beggar in jordan

Do we really know what it’s like for Beggars in Jordan?

Words: Hala Al-Hashlamoun and Omar Jubran
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If you live in Amman you must have been at least in one situation where a beggar has asked you for money. This social dilemma has been part of our lives for so long, characterized by individuals reaching out to our humane side, living off the expense of other people, that it almost became something we accept.

jordan dinarThe occupation of begging”; this is how officials in the Ministry of Social Development prefer to term the act of begging while explaining to us how it has turned into a career instead of being “merely a way to get by”, as they told HCW contributor, Omar Jubran.

The Ministry supports these statements with facts and figures that they were very willing to share with us, coupled with an objective telling of their own encounters with beggars.

Stories are told of beggars on wheelchairs that stood up running as soon as they saw the patrols of the ministry and others who faked injuries to gain people’s sympathy. Some wealthy beggars were caught more than once by the ministry, owning fancy cars and well equipped homes. To our surprise, these are not  fantastic tales you hear while gossiping with your neighbors, these are official stories told by government officials.

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Image taken from

“The ministry does its best to help those people”, said one official. “Adults are offered decent jobs and  financial aid from several fund programs, in addition to  a special fund program for patients who cannot afford treatment at hospitals; however, many still refuse these opportunities, because to them begging is more profitable.”

“Addiction” was the word used by the officials during our interview.

“The laws are not strict enough” stressed another official. Adults who get caught are sent to court where punishment consists mostly of paying a fine. These people usually end up on the streets on the same day as time is money and there is no point wasting it. In the year 2013, 2840 people were caught in the act of begging, amongst whom were 400 children under the age of 18. Sadly,  many of  those children have been repeatedly caught throughout the past years.

Child beggars are the ones who suffer most, born into families who look upon them as “Geese who lay golden eggs”; denied proper education and an innocent childhood, they have it worst. The ministry reaches out repeatedly to their parents, urging them to provide their children with better care. However, parents respond by removing their children from rehabilitation centers and sending them back on the streets.

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Image taken from

In the  Ministry’s opinion, everybody is part of the problem, and thus, part of the solution; those beggars won’t be sending their children to the streets if it were not paying off. “We are too sympathetic as a people” says the  Ministry; people are willing to give those beggars on the streets, not realizing they are encouraging them to stay on the streets.

Delving deeper into this phenomenon, HCW contributor Hala Al-Hashlamoun sought a child beggar to gain more insight into what life must be for a child, forced into adulthood, not a straight one at that, at such a young age. This is what they both had to say:

Hala Hashlamon sits down with Hasan and discusses begging over dinner.

Hasan, a 9-year-old beggar, talked to me over dinner about his begging experience that he has been doing for the past 4 years in different areas of Amman.  He lives with his mother, who is also a beggar, albeit on a wheel chair.

Hasan’s presence at the traffic lights depends on which day it is. When accompanied by his mother, it usually is the morning hours, but on the “evening shift” which starts at 5 pm and lasts till 1 am, he goes on his own. In his words he described his daily scenario; “I take a taxi from home to here every day, it costs me 5 JD. I stop the taxi next to the traffic lights, give him 5 JD, start begging until I get around 30 to 40 dinars to give to my mom. Then I beg for more 5 JD to pay the taxi to get back home.”

Seasoned beggars can make much more money than that, reaching into the 2,000 JD salary bracket and beyond in a month. A household of four could be bringing in a minimum of 7,000 JD a month, so why replace that with minimum wage, taxation and an education?

When asked about his experience with the authorities, Hasan asserted having been arrested many times and described different ways the authorities use to arrest beggars, including arrival in disguises so their identity is not given away and beggars can run when they spot them.

When asked about school he said: “I wanted to go to school but there are papers that I need to get that are a bit costly and we can’t afford.”

Later on he continued, “I have a plan. After two years I will start working in fixing cars at a place in my neighborhood. A Job is way better than begging. Especially now that the begging market is deteriorating and the number of beggars has increased, and now they are from so many different nationalities.”

Hasan at his usual spot trying to sell chewing gum.
Hasan at his usual spot trying to sell chewing gum.

Jordan is not the first country to be struck by the crash in the beggar’s market, though. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Tyler Cowan, a celebrated economics blogger, asks whether begging might be an “overcrowded occupation subject to congestion.” In layman’s terms, this means that there are already too many beggars on the streets, and giving off any more money would attract more beggars into a pool of ‘work’ that is already saturated.

At the moment, there is no denying that there are more and more beggars in Jordan. Whether or not the “market” has deteriorated or not is yet to be seen, but with households full of beggars bringing in copious amounts of income, it is very questionable whether they have the incentive at all to stop begging and enter an almost impossible job market.

About Omar Jubran

When a geeky engineer decides to write, you can expect trouble. Omar is all about science and reports on the social issues facing the day-to-day Jordanian. His mantra: Each voice makes a difference.

One thought on “Do we really know what it’s like for Beggars in Jordan?”

