Food and Fun in the Middle East

An Excerpt From Hope Zigterman’s Blog: Jordan Journal — Ecountering Culture


I had no idea this would be turning into a food blog when I started the semester, but it turns out that one of the big adventures of the week once again revolves around cooking! On Tuesday, our landlord showed us how to make Maqlube, which means upside down in Arabic. Maqlube is the Palestinian national dish, and it receives its name from the way it is served: after being cooked in a pot, the dish is turned upside down onto a platter so that it comes out like a sand castle. The dish is made up of rice, meat (we made beef and chicken), fried cauliflower and eggplant, and carrots and onions. The different ingredients are layered on top of each other and then set to cook upon the stove for twenty minutes to a half hour. Once ready, it is flipped onto a platter to be served. The Maqlube that we made that night is probably the best thing that I’ve eaten on the trip so far! (Apparently we had Maqlube our first night here, but I don’t remember it at this point.)

The Maqlube about to be flipped
The Muqlube turned “upside down”
The finished product, ready to be eaten!

Earlier that day another cultural experience was provided at my service project. To thank the ladies for teaching us how to cook the previous week, Elizabeth and I taught them how to make bracelets. The bracelets were typical friendship bracelets, but with much thicker cording. Trying to explain how to make one of these bracelets can be difficult enough in English; however, giving instructions to ten women all at once who speak little to no English was a whole different matter, especially since we know hardly any Arabic. It was still a lot of fun, and a great time to practice colors and numbers in Arabic. The women enjoyed themselves, and we loved the cultural interaction!

Towards the end of the week, a few of us were getting antsy about spending so much time back at the apartment. Instead of heading straight home after Arabic, we decided to go exploring. We found a delicious shwarma place for dinner, but the real find was this giant bakery! It had both sweet and savory items. Each of us got a snack to go and decided we would have to come back to try out another of the many options. The food adventures didn’t stop there, though! At night a few of us ventured out to the new downtown area being built in Amman. There we enjoyed ice cream that was frozen directly in front of us using liquid nitrogen.

Liquid nitrogen being used to freeze the ice cream

The week finished off with a perfect day of relaxation. On Saturday we spent the day at a resort on the Dead Sea. After living in the desert for five weeks now, nothing is more inviting than the sight of an infinity pool overlooking the Dead Sea. However, before we got to enjoy cool, fresh water, we had to take a dip in the Dead Sea. Now, most people will warn you to not get any of the water from the Dead Sea in your eyes because it will sting like crazy. Our Program Director is not most people. He managed to lead a majority of us in “an experience not to be denied,” in which we dunked our heads under the water. And for those of us who hadn’t had enough, we then proceeded to cover our bodies in Dead Sea mud. A significantly fewer amount of us decided to wash the mud off by diving into the Dead Sea because we couldn’t get enough of that delightfully painful experience where you can’t open your eyes for five minutes because they sting so badly from the salt water. Despite the pain, the day was near-perfect with a buffet lunch and an afternoon of swimmingly lazily in the fresh-water pools. Before heading home, we watched the sun set over the Dead Sea.

Dead Sea fun
Covering ourselves in mud
One of the pools at the resort
Sunset over the Dead Sea
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