Shopping in Abdali: Ultimate Survival Tips!

23 November 2015

Story of An Unsuportlive Wallet!

The ultimate survival tips for shopping in Abdali; Jordan’s most famous flea market.

As posted on My.kali


Where better to play out retro prints, maxi dresses, and vintage denims than amid the carried world of Amman’s Abdali? Better yet, finding them! Lending us her Abdali best-buys, Maral Sarkissian teams-up with My.Kali to put together a series of her looks where she shows us how to dash for less cash in an economic challenged age, casting the beautiful Nadine to remodel the looks… 

I have always been awed by fashion, ever since I was a little girl; I would invade my mom’s and grandma’s closets and just be overwhelmed by the feel of luscious fabric over my skin, or the beautiful huge shoes that would make me feel like the earth is too far beneath my feet, and the jewels, oh the jewels! The most joyful feeling of shining with the stars… even throughout my childhood, I have always played dress-up with my sister; it was something that excited me. It still does, I still feel like a little girl putting on her mother’s clothes every time I try on a new outfit, even when I kept exploring styles, mixing and matching, committing some horrible fashion faux pas –but then again, who hasn’t? – The terrible thing though was the budget; the thing is, I’m not a minimalist, so I never could save enough or earn enough to satisfy my shopping needs or fashion must-haves. Until came the glorious day I discovered the vast and vivid world of second-hand flea market shopping, also known in Amman as “ABDALI”.


Abdali is a small part of Amman that goes unnoticed throughout the week, but on Thursday evenings and throughout Fridays, turns into a huge flea market (also known as Friday Market).  Packed with all sorts of clothes, people, color, fabric, shoes, and just anything you can ever imagine. This little spot of town is by far my favorite treasure-hunting destination. Many designers hunt for exquisite pieces that could add to their concepts, and many independent stylish peeps would resort to flea markets to find exactly they’re looking for, that many of the retail shops aren’t offering throughout seasons, or if certain styles aren’t “in”, retro is one to easily form with such carried options. You tend to develop your own customs and traditions when coming to such shopping-experience.

(Picture above: "Simple trick: when wearing oversized sweaters with a skirt or dress try adding a belt to highlight your waist, it’ll give a nice silhouette too." Maxi dress: H&M basic black dress, top: Abdali men’s section 2 JDs, shoes: Abdali, bargained for and bagged for 2 JDs, belt: vintage, grandmother’s closet, bag: vintage Charles Jourdin from grandma’s closet. "Try mixing and matching retail items and thrifted items.")


(Picture above: "A friend of mine got me this cute Asian top from Abdali!". Denim & Mandarin Top: Jeans: 1 JD. Japanese top, 2 JDs, Bangles Maral's own)

At first glance, it may seem chaotic and terribly crowded and the amount of racks and clothes can be overwhelming. But that’s only if you’re looking from the outside.  Here are a few tips to help you soak that in and shop…

• Abdali market can be messy and crowded and may get you confused as to where you should start. Don’t panic and go to your zen! Just explore your surroundings, scan the place a little, select a rack you like to start from, and work your way from there, if you find something you like, well, it’s a start, but if you don’t just head towards another rack, it’s simple, you don’t have to find something you like in every pile or on every rack you stop at.

• Always have your money in small bills. Never take along a 50 JD bill, or a 20 JD bill for that matter. Simple reasons, one; if you buy an item for 2 JDs, per say, you may not be able to find change, two; if you do get change how are you going to put all those bills inside your pocket (since I don’t recommend taking along a bag or a wallet) without having to drop some money with your next purchase? And three; you don’t want to be pick-pocketed, now do you? Also, try wearing something comfy, that you can move around in for hours, and don’t try to look polished, it’s always best to blend in with the surroundings. I like to wear an oversized hoodie or t-shirt with a pair of jeans; they’re easy to move in, don’t look expensive, for obvious reasons, and I wouldn’t be upset if I accidentally hit something and tore them.

