Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Why I like our life in Amman!

A couple of weeks ago Bibs was invited to a birthday party. One of my friend's daughter turned 2 (big girl!). We had a nice afternoon with cake and birthday song. As usual in Jordan, there were mums from different courntries and it is always interesting to hear what they think about life here. One of the mums was from Houston, Texas and is married to a Jordanian. They came to live here not too long ago. I usually shoot the question "so what do you think of living here..." but she beat me to it.

And my answer was "i really like it here". She looked at me as she was thinking "what can she possibly like about living in Amman"... and then she asked me exactly that. So here we go: a top 10 of things I like about our life in Amman.

1. important for my mental health: I get up in the morning and the sun is shinning.  And the day when it doesn't, I know it won't last. I know some say I'll be fed up, but let me reassure you... I won't!

2. life is easy. Much easier than in the UK. i have a housekeeper who comes 3 times a week, a hares available should i need to change a light bulb and I buy my vegetables from a guy who stops in front of my building.

3. Jordanians are nice. It is lovely to be in an environment where most people are actually helpful

4. the food. sharwama, humous, the best dates ever... Tomatoes that taste of tomatoes

5. my baby group! and all the lovely mums & babies/toddlers we have met already

6. interesting country, with tons of things to visit and discover

7. the driving haha!

8. though Bobs is working 5.5 days a week I see him more in the evenings than when we were living in the UK

9. how much respect and love the Jordanians show to the Royal family - I really think it is lovely.

10. Last but not least! i dont have to work, which means that i can spend every day with my lovely Bibs. Let's be honest in Europe i should have had to find a job again, we couldn't have afforded this.

And much more...

Of course nothing is perfect. So a top 3 of the bouhbouh things:

1. no pavements: so you can't walk anywhere, I need to take my car whereever I want to go. - that's another thing this lady from Houston didn't really understand! Why should I want to walk?!?

2. grocery shopping: it's expensive (imported goods) and you can't be sure to get what you want just because they had it last time! Well actually not only grocery, all type of shopping. Amman is not a shopping destination!

3. euh can't think of one right now!

What do you like about the place where you live??

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Pampering & Baby group!

We are a group of more or less 12 mums who meet a couple of times every week, once at the British Club and then either in a cafe or at somebody's place. Well yesterday one of the mums had arranged that we could have a manicure/pedicure done! What a fab idea. It's true it is not always easy to find the time for yourself when you have a baby (or more) to look after, so instead of going to a salon for having it done, well the salon came to us! That's a great thing about the Middle East - those things are possible. Wouldn't even dare to imagine what it would cost in the UK (or other western country)... but yesterday I had a pedicure and manicure done for the bargain price of 15JD, yes yes 15. For 5 hours there was 2 ladies who did all our nails while we were looking after eachothers baby.

Got to like that!!

Monday, 29 March 2010

A Day out at the Dead Sea

Obviously we didn't just drive to the Dead Sea for the pleasure of driving! Last friday we went to have lunch and spend a few hours by the sea. We chose Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa for our first visit.

As we arrive to get access to the hotel, we are greeted by the usual security checks. Except here you don't get in if you don't have a reservation. If you don't have a reservation and just want to get access to the pool and other facilities, you have to pay 30JD per person and 10 of these go towards a voucher which can be used on food/drink. So the car is checked, the trunck is opened and we are allowed in!

Pictures taken as we wait!

The hotel has several pools (out-door, in-door, heated or not + one only for adults!), a Spa, a play area for children and of course a beach with direct access to the Dead Sea.

The weather wasn't the best, but as soon as the sun was making an appearance between the clouds it was really hot! We spend a bit of time by the pool and Bobs had a swim, while I was playing with Bibs under the parasol. She really enjoyed being outside, she loves to feel the wind on her small face! it makes her laugh. We had lunch at Champions. They have plenty of different restaurants, but we wanted something quick, so we thought a burger would do! and a caramel ice cream afterwards.

