Planning a Western Style 1st Birthday in the Middle East.

Two words – Not Easy! Maybe it would be easier if I lived in Amman where given that there is a much larger expat population and it is the capital there is access to shops that stock Western brands and products, but not when you live in a traditional, conservative, country village in Jordan. And maybe it would be easier if I knew the Arabic words for crepe paper, pinking shears, cookie cutters, fondant, food dye etc etc etc! Imagine me trying to explain the concept of pinking shears to Atef and have a laugh at my expense!

I decided that I wanted to have a Western style 1st birthday for Alia complete with a theme, decorations and cake and to just add that little bit more complexity I wanted to make it all myself! Yep – curse of the crazy white lady living in Jordan strikes again.

Birthdays are not really celebrated here and when and if they are it’s not in the way that we do in the West. I wrote about having a cake made for Atef’s birthday and inviting all the family over to celebrate. I have done this every year for Atef and asides from one other 1st birthday (worthy of a whole other post) these are the only times I’ve celebrated birthdays for people in Jordan. Some families might have a cake for the birthday person, but rarely would they invite anyone else over to partake in the celebrations.  I don’t even know when anyone in Atef’s family birthdays are and this is including all the nieces and nephews. There is never any mention of anyone having a birthday and there are never any presents exchanged. In most cases its a case of birthdays are just not acknowledged.

So back to me trying to plan Alia’s 1st birthday. I decided that I was going to do a pink butterfly theme as I had seem a few butterflies in shops so figured that at least they should be easy to acquire. Yesterday we went to Ma’an which is a town about 15 minutes away. I went to the couple of shops that sell all manner of bits and bobs and without too much difficulty was able to find a few different kinds of butterflies – some butterfly magnets and butterfly hooks. And they weren’t too gaudy. That’s the other problem that I’m continually up against. I find that so much of the stuff available is what I would class as tacky and gaudy and not simple and elegant and too my liking. I have found when it comes to decorations that mostly everything is fleuro bright, over the top and akin to bad 80’s Christmas decorations.

Next I was wanting some crepe paper to make streamers. Big fail. I’m not sure if it was just my lack of Arabic and Atef’s lack of understanding of what I was wanting but searching in several types of shops failed to come up with crepe paper. I was able to find some rolls of thick curling ribbon which will double as streamers. I also found a material shop and whilst the range was limited was able to get some pink satin and some pink sheer fabric with a pattern that I will be able to make a table cloth and bunting out of.  My choice of patty cake papers was silver foil or silver foil. So I decided to get the silver foil ones! Finding a suitable serving platter for the cupcakes  left me empty handed – the ones that I saw were either brown, had too much decoration, too expensive for the quality, or just plain ugly. I could also only find food colouring that came in 1 litre bottles, but I did find a happy birthday banner that I considered cute. I was happy with what I had managed to get, but with this taking 2 hours and Alia getting tired I had to call it a day.


I have decided that I’m going to have to raid the kitchen at Amra palace hotel (where I used to work and run by family) for a serving platter, a few drops of pink food colouring and a piping bag nozzle. There is one shop in Wadi Musa that I will have a look in and might be able to find a few of things still on my list as well.

I will write a follow up post to let you know how the party which is on the 25th January goes and if I was successful in hosting a Western style birthday party. Wish me luck.

2 responses to “Planning a Western Style 1st Birthday in the Middle East.

  1. Pingback: A 1st birthday I’m not wanting to replicate | Middle East Moments·

  2. Pingback: Alia’s 1st Birthday Party – Western or Middle Eastern? | Middle East Moments·

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