Amman, man.

When we awoke our first morning in Amman, Zach found that Istanbul had gotten the last laugh on him in the form of a sore throat and cold.  He wanted to go to a pharmacy and the grocery store, so I tagged along to get my first daylight look at the city.

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Zach got his cold medicine (and their cold medicine has the good stuff in it, no meth addicts in Jordan apparently) and we went to the market (named Haboob, hehe) and picked out a variety of tasty beverages.  I was particularly drawn to things in the “green” part of the color spectrum, since you don’t see a lot of that here in non-Mt.-Dew form.

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A Love of Cheese:  The Great Uniter

It was then time for our first real Jordanian meal, and Zach knew just where he wanted to take us.. a little place called Abu… uh, something, I’ll ask Zach later…  that served falafel, hummus, baba ganoush, and the thing that Zach most wanted to go here for, fuul.  Fuul is Egyptian and somewhat similar to hummus but made with fava beans.  It’s garlicy and a little spicy and I definitely understand why he missed it so badly (the fuul is in the middle of the picture below, I believe).

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Everything was absolutely amazing, of course.  This was also our first exposure to a particular tea brand called Alghazaleen (which apparently means “two deer”), which is pretty much the best black tea I’ve ever had.

After lunch we spent the afternoon doing a lot of boring things that I can skip over, like trying to get data service on our phones and walking a super long way to a duty free to get some booze without paying 300% tax on it.  The walk was fun cause it was along one of the main roads, so we got to see more of the city.

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Later that afternoon we went to a store called Bike Rush to get fitted on bikes for our upcoming race and meet our fearless driver Hassan, though the most exciting part about that was the adorable tripod kitten who was hanging around the shop.

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After we got our bike situation sorted, we headed in to the old city to get some dinner.  We decided we pretty much had to have mansaf, which is the national dish of Jordan.  It consists of lamb served over rice pilaf that you then spread a yogurt sauce over.  This sounds all fine and well, but the yogurt sauce has some kind of funky fermentation thing going on with it… so while it actually doesn’t taste too bad, it smells like the devil’s asshole.

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Besides the putrid smell, it was actually all quite delicious… the lamb was incredibly tender and I love me a good pilaf.  We couldn’t even begin to make a dent into the massive platter though, so hopefully some street dogs got a snack.

After dinner we spent a bit of time wandering around the shopping area.  Kate was on the hunt for a Jordan national team soccer scarf and we all needed to get kaffiyehs to be true Jordanians.  We accomplished one of these goals, but the search for the soccer scarf ended up being quite the saga.  A lot of the clothing they were selling had beautiful embroidery on it, so “Jordanian clothing embroiderer” is definitely on the short list of things I could do should I need to flee the country and start again under an assumed identity.

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Once we were done shopping, we headed to a hookah lounge called El Bourge that Zach used to frequent.  Some of the dudes who walked around with buckets of coals remembered him, cause a tall, lanky blonde dude who speaks Arabic tends to make an impression.  The place is basically an Arabic bar, minus the alcohol.  Kate and I were definitely the only women there…  it’s not that women aren’t allowed, exactly, but men and women just don’t socialize in public much from what I could tell.

Damn the man, fuck the patriarchy.

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That man is giving me the hairy eyeball because he is probably wondering what the fuck I’m doing.

After enjoying some tea and smoothies, we decided to call it an early night, as we were all feeling pretty beat after several long days.  Zach was able to connect to his media server set up at home and brought a Chromecast, so we all piled on the gigantic bigger-than-king-size bed to watch Simpsons and eat hummus.

When we awoke our second morning in Amman, I found that Amman got gotten the best of me, as I was feeling awful…  achey and feverish and just all around lousy.  I decided I didn’t want to push myself since the bike race was only a few days away, so I spent most of that day snoozing in our hotel room.  Kate and Zach went out to do some sightseeing and their pictures looked lovely.. but the real excitement of their day is that they got interviewed for a National Geographic special about tourism in Jordan, so they’re going to be in a documentary that comes out sometime next year!

George and Akram, filming for Nat Geo

Thankfully after a day of rest I was feeling quite a bit less terrible, so that evening I joined everyone else as we went out for dinner with one of Zach’s friends from his time when he lived there.  She teaches music and works with refugees and was all around lovely, and it was interesting to chat with her and get her perspective on living in Jordan, particularly as a woman.  Additionally, the restaurant that we went to was absolutely delicious, one of the finest meals we had on the trip.  Highlights included delicious lamb dumplings w/ a yogurt and tomato sauce on them called manti, which kind of tasted like pel’meni, and a chicken dish with creamy, lemony sauce and melted cheese…  holy crap, it was tasty.

After dinner we pretty much called it a night because we wanted to be up bright and early the next morning to get to the Dead Sea as early as possible since we would have to leave by 2am the next morning to get our bike race on.

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