View of the Dead Sea from the hotel - as you can see some rain is on the way! But fortunately it didn't last very long. And the temperature was still nice despite of the rain - but I would say not good enough to spend a day by the pool. I suppose you can visit the Dead Sea year around - but I am a bit fussy went it comes to the weather and I like my sun! So if I should stay at the hotel I would probably go a bit later during the year to make sure I have good weather. If I should guess I would say April, May and then September, October (No guarantee though!!)

And now the famous Dead Sea... I didn't try but Bobs did. He said it was really funny. You can't actually walk out in the water, after a bit you have to sit down and then you float! No swimming either. You stay on you bum or your back.

The white you can see on the stones is actually salt! It is one of the saltiest bodies of water - being 8 times as salty as an ocean. The salt content is between 30 and 35%, depending on the season. Bobs said it was actually strange because the water didn't taste of salt as such, but more like some kind of medecine. The Dead Sea supports no life what so ever - no fish and no plants. Next time I take my bathsuit with me so I can try...

And some more pictures if you fancy...

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Between Amman & the Dead Sea

It takes approximately 45 minutes to drive from Amman to the Dead Sea. It is a very beautiful road (and a bit dangereous as well), specially here in spring time as the trees are blossoming and everything is green. So I thought I would share a few pictures. They are all taken from the car. It is not easy to stop on the road and with Bibs in the car I prefer not to.

It goes down and down and down... Amman is between 800m and 1400m in the mountains and the shores of the Dead Sea are at 420 under sea level. All that in roughly 40km!

We are at sea level. 18 kilometers still to go. 

A road check before you arrive to the hotel area by the Dead Sea. The car in front of us was stopped and the guard asked some questions, the car behind us was send to the side, I suppose for a search. We were waved through and that's a good thing: first of all I always panic when asked questions by the police or the army, don't know why. It's
like I have done something wrong even when I haven't! and then I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten my drivers licence at home, because I changed my bag and forgot to take it! So shortly after Bobs took the wheel for the rest of the journey... Not easy if we get stopped to explain to a non-english-speaking jordanian police officer that I still have a (post) pregnancy brain!!

One thing you see everywhere specially on Fridays is people having a picnic. They just stop on the side of the road, find a tree a sit under it. So you have cars parked everywhere on the side of the road. They even make a fire to have a barbeque! They only thing is that they also leave the garbage behind them instead of taking it with them to throw it out... so you often see plenty of platic bags hanging in the trees...Ashame...

Something else on the side of the road: vegetables! You see women, men and children selling small or big amounts of fruits and vegetables. It can be just one sorts: oranges, eggplants, tomatoes, courgettes... or a stall with many different varieties. And then you have others just selling random things!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Bobs' WonTon recipe

One thing that we are missing here in Amman is proper chinese food! We are really missing our Dim Sum and other dishes at our favorite restaurant, Royal China in London. But we do make some stuff ourselves. Bobs has ordered some pork through the hotel, so today we are having WonTon for dinner, yummi! Of course we could make it with chicken but it is not as nice as with pork. Thought I would share our recipe, it's really easy and once the stuffing is prepared (and the folding mastered!!) it only takes minutes to cook so you can prepare them in advance or even freeze them (before they are cooked, should you have made too many). So here we go:

250g of minced pork - we use loin
6 big shrimps more or less finely minced as you prefer. We like to have a small piece of shrimp here or there - (optional - don't need to add if you want a cheaper version)
2-3cm of ginger, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2-3/4 of a beaten egg
1 tablespoon of Tapioca flower (or Cornstarch)
2 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of soja sauce
a little bit of salt

1 beaten egg for folding

To serve:
Spring onion, finely sliced
Coriander leaves
Soja, chilli sauce & sesame oil - we eat it with french mustard as well (not typical chinese, though!)

you can also add chestnuts, to give a crunchy twist, coriander leaves if you want a bit of green in there.

a pack of WonTon pastry (you can buy it from any chinese store, they are fresh - or even better Japaneese ones: the finer the better) or if you fancy, you can make it yourself. I am sure you can find a recipe online!

You mix everything together in a big bowl and voila! I suggest you boil a tiny ball to taste it - to make sure you got the seasonning right!

