No meal is complete without hummus, tahini, and baba ganouj.
Jordan was a real surprise. I’d just spent two weeks in Egypt, and, to be honest, I was kind of expecting a poorer version of Egypt—for indeed Jordan does have less income than its North African neighbor. But history has drawn sharp distinctions between the two countries—particularly in their capitals. Cairo has been continuously inhabited for about 5,000 years. Other than a few nomadic Bedouins, Amman was uninhabited for nearly 2,000 years, from after the last Roman legions pulled out until the Circassians (Muslim refugees from the Caucasus) arrived in the 1870s. So Amman dates from about the time people started figuring out that city planning is a good idea. This is evident everywhere, largely because of zoning laws in Amman that keep the town attractive and sensibly organized, but is most obvious on the road. While traffic in Cairo is a snarled lunatic asylum, where people ignore signs, lanes, and speed limits, and things are further complicated by camels, donkeys, horses, and animal-drawn carts piled precariously high with watermelons or hay, the traffic in Amman is well regulated, people actually stay in their lanes and stop at stop lights, and critters are not permitted on busy downtown streets. Less picturesque, but much easier for driving.
This doesn’t mean driving in Amman is always easy. With the town sprawling over seven mountains, there is a considerable amount of winding up and down narrow roads. And not all the posted street signs match what the locals call some streets. But it’s all much more reasonable than Cairo’s traffic. Plus downtown bridges are outlined in blue neon, to make them easy to find. It’s a fun, hip, modern accent in a surprisingly sophisticated yet still-exotic city. Continue reading