Saturday, 26 December 2009

Essential Items for Travel

Okay, not really essential, but things I always have to pack.

Toilet paper (top left).  Bathrooms generally do not have it, even in some homes.  They do have spray hoses, but it is nice to be able to dry off.

Hand sanitizer (top right). Bathrooms usually lack soap and towels. Luckily there is a market for little personal bottles of hand sanitizer, the large stores have whole aisles of them. I haven't heard any protests from Muslims here about alcohol jelly being haraam. It's haraam to drink or otherwise ingest intoxicants, and we're not drinking our hand sanitizer.

Chocolate. In case of low blood sugar, obnoxious men, or general chocolate deficiency. I managed to find actual M&Ms, made in the UAE.

Qu'ran and misbaha (bottom right). For long waits, bureaucracy, air turbulence, and terrible drivers.

An extra niqab. I forgot to include that in the picture. I can't count the number of times I've gotten coffee on a light-coloured niqab and walked around for ages without realizing it.

I should have packed an extra pair of glasses. Mine have been sat on, mangled by small children, and dropped repeatedly.

What are the little things that you always pack?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Winter in Amman

It's strange to hear people in Canada talking about Christmas and snow, while we have dates and olives ripening, flowers opening, and clear blue skies here. It's sort of a combination of spring and fall right now. The leaves on the grape vines are turning yellow and rust-coloured and falling into crunchy brown piles in the corners of the courtyards, the big hand-shaped fig leaves are wilting slightly and their verdant green beginning to leach away, and the nights are getting colder. Along the roadside, the top halves of the silver green olive trees are dotted with black fruit, the lemons are turning from green to yellow, and the orange trees are loaded with brilliantly coloured globes. A glance down shows parchment white narcissus budding, rose bushes covered in coppery emerald new shoots, and pink cyclamen flowers rearing up like fireworks among the fallen leaves.

When it started to rain in October, everything green was roused out of dormancy. The city is dotted with plowed fields tucked in between buildings and roads, sparsely skimmed with the pale green of new grass shoots. We have a lush patch of edible greens, mint, and thistles which appeared miraculously a month ago out of the previously dry, cracked, bare ground by our door.

These cyclamen are actually pinker than they appear here, my webcam does not deal well with daylight. They are native to Jordan, and sprout up all around the edges of our yard. For some reason, the kids don't stomp them like they do the narcissus.

I have no idea what this one is, but it does smell nice. (Edit: it's an eskeddunya tree)

The first image below is bougainvillea climbing an olive tree next to our gate. My roommate's mother calls it 'crazy flower,' but we don't water ours, so it doesn't get too crazy. I see it billowing over the walls of the rich people, who can afford to water theirs. The second is a photo I did not take, showing the actual colour. My webcam bleaches everything.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Perfume Shops

There are stalls here in Amman, often just a cubbyhole in the side of a building, lined with sparkling glass jars of perfume oils.

The essential oils can be mixed to order, diluted with alcohol to the desired strength, and packaged in whatever bottle the customer chooses. These shops can mix oils to imitate major brand-name perfumes. They cost only a few dinars, much more affordable than designer perfumes. Here's one my roommate's father had made for her, it's an imitation of a Saudi Arabian perfume called Daloo'ah:

I can sometimes smell people's perfume from across the street. There is even a perfume section in the baby aisle.
A very old perfume shop in one of the downtown souqs went up in flames only a month before I arrived here. It was probably an electrical fire; unfortunately the oil combined with cloth in neighbouring stalls burned very well, and the souq was largely destroyed. Here's an article from the Jordan Times about it.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Yay for Halal Food!

I got a little baggie of halal gelatin candies from a corner store today, they cost half a dinar (about 75 cents). I don't like them as much as the salty herring-shaped Swedish licorice I used to eat before I was Muslim, but they're pretty tasty.

One of the things I love about Jordan is being able to eat anything, without having to inspect the ingredient list for non-halal animal products. So many foods in Canada have gelatin, glycerin, animal flavourings, or alcohols hidden in them. Mentos, for instance, contain gelatin, as do many chewing gums. Ice cream contains flavourings with small amounts of alcohol (vanilla, for instance). Canned soups contain animal broth or fat. Most cheeses are made with rennet, which comes from cow's stomachs.

It is possible to find pork products here, as there are quite a few Christians, but I am told they are not very common and are clearly labelled. I have not yet seen any myself.