Jordan A to Z: L is for … Love!

Why Love?  Because this weekend is the 12th wedding anniversary for my wife and I!

But what does love have to do with Jordan?  Well … there is a very important word you will start hearing quite often soon after you arrive in Jordan:

حبيبي

Habiibi (for saying to men)

Habiibti (for saying to women)

The phrase literally means “my loved one”  and I hear it several times a day.  Actually it is directed at me several times a day.  Are Jordanian’s flirtatious you may ask?  Not overly.  In fact it would be shocking to hear a woman (besides my wife) call me Habiibi.  You see, Jordan has a very high gender role separation.  Men and women generally fulfill traditional roles within the society (although this is changing), and this also means that men interact more in the public sphere with other men and women with other women.

So it is very common for men to greet there male friends as Habiibi.  Or stangers who are around your same age or younger.  The same is true for women greeting women.  If anyone here in Jordan is calling me their loved one it’s invariably another guy.  Which can take a little getting used to, but now it is quite normal for me.

However … a guy should never greet a woman who is not his wife (or daughter or perhaps little sister or other younger female relative) as Habiibti!  This would be shameful and embarrassing.  So I must say here in Jordan I have dozens of Habiibis, but only 3 Habiibtis.  (my wife and our 2 daughters!)

Guys don’t be surprised when you visit us here if I greet you on the cheek with a kiss and a hearty “my loved one!”  Please don’t punch me.

That said … there is only one true Habiibti for me … thanks for 12 wonderful years of marriage!

Jordan A to Z: K is for … Kings!

Jordan is a constitutional monarchy officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  The Hashemites are a historic Arab tribe tracing their roots to the prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima and ultimately to Hashem the great-grandfather of Muhammad (hence the name Hashemite).  The current ruler of the kingdom of Jordan is His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Hussein.  He ascended the throne in 1999 after the death of his father King Husein who had reigned since 1952. There have been 4 official kings of Jordan since it became an independent state in 1946.  Interestingly, you can tell the history of the Jordanian monarchy by taking a look at it’s major currency notes

A History Lesson from Jordanian Currency

1 dinar or“1 JD/ 1 lira
Value: 1.41 USD/.98 EUR
Face: Sharif Hussein bin Ali (1908-1917)
Back: Great Arab revolt of 1916

From the 10th century, a Hashemite
was appointed as the ruler of Mecca.
In 1906 Hussein bin Ali became Emir.
in 1916, with the help of the British he shook
off the Ottamans, ruling the Hejaz Kingdom
and briefly declaring himself Caliph until
1924 when the Sauds forced him out.
From that time he lived in Transjordan
under his son’s rule.   Hussein died in 1931.

5 dinaneer or “5 JDs”
Value: 7.04 USD/4.88 EUR
Face: Emir/King Abdullah I bin Hussein (1921-51)
Back: Ma’an Palace – the house that served
as the early palace/HQ for Abdullah

Abdullah had served in the Ottoman government
but later worked with T.E. Lawrence and his father
to overthrow the Turks during the Arab Revolt.
He ruled as Emir of Transjordan under the Brits
Until independence in 1946, and then as king
until he was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1951.

10 dinaneer or “10 JDs”
Value: 14.10 USD/9.77 EUR
Face: King Talal bin Abdullah (1951-52)
Back: First Jordanian Parliament.

Talal was Jordan’s briefest King ruling
only for 1 year.  He stepped down in 1952
for health reasons, reportedly that he had
schizophrenia.  The highlight of his monarchy
was the ratification of the Jordanian Constitution
establishing the Parliamentary system that
is still in use today.  Talal died in Istanbul in 1972.

20 dinar or “20 JDs”
Value:
28.20 USD/19.52 EUR
Face: King Hussein bin Talal (1952-99)
Back: Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

At age 16, Hussein narrowly escaped being
assassinated with his grandfather in 1951.
After Talal’s short reign Hussein was enthroned
at the age of 17 and ruled for 46 years.  He is
Jordan’s most beloved King, having guided the
country successfully through 4 decades of
conflict and growth.  He signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Hussein was well respected
in the international community and his loss to cancer in 1999 was felt keenly around the world.

