Jordan is an ancient country with spectacular sites and a delicious cuisine. On a recent trip to Jordan I was amazed by the modern city of Amman and the ancient beautifully, preserved sites throughout the country.
Here are some highlights:
The rose-red city of Petra is truly one of the most spectacular archeological sites in the world. It is a candidate for the new Wonders of the World list. The city flourished with its strategic location on the important trade route from Yemen to Syria. I was unprepared for the majestic beauty of this ancient Nabatean city. The Nabateans were Bedoins who created this awe-inspiring fortress city were masters at controlling their water supply. We could still see the water pipes made by them. They looked exactly like our modern-day pipes. It’s difficult to believe that the magnificent stone structures carved in the rock were done with only a hammer and chisel.
Jerash is a Graeco-Roman city that was built over 2,000 years ago. It is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the Middle East and is sometimes called the Pompeii of the East. I was amazed by the large size of the city with so many of the ancient buildings still standing. As we walked down the main roads, we could imagine a bustling metropolis with its baths, shops and theaters. One of my friends even went for a chariot ride in the Hippodrome.
Kerak is a 12th century crusader castle standing on a hilltop with magnificent views of the Dead Sea. It’s one of the largest and most complete castles in the Middle East. Standing inside I felt as if I had been transported back to that era with knights in shining armor on guard.
Wadi Rum is like a moonscape of ancient valleys and towering sandstone mountains that rise straight up out of the white and pink colored sands. It was the site of T.E. Lawrence’s exploits in 1917 and where scenes for Lawrence of Arabia were filmed. Our Bedouin driver took us on our dessert excursion showing us Bedouin communities. It was an extraordinary site to see the Bedouin tents made from camel or goat hair with its inhabitants squatting on the ground talking on their cell phones.
Before I left for Jordan, I was introduced to Adnan Haboob, a Jordanian food and tourism specialist. His delightful hospitality gave me an inside view of the traditional foods of Jordan. He took me to the open wholesale produce market where I saw vegetables and fruit that seemed to be on steroids. The cabbages were as big as basketballs, romaine lettuce that were about 2 feet long and radishes that were as big as golf balls. I couldn’t recognize the kumquats. They were the size of baby pears. How do they grow produce this size? Adnan mentioned that the Jordan River valley is very fertile.
Here is his list of traditional foods:
- The traditional Lebanese cum pan Arab appetizers, best known as ‘Mazza’ (e.g., humous, mutabal, salatat al rahib, grilled haloumi cheese, taboulie, farmer’s salad (salata falahieh) fattoush (bread salad), arugula salad, kibeh, kibeh naiee (raw meat with cracked wheat), burag, labneh (drained yogurt made into cheese), makaik, kishik, etc…)
b) Main Jordanian Traditional Entrees:
- Mansaf: Cooked chunks of lamb in dehydrated and diluted sheep yogurt, served on a bed of rice and sprinkled with the yogurt in which the meat was cooked.
-Musakhan: Roasted Chicken, richly soaked in traditional local virgin olive oil on a bed of flat Arabic bread, covered with caramelized onions and generously flavored with Sumak (a red berry, dried and crushed to a powder).
- Stuffed Vine Leaves or Stuffed Baby Courgettes (zucchini), or both combined, either with or without a layer of baby lamb cutlets.
- Makloubat Zahra or Eggplant (Either eggplant or Cauliflower upside down): Generously spiced rice with fried onions, coarsely fried minced meat or meat cubes and either eggplant or cauliflower.
- Freaka with Chicken or Meat(Cooked smoked cracked wheat).
- Cheese or Kishta Kunafeh
- Aysh al Saraya (golden bread soaked in honey and syrup)
-Nayli Lubnan (clotted cream, bananas, milk, honey, lemon blossom water, fresh cheese)
- Halawit Jibneh (flattened unsalted cheese stuffed with clotted cream)
Adnan Haboob’s Restaurant suggestions:
If it’s Arabic restaurants you are interested in:
- Burj al Hamam (located at the Jordan intercontinental hotel). Rating: Excellent
- Fakhriddin (walking distance from the Jordan Intercontinental). Rating: Very Good
- Hawara (Somehow remote) Rating: Very Good
- Sultan Ibrahim (located at the Ocean hotel) Rating: Very Good.
Amman also offers a whole range of other restaurants; Italian, Hindu, TexMex, Chinese, Steak houses, Indochine, continental, etc…