• Have a list or a mind-memo of the items that you want. This makes looking around easier and less consuming of time and money.  You don’t have to follow it by the word; it is only there to make your shopping a tad easier if the amount of clothes surrounding you at the market overwhelms you. Being updated through checking fashion blogs (mine are listed downward) or fashion magazines, could keep you mentally updated, therefore once you spot an item, you’d snatch it/them right away without second thought. My gay friend always marks pages in magazines, and we all meet up early for coffee before strolling the market, and we all know what everybody is eyeing or likes, therefore easy to spot the lookalikes.

• The basic tip for shopping at Abdali is: be patient. You may scan around for hours and find nothing. This is perfectly ok.  You don’t have to buy every item you like because it’s cheap, keep your eyes open for only special eclectic items that you won’t be able to find at retail stores. I have found some vintage 90s items, like a denim Old Navy jacket (seen in picture) with the tag still on! I love it every time I wear it, and I still think it’s worth the 2 JDs I spent!

• Pick the time to shop carefully. You have from Thursday evenings till Friday evenings, and rumor has it, the preparations start on Wednesdays. If you want to have vast options and items that look like you’ve shopped them from retail stores, then the best time to go is on Thursdays, yes, the earlier the better. This is the time they bring the “new” stuff in. Now, if you have lots of free time but don’t really want to buy anything, just in the mood for exploring or experimenting, maybe even practice your bargaining skills, then the best time for you is Friday afternoons, let’s say after 2 o’clock, before closing time, not much “good” picks left not many people either, so you can have the whole market to yourself. But if you’re looking for good buys, or unique items, the best time to go is on Friday mornings, preferably between 9 am and 11 am, the reason is that most of the ordinary items will be sold Thursday through Friday morning, you wouldn’t have to choose between buying that basic top from Abdali or H&M, it’s a basic item, it’ll always be available anywhere. Look for original instead. For example that beautiful coat you saw in Vogue and had your eye on for a while now but don’t want to sell your car to be able to afford it. Chances are you’ll find one just like it for less than 7 JDs if you keep your eyes open. I found the embroidered floral clutch (shown in the photos) that looks just like the Dolce & Gabanna 2013 spring/summer collection for half a JD! Yes! Half!

("I love mixing florals and stripes, they give a try edgy fresh spring look". Top: Abdali men's section 2 JDs. Pants: 2 JDs. Bag: My sister got the bag for  2 JDs. Scarf used as headband: Vintage grandmother's scarf. Boots: model's own. Bangles: some thrifted some collected)

• The most important tip of all is Bargain, bargain, and bargain your lungs our! If you found that perfect coat you’ve been looking for, for 10 JDS, know that you’ve been taken for a cash machine! It’s too expensive for a second-hand item that’s been lying around for a decade. This is the perfect time to bargain. Don’t ask for the permission to bring the price down, force the vendor in a friendly manner, - I can’t even begin to say how important it is to be nice to the vendors. It helps with the bargaining process, and you’ll have people remember you the next time you decide to shop -, state that the item is worn out or not really worth that amount, reinforce the point by stating that the “other guy over there” has much newer and very cheap stock and offered to give you a newer coat for a whole lot less but you refused because it was expensive. If the guy got stubborn on the price, add 1 or 2 pieces you like to the item and tell him you'll take them all for the same price. And most importantly be firm in your argument but don’t insist too much, after all if you show interest in only the item you’re bargaining for you may not get the price deducted. Of course it doesn’t apply to items worth less than 3 JDS, they’re already cheap enough. My friend once found a late 80s Hugo Boss Army trench coat, with the tag still on! He bargained for it and bagged it for 3 JDs! (just a side note: I love the military trend, it’s everywhere now on all blogs and every magazine, and Abdali is packed with Army-military items).

