An Irish in Jordan

The timing couldn’t be more perfect than having a contribution from Ireland for today’s Saint Patrick’s Day. Read about Michael from Ireland, a food loving humanitarian, blogger, photographer, and part time chicken farmer who manages and contributes to the blog thecuisinecollective.com with his Polish girlfriend. The two love healthy food, are excellent food photographers and try to explore and discover anything about food, its ingredients and cooking from various angles. Thx much for the contribution to another great guest post in this series. If you like this one, have a look at the previous episodes.


 

The good

The weather:
No matter how long I live away from Ireland, one thing I don’t miss is the weather. In Jordan from March until November the weather is generally fantastic. Winter in Jordan is not the most pleasant time, particularly with the terrible insulation in older buildings, but if you can get through a few cold and rainy months (no big deal for an Irish person) then the beautiful spring, summer, and autumn more than make up for it. The downside is that I miss the winter weather in Iraq where I lived for two years before Jordan – Iraq’s winter is drier, warmer and generally more enjoyable. On the plus side, Jordan’s summers are more tolerable than Iraq where it can be over 50 degrees Celsius!

The outdoors:

Jordan has so much to offer in terms of outdoor activities, the best of which may be the Jordan Trail which is a hiking route stretching all the way from the north of the country in Um Qais right down to the red sea in Aqaba. Apart from this, there are so many great places to go on the weekends and take visitors like Petra, the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, and Jerash.

IMG-20190315-WA0067.jpg

Kindness of the locals:

I have found this across the Middle East but it is equally true in Jordan. Wherever you are, expect a great welcome and a genuine interest in your story and where you’re from. And if you give an old-school local (like my landlady) a present of a pie you can be sure they will return the dish full of baked goodies!

The abundance of citrus fruits:

Everywhere you look in Jordan there are lemon and orange trees. We have a bountiful lemon tree in our garden which yields more lemons than we could ever use each year. It’s such a novelty to be able to go to the garden for a lemon when you’re cooking, or having people over for drinks.

Food:

Mostly Middle Eastern and not particular to Jordan but I really love Mezze which lets you have a taste of many different dishes and rather than being a starter, I find that it is usually more than enough for a whole meal! I also love Ka’ak, a simple but delicious egg sandwich which is a big local favourite: fresh baked bread, slow baked eggs (baked in their shells in a very interesting manner) with cheese, za’atar and shatta (chilli sauce) – it is a must try or in my case a weekly treat.

The bad

Public Transportation:

I include in the bad section just because Amman is very disorganized when it comes to public transport, but there are some positives. There actually is a “system” but it can just be very hard to figure out and a journey across Amman could require a number of changes. Nonetheless, once you figure out what routes suit you, you can take advantage of a super cheap transport option (0.35JD for a trip). I work near 8th circle and there is a bus from the Zahran street side of the circle directly to Ras El Ain in downtown which is very convenient if you want to go downtown after work. Also the servis taxi (the white taxi) routes across the city can be very handy. A servis route runs from beside Hashem in downtown, going up through Paris Circle and continuing through Jabal Webdeh until the Jordan Gallery square (this is a loop route); conveniently this goes right past my house and again it costs only 0.35JD for a trip. Most of the bus routes and servis taxi routes in Amman are laid out in a convenient (if a little difficult to decipher) map here.

Being described as an “expat”

(with apologies to this blog): I’ve lived outside Ireland for about eight years now in Europe and in the Middle East, and I’m pretty comfortable with being an immigrant. Although in theory there is nothing wrong with the dictionary term “expat,” in that it describes someone who lives outside of their own country, in practice there ends up being a false dichotomy between people referred to as immigrants and those dubbed as expats; and it usually revolves around the type of work someone does. In an over-politicized environment where immigration is often vilified, I think it’s important to remember that we as non-nationals living in foreign countries are immigrants, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Saturday-Sunday weekends:

I love sport and I miss chilled out Sunday afternoons watching sport and even Saturday evenings watching sport without the need to wake up for work the next morning! On the plus side, with hardly any sport on Fridays I am probably a lot more productive than usual!

The price of alcohol:

High taxes on alcohol make going out for a few pints quite expensive indeed.

The Ugly

Rubbish and the proliferation of plastic: Unfortunately on many of the amazing hikes that you will take in Jordan, you will often be confronted with piles of rubbish leftover from picnics or just thrown out of car windows on the side of the road, as is the case to different degrees across most of the Middle East. From my limited Arabic, one of the most common phrases I use is “(بدون كيس)” which means without a bag. Even when buying a single bottle of water, shopkeepers tend to think you will need a plastic bag. Recycling is not the easiest but thankfully there are a number of places popping up now where you can bring your recyclables (details at the bottom of the article).

Hidden (or not so hidden) gems; too many to list but here are a few:

Silk Road Chinese Supermarket: The best place to stock up on all of your Asian (not just Chinese) food needs, including freshly made tofu and, if you’re lucky, a variety of vegetables many of which are hard to find elsewhere! This place is only open on Fridays and it is usually buzzing on Friday mornings with people stocking up for the week.

