Some more springtime pics from Jordan

As I’ve said before, spring is really my favorite time of year hear in Jordan.  A couple of weeks ago my son and I got out of the city to do a little exploring. We were mostly out past Bayyader and Wadi Seer, driving along narrow roads and getting a feel for the lay of the land just west of Amman.  There are beautiful rolling rills and amazing views out towards the plains of Moab and the Ghor.  (although I am not really certain you can see either – it was hazy and overcast in the distance – it just seemed that was the direction we were looking in)  So without further ado, here are some pics to enjoy:

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Springtime in Jordan

Springtime is gorgeous in Jordan.  By and large the rains have stopped, the temperature is moderate, the hills and valleys are alive with color, and droves of city-folk flock to the countryside for picnics (or riHleh or mushwar as they are called here).

But, as they say a picture is worth 1,000 words . . . so here goes . . .

(This is a test of the new wordpress slideshow feature – hopefully it works.)

Of course this is less about testing the slideshow and more about showing people a bit of Jordan.  I realized awhile back that we are the only ex-pats in our circle of friends that haven’t had visitors from back home since arriving here in Jordan.  Most have averaged 3 or 4 in the last couple of years.

So here is a little bit of what you’re missing, and a not so subtle hint for you to start planning for next year’s Spring Break here in Jordan.  Of course, we would be happy to receive you and show you around this country we love at any time of the year.  Mushwar weather permitting of course! (There are around 20 pics in the slideshow and they cycle through in a minute or so)

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“Wintery” Weather in Amman

Clouds and sun mingle over Amman

Clouds and sun mingle over Amman

Yesterday morning on the drive to school we debated about the weather.  I thought it looked and felt like rain.  My local friend begged to differ insisting that the sun would win out.  He said, “I’m not ready for winter yet!”  He definitely was not looking forward to breaking out the winter clothes.  But we live in the Middle East right?  It kinda sounded like a Floridian complaining about pulling out the wool sweaters as the temperature dips into the frigid 70s (21 C).

But Winter here actually does mean cold.  And rain.  If it gets cold enough it will even snow in the higher elevations.  Last year it snowed a couple of times, but I never saw the white stuff because we don’t live in the right location.

Now, don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t get cold here like it used to get cold back in my hometown in Northern New York.  But the average temps from November through February do drop into the 40s.  In January and February the average lows even drop into the 30s.  Again, not extremely cold – but cold enough to bundle up.  And when you consider that most apartments and houses  have tile floors and uninsulated cement walls – sometimes it’s colder inside the house than out during the winter!

Two sure signs that winter may come a little early in Amman this year:

  1. My local friend lost his bet on the sun overcoming the dark clouds – we had a huge downpour yesterday! (nothing like what the Philippines has been hit with recently – our hearts and prayers go out for so many who lost so much there)
  2. Last night’s low fell below 50F!

I had the good fortune of having my camera with me yesterday- here are a couple of vid clips. As you will see, some of the streets did seem a bit like rivers, or to use a phrase from my childhood – cricks.

Of course, a bit of early rain is welcome here in Jordan.  Unlike the States where we sing songs like, “Rain, rain go away  . . .”, rain is a very good thing here in this dry land. Fresh water is extremely scarce and the Kingdom relies on winter rainfall to replenish the aquifers and especially the reservoirs.  Last winter there was very little rain and people were quite concerned.  So much so that local Muslim leaders called for a special time of prayer asking for Allah to send rain.  Christians did something similar in their churches.  In the end it did rain a lot and the reservoirs were filled and people breathed easily.

So despite the unexpected and lengthy downpour yesterday that  flooded roads, snarled traffic, and soaked a ton of umbrella-less pedestrians, many here are thanking God for the rain and hoping for a wet winter.  I am too.  And maybe a little snow to top things off.  My son soaked me good last week in a water fight, so I owe him a really decent snowball down the back this winter.

Here’s a little bit of what a wet Amman looks like.  Enjoy!  (BTW – click on the thumbnails below to get a slightly bigger picture.  If you want it even bigger, click on the second picture to get a full-size one.)

Eid Mubarak!

I like to think of conversation starters each day to get the ball rolling with strangers I meet so I can practice speaking Arabic.  By strangers I mostly mean taxi drivers, duukkan (little shop) owners, the barber, and Eli the Wise-tire-guy at the corner.  (77-years wise and still  changing tires – but that’s a story for another time). Yesterday’s question was “Will tomorrow be Eid-al-Fitr?”  This may seem like an odd question, as most holidays back home have a definite date.  The dates for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas are set months – even years – in advance.  Not so with the timing of Islamic holidays which depend on moon sightings to officially begin.

The common response to my question about Eid starting was something along the lines of “Bukra, Insha’allah, bas mumkin ba3di bukra.”  “Tomorrow, God wiling, but maybe the day after tomorrow.”  That said everyone was making preparations for Eid to start today (Tuesday, September 30th).  Schools and Government offices were scheduled to be closed. Most stores were going on modified Holiday schedules – many closing for the first couple of days of Eid.  People were out and about running errands before things shut down for the week.  This included stocking up on fruits and vegetables as fresh ones are apparently hard to come by during the week of Eid.

So Iwas wondering how we would find out in the morning if Ramadan had in fact concluded.  Well, there was no doubt as rolled over in bed at 6:30 AM that Ramadan had in fact concluded.  Listen to this sound file recorded from the roof of our building:

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If you’re like me, based on that recording, you might imagine that the streets were thronged with people celebrating Eid – however, like me, you would be wrong.  The voices are actually 100s of muzzeins (the callers at the mosques), either live or recorde, from around the city.  For the most part the city streets were empty, pretty much like Christmas morning in the States.

The calls of “God is Great, Praise to God, Praise to the Greatest!” continued for over an hour as the city woke up.  I wonder if Christmas morning used to be that way in the States?  Well, with church bells sounding to welcome to holiday – not necesarily the calls of the muzzeins.

I am curious what life will be like over the next few days.  We have a break from school and we can now eat and drink in public during the day so exploring the city is back on!  Eid is typically a time for visiting extended family, going out, taking small vacations, etc.  so we expect a lot of hubbub. I’ll be sure to let you know.  In the meantime, here are some pics I snapped from the roof  this morning as the sun was rising over the city and callers were heralding Eid.  It was a particularly good morning for pictures as there were dark rain clouds in the west and sun dawning over the hillside in the east.  Click on the pics in gallery to get bigger photos with descriptions and a places for comments.  Enjoy!

Beginfast or Commensfast Anyone?

It’s 4:30 AM or so on a Friday morning during Ramadan.  Here’s what is sounds like outside our apartment. (I just sat outside in our garden with my hand held digital recorder  to make this recording.

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That’s what it’s like here everyday at 4:30, but during Ramadan this call to prayer is particularly important as it is around this time that fasting must commence.  I’m not sure if it starts at this call-to-prayer or after. Basically devout Muslims who are fasting will rise very early to eat their last meal and drink their last water before the day’s fast begins.  I mistakenly called this meal “Breakfast” the other day, but a friend corrected me as the meal does not “break” the fast, but begins it.  In Arabic they call the meal “suhuur”  but I think I’ll call it “beginfast” or “commensfast.”  Which do you prefer?

I was wide awake this morning so took a walk up to the top of the hill.  Except for the prayer horns, everything in the street was so still.  But you could see lights turning on in houses and hear morning stirrings through open windows.  Here are a few pics of early Friday morning here in Amman during Ramadan.