Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Attention! Rant! This is a supermarket rant!

Since Saturday I was the most happy juice drinker in Amman, no Jordan. I don't drink a lot of juice, but once in a while a like a glass of juice - and when I say juice, I mean NOT FROM CONCENTRATE juice.

This is a very quick shot of Cozmo's juice stand - well no this is maybe not even half of the juice stand they have. And all these - except one maybe - are all juice made from concentrate. And not only that but they are so sweet it is unbelievable. I could go to Miles in Mecca Mall and buy fresh squeezed orange juice, but I make that everyday at home so no need... No, I long for M&S fresh juices or from Waitrose...

And then last Saturday I found this:

The reason for my rant. Seriously, they spoiled everything. I was so excited and said to Bobs, look Apple Juice, Not From Concentrate - and he went "am sure it's the same as the others" - but I persevered I bought 1 carton. And guess what? The best apple juice I have had since we moved. 4 days later I go back to Cozmo, and guess what? No more apple juice.

That's the really annoying thing here: it's the same with yogurts, for a couple of months they have had Activia yogurts: mango, peach and apricots... and now we are back to square one with only strawberry and nature. why? They used to have another type of yogurts that Bibs loved, suddenly you can't get them anymore. why? Looking for creme fraiche: you can get it once in a while. and i could go on and on. sigh!

and sigh! so next time (if there is a next time) that they have my apple juice, i'll buy all of them!!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Birthday by the pool at the Sheraton Amman

Yesterday was one of my friend's birthday - I don't say how much, cause that's not polite haha, and she really wanted to go to the pool at the Sheraton, aka Club on Five, so that's what we planned and we had a fab day!

I really like the pool at the Sheraton, it's a lovely space to spend in the sun (or the shadow) and now the temperature of the water is perfect. It costs 20JD to have access if you are not the member, also on Fridays. I think it is the standard rate in Amman for the week, but I have heard that some hotels charge more on the Friday.

Outdoor pool at the Sheraton - Club on Five
Kids pool

It's really nice with the kids pool - when Bibs will be a bit bigger, she'll be able to walk around in it! All the kids loved it.

There is a also a pool bar, that serves salads, sandwiches and pizzas (no pizza during Ramadan though!), as well as drinks of course. Price wise I find it not incredibly expensive: I had a filet steak sandwich, with some really yummy bread and 2 glasses of fresh orange juice and paid something along with 18JD - that's OK for a pool in a 5* hotel.

No birthday without cake, of course. We had asked the hotel to prepare a cake for our friend... It was gorgeous: with a strawberry mouse and cream and coconut pastry!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

In the Newz: Sri Lankan Maids and cyber crime

A month ago Sri Lanka banned domestic helpers to be sent to Jordan because of salary problems. Several Sri Lankan maids had contacted their embassy because they were not paid their salary in full, they are here through an agency. In Jordan, you can mainly find maids from the Philippines or Sri Lanka. Filipinos are usually paid more. So the contracts for the Sri Lankan maids - and here we talk live-in maids - stipulate a salary of $200/month, ouch not an awful lot. I wouldn't be surprised if most of them were working 7 days a week from dawn to late night. Some would argue that they are better here, at least they can eat, have a sheltered place to sleep blabla bla. Yes, I agree there is a reason why they are here and not at home in Sri Lanka - but I think their conditions are a little worse than what they expected when they arrived here. I am writing like everybody treat their maids badly and that is of course NOT the case... However, there must be a reason why Sri Lanka put the ban in place to start with. So the article says that the domestic helpers were only paid $150/month (that's less that I pay my housekeeper who comes 4 mornings in the week). I'd be more than happy if they can sort this out and if the maids get their salary... but here comes the cherry on the cake: these recruitment agencies have of course lost money in the process so they are urging the government to speed up things so that they can start recruitment from other countries, like Ethiopia.Why? because it is becoming more expensive to recruit in Sri Lanka (or other countries like Indonesia or the Philippines). So what's the idea, pay the Ethiopian girls $100?
I think this is really one of the cultural differences I trouble the most with. When we rented our apartment, the owner showed us around and went in to a small room behind the kitchen and went "and this is for the maid". That room is 2x2m - yes there is also a shower and a toilet and a lock on the door. I just smiled nicely. I know for some it's normal, but not for me. You can read the full story form the Jordan Times here.

