Thursday, June 30, 2011


Yesterday morning was overcast.  Those were the first clouds of any kind that I've seen since I've been here.

Weather (الطقس - al-Taqs) here has been great - mid 80s during the day, and 60s at night with a light breeze and a chance of mosquitoes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Adhan (اذان) is the Islamic call to prayer.  As Jordan is predominantly a Muslim country, Adhan is broadcast from loudspeakers at the appropriate times.  Here's a video of the afternoon call to prayer from the Citadel in Amman:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Amman Taxicab Confessions - Episode 2

Here's a couple of short stories/observations:
  • Yesterday, on the way to class, the cabbie dropped in to the service station for a fill-up.  This would NEVER fly in NYC.  
  • My host mom, roommate and I paid a visit to the duty-free shop yesterday afternoon.  On the way there, the cabbie pulled up on the side of the road and an agitated woman and her daughter jumped into the cab, only to bail out about five blocks later in the middle of the road after flipping the cabbie a 1/4 dinar piece. That ruined the cabbie's mojo, as he then got confused as to how to get to the Sheraton.
  • Cabbies in Amman HATE to break bills and give out change.  Chris tried to pay a two dinar fare with a five dinar bill, and the cabbie refused to take it.  When our host mom paid the cabbie who took us to the duty-free shop with a 10-spot, the cabbie exhaled in disgust.

Random Pics

Here are a few random pics of places around Amman:

Pepsi-Cola (بيبسي كولا) Truck - Pepsi has a much larger presence in Amman than Coke

How's my driving?

Shawermize it!

Donuts Factory - looks familiar...


Mansaf is the de facto national dish of Jordan.  It consists of chicken or lamb slow-cooked in yogurt and served over a layer of thin unleavened bread covered with rice and pine nuts.  Eating mansaf is a special occasion, and is usually enjoyed in a large group setting.

My host family is originally from Karak in southern Jordan.  They claim that the best mansaf is made in Karak.  Last Tuesday, they prepared chicken mansaf.  

The entire family was there, including my host mom Hala, her brother Sahel, her mother, her sister Abeer and 2 nieces (Sandra and Sara).  Also joining us were my roommate and fellow AMIDEAST student Chris, Ranim (Marwa's sister), and Naseem, a friend of Hala's from Australia, and his wife, as well as other friends of the family.

The meal started with a lively conversation over a glass of arak - a grape and anise-based liquor reminiscent of ouzo.  We then posed for pictures with the mansaf:

From L-R: Naseer's wife, our host grandma, and Naseer, with mansaf.

The mansaf was delicious - the chicken was very soft after being slow-cooked in the yogurt, and blended well with the pine nuts and rice.

Following dinner was coffee/tea and kanafehs (shredded phyllo dough, cheese, and a sweet syrup, with crushed pistachios sprinkled on top) for dessert.

The leftovers lasted for 2-3 additional days, and eventually ended up in a lentil soup:

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Among the many American businesses with a presence in Amman are two supermarket chains, Safeway and C-Town (for any New Yorkers in the audience, yes, it's THAT C-Town).  

After a quick bite and banana milk at the مقهى  (cafe) with my host Uncle, Sahel, and roommate Chris, we did some grocery shopping at Safeway.  Safeway in Amman resembles a Wal-Mart more than a Safeway: it sells pretty much everything, including electronics, kitchen appliances, Nike shoes, and even a 12' diameter kiddie pool, in addition to groceries.

When I travel abroad, I enjoy comparing prices of basic items to those from back home.  Here's a sampling from Safeway Amman (JD = Jordanian Dinar, the local currency; each JD = $1.40):

  • Cigarettes - ~17 JD per carton of Marlboros (or ~$23)
  • Milk - 1 JD per liter (or $1.40 per quart)
  • Eggs - ~2.4 JD per 30 eggs (or ~$3.36)
  • Pistachio nuts - 19.5 JD per kg

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Amman Taxicab Confessions - Episode 1

We ran into a real character of a cab driver on the way to class yesterday.  Here are some highlights from our conversation:

   1) He has two kids, who live with their mother, Antonia, an Italian-American, in Brooklyn.  Antonia had "short hair, like man". Antonia used to be a lesbian, but wanted kids.  He said he told her, "you want kids, I  give you kids".  And he did.

