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Olive Harvest in Jordan

If you happen to be in Jordan in autumn, you are definitely lucky! …because that means that you can participate in the olive harvest, and experience this memorable event up close as you work alongside local families.

 

An essential part of Jordanian culture

 

The olive harvest is an established event in Jordan’s calendar. Since thousands of years it holds significance both in terms of tradition and in terms of being a vital source of income. This makes the farming of olives an essential part of Jordanian culture and economy. The products that emerge are diverse, and besides the olives also the wood is very valuable. It is fashioned into a variety of products from jewelry to household items and furniture, and then sold. Important note: Only wood from non-producing trees is used for that.

 

But the real deal are the olives! Or perhaps rather what’s made out of them is. Jordan is one of the world’s top-10 producers of olive oil. And this is a good thing, for it is also consumed by the gallon here. Practically every meal uses this precious ingredient – a local favorite is simply bread dipped in olive oil and Za’atar, a traditional Arab spice mixture consisting of thyme, roasted sesame seeds, salt, and additional other spices.

 

Olive Picking

 

Wondering if you would be up to that task?

 

So, as stated above, if you are in Jordan during autumn, you have the great chance to visit a farm and participate in the olive picking process.

 

Here is a simple how-to:

 

1. Stretch plastic tarpaulins below the tree.

 

2. Pull your hand down every single branch, stripping the trees of the ripe olives, which then fall onto the tarpaulins.

 

3. Once the tree is stripped of all the olives, shake them into the middle of the tarpaulin. Sift through them, and also remove the twigs that have fallen into the mix.

 

4. Also collect any olives lying on the ground. Don’t even think about throwing dried and shriveled olives which are seemingly past their best! They are actually the best kind to take to the press. This is because the water has evaporated from them, leaving only concentrated oil behind.

 

5. Pile the olives, now twig free, in buckets, which are poured into sacks. These sacks get transported to the warehouse and factory where the press lives. There, they are churned and juiced, pulped and purified, until only the gorgeous yellow oil remains.

 

 

This experience, which is part of our weekly walks program, offers excellent insight into a process that is at the heart of Jordanian culture, in terms of economy, cuisine and tradition. Of course, not all olives are turned into olive oil. There is another process that begins to create olives for eating. Yum! But that is for another post.

 

If you’re in Jordan now, sign up for the harvest – for a day in the fresh air of the green northern countryside with many new interesting insights and a lot of fun for young and old. You won’t regret it!

 

Get more information about this and other cultural experiences, events and trips here.

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.

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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.