The second and more controversial subject in the papers is the Information Systems Crime Law 2010 which has been recently introduced and has come under great fire. Several articles can be found, including: cyber crimes law helps electronic media, where Marwan Juma, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology explains that the law is there to protect everyone and speaks primarily about cyber crimes such hacking and data interception. He also says that "The law penalises with a fine anyone who disseminates data or information, via the Internet or any information system, that involves defamation, contempt or slander of any person". Finally he talks about the article 13 (the most controversial) which gives the right to the police to raid "any place suspected of having been used to commit cyber crimes" with permission from the public prosecutor.
There is then another article in the Jordan Times: 'No linkage between cyber crimes law and blocking access to certain sites', and this one explains that the government has started banning access to certain sites because: "one hour wasted per day by each of the 100,000 public sector employees who have Internet access costs the government around JD70 million a year". OK this one I follow! In the private sector all kind of social networks (facebook, myspace...) are often restricted because yes it does cost a lot of money having employees updating their status, ranting about their job, the weather... but news websites?
Then to the more controversial article on AmmonNews.net: Is Jordan the latest enemy of press freedom online? This article argues that the law is very vague - and it would allow the government to interpret the way they want - that it is an attempt to silence the critics and the local news sites. It also underlines the fact that the law is a temporary one and thus many say unconstitutional and " accuse the government of acting as if the state of emergency lifted 20 years ago is still in force. The Jordan Professional Associations Complex said the government "has once again violated the constitution by issuing more temporary laws that are not of an urgent nature, as stipulated in Article 94a of the Jordanian constitution." This articles also says that the police can do the raid mentioned above, without prior authorisation from the public prosecutor.

So the question is: what is defamation, contempt or slander?

Drawing from the International Herald Tribune

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Bibs' birthday cakes

Just a quick post to show you Bibs' birthday cakes. As it coincided with our return to Amman from  our holidays, we celebrated her big day twice: on the day and we were just the 3 of us and then a little bit later with her friends.

Bibs loves animals - during the holidays we took her to London Zoo and it was fabulous to see her laugh as soon as she saw the animals move. Also, my parents have been taking care of my cat since I left home (14 years ago, very good parents I know!) and when Bibs saw her she was ecstatic, most of the holidays we spent chasing old Minette, aka Eugenie.

Minette having a walk in the garden
So the cakes had to be animals... One of Bibs' favorite animals got to be the giraffe - so on the day that's what she got.

Her favorite bed time story is about Elmer the elephant. So yes, you guessed the second one is an elephant (not quite like Elmer though).

Bibs loved her 2 cakes!

Monday, 23 August 2010

My Ramadan discoveries 1: Carrefour & qatayef

Finally, I have access to my blog; For the past few days, I haven't been able to log onto my blog or any other blogs hosted by blogger... Quite an annoying experience actually! I hope this won't happen again in a too near future.

We are well into the second week of Ramadan now, so I thought I'd write a little about my discoveries, not an awful many, but then there isn't an awful lot happening either!

If before it wasn't a good idea to go to Carrefour after 5pm on Fridays, well during Ramadan, it's not a good idea to go at all on Fridays. I think the whole of Amman is in Carrefour on Friday afternoon! Never in my life have I seen so many people, some with not 1 but 2 trolleys, and these are just so full.


Then we have the biggest displays of dried fruits: dates, apricots or figs…


And the all time favourite Ramadan sweet is qatayef – a less sweet version of the American pancake. All bakeries sell them and they even have special stands. I have bought them a couple of times before Ramadan, but during the Holly Month, this is really a big hit - some say they taste special!

The Mill, a good bakery at 5th Circle

This is what they look like when bought. The qatayef is only cooked on one side and then put together. That’s how I eat them, with Nutella – Bibs likes that too! Traditionally, a half is filled with cheese or nuts and spices like cinnamon, folded in 2 and then they are deep fried. These sweets even had an article about them in the Jordan Times of last week!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

A day at the Mövenpick Hotel, Dead Sea

For the past week we have had some friends from Abu Dhabi staying, so I have been busy showing them a little bit around. One of the things we planned was of course a day trip to the Dead Sea and this time we chose The Mövenpick Hotel and we really had a lovely day. Bibs and my friends' son had a great time in the pool, of course it was really hot and this time I felt the humidity as well, specially compared to Amman where the weather is so dry. I was impressed by the grounds of the Kempinski Hotel next door, but the grounds of the Mövenpick are as lovely and I preferred the ambiance of the hotel. The entrance fee is 20JD for the use of the pool and 20JD pre-paid for F&B. I guess they really want people to use the restaurants as well. I managed to negotiate so we only paid the entrance fee (we still had lunch though) - but I don't really like being "obliged" to pay for something I might not use. It only worked because it was a manager at the gate, otherwise we would probably have had to pay.

Views of the hotel

The pools are located beneath the hotel, so you have to walk a little bit to get there. As usual in Jordan we were missing some signs and had to ask our way - but then I start to believe that it is part of the Jordanian experience!

The first 2 pools are for everybody - by that I mean that kids are allowed... There is also an adult area, where kids are not. I think it is a good idea - well I liked it before I had Bibs, now I would like to have access because all the other kids are still making too much noise haha! but hey, that's the way it is. There is also a children's pool with most of it in the shadow, but it is small so quickly crowded.

This is the "adult only" part, located just before the access to the beach. I like the lounge part very much. I don't know if the restaurant part is only adults as well. As with the other neighbour the Marriott, there are stairs all the way to get down to the beach and the sea.

My friends thought that the dead sea experience was hilarious. We had lunch by the bar - the service was very good (for a pool bar area!), the food was just average - missing a bit of taste. The life guards at the pools were really nice as well - they came with toys for Bibs, which I thought was a lovely touch.

As usual I haven't seen the rooms, but I liked the hotel a lot and would give it a try.

Some more pictures of the grounds...

