Monday, April 2, 2012

Dead Sea and Amman, Jordan 3/9

On our last day in Jordan, we drove back across the country to make two last stops: the Dead Sea and Beit Sitti Cooking School.

See a closer view of our interactive map
Camel crossing warning
Under no circumstance would we recommend using Google Maps to find directions from Petra to the Dead Sea. We painfully learned this lesson as the road became narrower, then turned to gravel around the precipitous hillsides, and then turned into dirt and rocks.

Google Maps will direct you to your doom
After furiously cursing at Google and backtracking to the main road, we switched to a more tried-and-true strategy to find directions: the Lonely Planet Jordan guide book and common sense.

Paradoxically, a difficult part about driving in the Middle East was finding gas stations. That came as a blessing when it forced us to stop at a small shop in a tiny town to ask for directions to the nearest gas station. The locals did not immediately acknowledge our questions as they were overwhelmingly excited to interact with us. They quickly surrounded us and repeatedly offered seats to join them and drink fresh milk. Frankly, we were a bit skeptic about drinking milk from strangers at first, but we eventually succumbed. The milk was not something you will find at any American market. It was thick and sour almost like yogurt. Then it dawned upon us that the milk was likely fresh and unpasteurized. After a few minutes of chaos as we repeatedly thanked them for the milk and respectably declined further offers, they pointed us to the nearest gas station.

We eventually arrived at the lowest land elevation, the Dead Sea. The beach lies at -1,388 feet or -423 meters below see level. We followed the local tradition of covering ourselves in mud and then dried for ten minutes before entering into the sea. This ritual allegedly provides many medical and cosmetic benefits. Laure talked about how her beautiful skin felt for days after.

Dead Sea mud feels weird when it dries on the skin
Photo taken immediately before salt water entered Q's eyes and mouth.
Effortlessly floating while taking in the sun
In hindsight, we would have enjoyed staying a night at one of the resorts along the Dead Sea. It would have been a nice opportunity to reenergize before heading back home.

After the Dead Sea, we drove into Amman during rush hour for our cooking class. Unfortunately, we got hopelessly lost in the hectic rush hour traffic. Fortunately, we found a friendly local that offerred to show us the way by driving his own car in front of ours. The man had a heart of gold because he spent over half an hour driving and talking to locals in order to help us find our class. This portion of Amman reminded Laure of San Francisco, with its hillsides lined with houses and windy streets. When we offered money to pay for his gas, the man strongly refused and wished us good luck in our class.

Beit Sitti ("Grandmother's House") cooking school teaches traditional Jordanian dishes. They also explain some of the neighborhood's and cuisine's history. The food itself has very distinctive spices that are pleasant but not overwhelming. Two of our favorites were the Maaloubeh (layered dish of tomatoes, meat, and rice) and Knafeh (dessert of crisply baked noodles and cheese covered in ghee).

The night's menu:
Farmer's Salad, Moutabbal, Maaloubeh, and Knafeh

Flipping the Maaloubeh
Dinner is served!
It somehow felt strange to cut the heart shaped Knafeh dessert
... but so worth it!

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