Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Saved dolmen field in Jordan - a new tourism attraction for 2011

For at least the past 2 years a Dolmen field near Damiyah, a village located north of Salt, in the Jordan Valley, has been on the World Monuments Watch list. According to an article in the Jordan Times of today, the site has been saved from destruction. A new archaeological site has been created, the DoA (Department of Antiquities) has made a deal with the mining company exploiting the area and a piece of land has been protected. It means that some of the dolmen will have to be moved to that specific site.

Pictures from the World Monument Site 
The dolmen site should open sometime next year to the public. This is great as it adds one more interesting site to visit to Jordan's already quite extensive list. Dolmens are from the Early Bronze age (3600-3000 BC) and some experts say they could be even older, from the Chalcolithic era (that's 4500-3500 BC). There are around 300 dolmens on site, so it should become an interesting park to visit. This is one of the things I particularly enjoy about Jordan: there are so many things to look at from so many different times.

The other thing that is nice to notice is that there are no other sites currently on the watch list.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Crafts @ the 2nd circle

Today I went to visit 2 different shops, one very exciting, the other a bit less. They are located not far from each other just next to the Intercontinental hotel and behind Reems, our famous sharwama stand at the second circle.

The first one, the "exciting one" is Alaydi, the Jordan Craft Development Centre. It is hidden in a private villa.

So what do they sell? Rugs and carpets, a great display of old bedouin rugs, kilims and cushions. There is jewellery, embroidery, pottery and much more. You will find small souvenirs and furniture. I really fell for this place, it's great. My friend who recommended it, asked me if I needed to spend money and that it shouldn't be any problem as they accept Visa! I did buy a few things, including some last Christmas decorations. It is well worth a visit.

The other shop, much smaller, is located a bit further down the road. It is called Alburgan.

You will find some nice things here as well, most decorations, cushions...

Thursday, 16 December 2010

More tourists to Jordan with Easyjet

As of end of March 2011 it will be a bit cheaper to fly from Amman to London (and vice versa) as Easyjet is opening a new route to Amman. I find that quite exciting. Not that I am a big fan of Easyjet, but more because it should make RJ and BMI lower their rates as well, and that's great news!

A return trip from London will apparently start at £106 inc taxes (according to this website) - the tickets should be going on sale today but I can't find the route on easyjet's website. It's a huge difference with the £500 + it costs on the 2 other airlines operating on this route.

Apart from the obvious advantage for little me, it is fantastic for Jordan - it will help boosts tourism even more. Every month there are reports in the papers about the rise in tourist visits to our little Kingdom, the construction of a new terminal and the opening of such routes by Easyjet can only be good news for Jordan.

Now that means as well, that the authorities need to step up to it. Some of our tourism site are quite nice in terms of orientation - like the Citadel for example. But others like Petra have tons of work to do to greet more visitors. Some sites have been bumping up their prices these lasts months, it's the case of Petra or the Baptism site, but these sites also lack of infrastructure and serious money needs to be invested.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Hot chocolate and Christmas goodies at the Sheraton Amman

X-mas tree in the Green Lounge
Yesterday I indulged myself. I took Bibs to the Sheraton for a hot chocolate. It was yummy, make that Yummy with a capital Y. For 7JD you get a peek in heaven for a little time. If you are into hot chocolate of course.

It comes with marshmallows, whipped cream, strawberries and chocolate sauce; you can have it with Baileys, if you are really naughty.

They also sell Christmas biscuits which are really nice. Bibs had the small bag on the right and she devoured them. The bags come in 3 sizes.

I love these houses! I don't think they sell those though.

Tomorrow and next Monday they have live Christmas carols in the Green Lounge at 7pm... might go back for some more hot chocolate. Yummy! They have a special Christmas menu as well with smoked salmon bagels or apple and raisin strudel. I love Christmas!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

After the sand and the snow, Amman is clean again?!

I think the entrance to my building is cleaner that court yard of Buckingham Palace, and I am sure Queen Elisabeth II likes her environment to be spotless.

I know, snow makes things look dirty when it disappears - but this for me is beyond believe. As I took a cab this morning in my street, I realised that all the Harris' have been very busy cleaning, not only the entrances to the building and houses, but also the pavements, there is water absolutely everywhere.

Then as I change neighbourhood, I realise that shops, fast-food restaurants are doing the same. So everybody is praying and crying out for rain. And when it comes we use the water to clean the streets and the cars with? This is something I just cannot understand. There is really a huge education problem here. Or do people simply not care? Is it more important that the city is clean after a snowy day or that those living in areas where there are water shortages actually have some water?

Water preservation needs to be built into people's livestyle. The government, but also schools need to step in for kids to understand how important water is. For the parents and the older generations I fear it is too late: what I see in the streets around here show that to me.