• When it comes to sizes. It’s a very tricky part. I’ve made uncountable mistakes on this field. Since there’s no way to try the clothes on – for both hygienic and location reasons – you need to check the size tags twice on every item, and for the ones that have no tag you’ll have to guess. I wish there was a fixed rule about getting the sizes right the first time, but all there is to it is some experimenting. Tops and dresses are easy to guess, when it comes to pants it can be a little tricky to figure out your size, and may take a few wrong buys to discover how your size “looks” like. It’s ok since you’re not spending hundreds of JDs, besides, you can always give the pair that doesn’t fit to that skinnier friend, grrrrrrr, they’re only 2 JDs anyway. On the day of the shoot, my friend found me this amazing purple stripped skinny jeans that I loved, but I could tell by the look of it that they wouldn’t fit me, so gave them to Nadine (the model who you see in these pages) instead, they fitted her perfectly, and now she owes me a pair of pants, of her choice!

• It is always handy to take someone along; shopping is more fun with a friend, right? They can always have an extra eye on something you may have missed, my friends have always spotted things they thought fitted my character. And of course you’ll need that second opinion on difficult purchases, when you’re not sure if you really like that bag or if it’s something that escaped from Jurassic Park! Funny thing though, I had the exact opposite experience once! I found a pair of brand new 80s black pumps, with metallic pink touches, my aunt hated them but I insisted that I liked them; I actually wore them to a wedding and felt like a superstar. What I’m trying to say is, it’s important to have a second opinion when you’re in doubt, but stick to your instincts when you need to. At Abdali, instinct is all you need!

(Picture: "Simple trick: use rubber bands on oversized jacket/coat sleeves to keep them up and give them the shabby messy look you see in the picture." Dress: banana republic, thrifted for 2 JDs. Blazer: stolen from grandma's closet. clutch: been in the family since the 50s.)

• My favorite tip of all is experiment, as it’s the fun part. You can create dozens of looks by mixing and matching thrifted pieces with more expensive retail items and look like you’re wearing couture! Or maybe you can play around with different styles with a little amount of money until you find the style you can spend more money on. There’s also the interesting experience of shopping at a flea market, you can’t decide if you like it or not until you really try it. Besides, it’s good practice for your eye, weather you can imagine the items you find on different outfits. This can be fun for guys too! The place is full of interesting items for men to experiment with, from vintage patterned shirts to retro denim to unique jackets, you name it! A friend of mine created a whole retro punk look just from items from Abdali. He rocked it!

• Last but not least, be sure of the hems and seams of the items before you buy, there may be a tear that you didn’t notice at first glance, or it may have a missing button, or a broken zipper, don’t neglect any detail, it’s better to be disappointed then and there if the item is worn or torn than later when you’ve already bought it!  If the defaux can be fixed, bargain for less, it’s a plus. And the most tip of all is: of course be sure to wash every item you buy before you wear it, or dry clean them, you can never be too sure!

Having gone through Abdali a million times experimenting bargaining methods, buying tons of items; some that fit, others that didn’t, some I never wore, some I threw away, and some that turned out to be the best buys of my entire closet, I can finally say that for a girl with a huge love for fashion, and a very unsupportive wallet, second-hand and flea market shopping have definitely had a huge impact on my sense of style. Besides, I find it a lot more fun and interesting to shop at Abdali than any other place, #mall, in Amman, I never expect what I might end up buying, and the possibilities are countless! So, for those of you who have shopped at Abdali before and those of you who haven’t yet, I hope these pointers based on a most joyful time of “shop” and error, turn out to be useful. I guess all I can say now is: happy shopping, and hope to see you there, and lets hope you and don't end having our hands on the same on item, cause I'll get the cat out then!

Article and styled by Maral Sarkissian. Photographs by Rafic. Art directed by Kali. Hair by Mahmoud Karajogly. Make-up Nadine (Hair and make-up were under Maral’s supervision to recreate her looks). Digital art work by Atef Daglees. Making of video by Ala’a Abu Qasheh and Mustafa Rashed.