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Published: November 17th 2009
This is a bit of an enthnographic approach (not sure how I feel about this sort of stuff), but anyway it's an attempt to explain the little things.
The Camel Trek - for next time 😞
I organised a camel trek through Gordon Williams, a Scotsman who consults to the local Bedouin tribe from the area at St Katherines Monastery near Mt Sinai. The camel school was a European Union initiative so it is all above board - but it will only be the two of us with a Bedouin guide/teacher in the desert. You can see the details here for the Camel School
. Later note - we went diving and the camel trek didn't happen...
I have started a recipe blog
to actually document some of the simple recipes I have stored in my head. Cooking here is very different. There are lots of little things. Everyone uses a gas bottle (about 2 1/2 feet tall) which connects directly to the stove. The 'gas man' drives around in a truck every day playing music like Mr Whippy and it costs about JOD 6 (AUD 10) a bottle. I go to the local butcher at the souq (market) where they have whole lambs hanging in the window and big strips of beef and whole chickens (all Halal). If you want steaks, they cut it from the strip of beef; for mince, they cut off the desired amount of steak and stick it in the mincer; the chickens are cut up on demand (they cut off the parson's nose - my favourite part - and throw it away so I just get whole chickens now!). This is all local stuff, the rest is Australian, NZ, Brazilian and Chinese meat (the Chinese stuff is not very good), but we have bought a few frozen blocks of Aussie beef only to find it tough and 'yucky'. The local stuff is better unless you want to pay a fortune and the guys at the butcher look after me. They have some basil bushes outside the butchery and let me pick some from time to time.
There is also a barber - I paid JOD 3 (AUD $5) for my latest haircut (you can see it on Facebook - Heba says I look like a soccer hooligan), a baker (the Lebanese-style bread is 300 phils (0.3 JOD or AUD 55 cents) per dozen and it is the best! Good coffee is hard to find (except the Turkish variety) but we are making do with a little Italian stove-top espresso pot. All the milk is UHT, olive oil is 1/10th the price it is at home, petrol is about 70 cents a litre, a taxi ride from the apartment to the centre of town in Aqaba costs 1 JOD (about $1.60) and so on.
We take the rubbish from the house and put it in half-size industrial bins on each block, and there the 1001 stray cats hang out and get disturbed as you approach - the number of stray cats is incredible - they are everywhere and give you a fright from the strangest places. In the evening, a young lad carrying bags of fairy floss on a stick (Huckleberry Fin-style) and walks around playing a plastic pan flute; in Amman there are people selling things (newspapers, tissues, flowers, colouring books) at most traffic lights. I have been driving here, too. I am now able to drive through downtown Amman (the old part of the city) in peak hour traffic - no mean feat! There are almost no road rules here and the roundabouts are a nightmare - no giving way from anybody, you just move into the gridlock and honk your horn at everyone. Drivers turn a two-lane street into six random lanes, a bit like a bunch of kids cramming around a lollie tin!
We are going to the gym every day lately, and across the road are the ancient ruins of the Islamic City of Ayla (photos on the travel blog) dating from at least 650 AD. We will go to Wadi Rum soon (where Lawrence of Arabia hid from the Turks/Germans and trained the Bedouin army etc) which is here in Jordan . Last time I was here I had such a culture shock, but now I can get around by myself (a little Arabic helps but I don't know much more than how to give directions to the cabbie - dori: straight, ismael: left, yameen: right) and having a mobile phone helps - the phone calls are soooo cheap. I now actually like it here... and Australia is too far away from everything!
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