My adventures in pregnancy, motherhood and beyond

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Jordan (Pilgrimage Pt 1)

I want to do justice to the trip, so I think I'll post a few days at a time. If you're interested in more photos, check my facebook page as I'm uploading them (I can't believe I'm uploading photos in a timely fashion!)

After about 24 hours door to door, we arrived in Amman, Jordan on the night of the 12th. I had started my pregnancy journal (which will include the trip journal) on the plane, and James' sniffle had developed into a full blown cold, which he courteously passed onto me. I passed it to my mom and, now that they're home, mom passed it to dad. We should buy stock in kleenex; James was able to medicate with sudafed, theraflu, his codeine cough syrup, but I was left with ricolas and lots and lots of kleenex. We met up with mom and dad in London and when we got to Amman, we were met by a guide/driver with Mark's name on a placard. He breezed us through customs; we felt like important diplomats. It was great: we handed him our passports and he took care of everything while we got our bags. Mark met us at the hotel and we went to Jafra cafe for dinner. James and I had lamb kofta with tahini sauce, which was delicious, but a huge portion. The taxis were a bit terrifying--besides merging into traffic circles without slowing and pedestrians just walking out in front of cars, no one seemed to know where our hotel was. Apparently, it used to be called the Taiki two years ago, and they recognize that name, but not the Ramada. This was a problem we had multiple times. We finally solved it by getting the hotel to write on the back of a business card; giving the address didn't help. 

Jerusalem in the Madaba Map
Dad and I at lunch in Madaba
Sunday was mother's day and James had gotten me a cute card with a little pair of socks in it! It was so sweet. Mom and dad went to church, but we slept in. When they got back, we decided to go to Madaba, which has a mosaic map of the area. The map was amazing: I could identify Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the Jordan River. The church itself was filled with beautiful icons. We had shawermas for lunch and then our driver took us to Mt. Nebo. Mt. Nebo is the site where Moses first looked into the promised land, and is also considered to be where he died; it's now a memorial. The basilica was closed for renovations, but they had some mosaics out and the valley view (with the Dead Sea) was absolutely gorgeous. We were taken to our guide's "friend's" mosaic factory, where we were shown a demo of the mosaics being made and given the sales pitch of course. James was used to this from his trip, but it was an uncomfortable experience. We had a nap at the hotel and then headed out to dinner, taking the recommendation of the front desk and going to Reem Albawady Restaurant. It was all outdoor dining, under a pavilion tent and they brought out blankets to cover our shoulders. I had lentil soup and meat beraks (?), meat wrapped in triangular pastries. We also got some mixed grills (kebabs) to share. It was so much food, and then they brought our watermelon slices! I also felt the baby move for the first time!!! It felt like an elbow being dragged along inside my stomach; a bizarre and wonderful feeling. Since then, I've been feeling little kicks on and off, getting more and more regular, especially since getting home!

