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,


nick said...

Hookah and tea and felafel. i'm way downn. hope all is well girls :)

Anonymous said...

Great blog guys. We are thoroughly enjoying hearing about your experiences and seeing all the photos. Keep them coming!


Jessica's mom