With only two weekends left in Amman, my friends and I have created a to-do list with everything we want to revisit or try for the first time before leaving! This weekend was the first implementation of this list and we have already eliminated a considerable number!
- Try Al-Quds Restaurant in downtown Amman.
Yesterday we ventured downtown in search of mansef, Jordan’s national dish, at this local establishment. As with most of the places in Amman, no one knows exactly where it is. We attempted to walk to it but eventually gave up and paid for a cab to show us. The hummus and bread were unappetizing. The bread came in plastic packages and the hummus tasted like glue. However, all was redeemed by the mansef. The tender lamb covered in yogurt sauce and rolled in yellow rice is something I will dream about for the next several years.
- Revisit Books@Cafe for their delicious thai curry.
CIEE students love going to Books@Cafe, abbreviated Books, for the relaxed, liberal atmosphere. It is one of the only places in the city openly welcoming of the gay community. Caroline and I tried it once before and were very underwhelmed. The service was so informal that it seemed nonexistant. The wifi, which should be good for a cafe, was also missing in action. We only included it on our list because it is such an Amman institution. Also, Allison had never been and one simply does not leave Amman without visiting Books. As expected, our return was horrific. We waited 30 minutes after we ordered to receive our food. The manager even offered us free drinks because the wait was so long, but we refused because we couldn’t understand what he was saying over the loud music. Near the end of our visit, it began pouring rain. The ceiling tarp of the restaurant was filled with holes so the rain began seeping in, spraying everyone. If you ever find yourself in Amman, visit Books, but don’t expect much.
- Go to Mlabbas and JoBedu’s for Amman-inspired t-shirts.
One of the best parts of traveling is finding souvenirs for friends and family at home. I always try to find the most unique items and what could be more fun than t-shirts with Arabic on them?! Mlabbas and JoBedu’s are the two most popular stores for hipster t-shirts. Today we visited Mlabbas and were sorely disappointed. Our friend, Rob, had bought a cool t-shirt that said “Keep Calm and Eat Mansef.” We expected other cool designs but found nothing. I am now back to square one in terms of what to bring back to the states! Hopefully JoBedu’s will have a better selection, but they seem to be mostly in English. If all else fails, I can always bring back candy with Arabic wrappers!
- Eat at Jafra for authentic and delicious Middle Eastern food.
We plan to do this the weekend after next, the day before we fly home to the US. This place is tucked away in an alley downtown, but the food is delicious. They have authentic baba ganoush and hummus to die for! CIEE originally brought us here during orientation and everyone has been coming back ever since.
- Go shopping at one of the many pirated-DVD stores downtown.
Even though I often watch TV shows on sketchy websites in the states, doing so is much easier in Amman. There is an entire street of DVD stores that peddle every movie and TV show imaginable. So far I have bought 3 seasons of Torchwood and 2 seasons of Downton Abbey. They charge 1JD per disc, so an entire series will cost only 3-4JD which is about $5. This is a HUGE savings as compared to $25 in the US! And I thought Black Friday deals were amazing when I could buy a season for $10!
- Return to Habiba’s for Amman’s best desserts.
Knafeh is Jordan’s most famous dessert and, often, my favorite reason for going downtown. Although Habiba’s has locations all over town, the one downtown is the most famous and delicious. The savory combination of fried dough, cheese, and sugary syrup is served hot and costs less than a simple latte at most cafes or restaurants. If I could, I would bring knafeh home with me as a souvenir for all of my friends, but it would definitely lose its freshness during the 13 hour flight.
- Try Movenpick Ice Cream for the first time.
Movenpick is a mystery that has baffled me for my entire stay in Jordan. During our trips to the Dead Sea, Petra, and Cairo, I have seen Movenpick hotels that appear very upscale. However, in Amman, I have also seen several Movenpick ice cream stores boasting the tagline “The art of Swiss ice cream.” In my mind, this is like Hyatt having its own ice cream chain! I vowed to always try this strange ice cream and finally achieved this goal today! I got one scoop of “Black and White” and it rivaled Graeter’s ice cream at home!
- Purchase nuts from the cart outside the university.
Similar to trying street corn, I have a deep desire to try the street nuts. Every day on my way to class, I pass the cart which displays piles upon piles of warm nuts. It is especially tempting on cold days when I can see the billowing steam and smell the nutty, coffee-like aroma. Allison and I plan on buying a bag on Sunday before we go to the police station to renew our visas.
I’ve also started making a list of the places I am excited to visit once I return home. It will be great to go shopping after wearing the same 5 pairs of pants and 10 shirts for the past 4 months! I’ve been tracking the new restaurants opening in Cincinnati and am excited to try a few. Nothing can beat the Senate’s poutine, though!