Southern Exposure: Petra

Petra. It's all a bit blase, don't you think?

siq. makes the city easy to defend. neat-o, huh?

the mildly famous treasury.

riding through the desert on a [donkey] with no name.

prime real estate.

sand bottle making.

expensive sand.

after hiking to the monastery. perhaps you can't tell, but we're standing terrifyingly close to the edge here. and about to fall right into israel.

disorienting view. these mountains allow for very little depth perception.

this looks pretty much like the treasury, but much harder to get to.



Southern Exposure: Aqaba

The story of the desert usually goes something like this: hot, beating sun, thirst-induced hallucinations, and non-existent oases. Well, a glimpse of shimmering water arose out of the desert landscape, and hallucination or not, we hoofed it towards the liquidy haven. And if this oasis in the desert was a thirst-induced hallucination, then I must say it was a fairly good one.


oh hey, liz.

pleased as punch.

why yes, this is the director of our language program.

sunset over the red sea. that's either egypt or israel we're looking at.

Southern Exposure: Wadi Rum

"vast, echoing, and god-like." -T.E. Lawrence

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.

liz is clearly enjoying her camel ride. not to mention her guide who may or may not have been trying to kidnap her for an impromptu bedouin marriage ceremony.

atop a sand dune and fantasizing about the turks.


Stunning desert expanses and magnificent canyons aside, all that camel-caravanning was just a bit much for us. I think it's safe to say that we were more than a little relieved to kiss our belligerent ungulates goodbye and sit down to enjoy the much-lauded sunset over Wadi Rum.

please disregard the interesting hair stylings. its a bedouin thing. you wouldn't understand.

And after the sun went down, well, what do you think? It was time to party, bedouin style. By which I mean: dance around the fire in a big circle, sing in Arabic at the top of your lungs and, if you have the chance, maybe find yourself a brand new Bedouin hubby.



my husband's cuter than yours!

After a late desert night, we awoke groggy-eyed to find our camp bathed in the morning sunlight and our usual breakfast of tea and pita bread waiting for us. Finally, we were ready to take off on our four-hour jeep-bound journey toward Aqaba. As good ol' T.E. would say, “nothing is written.”


our camp just after dawn.


desert expanse.

what can we say? the desert gets us pretty excited.


Hijaab...by Calvin Klein

I think that people often overlook the Middle East as a seat of sartorial elegance or couture know-how. And, with considerably less freedom of dress than in more liberal countries, it's hardly a surprise that Milan, Paris, and New York weigh in somewhat ahead of Amman. It should be noted, however, that from the hijaab-wearing to the rich and westernized, Middle Eastern fashion can be as complex and coordinated as some of the top designs from Philip Lim, Marc Jacobs, and [insert your favorite designer here].

Remember the old aphorism that your shoes should match your belt? Jordanian women seem to know this all too well and, indeed, have taken it to the next level. Yesterday was the first day of regular classes at the University of Jordan and, to be sure, everybody was dressed to impress. And by dressed to impress, I mean incredibly color coordinated. This means the hijaab, the long trench-coat that many women wear here, the shoes, the bag, and sometimes even the shoe laces will match. It's overwhelming, to say the least, and, without question, a fashion faux-pas in other parts of the world.

Ok, so maybe Marc Jacobs would never remix 80 different shades of blue (with blue zebra-striped jeans, no less) into a single outfit. But then again, he never had to incorporate a hijaab and full-body coverage into his designs. I think, therefore, that it's safe to say the Middle East is trying its hardest. Jordan may be a bit behind on the most vogue of European trends and they may have never gotten the memo that your eyeshadow shouldn't match everything else in your outfit, but for now, I can hardly complain about all the fashion ogling the first days of school are providing. Some of the outfits are quite tastefully done and I've seen more than a few pairs of D&G sunglasses tucked into hijaabs. And as for some of the shoes peeking out beneath those trenches...well, let's just say I'm more than a little jealous.

I apologize beforehand for the photos. What can I say? I had to be on the sly.

purple, purple, everywhere, but not a drop to drink
unfortunately, lime green is a very popular color here.

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.

Sartorially Yours,


Sugar Dates! Sugar Dates and Figs!

There's only one place where you can buy bizarre bloomers for one JD and be force-fed copious amounts of very sweet tea by complete strangers: downtown Amman.

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.

husseini mosque at night

From the mosque, one can easily make their way to a variety fragrant perfume stalls, storefronts glittering with bejeweled traditional dresses, and tucked-away alleys hung with thousands of stringed instruments. You can also, naturally, find a number of goods more befitting of japanese school girls than Middle Eastern souqs, such as large strawberry hair clips adorned with bunnies and cell phone bags covered in large-headed pandas and glitter. (I must admit that I purchased the former and coveted the latter.)

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.

Awaiting my cordial invitation from the king,

Oh my Allah!

Today, my host sister took Meighan and me out swimming at “Total Fitness.” Oh my Allah, I saw Muslim women in bikinis! For the low price of 7JD ($9.80), I got to swim, sit in a hot tub, and roast in a sauna. All in all, it was a pleasant experience, and thank you very much, I did enjoy my stay at “Total Fitness.”

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).
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.

True Love.
GAP ad.

Today's Traffic Report

Transportation in Amman is, to say the least, well… different than in America. My roommate Meighan and I have taken up the near impossible, by traveling by bus to and from school each day. Each morning we wake up at 6 am. Since we are in the midst of Ramadan, we must drink and eat everything necessary before we leave the house. By 7 am, we head out to the Eighth Circle, with our host brother, Shareef.
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.


The Adventures of Lulu

My host family recently bestowed the nickname "Lulu" on me. It came about as we were hanging up lights for Ramadan. I'm not really sure how "Liz" became "Lulu," but nonetheless, I think that was my initiation into the great Zebalawi family! The following are pictures after we found out that Ramadan was starting the next day.

From L to R: Me, Fayez (my dad), Mieghan (Ameican exchange sister with me), Muna (my mom)

Me and Aunt Suha (or Lulu and Susu)

Waseem (host brother) and Ahmad (not sure...)

Sibling fashion shoot

Sunset from my roof