Ahlan wa Sahlan and welcome to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan! This small desert nation—located smack in the middle of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel, and the Palestinian territories—is a crossroads of culture and politics famous for its willingness to accept refugees from across the war-torn Middle East. During our first globetrot of November, were looking forward to learning more about the country’s history, its people, and its culture.
On Saturday morning, Jess tried her hand at making a traditional Jordanian recipe that was advertised as “the greatest Middle Eastern breakfast of all time.” The dish is manakish, a flatbread topped with tomatoes or cheese, herbs, and spices.
Both types of flatbread were delicious, but I particularly admired how Jess had managed to bake the spice-caked tomatoes just to the point at which they seemed to melt in the mouth. We ate the manakish with big mugs of sweetened black tea with sage.
We soon were learning all about Jordan with Geography Now:
Hungry for lunch, we arrived at our neighborhood House of Hummus shortly after 11:30 AM. The owners appear to be Palestinian rather than Jordanian, but when it comes to food, the two nationalities share much in common. We ordered a couple of entrees and then, after learning that there would be a significant wait, an appetizer of falafel as well:
The host also brought us some pita and hummus, on the house! The crunchy falafel was piping hot while the hummus was cool and smooth. A good combination. After about thirty minutes, our main courses arrived at the table:
Jess had ordered the shakshuka, a special menu item based on the humble kalayet bandora appetizer (sautéed tomatoes) created with the addition of three steamed eggs and a side of pita. I had the hummus bowl with beef, rice, and a freshly chopped Arabic salad. Each was delicious, although we both left the restaurant feeling rather stuffed.
That afternoon, we got the royal “Welcome to Jordan!” in a short video produced by the kingdom’s tourism bureau:
The film, which was co-sponsored by Columbia sportswear, seemed to emphasize the appeal of Jordan for not only outdoor adventurers but also for pilgrims intent on seeing various biblical hotspots. We also watched a short introduction to the magnificent ruins of Petra produced by BBC2.
For dinner, Jess helped me to prepare a spread of mezze (small plates) that included a fresh tabbouleh salad, a hot dish with chickpeas and yoghurt called fattet hummus, and some stuffed warak enab (grape leaves, known as dolmades in Greek). Jess had made a different version of the hummus during our globetrotting detour to Syria several years before.
Our film for the evening was Theeb (2014), a historical drama about a young boy who finds himself caught in the turmoil of World War I while also fighting to survive the perils of the desert.
The film gave us a glimpse of the nomadic culture common throughout the Arabian desert (including in present-day Jordan) in the later days of the Ottoman empire.
On Sunday morning, after another breakfast of manakish, we joined vlogger Mark Wiens for a virtual food tour of Amman, the capital of Jordan. We were pleased to recognize some of the dishes that we had been making ourselves amidst the delicacies:
The culinary highlight of the weekend came at lunch, when Jess dishes out some of her Jordanian rice pilaf, basmati rice piled high with eggplant and mushrooms, a rich yoghurt sauce, fresh herbs, and toasted sunflower seeds in place of nuts:
The Kingdom of Jordan was certainly good to our stomachs, but we also appreciated learning how Jordan has been a good neighbor in the Middle East. From its acceptance of refugees to its booming medical tourism industry, Jordan has clearly become a positive influence on the region both culturally and politically. Until next time, salam!