If you have been to Jordan in the past year or so you will have noticed a recent odd addition to its deserts and its fields. Take a drive in the capital or even further south toward Aqaba and you’ll notice all the UNHCR-branded tents popping up everywhere.
Jordan is now home to roughly half a million Syrians. About a quarter of them are in the Zaatari refugee camp near the border. With the continuous news coverage on the Syrian crisis, you might have already noticed that a great deal of the refugees live in tents provided by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
So how exactly are these tents being taken outside the camp and who’s living in them? I caught up with Tawfiq, a Jordanian man who runs a farm in Um Al Amad on the outskirts of Amman. He explained how these tents make their way to the outside world.
At first I thought Jordanian nomads and farmers were the main customers. They typically live in old-fashioned bedouin tents and must have jumped at the opportunity of moving into higher-quality accommodation. While this is sometimes the case, I learned that a lot of the new tents springing up across Jordan were occupied by Syrian refugees who left the camps and are now living and working in Jordan, many as farmers.
I wonder if this might have something to do with the richer state of farm land in the country as well. But that’s a different story for a different day.