Amber Week 2 1
Exploring Wadi Himara

Amber Stowell’s 4 Week Journal (Week 2)

 

If you have been following Amber’s journal, check out her second week in Jordan below:

 

Settling in…

 

The second week in Jordan was a bit less hectic than the first. I was settling into my new place, getting to know my roommates better, and navigating the grocery store in search of familiar meal items.

 

I’ve also been getting more comfortable at the Experience Jordan office and have loved walking to different local places for lunch. I never know what to expect but it’s always delicious and inexpensive (not necessarily healthy, though. I’ve indulged in more than my fair share of fried bread, cheese and meat). I’ve also discovered that I am terrible at remembering and pronouncing Arabic phrases, and have given up on ever learning more than a few basic words. I am amazed and have so much respect for the expats who have become fluent because it takes so much studying and dedication in my opinion.

 

Weekend Trip to Wadi Himara

 

The highlight of this week would have to be hiking in Wadi Himara with an Experience Jordan group. After being in the city all week it was refreshing to take a bus out into the less populated desert. We got off the bus and I was immediately greeted with a beautiful panoramic view of the dead sea right from the road. We followed a stream peppered with small waterfalls on the hike up. Apparently, during the spring the hike turns into a lot of stream wading, but summer is a lot dryer. I was thankful for the occasional shade on the way up. Hiking at home in Seattle, I’m used to constant cover from the sun whether it be from trees or clouds.

 

To get to the final waterfall, there was a ladder and ropes you had to climb up about 15 vertical feet. Only 3 people decided to take on the challenge, including the guide and myself. The rest of the group waited below while the three of us got to enjoy the massive waterfall hidden at the end of the trail. After enjoying the cooling mist, we climbed our way back down and had a campfire cooked lunch.




You can join a group to hike Wadi Himara and more on our Weekly Walks: https://www.experiencejordan.com/daytrips/.

Amber (Week 3)
From Um Qais to Wadi Hidan

Amber Stowell’s 4 Week Journal (Week 3)

Amber’s third journal is chalk full with adventures throughout Jordan. Check out Amber’s third week below:

On Friday afternoon, with a group of about 10 people, I learned how to make some traditional cookies in a local woman’s home in Um Qais. We all helped in shaping what looked like mini donuts with date filling. After making at least a hundred cookies, we left to go on a short hike while they baked and dinner was being prepared. We ended up walking through a Hellenistic-Roman ruin, much like Jaresh but smaller and less well-known. We continued on a trail on the side of a large hill through almond trees, farmland and goat herds. Then we arrived at the top which offered a breathtaking view of the Sea of Galilee and The Jordan Valley. Our group enjoyed the view, drinking tea and eating dates while the sky grew more colorful as the sun set over the hills.

Just as the sun disappeared over the horizon, we got on our bus that conveniently met us at the top. We returned to the local woman’s house and were greeted with several platters of delicious food. We all quickly sat down on the floor cushions to enjoy our fill of rice, chicken, plenty other dishes I’m not familiar with, and of course the cookies we made earlier. This trip was relaxing compared to the others I’ve been on, and while I do love a rigorous adventure, it was nice to wind down and focus on just enjoying the view and the new people I had met.

We got back from Um Qais pretty late and I was debating on whether or not I would have the energy to go on a  early morning hike to Wadi Hidan the following day. Knowing I wouldn’t get much sleep, I decided to go anyway because I knew I would regret it if I didn’t. I’m so thankful that I pushed through the early morning tiredness because this might have been my favorite trip so far this month.

Wadi Hidan was so much more than I imagined; it seemed like an oasis in the desert to me. We began a short descent into the Wadi and were soon greeted with the first of many freshwater pools. The water felt perfectly cool, not too cold, and I was so excited to swim after so many hot days spent in Jordan! We continued our hike and stopped frequently to enjoy the pools, have a splash war, or try to catch a frog.


