It’s already the second week of Ramadan, but it’s never too late to say that (I think). “Kareem” means “generous,” because the month is said to be a generous month and during which people should be generous. It’s sad that although it’s a holy month for Muslims everywhere, many are still oppressing and marginalizing and harming others under the banner of Islam.
But anyway on the more privileged side, Ramadan is making things slow as hell. There’s really not much to do at work and people get lazy. It’s starting to rub off on me and I need to stop it. Alas, I’m just spending most of my time working on stories that I hope to pitch to other outlets, you know, just to keep busy. In theory, that sounds great right, except that people are taking a hell of a long time to respond to my calls or emails.
Sooo yeah. I guess I’ll just travel around town and see things or people watch or something. I’ve been wanting to drive around West and East Amman and do a photography project. The West is basically all this fancy-schmancy part of town with nice malls, big houses with pools in the backyard, tall buildings, and expensive cars. East Amman, on the other hand, paints an entirely different picture. There’s cramped living situations, poor folks, lack of sanitation, and the likes. It’s like a microcosm of “East” vs “West” in international terms I guess, if you want to look at it that way. Also, I badly need to dance. It’s been almost month and it’s killing me slowly from the inside.
Anyway, I had Iftar with a family friend, Suha, and her family yesterday. Their home is on the outskirts of As Salt, a smaller city like 30 minutes north of Amman. It’s so beautiful. Plenty of wide open spaces with hills and valleys. The view of the city from the hill I visited is also really beautiful. It’s quiet and breezy. The weather is relatively cooler than Amman. Plus, we had iftar outside in her yard, so it was a really nice atmosphere as the sun set. I actually almost lived here, before I decided I would find an apartment on Weibdeh insted. I feel like it would’ve been great, except that I won’t have the kind of mobility I have now, or the kind of freedom I have now. I’ll take more pics when I come back there.
I’m definitely visiting again though, especially with the kind of feast they prepared for Iftar. Holy crap. I had like 4 helpings of mansaf, which is rice with scattered marinated meat and nuts that you eat with yogurt, because they didn’t accept my plate being even remotely close to empty. I ate and ate. There were also pita bread with really good hummus and this sauce that has tomatoes, chilis, and freaking cilantro. Dear Lord. The taste mixed and mingled happily in my mouth.
I was pretty much struggling to finish my plate when they asked me whether I wanted another helping. Oh God. I politely rejected and accepted a cup of tea, which came after several gulps of lemon water and Pepsi of course.
Afterwards, I just kind of sat there while Suha forced her son to finish his plate. I haven’t ate that much in a long time, but of course that’s not the end. Suha’s father passed me a plateful of fruit, and I could only manage to eat one. Then I helped Suha with making qatayef, which is what Suha’s mom called “Arabic pancakes.” It’s basically this pancake thing that you fill with various stuffing and then you pinch the edges the close the pastry. It’s shaped like a large dumpling. You can fill it with cheese, walnuts + coconuts + grapes (my favorite), jam, whatever really. Then you fry it. It was so good and sweet. I wanted to finish it, but of course I’m a tiny person and despite my big appetite, my stomach could only take so much. I managed to eat half a qatayef. After talking for a little bit more, Suha offered me this sweet Middle Eastern almond drink thing and some more tea. The almond drink was so sweet but it’s sooo good. I’m pretty sure my body was 80 percent food at that point though. I didn’t know how I managed to handle it. I couldn’t even muster the energy to take more pics of the food, or my food baby.
After I politely asked to go back to Weibdeh, they gave me this huge care package with pretty much everything I just ate and more. There’s puddings, a big bag of fruit, a container full of attaiyef, and the chicken and rice dish with bread, hummus, and the magnificent sauce I mentioned above. Oh and some Pepsi too. Idk what it is with people here and sodas. Even when I’m at the JT office and eating Iftar there, there always seems to be sodas. So there I was carrying this big container full of food. Happy and so full. I don’t remember the last time I ate that much or felt that full. Probably during Thanksgiving. Iftars here are kind of like Thanksgiving, except it’s a whole month of Thanksgiving dinners. Mahmoud, the front page editor at the JT, summarized Ramadan so accurately: “the first two weeks, people only think about food. The last two weeks, they think about clothes for Eid.” True.
But anyway, Suha drove me back home. I had meant to call Rajive, the production/proofreader staff manager who took care of the Mideast and World sections at the JT, that I couldn’t come to work (I originally said I was going to come after Iftar). But you know, food got in the way. And I called the JT and nobody answered. Oh well. At that point it was already 11 p.m. anyway, which is the deadline for the paper to be sent to the printer (makes me miss The Daily. Everyone gets delirious when it’s almost 11 p.m. and the paper’s not done yet).
But afterwards, I dropped my care package home and went to a café near Duwar Paris in Weibdeh, despite me being deadly full and sleepy. It’s so cozy and has the hipster feel, with cool paintings on the walls, murals, and a chalkboard wall. There’s a Banksy mural of a girl patting down a soldier near where I sat. I met a fellow Indonesian whom I met on FB. She’s much older than me but totally the life of the party. So you know, what the hell? Meeting new people’s great. She invited me to a housewarming party that her friend’s holding on Friday. Most of her friends are gonna be there, which is like a lot of expats from different countries and spanning different ages. I would be the youngest one though (as always. I don’t know why this always happens to me). So there’s that. I’m definitely coming to Graffiti Café again though, the people who work there are nice. The barista who was serving when I went is this fashion designer who’s really friendly and witty. I like witty people.
Anyway, I went home at 1 a.m. and immediately passed out cause I was ridiculously full, especially after drinking another cup of tea. Even when I woke up in the morning, I was still happily stuffed. I’m not fasting today, but I ate some qatayefs again for breakfast anyway just in case I got hungry while I went about my day. I didn’t. I decided to go to the JT to see if I could catch the meeting. I missed it, and there was nothing for me to do, so I decided to send a few emails to follow-up on the stories I’m working on. And now I’m waiting for pages and stories to edit, slash Facebooking slash monitoring my Digg Reader. So you know, fun stuff. I’m not even hungry yet. But I probably will be once it’s Iftar time again. I always get free mansaf or roasted chicken and rice here. It’s gooooood.
Well if you made it this far down the post, congrats. If you’ve been following my posts and was expecting a blog post with a somewhat well-researched perspective about current issues in the Middle East, sorry bout it. Instead, you’re stuck with my rants and half-assed descriptions of the things I did and the food I encountered. Cause you know, it’s the first two weeks of Ramadan, and all I think about is food.
But real talk though, I’ve written a lot of journal entries actually, and there are some things in my mind I’m dying to get out, but it’s all in my journal and I’m way too lazy to transfer it all here. Maybe soon. For now, Ramadan Kareem!