It’s been a little more than a year since I’ve been in the Middle-east and amongst the many countries I’d like to travel to, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have held a certain amount of interest – partly due to food (I fell for falafel!) but also because I’ve been curious to understand why these countries appear to be less conservative compared to some of their regional counterparts. While travelling to Lebanon & Syria are out of question because of the current crisis, Jordan despite its proximity to Palestine and Syria is quite safe as I write this.
This was one trip that perfectly fell into place! In between a job change, I had 4 days free before plunging into the new one and moreover, the husband’s colleague, a Jordanian, was getting married in Amman over the same weekend. I couldn’t have asked for more!
And so Jordan we went. But unlike most other trips where I’ve used my financial thrift to full force (some call it ‘miserly’ but I strongly beg to differ) this time I was ordered to indulge a little (yes, by the husband – he who shall not be named). Hence, to prevent me from booking a cosy B&B or ‘couchsurf’, all hotel bookings were outsourced to another couple with whom we travelled.
It was fun, nevertheless. We spent Night 1 & 3 in Amman, the capital city. Reached Jordan late into the night, hired a car and drove from the outskirts into the heart of the city, finally reaching our hotel after getting lost a few times. The weather was surprisingly cool for this time of the year and while the traffic was much more chaotic than Dubai, Jordanian drivers are a genuinely
civilised lot who appear to to abide by traffic laws. Roads are dotted with innumerable coffee shops that stay very much open into wee hours of the morning.
Quickly leaving our bags in the rooms, we set out walking at 11pm exploring Jordan at night. Seeing a crowded little kebab corner, we went in expecting the food to be good. Thanks to our friend who could speak a smatter of Arabic, we managed to communicate. The server ofcourse thought I was from another planet – I got a plate filled with cucumber, lettuce & hummus all soaked in olive oil! The others got their kebabs & fries and lets just say, it wasn’t the best beginning for our tummies.
The next morning, we were off to see the famed mountains of Petra and on Day 2 we returned to Amman for the wedding reception. I guess I was expecting a very Islamic tradition-heavy event but it was quite the contrary. The whole setting was very western but exquisitely done; they had also called in some local folks to perform traditional music and dance. The dinner spread though, was as regional as it could get – from falafels and moutabels to dessert delicacies like halawa (similar to the indian ‘halwa’) and Baklava (Ooh, how I am starting to love you!). Finally not to forget the protagonists of the evening – the bride in a splendid white off-shoulder gown and the groom looking dapper in a black suit – who danced to some foot-tapping Arabian pop music!
While we dint spend too much time around Amman, we occasionally asked for directions, stopped for coffee or interacted with local staff in hotels & eateries and everywhere, I found Jordanians to be exceptionally warm and hospitable. In one instance where we fueled for some Qahwa (distinctly-flavoured arabic coffee – thumbs up!) the shop-owner was so happy to see us that he refused to let us pay!
Simply put, the Levant bug has bitten me. Watch this space!
Also read about Petra & Dead Sea