 17-40 from Ukraine, Estonia, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Armenia. It excluded women from these countries who were accompanying their husbands, traveling in official delegations or daughters of high-ranking officials.


Jordan’s tourism industry relies heavily on visitors from these destinations, especially from Russia, Bulgaria and Romania.


Sameer Baitamouni, the operations manager for the Amman-based tourist office of Abercrombie & Kent, says prostitution is indeed a problem in Jordan, although the practice remains largely behind closed doors and is less apparent on the streets.


“At the end of the day this is a conservative, Arab Islamic country,” Baitamouni says. “People don’t like seeing Russian girls wearing short skirts walking on the streets.”


He admits that the original regulation, which intended to scrutinize the entry of potential prostitutes, was justified from a social standpoint, given the conservative nature of the country, but bad for business.


Jordan has become a thriving business hub for Westerners since the war in the neighboring Iraq began in 2003. Businesspeople, journalists, diplomats, contractors and soldiers work in Iraq but use Jordan, which is relatively safe, as their base.


The boom in foreigners has also seen an upsurge in escort services in the country.


Tamer Khweis, a Jordanian human rights lawyer, does not believe in a direct correlation between the increased number of Westerners in the country and the rise in prostitution. It is more likely linked with the lenient approach the Jordanian government has taken over the past five years toward opening night clubs in order to attract tourists, he says.


The nightlife boon has driven eastern European women to Jordan to seek employment as waitresses or bartenders. They frequently resort to prostitution for the additional income, Khweis believes.


“I truly don’t think it’s organized,” he says, downplaying speculation of human trafficking.


Prostitution in Jordan largely remains discreet, but is known to be common. It is not a matter debated in the media.


“It’s an underworld business,” Khweis says.


Al-Qa’ida took credit for the bombing of an Amman hotel frequented by Westerners in November 2005, explaining they were targeting “filthy entertainment centers.”


2 Responses to “The dangers of women”

  1. intlxpatr said

    Holy Smokes, Mr. Diamond!! Not Jordan!

    You gave me a good laugh for the day, habeebti!

  2. […] – and I am sure that most searchers are terribly disappointed to learn that my post on “The Dangers of Women” does not provide contact […]

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