We also got to go down a terrifying natural rock waterslide, but it was much more fun than I had initially expected. We savored the last pool as much as we could. I spent most of the time jumping from a small cliff, about a 15 foot fall into the water. Sadly we had to leave the Wadi and hike back up the valley, but by that time we were eager to eat the lunch prepared for us at the top.

bekdash ice cream experience jordan
Experience Taste: Bekdash Ice Cream from Syria to You

While in Amman, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to experience the many tastes you won’t find in other places. Maybe you wouldn’t think to look for or find Syrian ice cream in Jordan, but we think you should not miss the opportunity to taste this delightful substance.

Bekdash is a well-established business, originating in Syria, and now available in different locations in Amman like: Galleria Mall, Sweifieh, on Al-Madina Al-Monawara Street and Downtown.

The ice cream is the gem of the selection: specially formulated to make it resistant to the heat and less likely to melt! So for all those people who sarcastically comment that ice cream should be made heatproof: this one is!

The recipe and method of making the ice cream remains the same today as it did when it was first created in 1895- a true taste of tradition!

Incorporating milk, heavy cream, mastic (an aromatic resin), and flour ground from orchid tuber, this ice cream is very different to other ice cream both in taste, being less sweetand in texture, it has elastic properties(!).

The rich ice cream is rolled in a thick coating of pistachios and cashews, adding a delicious salty crunch as well as aesthetic appeal- it’s almost as pleasing to the eye as it is to the stomach.

syrian ice cream in jordan - Experience Jordan

Hopefully, while you are in eating your ice cream, you will also get a chance to hear the beating of the ice cream. That’s right! The ice cream is pounded rhythmically like a drum. You will be hard put to not get up and dance.

They offer a range of flavours and toppings, but the traditional is the “Arabia with Nuts”.

To read more of the intriguing history behind Bekdash, see this article by The Irish Times.

There’s something more special than just the flavour and appearance of this ice cream though: in eating it, you are keeping something of Syria’s wonderful traditions alive. While the country may be turbulent currently, it can also be celebrated even in the simplest of ways.

Syrian Food in Jordan - Experience Jordan
Experience Culture: Traditional Tastes from Syria- Damascus Rose

Damascus Rose has unfortunately since closed.

Trying the food is one of the best experiences when visiting any new place or county. In Jordan, you can find food from all over the Arab world making it a dream come true for foodie travelers. One such place is Damascus Rose, a traditional Syrian restaurant. Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe the experience.

This special restaurant is a hidden gem. Located directly on 2nd circle, you may not see it if you are not looking because it has a wall that protects their garden area from the street noise. When you step in, you feel like you have entered a family’s garden.

The décor is gorgeous, light, and spacious inside. With beautiful jeweled lights and comfortable, colorful seating it has a lovely atmosphere in which to enjoy your meal.

Syrian food in Jordan - Experience Jordan mishowee

The menu is given in Arabic and English and contains a large selection of mezze, appetizers (hot and cold), mains, sweets, and drinks. So this gem is a top choice for a full dining experience, as opposed to a quick bite.

Due to the extensive selection, this restaurant meets the needs of meat-eaters and vegetarians alike with substantial dishes in both categories.

As with most Middle Eastern restaurants, complimentary flatbread comes with your order. However the bread here is exceptional: freshly baked, still warm, light, and dusted with sesame seeds. Delicious.

The best thing to do is to go with family and/or friends and order a varied selection of dishes for all to share. The group can then order a few dips, some salads, several mains, and at least one thing you’ve never heard of. What is life without a bit of a gamble!

Syrian food in Jordan - Experience Jordan Salad

We highly recommend:

  • Mohammera bel jouz- a dip made from walnut pasts and red peppers
  • Shanklish- melt in the mouth cheese flavored with a variety of spices
  • Eggplant fattoush- this spin-off of the infamous fattoush includes delicious wedges of eggplant, a wonderful addition
  • Batata bel kozbara o toum- fried potato with coriander, deliciously spiced; another Levantine classic
  • Muskhan- a traditional dish consisting of chicken roasted with onions, sumac, saffron, and all-spice. Served over flatbread and topped with pine nuts. The meat falls apart in your mouth- divine

The dining experience is exemplary. The service is traditionally Middle Eastern- so hospitable, while the food is delicious and a true flavor of this region of the world.

