I probably don’t need to tell you just how incredible going to Petra was. This is one of those places where a picture really is worth a thousand words. I mean…
And I can’t take credit for how great the photos are. That’s all Petra and Jordan. And beyond the hospitality that I mentioned in my post about Aqaba, our experience in Petra is just one more reason you should go to Jordan now. Seriously, book your ticket. It’s worth it. Just don’t be like me and only have one night in Petra. Our entire journey into Jordan was way too short, so learn from me and spend at least a few more days in there. It’d have been great to hike more within and around Petra… it’s a lot bigger than you probably imagine.
And had I spent more time there, I could have had more food! Not that anything was so different than Israel or Egypt. We’re in a region that shares so much collective history and culture (for better or worse…) that to have such distinct differences in food when you cross a border would be just strange. Many of the celebrated Jordanian dishes that I’ve had are neither only served in Jordan nor possibly originated from Jordan… the Kingdom of Jordan as we know it today on a map is only sixty-seven years old. Take for instance maqluba (مقلوبة) meaning upside down because of the way it’s cooked and then flipped upside down when served. Technically, it’s a Palestinian dish made with meat, baharat-seasoned rice and fried vegetables like potato, cauliflower, and eggplant. And given that it’s estimated that at least half of the Jordanian population identifies as Palestinian, it’s no wonder that maqluba is a very popular dish in Jordan.
I also continued my pursuit of eating as much hummus as I could. And not only as much, but in the most scenic places as I could. Halfway through the hike through Petra, Keith and I stopped in this cool bedouin tented “restaurant” and ordered a plate of hummus. I imagine this is what eating on the set of an Anthropologie catalogue shoot is like. We sat on benches and ate our hummus as camels and donkeys walked by outside. You could hear some tinny wind chimes as a breeze sometimes made its way through the tent. People came and went, talking in all sorts of languages. Cats lounged around and made for the stray piece of pita that fell on the ground. Sure, the hummus I had in the middle of Petra may not have been the best hummus I’ve had so far on this trip; however, how often do you get to sit in a place like that and just take it all in?
Petra wasn’t the only beautiful and interesting place we visited during our time in Wadi Musa (which is actually the name of the town, it’s just everyone knows it as Petra.] After a day full of hiking around the UNESCO site, we took a break at the Cave Bar, which is exactly what it sounds like: a bar located inside a cave, which 2,000 years ago was used as a tomb by the Nabataens who built/carved Petra. We sat and had a shisha, thinking it was pretty cool to actually be in the cave like that, knowing that it’s the original, not just some themed decoration of what a tomb/cave would be like. Cheers to that.
I haven’t told you much about breakfast, probably because I don’t usually eat much of one. But our hotel in Petra had a very nice spread, so I sampled some bites of what was offered. Here I had a tiny croissant that I dipped in za’atar (another Eastern Mediterranean spice mix with sumac, sesame seeds and herbs — which went very well with the buttery, flaky croissant), some tahini bread, and a date, prune and dried apricot. Add coffee, and it was a great way to start another day in Petra.
Dates are a huge part of Middle Eastern agriculture, diet, and cultural heritage. And, they are delicious. I saw date palms everywhere I went (and got knocked on the head by a few falling dates) in all of Egypt, Israel, and Jordan. It’s fascinating how in the desert, thanks to oases, these trees can thrive and help support other crops grow since their roots help to prevent erosion of the (scarce) soil.
When we finally had to leave Petra, I still had one more thing to eat in Jordan remaining on my list: fatayer (فطاير). Originally I was looking for fatayer jibnah, a pastry with that ubiquitous salty white cheese I’ve been eating the last two weeks, but instead I found a meat version of it in this awesome little bakery I stopped at.
To showcase more of the Jordanian people’s spirit, I had originally asked the hotel concierge where I could find some fatayer. He went outside and consulted with our driver who was taking us back to Aqaba about where I could find it. Ah, of course we could swing by a little bakery on our way out of town… and if we couldn’t find it there, we’d look in another. We ended up stopping at this hole-in-the-wall bakery and I dashed in. It was your usual Jordanian bakery: cabinets full of bagged khubz and other breads and biscuits, trays full of all sorts of kanafeh, pita bread shooting out of a vent again, tons of people coming in and out for their daily bread… magical. I looked lost, of course, trying to figure out what to buy. I saw what looked like fatayer, but I couldn’t be sure. This younger guy came up to me and asked if I needed help (yes, of course) and I showed him the picture of fatayer jibnah that I had on my phone. Sadly, he said, they didn’t have any left, but he had meat fatayer (or just fatayer) if I wanted to try that (yes, of course). He asked where I was from, and then proceeded to take me around the shop, taking care to both introduce me to other people shopping and have me try several bites of the delicious pastries we passed, like the amazingly beautiful nightingale nest kanafeh (عش البلبل بالقشطة)…
And then I tried fatayer. Incredible. It might not look like much, but it was so good: Light, buttery, but not overly decadent… My new friends in the random bakery in Wadi Musa/Petra sent me off with something very special… a few very good pastries and some very special memories.
So that’s all for Jordan, I hope to be back soon. For now… I’m back in Israel!