  1. After residing in the Hashemite Kingdom for 5 continuous years without departure, I believe a more balanced and rational reply is deserved. I’ve witnessed beggars in West Amman, Hashemi Shemali, Irbid, Jerash, Westa Balad, East Amman, Tababour, and many other places I resided.

    I do concede that the level of begging is high in Jordan. The GDP has steadily risen yet as with Profirio Diaz’s government in Mexico, it doesn’t trickle down to the people. This is something inherently emetic and vomit inducing about Jordanian culture. Most ideologies of economics, politics, and religions are based upon the heuristic of how beneficial it is toward the community, the nation, the individual; and under this schematic representation it is indeed sad to capitulate to reason rather protecting the sensitivity of Jordanians by stating, Jordan and Jordanians and Islam within Jordan is utterly disgusting and a monumental failure. Islamophobes as Robert Spencer or Ann Couter need only spend – doubt they would – a year in Jordan to experience the Qurans on the dashboards of taxis while they hustle you, schools teaching America and Israel must be destroyed, everyone asking what religion you are as a first question, Saddam Hussein lauded at the end of mouths of officials and Samaritans, honor killings, etc. Then the aforementioned pundits would have all the primary sources to convince civilization around the world, Islam had a major and exigent need for reform. And I say this as a Sunni Muslim.

    Those beggars are legitimately poor because of the corruption in Jordan. As it was in Porfirio Diaz’s government in Mexico. Some say there is no corruption or wasta in Jordan. Bulls##t!

    The protests in Jordan since 2010 have demanded such reforms to thwart the modern Boss Tweeds

    Two former Chiefs of the Jordanian Intelligence, Muhammad al-Dahabi and Samih al- Battikhi were convicted of corruption.

    A relative of the royal family was also charged and convicted of corruption
    Leaders of Jordan’s main Bedouin tribes sent an open letter accusing Queen Rania of corruption.

    One of Parliementary members, Laith Shubailat , accused the King of Jordan of corruption pointing toward the latter’s valuable land appropriations and shares in the Rotana Group.
    Former Mayor of Amman, Omar Maani, was arrested for corruption.

    Poet Haider Mahmoud wrote a poem warning of the proliferating corruption only to be fired and stigmatized as a trator in state-run media.

    Former minister, Adel Qudah, former JPRC director general Ahmad Rifai, the prime minister’s economic adviser, Mohammad Rawashdeh, and business tycoon Khaled Shahin were incarcerated for corruption in regards to the Jordan Petroleum Refinery Company

    The Anti-Corruption Commission of Jordan has capitulated and admitted it is severely under-funded and under-staffed.

    There also exists a consensus ‘on the ground’ among NGO and government employees, the regular population, and numerous others that the donated money is ending up in the Tammany pockets of individuals and individual companies, rather than Syrians.

    I performed many interviews with those ‘cadgers’ as the Ammon news calls them. Those of society that prophets, all of them, of old defended and aided. The majority of them are legitimately poor and without education and dignity, they do lie and pride themselves upon earning the most they possibly are able to by deception. But it is not because they are without. On the contrary, they are in deep need!

    Jordanian culture manipulates Islam, as horrendously repulsive as it is, to push the Middle and Upper classes toward achievement and progress at the expense of being responsible for the community or concerned about poverty. I know. Normal Jordanians claim the Quran or hadeeths state a person must not ask for money and work for it. That’s abominably false. Just as it is false, the idea that silver chains are haram as well. The former two are no where in the hadeeths or Quran. Why the popularity of such canards as I have stated as well as the myth of the sly beggar; it’s called a lack of education, ignorance! And such articles as this only append to it.

    Not only did I interview many beggars to see with my own eyes the veracity of their claims, but I worked in those camps for Iraq, Syrian, and Palestinian refugees for 6 years. 5 within Jordan. The society of Jordan does not care. Beg, appeal to rationality or emotion, reiterate that these poor people are their own (Palestinians) yet it strikes no nerve. I recollect asking one charity to help the poor people of Gaza Camp by helping us to collect funds for a park, I will never forget his response. He said , “those people don’t need a park or education that you provide them free every weekend. They need psychological help or a brain change.” And the guy who said it. It was a Palestinian from a Lebanese camp.

    Sometimes surpassing poverty makes one sympathetic toward others who are poor. And sometimes it does the contrary. The latter is prevalent in Jordan. And they use Islam to justify it!

    Therefore, have a heart dude. I will never in my life, until my last breath, forget the lack of compassion, the massive ignorance, and disgusting condemnation people made upon the constituents of penury in Jordan by Jordanian or by thoughtless expats with too much time on their hands. I just find some people utterly cowardly, immoral hypocrites who claim the identity attached to God, and just basically horrible humans.

    If you are an expat, Jordan has rubbed off on you. Hurry to the detox and clean your mind brother. If you are Jordanian, I understand the determinant behind your post. God be with you and I hope you may drink from the left instead of the right hand soon 🙂

    This article, to be accurate, should be titled “the Art of no conscience”. Thank you.

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