   2) At the time, Antonia had an African-American girlfriend named "Cookie".  Said cabbie, "I f****ed them both".

   3) He worked as a cabbie in NYC, but on the side he ran a cigarette smuggling operation.  How much money can you make from smuggling cigarettes into NYC?  He cleared $4,000/week and drove a Beemer. 

This is why people visiting him from Jordan would ask, "he's only been in America for four years - how this motherf***er get this stuff"?

   4) It sounded like his cigarette smuggling operation got shut down by the authorities.

   5) He once lost $40K gambling at Mohegan Sun.

   6) While living in NYC, he didn't dress like he does in Jordan.  Instead, he dressed all blinged out, including gold chains, etc.  Said cabbie, "I look like n****r".

   7) He wants to go back to the US, but not to NYC.  Instead, he wants to go to the Southern US, where "women believe anything you say".

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

الأرقام (Numbers)

Some expressions using digits:

1:  If signified by a thumb up, means the same thing it does in the U.S. ("great!")

2:  If held in a "V" facing outwards, represents the "V" for victory sign.

3:  Used to warn someone, like a child (e.g., "this is the LAST time I'm telling you..."), if the index finger and thumb are held in a slightly pinched "OK" sign with the other three fingers extended, and the hand is waved back and forth in someone's direction.

5:  Means "stop".  It can also mean jealousy ("five fingers in your eye!") - I'll let you figure out how the hand motion works for this.

كلمة اليوم (Word of the Day)

From time to time, I will post an Arabic expression or word that I find interesting.  Here's the first installment:

"حكي فاضي"

(Hakki faaDii)

"Hakki faaDii" means nonsense/hot air/BS.  Supposedly, some Palestinians in Brooklyn pronounce it as "Hachi faaDii".  Telling people this causes much delight in Amman (my roommate is now a minor celebrity around here).

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Here's a few quick thoughts from Day 1 in Amman:

1)  The weather is not nearly as hot as I'd thought - it drops into the 50s or 60s at night.

2)  Outside of Amman, the landscape looks very dry; during the late afternoon, the land is covered with a light haze reminiscent of Texas summers or the Old West.  All we need is a saloon.

3) English is definitely the second language around here - most of the advertisements are in English, and a lot of people speak English passably too.  In fact, one could probably survive here without using any Arabic at all - not that I'm intending to do that.


1) Taking photos of the immigration/visa line in the airport is prohibited ("ممنوع" - mamnuu3 - in Arabic).  Or so I was informed...

More stuff, including pics, later, assuming I can either get my camera fixed, or more likely, buy a new one.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

?هل تعرف الطريق الى عمان (Do you know the way to Amman?)


Travel Music

Flying out today.  Here's a couple of songs I usually listen to when I travel somewhere.

Fastball - "The Way"

Audioslave - "I am the Highway"


Unfortunately, I think that this song will probably be more representative of my air travel experience:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hello, welcome to McDonald's. Would you like to see the Wine List?

I've recounted the tale a few times of the lady who I saw once at a McDonald's (and whom I was behind in line) raising a stink for 15 minutes because she wanted them to customize her order (what is this, Burger King?).

The experience brought to mind the scene from "Dutch".  In it, Dutch and his girlfriend's snotty rich boarding school kid, who I will henceforth call "Snot", were having dinner at a soup kitchen.  Before eating, Snot meticulously wiped each of his plastic utensils with handi-wipes, and carefully unfolded his paper napkin before snapping it in the air and gently placing it on his lap, all of this much to the chagrin of Dutch.

Said Dutch, "would you like to see the wine list?"

Well, if that lady ever goes back, she can!

(Personally, I think the pairings were too hoity-toity.  They should have only looked at box wines.)

Maybe now this will be a more common occurrence:

But hopefully not this:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Homemade Chicken Caesar Salad

The perfect early summer lunch.

And a great way to use green garlic and the first romaine heads of the season.

My recipe is based off this one.  I substituted anchovy paste for real anchovies.  I also think the soft boiled egg, while great, is optional.