We highly recommend this restaurant to everyone including, expats in Jordan and tourists alike. It makes for a wonderful experience.

For other Culinary Experiences check out:

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Your Visit to Jordan Must Include Mansaf – Jordan’s National Dish

Jordan’s national dish is Mansaf; as such it is essential that any and everybody who comes to Jordan tries it. Mansaf is magic.

Ingredients of Mansaf

Served on a large platter, the base is a layer of shrak, a flatbread so thin it is almost translucent. This is topped with lightly spiced rice, then slow-cooked melt-in-the-mouth pieces of tender lamb and a generous sprinkling of fried nuts.

The sauce, which the meat is first cooked in, and the remainder of which is poured lavishly over the dish, is what really brings it all together. A broth made of jameed- a hard dry goat’s milk yogurt of Bedouin origin- and spices.

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More than just Food

 

But it’s not only the phenomenal flavors that make this dish special; there’s more to this dish than meets the taste buds!

 

Mansaf ties together the key elements of Jordanian culture: Bedouin tradition, food, and most importantly- community.

 

The very fact that Mansaf is eaten from one large plate exemplifies the importance of sharing all you have, a core value here.

 

Food is renowned for bringing people together, all throughout history people have joined together for meals: whether it is a family inviting others into their homes as a display of hospitality, or politicians meeting for a dinner over which they discuss the fate of the masses!

 

But nowhere brings people together over food in the way the Middle East does. In the way mansaf does. (In fact, we think it would be a very good idea for mansaf to be served at all state dinners when different nations are discussing things, as it will make them so happy and sleepy that only good things can happen!)

 

Mansaf deserves the prestigious title of “the national dish of Jordan”, combining all the best things: the shared plate for the community; the sheer quantity for hospitality; the flavors for tradition.

 

traditionally served mansaf

Go get yourself some Mansaf!

 

It’s best enjoyed home-cooked, however, the top-rated restaurants for Mansaf are Reem Al Bawadi (near Medina Street), Tawaheen Al Howa (near Duwar Waha),  Jerusalem (Al Quds) found in the Downtown, and Jabri, on Gardens Street.

More important than where you eat it is how you eat it.

No.1 priority is doing so as part of a group. There are certain Mansaf etiquette guidelines that it is advisable to be aware of before you dive into this amazing food that you will never forget.

To study-up on said guidelines, check out this helpful article by StepFeed that outlines 6 key points to eating mansaf.

Mansaf
Mansaf, served with Jameed sauce and fresh vegetables

Common Mansaf Jokes

Mansaf in addition to being the national dish is also a national inside joke. To know mansaf, the taste, and the effects.  First, the taste. Each city/region has a specific way of making the dish that gives it a unique taste. There is an on-going debate about which city makes the best mansaf. Try not to get in the middle of these discussions and simply be agreeable with whomever you find yourself with. If they are from Karak, then Karaky mansaf is the best, from Salt, then Salt mansaf is the best. If they are from Irbid…get the picture?

In reference to the side effect, mansaf is better at putting you to sleep (or a loopy state) than Thanksgiving turkey. Once you start eating, it is difficult to stop, and once you have consumed a good quantity you will be ready for a good nap. the below video gives you a good idea of what we are talking about. It is because of the above that mansaf is the great insider joke for both Jordanians and those who wish they were Jordanian.

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Experience the Taste of Tradition: Shams El Balad

This food spot is a true gem of Amman; it’s a place where, despite the never-ending change and turn of the world, things are brought back to basics, returning to the traditions of the Jordanian kitchen.

 

The whole concept of Shams is bringing back Jordanian culture, the heart of which is in the kitchen. The cuisine of Jordan so central to culture because it’s where people come together, where they forget the world, forget the disagreements, and join with one another around the same plate.

 

When I asked one of Shams’ chefs: what is the most important thing in your cooking, I was rewarded with the answer: “Celebrating the kitchen”, and the truth of that mantra is profoundly visible. Manager, chefs, serving staff, and guests alike; all celebrate the joy of the Jordanian kitchen and the wonders it produces.