I should have taken some pictures of how Bobs is folding his WonTons, but you can either go on YouTube to see how it is done or do like me: one square of pastry, a bit of farce on one half, some egg on all the sides and then I fold in order to make a triangle. What ever form you make just make sure you press firmly down around the meat so all air is out - so the meat can't get out when you boil them.

Put the WonTons in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Put in a dish and add the spring onions & coriander. Soja sauce (and sesame if wanted), then chilli sauce and mustard on the side! Promise it is yummi!!!

You can also eat in a soup... that recipe is for another day!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Earth Hour

Tomorrow @ 8.30pm wherever you are, it is earth hour - 1 hour for individuals, businesses, goverments to show their support to a cause that is getting more and more urgent. Climate change.

It all started in Sydney, Australia in 2007 where homes & businesses turned their lights off for one hour. Last year 4000 cities in 88 countries switched off.

I need to buy some candles! Tomorrow night at 8.30pm I am switching off for an hour. You can show your support by going to the Earth Hour website & of course by turning off your lights. Just one hour...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

A cake for every occasion

My parents left this morning - we will miss them, and they will specially miss Bibs... so I am back to a more regular posting. While they were here, we had 2 different occasions for celebration and I thought I would share our yummi cakes! Not that I made them myself!

But before these 2 we had another one a couple of weeks after we arrived to Amman, as Bibs was celebrating her 6 months. So here you go.

Absolutely yummi chocolate/praline cake! Ashame Bibs couldn't have any...

My dad's birthday cake! gorgeous with coffee soaked sponge with layers of whipped cream and strawberries - roasted almonds and cut fruits as decoration

And then one for me! My first mothers day. Really light chocolate mousse with a biscuit and strawberry gelee base. Hmmm!!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A little note on... security

I must admit that one of my biggest concerns when we moved to Jordan was security. Jordan is good friends with all it's neighbours, but still... we didn't really know what to expect. And then, we don't hear many things about the small Kingdom of Jordan in European newspapers.

Ovisously everybody know about the terror attacks which happened in Nov 2005, where 3 hotels were hit by suicide bombers and sadly 57 persons died.

But I have to say I feel as much in security here as in Geneva or Copenhagen - certainly more than in Paris or Los Angeles (don't be offended please!). So what is giving that sense of security? Well first of all there is a large amount of police and army around. But that is not the only thing. Hotels have drastic security measures: when somebody drives up to a hotel, the car is searched, boot can be opened and questions might be asked. The number plate of each vehicule is noted. Luggage/hand bags are scanned and all men go through a metal detector, then searched; women are only searched. It is the same measures in all malls, supermarkets and though I thought it was a bit weird in the beginning now it is just part of the routine and I find it somehow reassuring. As well, when you drive out of Amman it is very common to see road blocks, where cars can be searched, papers checked. Nobody are offended, it is normal.

I suppose there are areas in Amman where you don't go, but that's the case everywhere.

So, yes I feel safe in Amman. Even my mum is reassured (and that's no easy task!!). So if you are thinking about a visit to Jordan or thinking about coming to live here that is one thing you don't need to be so concerned about!

Monday, 22 March 2010

"These things were done in Bethabara beyond the Jordan"...

..."where John was Baptising". (John 1:28).

Last week we visited the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ. "Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him" (Matthew 3:13).

Located about 45min from Amman and just 9km from the Dead Sea is the recognised Baptism site, also known as Al Maghtas in Arabic. It is considered to be one of the 3 holliest Christian sites in the world (the 2 others being the Nativity Church in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem). I must say that as Christian I found it very special, to think that I walked on the same soil as Jesus, and to see where He got baptised.

As we arrive, we leave the car and pay the 7JD to get access to a shuttle which then takes us for a 10 minute drive down to the site. And as usual, as I come home and start writting my blog I discover that we didn't see everything! I think it is some kind of Jordanian idea of a joke... or maybe it's their way to make sure you are coming back!

This is the map of the site

On the map there is the road the shuttle takes to get to the site. All you see in the right hand corner is what we didn't see as the shuttle doesn't stop there! I will have to ask next time we go there with Bobs - he was working the day I went with my parents and Bibs of course!