Monday, 13 December 2010

And it snowed in Amman

I have to admit, yesterday when my housekeeper told me someone had told her it would snow today, I smiled. Well it happened. Not a lot, just a bit and at 7 o'clock it was nearly all gone again. But still snow it is. Schools are closed, Bobs was wondering how many had not shown up for work this morning and I'll be an Ammanite and stay at home today, not so much because of the cold, but more because I really don't trust the drivers out there!

can you see it?

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Winter in Amman and a Christmas Bazaar

One good thing rarely arrives alone: winter has arrived in Amman and with it some long wanted rain. Today has been a real winter day: cold, rain, hail and wind, a strong and cold and sandy wind. I am glad for the rain, not because I like it, but because we need it, still I admit I am happy because tomorrow afternoon it should be over and done with: back to sunshine and warmer temperature. Yet we need more rain, it has barely rained this autumn - I can count the days on one hand - and Jordan desperately needs water.

So with the winter weather, came my first visit to a Ammani Christmas Bazaar this week-end. Organised under the patronage of HRH Prince Raad Bin Zeid and Al-Hussein Society and in cooperation with the diplomats and the different ladies clubs in Amman it was a well organised event. It opened at 11am, I was there at 11 and it was absolutely packed: Jordanians and expats.

There were stands from many many countries: including all Scandinavian countries. I bought myself a lovely Finnish table-cloth for Christmas, as well as some red candles and other small hand-made things.

The French stand, on the right above, was very very busy. They were selling all kind of French food that is impossible to get here: rillette, foie gras, sausages or Calisson d'Aix, a French almond sweet. I was told that I managed to miss the Malay food however, didn't see their stand, I won't forget next year!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Breakfast Review II: Le Royal Amman

While I was still in the middle of packing for our holidays, I still managed to enjoy one more breakfast with the other mums and babies. We decided to try out the breakfast at Le Royal Hotel.

View of the hotel from Zahran Street
The hotel is located on 3rd circle, very impressive with its 31 floors and 13 food & beverage outlets. We had our breakfast high up, sorry I can't remember what floor, but to be honest it doesn't matter cause the restaurant is located in the middle of the building so there is no fancy view! A shame it would have added to the experience.

The breakfast was average. The pastries were nice, Bibs loved them and swallowed 2 mini croissants in an eye beat. I didn't like the omelette, the pancakes were fluffy but just common. The greeting was nice and the waiters looked after us, however I needed to leave before my friends because Bibs was too tired and me thinking about my luggage: I left my 16JDs on the table with my friends. One of the waiters actually stopped me and asked if I had paid as I was leaving the restaurant. hmm not my idea of service when there are still people sitting at my table. 

So, not the best in town, probably the least interesting we have had so far.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

From our Kitchen: Babs' yummy gingerbread cakes

Today I had Bobs at home as it was a holiday, Islamic New Year, so I decided to start my Christmas bakes.

It is a classic, Gingerbread cake, but instead of doing one big cake from which I slice, I prefer to make them in smaller versions...

What you need:

260 gr all purpose flour
1 tsp (5gr) baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 ground cloves
115 gr unsalted butter @ room temp
100 gr light brown sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of an orange
120ml molasses
240ml milk

Orange icing (optional)
150 gr sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
How to make them:

Preheat the oven at 175 degrees C (350 F) with the rack in the centre. Butter and flour the form or a 23cm round/square cake pan. The sides have to be high.

In a bowl mix the flour, baking soda and spices.
In a second bowl, beat the butter and sugar till light and well blended (about 2-3 minutes). Add the eggs, one at the time and beat well in between. Continue to beat and add the orange zest and the molasses. Add the dry mixture and the milk, alternating, starting and finishing with the flour mixture.

Add the mixture in the form or the cake pan, leaving a bit of space for the mixture to rise while baking. The small cakes will take about 12-15 minutes, one large one about 40-45 minutes. To check if the cakes are done insert a tooth-stick, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Let cool off in form for about 10 minutes, before removing it and leaving it to cool off completely.

Icing - optional, but gives a nice touch. Better on a large cake.
Mix the icing sugar and juice until smooth, the icing is thick but can be spread.
You can also add minced fresh ginger, nuts or use lemon instead of the orange...

I found the form with the small men and Christmas trees at Istiklal in Sweiffeh.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Ultimate Christmas Shop! and a little bit of art

Yesterday I was walking with Bibs around in Sweffieh. It's really an area that is worth exploring and I need to do some posts about it. Anyway, I had seen this Christmas shop that I wanted to check out. This is the place to go if you need golden balls for your tree, Christmas napkins, candles (you know the ones that smell of X-mas) or other decorations. The Ultimate Christmas Shop.

