After spending a few hours on top of one of Amman's seven hills at the Citadel, we drove into the valley and got an up-close look at the spectacular 2nd century AD amphitheater that we had seen from above. It seats 6,000 and is thoughtfully oriented towards the north to provide minimum sun exposure for patrons:
From the Citadel we had noticed a large, black-and-white striped mosque perched on one of the city's hills:
|Photo from our trip to Italy in December 2001.|
|Interior of the church, December 2001|
Nevertheless, Bob's persistence paid off, and Isam led us across a large open square to an administrative building where we waited while he went inside the mosque to negotiate our visit.
The plush rug echoed the shape of the mihrab, and it occurs to me that these sections of carpet do not just create spaces for kneeling individuals, but that they also symbolically represent a doorway to . . . . heaven? Mecca? Something.
Note the mihrab (the brown door facing Mecca) and minbar (the red steps leading to a green podium) on the wall behind him:
The decoration above the mihrab was very simple, but I couldn't help but think of a 1960s flip hair-do when I looked at it:
On a related note, as we traveled around town we would ask Isam various questions about Islam. At some point Bob asked him if he had been to Mecca. Isam told us a story about how a few years ago he had begun to lose weight for no reason. He went from 90 kg to 60 kg (about 200 pounds to 132 pounds). Medical tests gave no explanation, and every day he felt a little weaker. His sister encouraged him to go to Mecca and drink the water. He did and quickly began to recover, and soon he regained all his weight and strength. He kept saying, "Swear to God! What I tell you is true! It happened to me!"
Every country on our trip had some kind of spice market. Rather than being tourist shops, however, these shops in Amman were full of locals buying bags of various kinds of spices. Many of the spices weren't even labeled:
The row of spices below is all different kinds of thyme. I didn't know there is more than one kind. Isn't thyme thyme?
There were a few things that were familiar, such as Lindt, Milka, Snickers, and Reese's chocolate bars and Trident gum, and of course every country these days seems to have a lottery of some kind:
We loved the crazy hustle and bustle of the market, the noisy crowds of Ammanians (Ammanites?), the honking horns, the shops that ranged from hardware stores to baby furniture. Unlike the markets in Egypt and Israel, this one was smack dab in the middle of the busiest traffic of the city, and crossing the street meant risking our lives. In fact, Isam was very careful about taking us across the street together.
At one point in our walk, Isam stopped at a display of used shoes. He quickly picked out a pair of fancy, pointy-toed Italian-looking men's dress shoes that looked brand new, paid for them (without trying them on), and started walking again. The whole transaction took about two minutes. We could tell we were in his stomping grounds.
I'm not sure what this billboard was selling, but it did a good job catching my attention:
Aren't these dresses stunning? I'd like to know how much they cost:
There is something for everyone in the Balad--a store for me on the left, and one for Bob on the right:
This was a nice corner bookstore--no Barnes and Noble in sight. I recognized several of the book jackets, including Walter Isaacson's Einstein on the third row, Hitler's Mein Kampf a couple rows below that, I Am Malala bottom row center, and Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices just one row up and to the right of Malala.
(Psst. We recently attended an open house at the local Islamic Center, where we met a man from Jordan. It came out that we had just visited Jordan, and in our conversation we told him we had eaten at Habibah, a place he knew well. He told us there is an excellent knafeh place in Anaheim. We're going there. Soon.)
We finally gave in to our guide and let him take us to Rainbow Street, an affluent area of Amman. As we got closer, even the graffiti took on a more upscale appearance:
(From Innocents Abroad)
After a fabulous dinner at Reem al Bawadi Restaurant, which I covered in a previous post, our sightseeing was officially over. Our driver navigated the busy streets, past Popeye's (who would have guessed Popeye's is in Jordan) and McDonald's (which is everywhere):
The time came to say good-bye to our fellow travelers:
I have just a few more words about our flight home. Why aren't hummus, seeds, vegetables, and crackers the standard airplane snack in the US? We should be eating this instead of icky packaged snacks:
". . . I had always believed that I left a bit of me wherever I went. I also believed that I took a bit of every place with me. I never felt that more than with this trip. It was as if the art of touching these places, walking these roads, and asking these questions had added another column to my being. And the only possible explanation I could find for that feeling was that a spirit existed in many of the places I visited, and a spirit existed in me and the two had somehow met in the course of my travels. It's as if the godliness of the land and the godliness of my being had fused."
~ Bruce Feiler, Walking the Bible