And hop in the shuttle and off we go...
On the way to the Site (this is where there are some things we missed...)

View of River Jordan & the Orthodox Church
To get to the different places we are walking on these paths
This is the place where Jesus was baptised by St John

The first building on the right is what remains of a small chapel. The other building shelters the remains of the Basilica as well as 2 other churches which were build from the 5th century.

Remains of the Basilica

This painting represents the baptism of Jesus Christ: "As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him". (Matthew 3:16)

We then continued our walk towards the River Jordan. It is the border with Israel.

It is actually possible to get baptised at the site. You just need to take a priest with you! For the moment there is only a Greek Orthodox church on the site, but several other churches are being built.

Some more pictures...

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Roman Theater in Amman

The Roman Theater is located at the heart of Amman, it was build between AD 169 and 177.

These pics are taken from The Citadel

The theater is built, exploiting the natural slope of the mountain. With it's three orders on seating tiers it has a capacity of 6000 spectators.

These are the remains of the Forum - just in front of the entrance of the Theater

There are contructions works taken place in front of the Theater at the moment. I guess they are rehabilitating the area. As usual now, I have noticed that I have missed something :) It's a habit now! Aparenty there is a smaller covered theater (called an Odeum) to visit as well! I think it;s relly impressing that there are never any signs. So I have to head back andook for it. There are 2 small museums as well, attached to the theater, I will post about them seperately.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Veggies...Veggies for Sale

Meet ... my Veggie Guy!!!

On one of my walks in the neighbourhood I found a street vendor selling fruit and vegetables. He comes here every monday and I can just call him and he comes to our building! That's another thing that just makes life so easy. When I met him I just bought a pack of strawberries - really yummi - for 750 fils (so not even 1 JD) and then he ran after me with a banana for Bibs; I thought that was really nice and the banana was so tasty!!! So I look forward to next monday so I can call him - I am so glad I found him, I prefer to buy from a vendor than a supermarket. Not only is it cheaper and tastier, but I like to support the local community... I don't think that Carrefour needs my money as much as my Veggie guy!

Monday, 15 March 2010

A Visit to Gerasa

Located 50km north of Amman is Jerash - also known as Gerasa in the bible. Jerash is home to some amazing greco-roman ruins. It was very hot when we we were up there - far too hot for Bibs, so we didn't get to see everything but here are some pictures... It is very impressive!

You walk through a small zouk, where you an buy different souvenirs and handicrafts, to get to the entrance of the site. Good thing as we forgot - as usual - to take water with us... and it was much needed on a hot day like that. We also bought a guide and it is very useful to get a feel for the site. I think I saw some authorised guides as well at the South gate entrance.

We bought some paintings for our apartment. We got the 3 large ones for 55JD and the 2 small ones for free. So all in all not too bad!

Ok, they will look much better on the walls...

 After the zouk we bought our tickets (8JD/person for non Jordanians) and we enter another world.

Arch of Triumph or Hadrian's Arch - Built to commemorate the Emperor's visit to Gerasa in 129AD
The South End of the Hippodrome (reconstructed)
View of the site - with the Temple of Artemis in the background
South Gate entrance

The Forum
Cardo Maximus
Cardo Maximus is 800-metre-long and is the main street of ancient Gerasa. It is along this way that all the main structures of the city could be found: markets, temples... (This is where we stopped - it is just the beginning of what there is to see, so we need to go back, when less hot!)

Temple of Zeus - view from the Oval Plaza
South Theater
The theater has been restored and as well as being as tourist attraction, it is also used in public events. It has 32 rows and can hold 3000 spectators.

To finish our visit in Jerash we had a quick lunch in the restaurant located next to the entrance to the zouk. A mixed grill, served in a sort of pita bread, for 6JD. They have a buffet for 12JD. We didn't have any cash, the waiter said not a problem the machine is just down the road... nearly Bobs had to take the car and was gone for 15 minutes...

So you guessed it we will go back to Jerash for sure! and be back with more pictures...

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