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By Gavin T., YES Abroad 2022-2023 Jordan
A big, although random, passion of mine is collecting foreign coins. Something about having a piece of a place so far away speaks to me, and since I was younger, I have made it a point to keep, organize, and track this collection. When I learned I was going to study abroad I was really ecstatic that I was picked to go to Jordan, for a multitude of reasons, but honestly one of them was that I did not have a Jordanian coin yet. In fact, I really did not have most of the coins from the Middle East. So, before I left for Jordan, I looked over at my small collection and made myself a promise, I would make it a point to search out as many of the coins from surrounding countries that I did not have.
When I first got sight the Jordanian coins, the ½ dinar coin stood out the most to me, usually called نص (nos) in Jordan, it is a beautiful coin, the center circle a silver color with the head of the King of Jordan, surrounded by a bronze heptagon. The other coins are nice too, but I know that in the end, I will put the nos in my specific world coin collection, and the others will stay separate. With Jordan off my list incredibly quickly, I still needed coins from Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE, these would prove a bit more difficult for me to come across. The first one that I would find would be from Bahrain; I was on a walk and went down into downtown Amman, Wust El-Balad, and came across one of the many shops that line the streets containing anything from shower heads to saffron. This shop had a tray of coins outside of it, and as I had to fulfill my self-imposed promise, I bent down and started to dig through it. I not only found a Bahraini coin, but also coins from elsewhere that I didn’t have, including Ukraine, Malaysia (shout out YES Abroad Malaysia), and Bulgaria (shout out YES Abroad Bulgaria). With these added to my map, I still needed to find four Middle Eastern coins.
The next two would come very similarly to the first one. It was about a month later, and I was bored on a Saturday, so I convinced my cohort mate Ainsley to walk with me to the aforementioned coins in El-Balad to see if I could get a couple more that I was missing. We enjoyed the walk and stopped to get some desserts from Habibeh sweets (one of the most famous sweet stores in Amman) and strolled along the crowded streets, enjoying its infamous bustle. We arrived at the store, and I walked up with confidence, and asked in Arabic if they had a coin from Syria or from Iraq, being the two I decided to ask about. He answered and shook his head yes, quickly spotting them from the tray in front of us before taking them out for me. I also spotted a Romanian coin (another I didn’t have). I was so excited; 4 coins down, just Palestine, Qatar and the UAE to go.
It can be pretty difficult to find a Palestinian coin, and it had been a coin at the back of my head for me to find. This led to a day when I was on a walk and passed a store that advertised three things, ‘STAMPS, COINS, MEDALS’. I’ll be honest, only one of those things interests me, but I stepped in anyways and started looking around. The old man running the shop asked me if there was anything in particular, I was looking for, to which I honestly replied, “A Palestinian coin, or anything from Africa.” (At that point, and now, Africa remains an empty space on my coin map) He smiled and started rummaging around a few random boxes behind him. It amazes me how some people can know every square inch of a place, as he knew exactly where a random north Sudanese coin could be located in the shop. He conjured that, as well as a Tunisian coin before walking to the back of the shop and pulling out a red binder. He opened it and turned to a page, revealing about 15 Palestinian coins sitting idly by in their small pouches. He almost spiritually lifted one out before placing it in front of me. I said thank you, quietly, to which he smiled again and told me he was happy to help a collector out. I wildly underpaid for the three coins, but he insisted, and I left the shop beaming. Just two left.
This is where my second method of coin acquisition comes into play, asking my friends. I was at school and my friends, and I were recounting our weekends. I mentioned the story and asked if any of them happened to have a coin or knew where I could get one for my missing couple. A friend of mine said she likely had a dirham from Dubai and would look for it for me! I was ecstatic and very thankful, my other friend also mentioned that she might have a dirham from Qatar. My excitement doubled. Eventually, my friend brought in the shiny silver Dubai dirham, stamped with an Arab coffee pot called a dallah. Continuing this streak of happiness, my other friend gifted me the Qatari coin on my birthday, an exciting gift that completed my collection of the countries on the Arab peninsula. Also on my birthday, a third friend gifted me a few coins from pre-Euro Europe, which although I already had, the fact that they were gifted by her means a lot more to me than the old ones I had.
I am just living in Jordan, but while here I have been able to grow my other many passions that I held in the US. Not only just to have these objects of cultural value, but also hold histories and stories in each one. I often wonder how they found their way to me. I wish I could watch a movie of each one of their travels. Coins are magical to me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!