Land of Milk and Honey

Hummus with lamb and pine nuts. Warm flatbread.

The food in Jordan made me weak at the knees. Never has lemon juice with mint been so seductive or ground chick peas (garbanzo) been so smooth. El-Sufra on Al-Rainbow Street combines a sunken roman outdoor dining area replete with fountain and palm trees with indoor cafe and upper level with views of the lights of Amman. The nights in August were cool and perfect for sitting outside, chatting with friends, smoking a hubbly-bubbly or playing cards. Something for everyone.

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A game of cards.
Fattoush salad. Pita bread croutons and purslane…

The Souk on Al-Rainbow Street

My African American friend and I were headed in to the souk when I heard, “wassup, ni*&^%,” flung from a car with booming music. Almost immediately, three young guys standing near us starting apologizing for the comment with a “we are so sorry. They hear this in the rap music. They are stupid.” My friend graciously said that it was nothing. She’d heard it before. The rest of the Jordanians we met were not so uncouth. The souk was filled with pretty people and friendly vendors. Not aggressive but helpful. In general, my black friends got rather a lot of attention, most flirtatious, in Jordan.

The entrance to the souk filled with big buff security guys.

Small but fun, the Friday “Souk Jara” is a fun way to spend a few hours and grab dinner on a Friday night. Much like a flea market, you can buy olive soap, scarves, sesame seeds, puffed wheat snack, and many other things.

At the food court, I enjoyed dinner. The various fruit stands were giving samples with the watermelon juice winning out. I had a fabulous grilled hotdog with all the trimmings except the french fries. Then I had part of a “saj” a fresh dough wrap filled with your choice and then fried like a quesadilla. After that, how could I resist the Volk’s Burger when almost nothing beats the smell of grilled beef?

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For dessert, I had grilled bananas served with ice cream and honey. Mostly, I enjoyed the music, the mix of people, including musicians and eye candy.

See Petra with Friends

In the early morning light of the cavern called “the Siq” in Petra, we three friends were alone in our walk round the twists and turns of the 30 minute walk to that classic view of Petra — the view of the Treasury through the slim gap of the Siq.

Petra by night.

We did actually have company in the form of three other tourists who outpaced us and a local dog. Plus a few of the local Bedouin guides trying to sell us donkey rides. But mostly, we were alone, skipping along the well kept path between the rose pink sandstone. The evening before, we had traipsed in the dark to the same spot with 300 other tourists for “Petra by Night” and I’d recommend it. The night walk costs 12 Dinars ($17) and the day pass costs 50 Dinar ($71) but it was worth it. I avoided the donkey and camel rides but the 20 Dinar ($28) horse cart gallop up the walk is also worth it. The two hour up the 800 steps to the “high place” did not seem worth it to me but you can take a donkey up and then, for those who enjoy vertiginous thrills, it might be worth it. But then you could also walk up in stilettos.

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Although Petra is touristy, it is much less so than many places on anyone’s list of places to see. I recommend getting up and going at 6 a.m. when the park opens. And bring friends.

iPhone in Dhaka

Airtel kiosk sells Grameen top up cards.

Many of the photos I take are with my iPhone including this one of the kiosk (near Gulshan 2 circle on the DIT 2 market side of Madani Avenue) where one can purchase scratch off top up cards for one’s prepaid iPhone. If your phone is unlocked, you can buy a sim card, some scratch off cards, and after some set up, you are good to go. I’d guess I use around 300 Taka per month ($4) on my phone and Internet. The sim card cost 250 Taka. You can also go the post-paid route and go to Grameen phone, give them copies of your passport, a photo, and then you will receive a bill monthly.

Ramadan In Dhaka

One of the changes in Dhaka during Ramadan (or Ramzan as they call it here), is that the traffic patterns change. After 6:30 p.m., there is almost no traffic on the roads so it makes getting around at that time ideal for those of us not trying to be somewhere to break the fast (Iftar) at sunset. The times of the shop openings are slightly different and things are in general not as bustling. But only slightly. Mostly, what one notices is the lack of traffic during normal rush hour hours.

One of my favorite roads in Dhaka.

If you are lucky enough to be invited to Iftar, you will find certain foods ready on your plate for that exact minute when the sun sets. Most of the items are small fried items like dates, fish cake, lentil patty, mini funnel cake, etc. There is also a special lentil soup called “haleem” which is a must to break the fast. Lemon water is the normal drink served. After the Iftar, or breaking of the fast, people will go for a quick prayer, then they eat a supper, often buffet if at a restaurant. Many, if not most, restaurants offer Iftar menus.

The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid-ul-Fitr (the first of two in the year). The long Eid is a festive time lasting days. Families give gifts, mainly of clothes, to each other. The shops are open all night long so that people can shop. Bonuses are paid. During the long Eid, many businesses close for days and many people leave town for the long holiday. The start and end of Ramadan depend on the moon.

Turkish Bazaar in Dhaka

You never know what will happen at the bazaar.

Unexpected hand exfoliation and massage.

Sometimes something will happen and it will be hilariously unexpected. When I had finished my meal and Turkish coffee at the new Turkish Bazaar restaurant and shop, I did not expect the owner to say, “give me your hand” and then pour my warm coffee grounds on my palms before proceeding to massage and exfoliate my hands. Made me laugh out loud.

The front of the restaurant.

Dhaka becomes more cosmopolitan day by day. In June 2012, Turkish Bazaar opened up in Banani, on Road 10. They serve healthy food and it’s probably the best Turkish food in Dhaka. I will be back for the food but also for another Turkish coffee.

Spicy sweet red pepper salad.