 

Salads: Pomelo and pomegranate, Beet, Cheery tomato; Chai; Manakish with cheese, olives and eggplant; Makdous

Salads: Pomelo and pomegranate, Beet, Cheery tomato; Chai; Manakish with cheese, olives and eggplant; Makdous

 

But, how could you not? The flavours created are all exceptional due to the quality of the produce used in the cooking: this is one of the few places where everything is one hundred percent organic; fresh from the farms!

 

The Shams group focus on sustainable industry, partnering with HIMA an NGO that promotes creating a more sustainable Jordan, so they ensure every step of the process, from farming to making to serving, is serving the community.

 

The bread they serve is whole-wheat and freshly baked in Madaba early each morning then delivered that day before Shams opens its doors; this partnership with the bakers and their families is well-established. Shams support the local people of Madaba through the loyal use of their services, and it has stood the test of time making it valuable.

 

This is so fundamental to the concept of bringing back old Jordanian tradition, because the importance is put on being a family and a community who collectively support one another.

 

As well as being a rarity in using wholly organic produce, Shams El Balad is also original because it is completely vegetarian, with many vegan options on the menu too. No trace of meat can be found, not even in the stock (which is a common pitfall of so called ‘vegetarian’ restaurants). All is veggie friendly!

 

The restaurant has a downstairs and upstairs seating area, plus a large terrace with views out to the citadel and colourful seating shaded by trees, which are filled with chirping birds; it’s rather idyllic!

 

The terrace view: over Amman, out to the Citadel

The terrace view: over Amman, out to the Citadel

 

There is an extremely old house on the terrace, which has been refurbished and is now available as a venue for events, such as weddings. This has it’s own private terrace and makes a wonderful setting for an event. A great venue with the best catering!

 

The private terrace, strung with lights

The private terrace, strung with lights

 

The food is divine, so colourful and flavoursome- and it’s all due to the freshness of the ingredients! You know for certain there are no hidden nasties, and can feel the goodness that the food- full of vitamins, minerals and healthy proteins- is doing to your body.

 

A whole selection of vegetable and fruit salads, mezze dips, plus some phenomenal manageesh and more is on offer, including a divine pan-fried cauliflower fritter- Mshat- served with hummus and sprinkled with sumac.

 

Mshat: cauliflower fritter

Mshat: cauliflower fritter

 

The dishes of Jordan, which have become so well known and loved in family homes and restaurants alike, all came about from the old way of cooking what you’ve got in your kitchen, and making the most of it. Shams captures this by using only seasonal produce, meaning there are some creative twists on their traditional dishes, for example: cheese manakish topped with aubergine!

In this way, you do not waste, you do not import, but you do get the best flavour-wise: seasonal is where the goodness is!

 

Every detail, from the many mezze options and sharing plates, to the round tables, to the smiling and hospitable staff all points back to tradition: sharing, friendship, and a collective celebration of the kitchen.

 

This place is both phenomenal and inspiring in its flavours, in the way it looks at the world, and in the way it captures this wonderful county.

 

Go traditional. Go organic. Go to Shams.

 

Check out their Facebook and Instagram pages by following the links.

 

Top Five Things to Experience While in Jordan

At Experience Jordan we have been in conversation about what it means to “experience Jordan”. What are the essential experiences that we would like our honored guests to have regardless of the length of their tour (3 day tour, 5 day tour, or 10 day tour)?

 

Here are the top five experiences that we want people to have no matter how long they are in Jordan. I’ll be honest and say we cheated a bit by making the categories very broad. In the future, we will have more lists that are a little more specific for those of you who are wanting to go deeper into experiencing the culture.

 

IMG_9124Hospitality

The Jordanian people are famous for their warm and caring hospitality. But often times tourists to Jordan ask, “How do I experience this?” It’s not too difficult actually. It begins with your Jordanian tour guide. Pay attention to how they interact with you and very quickly you will start to think that they are the nicest person you have ever met. This “niceness” is hospitality.