50 dinar or “50 JDs”
Value: 70.42 USD/48.82 EUR
Face: King Abdullah II bin al-Hussein (1999- current)
Back: Raghadan Palace built by Abd I in 1926

The first several years of Abdullah II’s reign were
marked with solid financial growth, but the recent
global economic downturn has presented new challenges to the monarch.
Despite rumblings within certain segments of society, Jordan was weathered the tumult
of the Arab Spring fairly quietly.  Abdullah II is
well-liked both within and outside of Jordan.  Named on of the 4 most influential Muslims in the world in 2010, Abdullah II has been a face for moderate Islam.  The 2004 he published the “Amman Message“, a treatise on moderate Islam.

Well that’s the history of the Jordanian monarchy in a nut shell.  A short paragraph is hardly suitable to describe the impact each of these great men have had on their country and the world and I would encourage you to do some more research on your own if you are interested in the history of Jordan.

Jordan A to Z: G is for …. Gelatin

Why, you may ask, does G day for Jordan have to do with gelatin?  2 simple reasons.

The first is most obvious … my brain feels like gelatin! A week of writing posts everyday is enough to make anyone’s brain wiggle and jiggle like a translucent block of brightly colored confection.  Probably with little pieces of fruit, or better yet shredded carrot, it it! On top of editing and teaching and being a family man … a post-a-day is quite demanding and I’m feeling it!

The second reason G is for Gelatin in Jordan is this . . .

Many brands of gelatin are not considered Halal for consumption by followers of Islam.  You may or may not be aware that Islam has a dietary code akin to the kosher regulations of Judaism.  I say akin because they are actually a number of differences, but the fundamental nature of both systems is similar … proscribing for the community what is and is not permitted to eat.  The how and why of the two systems vary greatly … but the essence is the same.

Most people are aware that permitted food is Judaism is considered “kosher.”  In Islam the term is “halal”  and the opposite is “haram.”  No that is not harem …. think /hah-rahm/.

In Islam Halal meat has been butchered in accordance to Islamic principles.  And it does not contain pork.  Petty simple.

Well we were told one time by a local that gelatin was Haram because it contained pork.  Of course we laughed, and explained to our friend that there was absolutely no pork in gelatin.  It seemed ludicrous to us …. Ham flavored jello?

As it turns out … pork in Jello … not so crazy.  It seems that the fine makers of most gelatin products have traditionally used pig cartilage as a key part in the gelatinizing process.  (yeah I just made up the term gelatinizing) .  So there you have it folks … check carefully before serving gelatin based products to your Muslim guests.  Halal brands will be clearly marked as such and generally use some sort of cow cartilage in lieu of pig.

Jordan A to Z: F is for …. Friday!

Friday!

Ahhhh … the weekend!  And by weekend, I mean the weekend proper not just the last day of the work-week and the beginning of the weekend.  Yup, that’s right here in Jordan, Friday is a bona fide day off.  It stems from the Islamic religion, with Friday being their preferred holy day as opposed to Saturday for the Jews and Sunday for the Christians.  So, all across the Middle East Friday is a day off from work for most people.  Of course, as in all nations, if you are in the service or hospitality industry you will most likely be working anyways.

For most working-class people Friday is their only day off.  A two-day weekend is really a modern convention in the Middle East.  Some countries (mainly in the gulf) opt for Thursday and Friday as the weekend.  However, here in Jordan, it is Friday and Saturday.  Unless you are a Christian … then you get Friday and Sunday off but have to work or go to school on Saturday.  Go figure.  Split weekends.  Not fun.