Friday, 13 August 2010

Lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel Amman

As I have said in my previous post about Ramadan, the only places you can have lunch is in hotels, and should you be looking for a glass of wine then you need to go to a 4 or 5 star one. So today, we decided to go for lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel, and chose their Asia restaurant. It serves Japanese, Thai and Malaysian dishes for a rather salty check, the food is good though!

Four Seasons Hotel

Asia is located on the 1st floor of the hotel with a nice view over Amman. The restaurant has a contemporary design and has an open kitchen, a feature we particularly enjoy. They have 3 chefs, 2 from Malaysia and 1 from Thailand. We had a lovely starter, their Thai fish cakes were particularly good. Then I had a Malaysian Nasi Goreng - fried rice, served with a fried egg, satay beef and pickled vegetables; Bobs had a green Thai curry. You should count approximately 15JD per dish (excl. taxes and service charge). The service was not as good as could be expected. (You will notice a sushi is missing! Bobs was too hungry to wait for me to take the picture...)

We then went to the pool. Bibs loves swimming and today was the first time with her daddy. They have an outdoor and indoor pool, the areas are really nice. A fee does apply, but I forgot to check how much it is. We were really impressed by the changing rooms, the areas were lovely, but it wasn't that - no, we loved the fact that there was hair gel, shaving cream available to use - shaving cream yes, even in the ladies, for those who could have forgotten to shave their armpits or legs... love it! Nice little touch.

Indoor pool

Outdoor pool
We had a lovely day, it is so nice to spend some time together. Bibs really loves having her daddy around.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ramadan Kareem!

Today is the first day of the holy month of Ramadan and so I wish a very blessed month ahead.

The decision was announced yesterday during a ceremony that took place at the King Hussein Mosque. The start and the end of Ramadan are decided after the sight of the crescent moon, known as Hilal. According to the Jordan Times, the sighting did not take place in Jordan, but the decision has been based on Astronomical calculations, and it is the first time that astronomy decides when the Holy Month is to start, this is despite a local fatwa, a religious edict, which says that the crescent moon must be seen by at least one person, in order for Ramadan to start. The Holy Month lasts for 29 or 30 days until the next new moon. The sighting took place in Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Golf, though.

So what does it mean for us? well what have I discovered? I went to do grocery shopping this morning at Cozmo and it was business as usual - Safeways looked closed though - but then I don't really go in the morning so I don't know! Restaurants are closed during the day, only hotel restaurants are open as usual, you can get alcohol. I went to pick up Bobs at the hotel just before Iftar (the meal Muslims eat when they break fast after sunset) - and the roads were very deserted at that time. Some of my friends have told me to stay away from the roads a couple of hours before as drivers are tired, hungry and want to go as fast as possible to wherever they are heading. Tonight our street is very quiet, we usually have kids running around playing outside, couples on an evening walk... One more thing is that all business times are reduced, and that means that Bibs will see her Daddy more during this month. I am sure that I will discover more as time passes.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Happy Birthday Bibs!

Happy Birthday Bibs! Today my little girl is One. Where is the year gone? Of course much has happened in this year, but still I just cannot believe it! "Time disappears when you become mum", I was told and how true is that. It's funny, if I try to remember when we did this or that in the past year I will think about how many weeks or how many months Bibs was. Everything changes when you become a parent. But what a fabulous journey it is.

During the holidays she finally decided that it was time to learn to stand up by herself and now she does it all the time and giggles! We will have her birthday party on Monday and I am really looking forward to that. Today we have Bobs at home, will have cake, a glass of champagne and open some presents. One, my baby is one. Soon she will be toddlering around. Happy Birthday my little princess, you make your mummy and daddy proud and so happy.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Where did the water pressure go?

We are back in Amman! And the water pressure I had to leave it in Europe as well as the cold water. These 2 things are really nice, so all you guys in countries with water pressure/cold water, please enjoy it!

We had a fabulous holiday - like all holidays it went far too quick. The first week I had no Internet so no posts, the second week I had some Internet, but the thought of typing on an AZERTY keyboard stopped me from typing anything longer than a couple of lines on an email. Will be preparing my posts slowly, but I think it will get a bit more difficult for me to find time during the day for my blog as Bibs is now standing up, refusing to nap, ... ah she is 1 tomorrow. She has grown so much during the holidays, it's amazing. I cannot believe she'll be one, it's actually scary, scary how fast time flies.

I am very happy to be back in Amman. Yes it is hot, but there is no humidity so it's okay. I am not going to go out just at noon, but I did take Bibs for a walk yesterday and it wasn't as bad as I thought. But then I like the heat, the sun... It's funny before I left the fact of walking around where there are no pavements was really annoying me. As I walked yesterday, I realised that it's just part of being home now. Seriously I don't mind it that much anymore - it's funny what you get use to! Bibs is happy too. She found all her toys, her room and specially her Daddy! They have missed each other a lot, a lot.

On the downside I am still waiting for our luggage and Bibs' car seat, so for the moment we are home-bound! Not really happy about it as I needed to get some presents for my daughter for tomorrow, nothing much I can do about it though - good Daddy has already bought his fair share of pressies.

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