Thursday, October 15, 2015

JORDAN: SLEEPING AND DINING IN AMMAN

Like any large city, Amman has a lot of interesting places to eat, places where Bob would love to wander in and point at tasty menu pictures labeled in Arabic: 
There are also lots of "interesting" places where tourists can sleep, such as the Seven Wonders Hotel.  Hopefully that name doesn't mean they'd be wondering seven times during the night why they were staying there.
Our tour company booked rooms at the Intercontinental Amman, a sister hotel to the Intercontinental we had in Cairo earlier in the trip and in Nairobi last year.
Photo from here
Similar to our other two experiences with Intercontinental, there was plenty of security:

The lobby was beautiful, with live piano music playing much of the time and fresh flowers everywhere (literally--on counters and hanging in vases from the ceiling):
There was plenty of bling:
And there was great art on the walls, if photography of past, present, and future kings of Jordan can be considered art:
These are the Hashemites, who claim to be descendants of Muhammad. From L to R: King Hussein (who ruled Jordan from 1952 to 1999),  King Abdullah II (who has ruled since 1999), and Crown Prince Hussein (who is currently 21 years old).

I kept looking at that picture of King Abdullah. I could swear I had seen him somewhere before. What do you think?
The resemblance is just a little bit creepy.  

Speaking of creepy, on one of our nights in the hotel, two of the couples in our group went out for shawarma at a food stand nearby, but Chris and Stan joined Bob and me for dinner in the hotel restaurant, where Bob ordered this:
If you think that looks like sheep brains, you're not only a genius, but you're right. Chris and Stan, next time you should stick with the other couples. 

On our first night in Amman, we had The Meal to End All Meals of our trip. When I travel with my gourmet husband, what we eat tends to be as almost as important (at least to him) as what we see. Our guide Isam suggested we try Fakhr El-Din Restaurant in Amman, in his opinion the best restaurant in Jordan. By the time we were done, I think we'd decided that he was right. It was everything Bob had dreamed of for a high-end Middle Eastern restaurant--and more. 

We were a little unsure about the place at first when this is what we saw as we pulled up:
The actual restaurant, however, looked peaceful enough. It was in a beautiful old home reportedly once owned by Jordan's first prime minister, Fawzi Al-Mulki. It had been restored and converted into a wonderfully light and airy restaurant that opened in 1997:

The tables were dressed in fine white linens, and the food--a set menu arranged by Isam--came to us as works of art:
The wait staff was very professional but still friendly. That's one of our waiters on the far left, or maybe he was the maitre d':
Once they started bringing the food . . .
Minced raw lamb with spices--
a Middle Eastern version of steak tartare
. . . it just kept coming . . .
Lime juice with mint
. . . and coming . . .
Stuffed grape leaves
 . . . and coming . . .
Baba ghanoush (eggplant)
 . . . and COMING . . .
Chicken liver in lemon sauce, one of five or six different meat dishes (called mashawi) we ate
 . . . each dish more exquisite in both taste and presentation than the last:
Before long, there wasn't any empty space on the table (or in our bellies). This conflagration of small dishes that creates a mosaic of colors, flavors, aromas, and patterns is called mezze in Arabic:
We ate only about half of all the food, if that.

When they brought out the dessert, plates of fruit in syrup . . .
. . . and stacks of fresh fruit, we were nearly comatose:
Oh, to have had a portable refrigerator. This food would have supplied us for the next two days.

On our very last night of the trip, Isam selected another restaurant for us, Reem Al Bawadi Restaurant. 
 Like the previous restaurant, it is in an old stone building filled with character:
It has a rounded interior that makes it feel like a mosque:
Here we are, ready to gorge ourselves one last time:
Bring on the food! We're ready!
This picture taken by Bob cracks me up. We are all taking pictures of our food.
 But isn't this a work of art?
 While not quite as good as Fakhr El-Din, it was still pretty spectacular:
As we waddled out, we said good-bye and thank you to King Abdullah, who was flanked by two rifles (and a taxidermied antelope head to imply what those guns are used for--yeah, right).

4 comments:

  1. At Fakhr El-Din I felt like the king. Amazing setting, presentation and food. I would really like to go back there again some day. The lamb brains were also spectacular for their incredible audacity to be what they really were - no hiding the fact they were brains.

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  2. Looks like that was a really long diner. How does one even comprehend trying all the food let alone finish it?!

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  3. Fakhr El-Din was by far my favorite meal of the entire trip. Unbelievable! King Bob Abdullah was completely unnerving.

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  4. Fun to see the food all arrayed--I can imagine you all just groaning afterwards, but happily so. It was interesting to see that the pianist in the hotel had the lid to the piano closed--dampening the sound. I imagine in a "live" place with stone walls, floors, etc. the noise had to been tamped down. Beautiful hanging flowers!
    At first glance on the Abdullah pictures, I thought you HAD photoshopped in Bob's photo.

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