 

If you choose not to use a guide, pay attention while you are interacting with people in shops and tourist locations like Petra and Um Qais. Both employees and local people will often say to you, “Welcome to Jordan!” It is perfectly fine to reply back, “Thank you!”

 

Important phrase: Ahlan wa sahlan!

This translates as, “Welcome!” but the meaning is much deeper than that. The meaning is more like, “When you are here you are family.” Family is not a simple word here; it holds deep significance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_9487Food

If you haven’t heard, Arab food is amazing! While you are in Jordan experience the full variety of Arab food. Being in the center of the Middle East allows hungry travelers to try food from the Gulf, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Northern Africa, and of course Jordan. Eat and enjoy!

 

When we start talking about specifics about which foods are essential, arguments can erupt (more about this later when we talk specifically about food experiences). For now, we recommend getting in as much Arab food as you can.

 

Breakfast: Falafel, humus, mtabbel, foul

There are many places where you can get these treats. Hashems in the downtown is really famous and delicious, but if don’t find yourself downtown there are a variety of Kalhas  and also Abu Jabara.

 

Lunch: Manageesh and tea with mint

These are actually easy to find if you know what you are looking for. We can recommend several places near our office, but most people don’t find themselves near us. However Jaffra downtown is really yummy and easy to find as it is popular amongst locals, expats, and tourists. Zeit and Za’atar is also popular and has several locations.

 

Dinner: Mansaf followed by Turkish coffee

Mansaf is the national dish and really should not be missed. Rice, lamb, and jameed (yogurt) are the main components of this amazing food. There are several places that sell this delicious food, but everyone will tell you mansaf in a home is best. If you don’t find yourself invited to a home you can find good mansaf at Reem Al Bawadi or Tawaheen al Hawa. Both of these places will also have most everything on this short food list.

 

Late night snack: Kanafeh

The desert that when describes sounds horrible, but when tasted will never be forgotten. It comes in different forms, but at the end eat it however you find it. Cheese, something like shredded wheat and lots of sugar syrup. Trust us, it’s worth tasting. You may be surprised by how much you can eat of it and how long it will sustain you for all of your tourist adventures. Habibah is the local favorite, but if you find yourself in Taj Mall you can also visit Kanafanji.

 

Important phrase: Sa7tane! (sa-hh-tane)

This means to your health. Check out this video for more details about this excellent phrase.

 

Jordan Photo Tour 7History

Jordan has more historical sites than can be seen in a month. Most people aren’t able to take a month in Jordan, but even if you have less time than this, you can still see many of the most famous sites. Our sightseeing tours cover most of them. You can view them here.

 

Petra is by far the most famous historical site, but others include Jerash, the Citadel, Um Qais, Madaba, Um Rasas, or the many desert castles.

 

Important phrase: Ma’shallah (ma – sha- allah)

There are many of these phrases that have similar meanings. In the way we are suggesting to use it the meaning is more like, “Wow! What I am looking at is amazing and I praise God that it exists.”

 

 

 




Amman-over-nightModern

Not everything in Jordan is old. There are many modern things to do while you are here. Most of these are in the city of Amman. Arguilah (hookah) cafes, microbrewery, bars, art, shopping, and concerts are just some of the many things to see and do.

 

Each month there seems to be new festivals in the city including: the Image Festival, the Jazz Festival, the Modern Dance Festival, the Sheffield Film Festival, the Arab Film Festival, and the Jerash Music Festival to name a few.

 

Important phrase: Shukran (shoe-kran)

This phrase means, “thank you!” and can be used almost everywhere for everything.

 




Dana-Reserve-to-PetraNature

Jordan boasts a diverse landscape of forests in the north and deserts in the south and the east. While you are here, enjoy a day hike or a trek. If you are not able to get out and hike enjoy the Dead Sea or head to Azraq nature reserve to do some bird watching. If you are lucky you might even see a water buffalo.

Important phrase: Sabhan allah (sab-han-allah)

The meaning of this word is a praise to God for whatever it is you are looking at.

 

 





We will be sharing more information with you that will be helpful as you come for your visit to Jordan, so stay tuned to the blog or connect with us on your favorite social media platform.