First impressions of Jordan

I am sitting in the hotel cafe, where internet is free, waiting for a beer, while the England-Ukraine football game is being shown on an enormous screen. Sports announcers sound the same all over the world, no matter what language they are broadcasting in. The city of Amman is a sprawl of streets with no discernible pattern or order. It must be very difficult to learn one’s way around. There are hardly any traffic lights; the traffic just goes. Drivers cut each other off, push forward into lines of perpendicular traffic to get through intersections and rotaries (traffic circles, for you non-New Englanders), and generally do as they please. There are hardly any crosswalks; jaywalking skills are essential. It makes Israeli traffic look orderly.
The monarchy is a ubiquitous presence. Portraits of King Abdullah are everywhere, usually depicting him in military uniform or traditional robes. Also common are pictures showing the five Hashemite monarchs – the current king in the center surrounded by his ancestors.
Our two lectures today were excellent: one on the issues facing Jordan today vis-a-vis its various neighbors, and the other on its worsening water crisis. I knew that water was a serious issue here, of course, but I had no idea that this is the fourth-poorest country in the world in terms of water resources.
Our afternoon excursion took us to the city’s two main archaeological sites: a Roman amphitheatre with seating for 7000, and the Citadel, a hilltop on which there were fortifications, temples, and palaces at least as long as Jerusalem has been in existence. (Amman is the “Rabbat Ammon” mentioned a number of times in the Hebrew Bible.)
Someone else will doubtless talk about the two incredible meals we had today. I hope we will not eat like this every day, or I will require an extra airline seat for myself on the return trip.

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4 Responses to First impressions of Jordan

  1. Mark Wilson says:

    Hello Joan! When you say the Jordanian system “makes Israeli traffic look orderly”, that says something! Glad it is all going well. I look forward to learning more about the politics and culture from you and our colleagues. (And the food. Go ahead and tease me with how good it is.)

  2. jfriedman says:

    Hello, Mark! I hear the surgery went well. I’m glad. OK, you asked for it. The food is INCREDIBLE. Yesterday both lunch and dinner were Lebanese mezzes, with a very wide assortment of salads, baba, hummus, grape leaves, tomato salads, labneh, olives, pickled beets and cucumbers, a smoked spicy goat cheese, and finely chopped raw beef (which I did not eat). Then came the grilled beef, chicken, and fish, of which I can say that the fish was delicious. Then came fruit and knafeh for dessert, accompanied by a tiny amount of Arabic coffee with cardamom, and then coffee or tea as we wanted.

  3. Mark Wilson says:

    Except for the pickled beets and cucumber … and the raw beef! … this sounds heavenly, Joan! I had to look up “knafeh”: Arab cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup. Yumm!

  4. jfriedman says:

    Mark, I wish we could bring you a doggie bag!

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