Salaheddine/Salahuddin Bakery: The best place in town for the aforementioned Ka’ak egg sandwich. You take the freshly baked bread straight from the oven and make your own sandwich with baked eggs, cheese, za’atar and shatta (chilli sauce). There are no seats here but up the steps just beside the bakery there is the simple but charming Bassman café where you can sit in their lovely outside area and enjoy your Ka’ak with a nice tea! Both Salahuddin and Bassman are supposedly some of the oldest places in town and are open 24 hours a day as a lot of busses stop in the nearby Abdali area.

Sahahuddin Bakery
Sahahuddin Bakery

St. Joseph’s church, Jabal Amman. Padre Mario and friends have a lovely community vibe going here. The community centre beside the church has regular events and a restaurant/bar. They also have a great initiative which has employs Iraqi refugees and has taught them to make pasta, pizza and cheese. Very much worth a visit for dinner, drinks, and to sample the great produce on sale (the ricotta is really great).

Carakale Brewery: Jordan’s first microbrewery located in the town of Fuheis, half an hour outside Amman. A beautiful place to enjoy a few beers in the sunshine on a Saturday afternoon, overlooking the surrounding hills.

Carakale Brewery
Carakale Brewery

Al-Sufara bakery: A lovely local place to pop in and experience a truly bustling bakery in full flow! Open 24 hours a day but particularly fun to see this place buzzing on a weekend morning.

Bab al-Yemen: A bit far out of town, near the University, but it is very much worth the trip. The restaurant is simple but offers delicious Yemeni food (Yemeni bread is something special) and if your group is not too big you can take your shoes off and sit cross-legged in one of the cozy traditional booths, instead of at a table.

Dead Sea hole in the fence: There are many ways to enjoy the Dead Sea, from the fanciest of experiences in the likes of the Dead Sea Kempinski right down to a number of spots where you can just park your car and go for a float for free. The location (hyperlinked in the title) is literally a gap in the fence by the road where you can park your car and walk down the hill to the water. The advantage of this spot over others by the road is that there is a small spring nearby where you can wash off all the salt afterwards. Nonetheless, it is advisable to bring a couple of 5 litre bottles of water just in case because, trust me, you definitely won’t want to leave without washing off the salt! We were lucky enough to have fresh water flowing from the nearby spring but I think that it may not be a great option all year round as it may dry up in the summer.

For Irish People

Irish Embassy in Amman: We used to have just an Honorary Consulate but this has recently been converted into an Embassy. They don’t seem to have a new website up so the link included is to the former Honorary Consulate page.

Jordanian Irish Association: A social group of Jordanians and Irish people that arrange a number of events throughout the year, particularly around important dates like St. Patrick’s day.

Pubs: There are many Irish and British pubs across the city. Honestly most of them are pretty generic but Brick Lane is one of the nicer ones to watch sport in and unlike many of its competitors you can be sure that they will show Six Nations Rugby! Pardon the cliché of me knowing this but the cheapest pub-pint of Guinness in town is in Books@Cafe in Jabal Amman – when I say pint I really mean a can which is the best you’ll find in Jordan and at 7JD it’s not really a budget option, but good to know all the same! You will also find it for around 5JD per can in some off licences.

Artisanal Food

Mistaka: A beautiful place to get locally made artisanal cheese. On Saturday mornings they have an open house for cheese tasting where you can try a range of cheeses before deciding what to buy!

Atrameez: A great local business set up by a Jordanian entrepreneur, offering a variety of tasty artisanal vegan products including labneh, yoghurts, spreads and ice cream. The labneh is particularly recommended!

Recycling

Eco Hikers: In light of the above point about the proliferation of rubbish (even on hiking routes), this is a great initiative which organizes “Clean as we Hike” trips with the aim of cleaning up countryside areas which have been tarnished by littering, and promoting more awareness around recycling and proper waste disposal.

Ziadat4recycling in Jabal Al-Webdeh: A really cool start-up business which upcycles many materials, particularly pallets and other types of wood, and converts them into beautiful bespoke pieces of furniture. You can also drop off your separated rubbish here for recycling.

Cozmo recycling centre, beside Cozmo seventh circle: This is a really handy recycling centre where you can deposit your separated rubbish for recycling, while on your shopping trip.

tbottle.jo:  An eco-friendly upcycle workshop, which comes to your house (on certain days) to collect glass bottles for free, and then turns them into artistic pieces.

Greening the Desert: Located in Jordan’s Dead Sea Valley, the project is run by the Jordanian Association for Environment Quality, a non-profit organization. It targets a harsh and degraded landscape to demonstrate the restorative impact of permaculture design. They regularly organize a variety of workshops and intensive courses on all things related to permaculture.


Thx much to Michael from thecuisinecollective.com and make sure to check out their Facebook and Instagram Pages! If you enjoyed reading this, make sure to discover the other posts in this series of guest posts of expats residing in Amman.

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