AMMAN, Jordan // Nomad, street peddler and soothsayer Mohammed Abu Kareem lures customers with promises of foretelling destinies and breaking evil spells.
Hawking sunglasses and toys to motorists on Amman's congested streets is only a sideline. His true skill is tapping into Jordan's voracious - and lucrative - interest in the supernatural.
"You may wonder why you have no children, ma'am. You are cursed, and only I can release you of this sinister spell!" goes one line he delivers at busy traffic lights.
Or: "Come with me, and I can show you how bright your future really is!"
Mr Abu Kareem offers mystical solutions to the real problems of wealthy Jordanians and tourists from the Arabian peninsula. He is a Gipsy and he contends that his heritage gives him exceptional powers. Therefore, he can charge more for his services.
Some pay thousands of dollars for sessions with Jordan's community of about 30,000 Gipsies to resolve everything from pregnancy problems to identifying buried treasure and blocking curses cast by jealous neighbours.
"You would not believe the number of people I've helped with my powers," Mr Abu Kareem, 23, said from his tent community next to a Mercedes dealership. He claims his skills are the most potent in Amman.
Grown men have gone into trances before him, he said. Others break down crying when discovering that a relative has cursed them with the evil eye. He said he regularly exorcises Jinn, or troublemaking spirits.
"My powers are unique and came from my father and his father before him and his father's father," he said.
For Amman residents, the Gipsies' unsightly camps of rubbish and barefoot children can be unpleasant. But for Ahlam Jaljouli, 47, their powers are unmistakable.
A Gipsy approached her last year selling sunglasses. Then he told her that she was carrying a large sum of money and preparing to travel. She was mystified, she said.
"I tried not to listen, but it was all true," said Ms Jaljouli, an owner of a tourism agency in Amman. "I was indeed carrying the company's money with me and the next day I planned to travel."
One professor of history at a university in Jordan described how a Gipsy described to him how his wedding day was hexed. He brought the Gipsy home, paid a lot of money and had the curse lifted.
"Even with education, this stuff thrives," said the historian, who declined to be named because he feared embarrassment.
Despite the rising popularity of the occult, mainstream Islam condemns such behaviour, said Hassan Abu Hanieh, an Islamic scholar who recently wrote a book about mysticism in Sufi Islam.
"Mysticism has existed since ancient Greece and was part of Greek, Hindu and Christian heritage. This also had a significant effect in Islam," he said. Beliefs such as numerology, alchemy and the evil eye have evolved into various modern-day obsessions, he said.
"Look at astrology - that is still a popular thing in our culture, but we call it horoscopes," he said.
Gipsies, perhaps more than any group in Jordan, have exploited this fascination, said Mohammed Al Tarawneh, a former anthropology professor at Jordan's Yarmouk University.
Probably migrating from India centuries ago, Middle Eastern Gipsies adhere to an ancient, nomadic culture that is similar to European Roma and different from their Arab neighbours, he said.
They still speak an ancient Indian language and their women, usually uncovered, are relatively empowered.
Although citizens of Jordan, many Gipsies prefer to live in tent communities scattered across the country and the Middle East, and because they work as street vendors, they have a reputation as thieves and beggars.
But they also work as musical performers at festivals as well as their traditional role of fortune-tellers, and Jordanians embrace them for those skills, said Mr Tarawneh.
"Fortune-telling and mysticism is how they have become a part of the culture," he said.
Luckily for them, demand for those services may be rising. Wealthier Jordanians, seeking some spiritual connection in their lives, are turning to mysticism, said Hussein Khozai, a sociologist at Al Balqa Applied University.
"The problems in modern society are growing, and people are resorting to fortune-tellers because they believe they are an outlet and a means for satisfaction for their problems," he said.
That outlet leads directly to Mr Abu Kareem's tent, where he anticipates the summer arrival of visitors from the Arabian peninsula and their money. But cash, he insisted, is not what motivates him.
"Believe me, if I see a spell on you, it is my duty as a Muslim to cast that spell away," he said.
Then, before two journalists left the interview, he warned that an evil spell would befall them if they not pay him JD30 (DH155).