You love Christmas? You need that shop. The napkins are only 1 or 2JD max and he has lots of different ones. The decorations are not expensive either. Oh and he plays Christmas carols!

The reason I went to Sweffieh in the first place was to pick up some prints we wanted to get framed. There is a shop called Top Art, the guy is very good and we got 12 prints and paintings framed in only 5 days! It is also a gallery and they sell lots of different kind of paintings, they have something like 4 or 5 floors only with art. When we went last week I noticed two paintings by a Jordanian artist and I really liked them, yesterday they were still there so I decided that that meant I should buy them!

They represents scenes of life as they can be found in caves in Wadi Rum. I don't really know from what era, but my guess is that it is a very long time ago! The one on the left represents a woman putting her child to sleep and the one on the right a person harvesting in the top corner and one making fire underneath.

Prepare yourselves for some more posts about Christmas, it's my favourite season of the year and I must admit, it's a bit difficult to know that I won't be with my parents, sis and her kids this year! But not all is bad: Bobs' parents are coming so that's good.

Happy Christmas Preparations!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Back in Amman 2: Karak Castle

To get to Karak you can take the Dead sea highway or the King's highway (through Wadi Mujib) where the scenery is much more exciting, but it would be a bit too long for Bibs - she tends to get very bored in the car. So we took the Desert highway, the fastest way to get there. We managed to find Karak and the castle without getting lost, not thanks to the signs though...

a sign, with some remains from the elections
view of the castle
The castle, probably the largest in Jordan, from the Crusaders' time, was built in 20 years and finished in 1161, when it became the residence of the lord of Transjordan (the most important fief of the Crusader kingdom, as it was rich in both produce and tax revenues). But long before the crusaders arrived in the region (some 29 centuries ago), the fortress of Kir Heres (or Kir-Haresesth) is mentionned several times in the Bible, like in the Book of Kings (2 King 3:25): "In the end, there was only Kir-hareseth left, which the slingers surrounded and battled." - a descritpion of the Israelites assaulting Moab and taking the fortress. There is also another version of this event: which is the famous Mesha Stele or Moabite Stone. The site being this old came obviously also in the hands of the Nabateans (the ones from Petra). There is one small remain from the 2nd century AD.

Nabataean Relief
It is the bust of a man - unfortunately he has lost his head, but it has been identified as a funerary monument of a Nabataean cavalryman. 

View towards the Dead Sea and Israel
View South towards the Lower Court
The views are spectacular. It is said that on a clear day you can see as far as the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. 

There is a small museum presenting findings from Karak and the Moab region.

Entrance to the Museum (lower court)

There is a small leaflet availbale at the visitor's center. It is well made with lots of information. The trouble is only that it is not that easy to know exactly where you are in the castle, so it is good to have the leaflet at all times and follow the small plan. A guide kind of just took us along (we paid him 2jd) and he showed us some of the things. It is also possible to rent audio equipment for 5jd. Depending on how much you want to know about the site. As usual I feel that I don't know enough, so when my parents come next year I'll probably go back for a second round.

The castle is built in 2 levels (upper court and lower court), as can be seen clearly on the pictures beneath. There are 2 main periods: the Crusaders, late 12 century and the Mamluk, 13th to 15th century. 

Crusader Galleries

Upper court - inside view of the Crusader Gate 

You can walk around completely freely in the castle. There are a few signs along the way, but there are places where we wouldn't have gone without the guide, like the prison or the dormitories. The entry to the castle is 1JD for tourists and 150fils for residents. It is not a stroller friendly site, there are steps everywhere. Bibs enjoyed walking around, picking up stones and being carried a little bit as well, when down in the prison cells. There are no lights whatsoever in the underground vaults, only small openings here and there in the ceiling or the walls so the guide was walking around with a flash-light.

The castle is a must visit in Jordan. Then there is also the city of Karak. It used to be completely fortified and there are still towers and hidden entrances to the castle around the city. There are plenty places to eat and drink around the castle should it be lunch time.

Back in Amman 1: a French Breakfast @ Paul's

So we are back! Back from our fab holidays. Yesterday we decided to use a little bit of our stored energy and make the drive to Karak to visit its castle.

We started with a stop at Paul's for a French breakfast. The croissant was soft and warm and yummy. The baguette, the closest you get to a very good bread in Amman. Even if it is located in a mall, the atmosphere is quite nice, nearly French. They have several options for breakfast (healthy, continental, rich in fiber, low in salt...). We both took the continental, which includes: a warm drink, fresh orange juice, a pastry, a half baguette with jams and butter, for a total of 7JD (inc tax) / per person. Even the coffee is good.
Bibs was a bit hungry, she got a hand on my croissant before the picture!

We then started the drive southwards, about an hour and a half on the desert highway.

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