Monday, July 20, 2009


Ok, so one thing that I definitely miss so far is cake. It's just not the same can be sickeningly sweet but overall it's just not as good. The cake itself is not as dense and the frosting just isn't the same. I swear even the frosting is kind of fluffy. I haven't seen any specialty cakes such as carrot cake, lemon cake, etc. but maybe I just haven't come across it yet. In any case, the knafa here is so good that I really don't have a lot of room to complain.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Taxi Drivers

Generally speaking, I love taxi's here. They are relatively cheap, especially when compared to prices in the US, and it gives me a chance to practice my Arabic without being able to revert back to English if I can't across a point. Additionally, taxi drivers here in Amman rarely try to rip off foreigners and more often than not, after the typical 'where are you from' conversation, I get a friendly 'welcome to Jordan' greeting. I'm sure after I've been here for 8 months, I will still be welcomed to Jordan.

On several occasions I even had a taxi driver buy me some coffee and juice on the way to my destination. The first time, the driver asked if he could make a stop for some coffee and cigarettes and hey, I wasn't in a hurry so I said sure, something I didn't regret while sipping a nice hot cup of turkish coffee a minute later. The only challenge was trying not to spill it while the driver navigated the crazy traffic of Amman, which is made worse by the 700,000 extra cars, mostly from the Gulf countries, during the summer.

After being here exactly one month, I had my first experience of getting ripped off by a taxi driver. Ariana, Peter and I got into the taxi around 11:30, shortly before you have to bargain for a price, which starts at midnight. Apparently the meter was 'broken' or something but we were tired and didn't want to wait forever for another taxi so we agreed on a price of 3 JD, just a little more than what it would usually cost. You can imagine our dismay when we got to our destination, Ariana handed him a 5 JD note and he said 'no, 6 JD' We were out the 2 JD as he certainly wasn't going to give us change but we sure as hell weren't going to give the lying, cheating taxi driver another cent. Lesson learned; wait for another taxi if the meter is 'broken' and/or carry 1 Dinar notes at all times, if possible. And get ready to pull a ''throw some money to the front and run real' fast if need be.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Medical Tourism

I realized today that I made a big mistake in my preparations for Jordan. Always one to try and cover all of my bases and be prepared for everything, I thought it would be wise to make all of my doctor visits before leaving for Jordan. It would have been much cheaper if I waited to do all of this in Jordan!

The Jordan Times posted an article today about medical tourism in Jordan, citing Jordan as the most popular medical tourism destination in Jordan, followed by Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Israel. The health care here is great and a lot of the doctors speak English and are affiliated with prestigious American institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic. Combine this with the fact that Jordan is one really cool place to visit and you have the perfect reason to pick Jordan as your medical tourism vacation destination! Some hospitals are even offering package deals including airfare. And it all costs less than 25% of what one would have to pay in the States for a major operation. Plus, you get to have a vacation afterwards....maybe swim in the Dead Sea, visit Petra, Wadi Rum, Madaba and more! And hey, if you like Middle Eastern food, you have added incentive. All the cheap hommus, falafel, schwarma, etc. that you could dream of.

So, if you are planning on visiting me in Jordan, it would be a great time to get sick or plan a major operation. And even if you weren't planning on coming to Jordan, consider coming if you have a major operation coming up. It's cheaper, more fun, and you'll be helping the Jordanian economy! Come on over, I'd be happy to be your tour guide.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mensef: The Full Experience

I know I already did a blog entry on mensef but this time I had the 'real deal' so I thought I would share this experience as well. It was fun, it was filling, it was messy.

My roommates, some friends and I were invited to go to Alis family's house in Irbid for some mensef, or should I say, a lot of mensef. Traditionally, the men all gather around a big plate of the mensef and dig in with their hands. More often the women sit separately and eat with forks. Those who know me won't be surprised that I couldn't pass up the opportunity to eat with my hands so I chose to eat on the floor with the guys and dig in. I was given proper mensef eating instructions, which consists of rolling the rice and meat into a ball in your hand and then using your thumb to scoop the food into your mouth. I had mastered the thumb manouver in India but had never tried to roll rice and meat into a ball so this was an entirely new challenge. The first couple times was challenging but after a bit, I got the hang of it. I think for a first timer my mensef ball rolling skills were pretty good.

Shortly after we dug in, Muaz said, I know you might think this is gross, but to honor guests, we put good pieces of meat in front of them to eat. Soon, I had pieces of meat being tossed in front of me from all directions and I felt pretty loved.

I was still picking away at the food after all but one of the guys had stopped eating, probably because it took me longer to eat properly and I was taking smaller portions. Suddenly, Andy said, 'you know Ali (the host) can't stop eating until you stop eating'. soon I got up to wash my hands and Ali followed, probably relieved that he didn't have to keep eating to the point of being uncomfortable. I look forward to my next mensef experience not only because it's good food, but because it's so fun!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


I have complained about sidewalks in the US but now that I've seen the sidewalks in Jordan, I don't think I'll be doing much complaining about that ever again. I'll have to take a photo of the sidewalks here and post them; it's quite a sight.

For starters, the sidewalks are raised about 6 inches from the street which means that if you plan on riding a bike, it's actually more dangerous to ride on the sidewalk. You're better off in the street, if you can manage Jordanian traffic that is. I still get nervous crossing the street so as you can imagine, I have decided to pass on getting a bike. I have enough anxiety on my own two feet! There's a half page in the Lonely Planet Jordan book dedicated to traffic and crossing the street. If you really are too nervous, just tag behind the person closest to you who is also trying to cross the street and say a prayer. It's worked pretty well so far.

The second thing about the sidewalks is that there are trees planted in the middle of them. In my opinion, this kind of defeats the purpose of sidewalks if you are always trying to dodge the trees and random poles that one frequently finds smack dab in the middle. I have narrowly escaped a full on tree to head collision on more than one occasion. It might actually be a good idea to wear a helmet when walking on the sidewalk or crossing the street.