Fatwa for Falafel

Raj wanted falafel, but not just any falafel–he wanted the best, most highly rated falafel in ALL of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. After a short visit to Jerash (second time around), we headed downtown toward Hashem Restaurant, an institution in Amman since 1956. (Note: downtown is the area near the Citadel (it took us three weekends to find the Citadel), near the flea markets ON the street–a particularly frustrating and confusing place to drive; not a smart move given the fact that Raj was already hungry (Remember, Raj gets ‘hangry’ (hungry plus angry) when his blood sugar levels dip and I didn’t have any ‘snack packs’ to tide him over–a particularly vulnerable position to be in).

Invariably, we had difficulty locating the elusive Hashem’s. I was getting worried because at this point I was hungry, imagining how Raj had to be starving. We drove around searching for about thirty minutes–at this point I was ready to give up and go ANYWHERE…but Raj was undeterred. Lucky for us, Raj’s friend who accompanied us is an Arabic speaker and he helped us out tremendously along the route asking passers-by for directions. Eventually we found it, no small feat since the signs for Hashem are in Arabic (except for the one above which faces away from the street).

Quick day trip to the Roman ruins at Jerash
Nubian goats at Jerash (they have "Roman' noses, seriously)

The restaurant is outside in a little alley way along a busy street. It’s certainly not fancy, perhaps a little dingy (euphemism for dirty), but very busy and FULL of Westerners. If you’re persnickety, RUN (or bring along lots of hand sanitizer and wipes to quell the neatniks you may be traveling with–I forgot mine and admit I was bothered). There are no plates here (probably a good thing), just thin paper used in place of plates. You may be surprised that I ate here with my history of ‘street-food’ syndrome, but what was I supposed to do? We were ALL starving!

View from Hashem's

I’m not sure what we ordered (our friend ordered for us), but it seems that everyone around us got the same thing: a basket of small meatball sized falafel, another basket of larger falafel covered in sesame seeds, a handful of steaming hot pita bread, tomatoes and onions, tea with mint, hummus, and fuul (fava-bean paste).

The verdict? It was all very good AND for three of us it cost only $6 JD’s. (Imagine how happy that made Raj, see below?) Best of all, no one got sick and I’ve agreed that we need to go back (although this time I’ll come equipped with hand sanitizer and maybe some wipes for the table top and chairs).

Striking a Pose in Jerash

The Lonely Yogi doing Yoga Graffiti

We ventured out to Jerash on Friday. It’s one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the eastern Mediterranean. It was founded around 170 BC, focused around the Temple of Zeus. Jerash (or Gerasa, the ancient name for Jerash) briefly became the center of the Roman Empire in 129-130, as Hadrian wintered in the city. In his honor, the Gerasenes built a monumental arch on the southern walls.

The place is amazing and it’s very explorable. We watched the Roman Army and Chariots Experience reenactment show. I’m not much for reenactments or “interpreters,” but the chariot racing was kind of cool to see, especially in the Hippodrome.

In addition to seeing the sights, another high point of the day was haggling amongst the ruins for earrings by a young Bedouin salesman (about 10 years old) . I noticed some beautiful turquoise earrings that I fancied. I asked how much for the earrings and the next thing I knew, the earrings,  a matching necklace, and a chunky silver Bedouin bracelet appeared on my body. The young salesman held a mirror out for me to gaze at the splendor staring back at me while he offered me fabulous deals, solely because I was “such a nice lady” (in perfect English I might add). I only wanted the earrings, but they were $10 JOD and too much for Raj. After much bargaining, the young salesman wouldn’t budge. He really wanted to sell the ensemble, not the piddly earrings. Raj walked away and I followed, despairingly. Two minutes later, the salesman followed us down the path and offered to sell them for $7. Raj said, “No, $5.” To which the salesman responded, “7 is only 2 more than $5.” We got the earrings for $5. I felt guilty (poor kid). Raj felt triumphant.  I got over it.

After walking around the ruins for a couple of hours, we headed west out of Jerash to Ajloun castle, a former isolated Christian monastery home to a monk named Ajloun. By 1184, in the midst of the Crusades, the monastery had fallen into ruin, and an Arab general took the opportunity to build a fortress on the ruins.

This place was interesting to see, but someone who shall not be named was getting ‘hangry’ (hungry/angry) so we had to speed up the tour so that we could get back to Amman to get some food into someone’s belly.

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