Umm Qais and Jerash

The beginning of this past weekend was spent hanging out with our Jordanian/Circassian twin friends. On Thursday night we went to their parents restaurant to try the national dish of Jordan – mansef. It consists of rice, meat, and a sour yogurt sauce and is topped with pine nuts. I’ve heard mixed reviews, but I loved it! Since it was Valentine’s Day, we even had a cute heart shaped coconut dessert. Later that night, we were hanging out at the apartment and had a craving for ice cream. Jomart suggested ordering delivery McFlurries from McDonald’s. Normally, I am the biggest opponent of fast food, but I had to see the phenomenon that is McDonald’s delivery.

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On Friday, Caroline and I ventured to the local landmark Books@Cafe which is known as being a good, Western internet cafe. I had heard great things about the chill atmosphere and delicious food. However, we arrived and I was instantly disappointed. I like cafes that feel like cafes with large couches and an extensive menu of coffee. Books@Cafe definitely feels like more of a restaurant as it only has tables and chairs with waiters constantly approaching the tables. Also, for being an internet cafe, the wifi was dismal. It took several minutes to load only one website! Perhaps we went on an “off” day, but I definitely won’t be returning anytime soon, especially since everything was so expensive! Caroline and I decided to get lunch there and my green curry chicken was 7JD and my simple latte was 3JD! That’s almost $17!

We then ventured to our favorite cafe, Turtle Green. The wifi is reliably fast and the drinks are delicious. Andrew, Allison, and the twins joined us soon after and then we headed to Wild Jordan for dinner. Wild Jordan appears frequently in the guide books for Jordan and it promotes its healthy, organic menu items. After a bit of confusion about the location, we finally found it and were seated near a window with a gorgeous view of the city.

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As with most restaurants in Amman, the price on the menu is never the price you pay. Water costs 2JD per person, tax is 2JD per person, and the service charge is 2-3JD per person. That is an extra $9 automatically put onto the bill. My simple 5JD sandwich suddenly became double the cost. When you order as a large group, this creates mass confusion and the paying process always takes a lifetime. However, the food was good and a nice escape from traditional hummus and rice, so I suppose the 11JD I payed was worth it.

We had to meet at the main gate of the University of Jordan at 8am on Saturday for the CIEE day trip to Jerash and Umm Qais. As my interest in history only extends as far back to the early 1900’s, I was not too interested in the trip for the historical significance. To be honest, the real motivating factor for my (and I think everyone’s…) participation in the day trips is the endless supply of food. First, as we board the bus, we were given a container of 5 pieces of breakfast bread stuffed with an assortment of fillings ranging from spinach to potato. I usually only eat one and then take the other 4 home with me to have as breakfast for the rest of the week! For lunch, we were given another endless buffet complete with dessert. To a poor apartment student, these treats are a godsend.

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Moving from the top clockwise: cucumber and tomato salad, pickled vegetables, eggplant, rice, pesto pasta, cucumber dill salad, baba ganoush, hummus. In the center: a mysterious lamb and yogurt dish.

The trip itself was very beautiful. We started by driving to Umm Qais which is in northern Jordan. It is known for being one of the Decapolis cities and as possibly being a Biblical site where Jesus cast out demons into a herd of pigs. We were able to see the Golan Heights which is a disputed territory between Israel and Syria. From the view, we could see the Sea of Galilee and the borders of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan. We were given free time to wander around the ruins and take pictures.

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Next, we traveled to Jerash which is famous for its Greek and Roman ruins. Jerash was first a Greek city, then captured by the Romans, and then began to decline after the Persian invasion until a crippling earthquake destroyed much of the city. No one really payed much attention to the official tour, but I did pick up on a few fun facts like how much of the city had been buried under the ground over the years and there are still excavations to find and preserve new parts of it.

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Hadrian’s Gate

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Temple of Zeus

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This week is scheduled to be just another typical week of classes. However, Allison and I did manage to secure two of the twenty available spots CIEE offered to tour the King Hussein Mosque. Apparently getting into this mosque is very difficult and requires approval from the people in charge. CIEE was only approved to bring twenty students so I feel very lucky to have signed up in time!

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