This last weekend, we headed south for a little taste of the actual wonders of Jordan. And after all our distasteful experiences with taxi drivers, public transportation, and Jordanian men, boy did we need it.
The first day started off with a three hour camel ride in Lawrence's old stomping grounds, Wadi Rum. Yes, camel riding is the iconic Middle Eastern experience (not to mention Lawrence's preferred method of transportation) but believe you me, we could have lived without the angry, farting camels and all the leg and back pain associated with being perched atop them for three hours.
even the shoes are a shade of eggplant.
please note the abundance of peach.
these women even match eachother. this is hardly an uncommon theme.
One of our first ventures into the “belid”, as they call Amman's downtown area, led my unsuspecting friends and I up the wrong set of stairs into the office of a very friendly Jordanian. After politely refusing to stay for tea or coffee nearly five times (all we wanted were directions), the man turned to a little boy with a tray, saying “Five teas.” And, indeed, we had little choice but to stay and chat with the man in broken Arabic. Later, his brother (who was wearing sunglasses inside), entered the office and insisted on showing us his facebook. Welcome to downtown Amman.
The common meeting place of the very hectic downtown area is the Husseini mosque. Here, you'll find eardrum-popping calls to prayer and worshippers washing their feet, hands, and face at the water fountains outside the mosque. Tucked directly behind is a charming, though intimidating street crammed with fresh fruits and vegetables, bags of beans, and everything else the souqs of Aladdin so cartoonishly evoke.
If all the warding off of Jordanian hospitality, haggling, and general Arabian hubbub makes you a bit peckish (which it's sure to do), there's always a number of very cheap local eateries ranging on a scale of very sketch to monarch-worthy. At the "Benthouse" Cafeteria, one can enjoy traditional food such as mansef or freekah while overlooking the city. And as a bonus, if you're a charming semi-Arabic speaking American like me, the owner may treat you to free turkish coffee and hookah after you dine. Alternatively one can opt for Hashems where you won't pay a king's ransom for generous servings of their only three menu items (felafel, fool, and hummus) but, as it is whispered on the streets, you may glimpse King Abdullah II and the fam getting down with the common people. Unfortunately, 'Dullah (as I so affectionately refer to his majesty) has not yet graced me with his presence, but I remain sure that a personal invitation to the palace is right around the corner.
The following are pictures from a post Iftar dinner (Ramadan post to come soon- once I stop stuffing my face with food and actually bother to take a picture at dinner). On this night for dinner there was: Muna (mom), Fayez (dad), Suha (aunt), Waseem (brother), Shareef (brother), Sareen (sister), Philli (maid), Meighan (roommate), Lulu (me), Lulu (cousin), Dana (cousin), Josh (host cousin), Kyle (host cousin), Rawan (cousin), Jamal (uncle), Rami (cousin), Yazin (cousin), Hannah (aunt), Hamad (neighbor).
NOTE: LOOK MOM, DAD- I HAVE FAMILY!
Anyways, every time I bring up my camera it turns into a ridiculous photo shoot. So have at it!
Lulu, DunDun, Mimi
With the best Ramadan dessert- Qateyef (MSA), or Atayef (Jordanian accent), or Gateyef (Palestinian farmer)
My host cousins from the program. They are as angelic as this picture makes them look.
This is when things become difficult. Think, “Chevy Chases’ European Vacation,” traffic circles. We have to cross in front the morning traffic, to get to the other side, where the hoard of ‘coaster’ busses is located. Amman has a private bus system, made up small 15 passenger van/bus things. 15 passengers, however, is just merely a suggestion. 20 can easily be crammed onto the small, smelly things.
If we make it to the “bus stop” (again, merely a suggested bus stop), before 7:13, we are able to catch a bus directly to the university. If not, we may have to bargain with the bus drivers, or just give in and take two busses.
The bus system works like this: there is a bus driver and a money collection man (no official title, to my knowledge). The money collection boy/man also works as a digital sign or a map of the bus routes in the US. He yells out the names of the destination (often contradictory to what is written on the side of the bus) and his yelling is comparable to that of an auctioneer. “Sweleh,Sweleh,Sweleh,” is repeated over and over again, similar to an auctioneer yelling, “DoIhear$500,$500,$500 forthisbeautifuldiamondring?”
After getting on the bus (on which we are always the minority as women and Americans), we usually make it to our destination. However, there have been a handful of times, which we have not quite reached our destination. We decided to take the Madaba bus, which we had been told would drop us off on Airport Road, the highway near our house. However, it seems that there are two ways to get to the airport, and we chose wrong! The bus driver stopped the bus and told us that this was as close as we were going to get to the Eighth Circle. We got off and we standing on the edge of a busy highway (comparable to I-5, but much less organized). However, since we are in Amman, we were able to hail a taxi in approximately 6.8 seconds and make it home in 4.5 minutes.
The busses have no schedule and leave whenever they are full. They also, apparently, wait for their drivers to do their mid-day prayer. Meighan and I were sitting on a Sweleh bus to get to the Eighth Circle, when we noticed our driver take his rug out, set it down on the street, and begin his prayer. This is the point at which you remember that you are not in America, but in a country where religion is everything, and bus schedules are just a joke.
P.S. Apologies for the lack of picture evidence to support the Amman bus phenomenon. Taking my camera out would not be using any common sense.
P.P.S. Apologies for the delay between posts. My excuse? Ramadan. Nothing gets done.
Sunset from my roof