Some of you might be asking what do Jordanians do on Friday?  Well, here’s my outsider’s answer to that:

  • Sleep -Jordanians love to stay up late.  Especially on Thursday nights.  They stay up with their family chatting over small cups of strong coffee or tea talking into the wee hours of the morning.  As a result, Fridays are often a slow start for some.  Actually early Friday morning is a great time for grocery shopping as the aisles are mostly empty … but don’t wait until afternoon as any grocery store will likely be packed!
  • Go to the Mosque -Despite the well-known mandate to pray 5x per day, Muslims are not required to pray in the mosque each of those times (it is considered more beneficial to pray in the mosque, but not mandated).  However, mosque attendance spikes on Fridays – especially around midday – as this is when the Imam gives his speech or sermon.  Worshipers sit on the ground to listen to the sermon and then perform their prayers.  In the larger mosques it is not unusual to find the men lining up in rows outside the mosque in the courtyard, on the sidewalk, and eventually in the street.  This is because the mosques are full to overflowing on many Fridays
  • Visiting – Friday is a day for making a round of all of the relatives.
  • Outings – The malls and restaurants and supermarkets and cafes are packed on Fridays with Muslim families out and about enjoying the life in Amman.  But the most famous and well-loved Jordanian Friday outing is the:
  • Mishwar – On Fridays families like to get out of town, find a place along the road or perhaps in a park or other clear area, lay out some blankets and spend the day grilling food, drinking tea, and enjoying each others company.  Mishwar comes from the Arabic term for grilling meat.  It is not uncommon to see an extended family parked out under any random tree along the major highways, enjoying more each others company and the food than perhaps the setting itself.

I would like to think that restaurant chain TGI Fridays realized the master stroke of marketing genius in their name the first time they opened a branch here … however, I have a feel it was probably just a fortunate happenstance for them.  Either way, I stand with them and millions of people in the Middle East in thanking God that it’s Friday.

Jordan A to Z: E is for …. Enchiladas!

Enchiladas?!?  In Jordan?!?

Unfortunately … no.

This post is not meant to highlight one of the cool and unique aspects of life in Jordan.  No, rather it is a post meant to beg and plead with some wealthy business minded patron to please, please, PLEASE bring an honest-to-goodness reasonably priced Mexican restaurant to Jordan!  PLEASE!

My first choice, of course, would be El Famous Burrito.  If you have spent any time in the Chicagoland area you know what I’m talking about. Here’s the one I used to frequent.

Next (and perhaps more realistically) would be Baja Fresh.  There is one in the Dubai Mall in (wait for it) … Dubai!  Mr. Middle Eastern Restaurant Developer, Entrepreneur, and Investor … please bring Baja Fresh to Jordan!  We have many large malls that would make an ideal and profitable locale for such a venture.

Of course, a Chipotle or Qdoba would work well too.

Barring either of those, even Taco Bell would be acceptable … although I fear it would not be done right and the fact that it really is the low end of the Mexican eating environment would become all to obvious.

A Cozymels or On the Border would be ok to … even though those are a bit on the pricy side.

I know, I know … some of you Ammanites are protesting right now and pointing out that we have Chili’s on Mecca Street and in City Mall as well as Cinco de Mayo at the InterContinental Hotel. First of all … Chili’s is not what I am really looking for when I say a Mexican restaurant.  Sure their chips and salsa are great and so are the fajitas …. but that’s all their depth when it comes to anything remotely Mexican.  When I just want an honest down to earth shredded beef taco with a little grease oozing out of it, or a crispy fried fish taco with just the right spicing, or monster burrito … Chili’s just doesn’t cut it.

Don’t even get me started on sopes or chiles rellenos or tamales or mole.

As for the Mexican place at the InterCon it is way overpriced and the quality is not near any of the places listed above.  And there’s also the sorry little place in Mecca Mall near Subway.  Every time I get something from there my wife looks at my quizzically because she knows what my reaction will be.  I just hope maybe they’ll get it right one of these times.