Week 17 at the Citadel in Amman
James and I at the Temple of Hercules
Citadel, Amman
Monday was a long day too. I woke up with James' cold and didn't have my allowed medication list with me, so didn't take anything (the internet is evil and scary). We got the ok from Mark to skip the dinner that night and made reservations for the cooking class (more on that later!). When mom and dad got up, we went to rainbow street and walked around, but it was early and pretty empty. We found a pharmacy and a supermarket and ended up heading to the Citadel afterwards. So neat: Roman temples, a Byzantine church, Umayyad complex and mosque, Bronze Age cave. We wandered around and saw mostly everything. There were the ruins of the Byzantine church, which was beautiful, and the Umayyad complex was huge. We heard the noon call to prayer from multiple mosques while wandering through the complex. There were the remains of a colossal (30 m tall) statue, just the fingers and elbow and the Bronze Age tomb was neat. The temple of Hercules just had some columns left, but it was still beautiful. We headed back to the hotel and took a nap before heading to Beit Sitti, a homemade cooking experience we found in the seatback magazine on our flight from London. I am thrilled that we did that: it was definitely a major highlight of our trip. We had some issues with the taxi: with 5 of us, we had to split up: mom, dad and Susan in one, James and I in another. First the hotel concierge told us we could fit 4 of us in the back of the taxi (yeah right), then it took another 5 minutes to find us a taxi. Then our taxi driver stopped to get coffee and cigarettes on the way there (with the meter running!). When we finally arrived, my parents weren't there! I was worried, and after a while, Maria (our host) called the hotel--they were back there. Apparently their driver didn't know where it was (surprise, surprise) and drove them up and down, all over, until they finally had him take them back to the hotel and they got another taxi. We made a delicious four course meal: tabbouleh, an eggplant dip (moutabbal I think), siniyet kafta (lamb kofta!) and knaffeh for dessert. The hands on experience was so much fun, and we even have recipes now! The tabbouleh was made with the tiniest bit of bulgar, tons of fresh parsley and lemon, garlic and tahini. It was delicious and so fresh tasting. The eggplant dip was divine: the eggplants were roasted in an open flame til black and crispy and mushy inside. We just used the inside and mixed it with spices and deliciousness. It was topped with a spice called sumac (yes, related to poison ivy, but not poisonous) that had a citrus-y taste to it. The lamb was better than the restaurant: mixed ground beef and lamb, topped with fried potato slices and tahini sauce. The dessert was good, but I didn't get to eat more than a bite: it was layered noodles, goat and mozzarella cheese and noodles, topped with simple syrup. The bite I had was great, but goat cheese is unpasteurized and on the "to avoid" list, so I didn't want to risk it. What really made the experience was the people. Southern hospitality has got nothing on these people; they are so kind and welcoming. In Israel, I often felt the hospitality was because they wanted to sell you something, but it Jordan it felt much more genuine. The women who helped us cook were so sweet and kind and wanted us to feel at home and told us we now had family in Jordan. She also helped us catch a cab that knew how to get us to our hotel. We all got certificates, and I was named head chef (Hajjeh) of the night! James also noted that the top of my belly button has started to poke out!
At Beit Sitti with our certificates

Grand Tombs
Dad in front of the Treasury

Tuesday was a VERY long day, and our last in Jordan. It was the official start of the pilgrimage--our trip to Petra! Mom wasn't feeling well and decided to stay at the hotel and dad had managed to wrench his knee, so he was having a hard time. We had a 3.5 hour drive there and someone on the bus kept asking for the air to be turned off; I thought I was going to die. Petra was amazing and fulfilled all of my Indiana Jones wanna-be-ness. We entered through the canyon, the Siq, which was gorgeous and nice and cool in the ehat. The colours were breathtaking and even the natural formations were amazing. Our first glimpse was of the Treasury through the canyon (very Indiana Jones!) and when we actually saw the whole of it, it was just astounding. The ornately carved edifices are almost exclusively tombs, but when Petra was rediscovered, the explorers found Bedouins living in the caves and assumed they were the descendants of the Nabateans and asked them what the difference structures were. They responded with their own legends and traditions, giving rise to the djinn blocks, the Treasury, Pharaoh's Daughter's Palace, etc. The Bedouins lived there all the way up to 1989. While we were listening to our guide in front of the Treasury, we saw a proposal! It was so sweet! We walked the entire length of the city, seeing tons of tombs, both royal and common, houses and even the remains of a Byzantine church that had beautiful mosaics. My favourite were what our guide called the Grand Tombs, up on the hill which were beautiful and intricate. I was able to take some amazing panorama shots with mom and dad's camera. Dad had to turn back early because of his knee, so James and I left the church early to catch up with him, which we didn't manage. I was so overheated at this point that we had to stop multiple times for me to rest. I get exhausted so easily nowadays and I keep overestimating what I am capable of doing--it involves a lot of resting. My original plan had been to take a carriage back through the Siq, but after seeing the carriages go over the uneven cobblestones, dad and James refused to let me get on one of them. Even if I weren't pregnant, I probably wouldn't have taken a carriage despite my exhaustion because they weren't treating the horses really badly. We caught up with Dad right outside the Siq and after getting back on the bus, we found out we'd walked 10 kilometers (6.2 mi)!! And we could say we walked the entire thing! I can't remember walking that far in one day before, and a shower never felt so good. One good thing was that I definitely slept well that night, and didn't even wake up during the morning call to prayer at 4:30. It was an exhausting day, but it was so cool to finally see Petra! 

The next day we headed off to Nazareth! Check back for the Galilee adventures tomorrow, and remember to check out facebook for more photos!

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