Flying By the Seat of My Pants

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I have done absolutely no planning for Turkey. And it shows.

I boarded my plane from Tel Aviv without having done the slightest bit of research on even my first stop, Istanbul. I’d only barely managed to book a hostel — I had been about to go to bed the night before when I realized I hadn’t done that yet. Oops. Quickly searched the hostelworld app on my phone, found a dorm that still had availability on such short notice, booked it. Done.

I meant to buy a guidebook at the airport, but the only one for sale was an Istanbul-only Lonely Planet and it cost over 150 shekels. I’ll pass, thanks. My hostel had automatically emailed me directions, so I figured I’d be set to get there anyhow. Continue reading

The Most Popular Restaurant in Amman

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Hashem Restaurant in Amman is apparently legendary, though I had no idea until I showed up there. I was operating without any maps or guide in Jordan and couldn’t tell one falafel stall from another, but luckily about 10 different people in the capital tipped me off about this place, which definitely stands above the rest. Continue reading

Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan

I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed with the food in Jordan. They do meats very well (and mixed grill is always on the menu), but I found the similar dishes in neighboring Israel (falafel, hummus) fresher and more flavorful.

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That said, an absolute must-try is mansaf. It’s the national dish of Jordan and while I believe it’s more of a special occasion dish, it’s widely available in restaurants. It basically consists of a dish of rice with a big chunk of tender, melt-in-your-mouth lamb on top, and then you’re given a large dish of warm, thinned yogurt sauce to pour over the whole thing. There’s typically some flatbread under the rice as well to sop up the excess juices. It’s also garnished with chopped herbs and nuts. Almonds and pine nuts are most common, but I also had it served with peanuts at a restaurant in Wadi Musa, as pictured.

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I ate this several times during my nine days in Jordan and find myself craving it now that I’ve moved on and it’s no longer available. It’s strange, I don’t like yogurt on its own but I love yogurt sauces on things, and I think mansaf is definitely the best way to eat it.

How I Pissed Off a Jordanian Cab Driver

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Siq Al-Barid, known as Little Petra, is a smaller Natabean city about a twenty minute drive from Wadi Musa. I’d heard it was pretty cool, and though I worried it might pale in comparison after Petra itself, admission is free so I figured I may as well check it out.

The people at my hotel arranged transport for me and said that the best time to go is a little before sunset. I took it easy for most of the day and then my cab driver, a boisterous middle-aged man, picked me up at around 5 PM. We made the short drive to the site, chatting the whole way, and he dropped me off at the gate and went to go drink tea and wait for me. Continue reading

Petra Day 2: The High Place of Sacrifice & The Royal Tombs

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My second day in Petra I started out with two goals: tackle the second major climb, to the High Place of Sacrifice, and avoid any sketchy too-familiar Bedouins trying to lure me into mule rides… or more. I had one lazy day of riding (and was slightly uncomfortable the whole time), so today I promised myself I would be working for that view. Continue reading