Amman Citadel

It took quite some time to get out of the house.  My dad had misplaced his ID card and my uncle wanted to give us fruits, vegetables and bottles of water for our adventure.  My aunt was making coffee and offering us some, my other uncle was telling a story and wanted us to listen…

We finally made it out of the house.  Within seconds a taxi stopped for us, my aunt lives right off a pretty busy road, plus there are tons of taxis around.  The driver was a middle aged man, we spoke to him in Arabic but he could tell it wasn’t Jordanian Arabic.  He asked where we were from.  “Damascus, the great,” my father replied.  I told him we wanted to go to Restaurant Hashem, downtown, he said ok and we were on our way.  Dad and I talked in the car, sometimes the taxi driver chimed in, we were talking about Arabic sayings and proverbs, my dad is full of them.  

As we got closer, the man began to tell us of well-known place that sells knafeh (an Arabic sweet that is ground or shredded wheat with cheese and lots of sugar syrup, flavored with orange blossom water), I smiled at Dad, “I’m getting hungry.”   “Why did you start talking about knafeh” he said to the driver, with a laugh, “now she’s hungry!”  Neither of us had eaten breakfast, just some tea or coffee.  I had done this on purpose because I had read about Hashem Restaurant, it’s your typical Levantine “breakfast joint” or breakfast street food, so to speak.  The cab driver dropped us off there, we paid him and crossed the street in the sweltering heat.  We sat down on plastic chairs at the restaurant which was half outdoor, the outside part covered by green corrugated plastic roofing.  A young waiter came to take our order, there was no menu because they only serve what they serve and you must know what they serve.  My dad looked at me, I said I wanted foul, my dad asked what else they had.  Fool (fava beans, slightly mashed with garlic, lemon, diced, fresh tomato, green onion and olive oil), fetteh (fried pita bread soaked in olive oil that has been treated with some chemical, excuse my being so vague but I do not recall how they treat the oil) msabaha (similar to hummus, ground chickpeas with tahini, which is sesame paste, garlic and lemon juice), falafel (fried “dumplings” of garbanzo bean and spices).  I gave our order, msabaha and fool. 


My dad added that he wanted falafel, he looked at me, I said I didn’t want any, he said to bring just a half order.  We were offered tea and coffee, I had black tea, sweetened just perfectly (well probably too sweet but with that combination of foods and flavors, it is perfect).  They brought our food within 3 minutes, the falafel first.  The boy bringing them out just said, falafel, falafel and people would sort of raise their hand or finger or simply look at him to let him know that they had ordered falafel.  The falafel was served on a piece of paper, over a plate.  The paper is there to absorb the excess frying oil. Next came the msabaha and fool.  They were both served in red clay bowls, swimming in olive oil.  Oh they were beautiful.  My grandmother used to say, the eye eats.  Which means, presentation is very important in food, if something is served well and looks appetizing, you will be more apt to eat and enjoy your food.  My dad started dipping the falafel in the msabaha.  Oh man…it was delicious.  First the soft olive oil hits your tongue and then you’re hit with a surprise attack of garlic flavor, there are undertones of tahini (sesame paste) and garbonzo beans, slightly sour, thanks to the lemon.  You haven’t even taken a bite yet.  Then you do and the crunch of the falafel splits into soft warm dough between your teeth.  Not bread dough, but bean dough, so hearty, so flavorful, so wonderful!  The waiter came over and asked where we were from and we told him we were from Damascus.  “Ahla wa sahla (welcome).”  “Ahlayn feek” (welcome to you), we responded.  We sat eating, talking about how wonderful the food was and laughing at how disorganized but perfect everything was.  A waiter came by and threw 2 big hot loaves of pita bread on the table.

Msabaha, falafel, tea and paba B

Fresh baked bread

My dad told me stories about his youth, he had trigonometry class at 7 am, and he and his friends would go to the restaurant in old Damascus at 6 to have fool.  Now, fool (fava beans) have the fame to make you tired, they are a heavy food and make you feel a bit lethargic, so my dad and his friends would sit in class staring blankly at the teacher who thought they were still half asleep.  We finished our meal and asked how much we owed.  “Leave it on us.”  the waiter said with a smile.  My dad said “no no, next time,” the waiter looked down, shyly, “ok.” “But you’ll remember us, huh!” my dad said with a laugh.  “Of course, of course, Mister.”  “How much would you like?” I asked.  “Two dinar.”  (that’s about $3).  We paid and were on our way.  On the way out we heard “tfadalew, tfadalew,” a word akin to welcome or help yourself but more warm.  We walked out, holding hands, which is not uncommon for a father and daughter, albeit a grown woman, to do in the middle east.  It’s not even uncommon for two men or two women or any two people We walked towards the gold market.  Gold is a big deal in the Middle East, people invest in gold quite a bit and you can go down to the gold market and sell your gold for market price to any gold jeweler.

Me, at a gold shop

Dad, as we walk up the stairs to the citadel
We strolled our way through the streets, it was quite hot. We walked by a bakery, “oh, dad! Let’s get one of those.” I was pointing to these chocolate balls, their basically chocolate dough mixed with ground nuts and oftentimes dried fruit, maybe coconut flakes and dipped in chocolate.  We bought one for 15 piester (like cents, 100 piesters = 1 Dinar = 1.41 USD) 
We walked up and up and up.  We asked along the way for the way to the Citadel and people kept pointing us up stairs and dirt paths.  
Someone’s laundry, you don’t need dryers in the desert
part of the hike up to the Citadel, we later found out that we took a back road, literally and climbed in through the back, not very protected for a citadel, if you ask me.
Finally! we caught glimpse of the citadel, or at least some Roman ruins which told us we were near
View of the amphitheater from the top of the mountain
Columns + me + part of Papa B’s finger + Jordanian flag in the background = cool shot!
What remains of the Temple of Hercules from ~161-166 AD
A really cool coffin
Papa B getting some shade under a grape vine
Papa B walking into the Ommayed Palace
looking out of the Ommayed Palace to the what was the “residence” of the Ommayeds from about 720 AD
Pathway with remains of Corinthian columns, the diagonal stones you see going from where Papa B stands to the bottom right corner of the photograph used to be a drainage system, just past where the photo ends, it is uncovered and you can see where water would gather
Amazing arches!
The Jordanian flag flying high over Amman
Can you believe that these trees are this green in the dessert!
We also visited the Jordanian Archeological Museum which is home to many artifacts from as far back as the Paleolithic Period.  There are cool things like fish fossils and horse teeth, glass tear jars and gold jewelry with cats eye stone, however; photographing was prohibited, so you must visit if you wish to see these artifacts. 
 I leave you with a flattering photograph of me in front of the Ommayed Palace

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