Ok … so this post isn’t really about something Jordan has … but something it needs … a great Mexican restaurant (reasonably priced)!  It’s no brainer really.  All the American ex-pats would flock to such a place and the locals would catch on to it.  What’s not for a Jordanian to like about Mexican cuisine?  It has shredded meats, thin pieces of bread, fresh vegetables, hot peppers, beans, rice, corn … it’s truly a match made in heaven.  So c’mon investors and restauranteurs …. bring Mexican to Jordan!

Jordan A to Z: D is for ضيف / ضيوف

When I took the A to Z Challenge … I think I was more focused on the A to Z nature of it, instead of the Challenge.  It is really challenging to write a quality post every day of the week.  Especially one that I would like to think at least some new readers would come across.  I don’t know about you, but I generally want to give strangers a good impression … even in the blogosphere.

Which brings us to today’s ‘D’ word.  I kinda cheated … I used Arabic.  And it is not strictly a ‘D’ as you and I know one.  It is the  heavy ‘D’ sound if Arabic – the infamous ‘DaaD’  orض in Arabic.  It’s made like a ‘d’ sound in English … but you hold your mouth and throat in a funny way and it sounds, well …. heavier.  We have no equivalent in English.

So the word is:

ضيف / ضيوف

Don’t forget that the Arabic is read from right-to-left when you are reading!  You probably have it now.  No?

Ok … D is for … Dayf (singular)/Dyuuf (plural) and it means guest(s) in English.  Yes … we have had a guest the past few days.  So blogging, while working, taking care of kids, and entertaining a guest is almost impossible!  Although our level of hospitality does not nearly reach that of our Arab friends … we do try our best.  =)

Here’s a few things about receiving guest’s in your home from an Arab perspective.

  • Welcome them with a kiss – This is important, especially if you haven’t seen them in a long time.  Like in a few hours.  LOL!   I am just joking … but sometimes it seems that way.  The general custom (among men) is that you greet your friends with a kiss in public the first time you see them in the week and then perhaps a few days later … it is not necessary (for some) to greet them in this manner every time.  However, if they are a guest in your home you should kiss them on the cheek when you receive them at the door.  Cheeks touch (not generally mouth to cheek), and you make a kissing sound, one time on the right cheek and then three times on the left cheek.  And then back in on the left cheek for 1 or 2 more times if you are particularly close or trying to honor your guest.
  • Receive them into your house immediately -It is considered rude to keep someone on the doorstep and a sign that you do not like or respect them … even if you are chatting pleasantly.
  • Offer them something to drink immediately after they have been settled in the salon – traditionally this should be coffee or tea, but in these days it may be something cold as well.  It is expected that the host will serve their best available beverage in their best available glasses.  Just offering water is ok … but is an indicator that someone is poor or, if they are known to be well-to-do, stingy.  And when I say offer, I mean serve them on a tray.  Not just ask, “would you like something to drink?”  An Arab host will never simply ask a guest what they want and accept their protests.  As a guest you will be given something to drink when you first arrive. Other cold beverages, including water, will be served after the initial hot drink.  It is rare that the cup in an Arab’s house is not filled with some sort of beverage or another.
  • Bye-Bye Coffee – To signal the close of a short visit the host will serve Turkish coffee.  This is the polite signal that the guests should soon leave.  If a guest makes  a move to leave before this the host will hastily go to prepare the coffee.  With close friends this may also be nescafe or tea or may be skipped altogether.

Of course these rules apply to a guest in your home for less than a day.  No need to serve the bye-bye coffee to a guest who is staying overnight … unless you are trying to send them a subtle message!

Other Random A to Z bloggers (truly random – I cannot vouch for the content of these blogs … but go ahead and check them out if for nothing else, simply for curiosity’s sake!)

 

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Jordan A to Z: C is for . . . Camels!

Camels, Camels Everywhere

Well …I could write many things about the Camels here in Jordan … but they say that a picture is like a thousand words!  So here are 15,000 or so words to help you think about Camels in Jordan.

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