This past Friday, I woke up at ten in the morning and didn’t go to school. Why? Skip day? National holiday? None of the above! Here in Jordan, Friday is the Holy Day, meaning that we have Friday and Saturday off, and we go back to school on Sundays. Fridays in the Arab world are the equivalent of Sundays in many western countries. Families wake up late, spend the day together, visit relatives friends, and maybe some family members attend a mosque service in the evening.
With my host family, the weekend fun started on Thursday evening. We went out to the Boulevard, which is a beautiful area in downtown Amman, and visited Abdali Mall, a really nice shopping area in the city. The weather was surprisingly cool, so we all had a great time being out at night.
We got back very late at night, so it was nice to not have to wake up at six thirty in the morning on Friday. My day officially started with breakfast (or lunch) at one in the afternoon, and I spent the next few hours knocking off assignments, from my weekend to-do list. In the evening, we went out as a family for a wonderful treat: Kunafah! Kunafah is an Arab pastry that has a base of creamy cheese with a taste and texture of mozzarella. On top of the cheesy layer is thin, fried vermicelli, doused in sweet syrup and topped with pistachios. It sounds strange, but really, the combination of the slightly savory cheese and sweet vermicelli is incredibly tasty. After Kunafah, we headed to my host mom’s sister’s home where we had dinner at 1:00 o’clock am, adhering to Arab schedule! 😀
Saturday was packed, fun, and absolutely exhausting. We had a NSLI-Y excursion to some of the most famous sites in Amman. We started the day off with the Jordan Museum, a museum that showcases the ancient history of people living in modern-day Jordan. We were allowed to explore the museum in groups of three, so Julia B., Emily, and I banded together. It was a relief to discover that all three of us were not museum enthusiasts, and hence didn’t feel bad rushing through certain exhibits. The one exhibit that really interested me personally was a linguistic family tree leading up to the Arabic language, and a chart showing the evolution of scripts to the modern Arabic script. It was thrilling to see that I could actually identify some Ancient Arabic letters!
After the museum, we headed to the Amman Citadel, a collection of ancient ruins in the city. It was nice to walk around, although it was incredibly hot. While at the Citadel,I had an interesting experience. I heard an elderly couple speaking in Marathi, the language that my dad speaks. Now I am usually not a very outgoing person, but in a foreign country where you don’t know the language, there is a real charm in hearing a language you can recognize. I just couldn’t resist.I approached them and asked them where they were from (in Hindi, of course), and it turned out, they were from Mumbai! We had a nice little conversation about India, Jordan and USA. I went out of my comfort zone and did something that I might never had done in the US and it felt good!
Towards the end of our time at the Citadel, we took a quick look at the Archaeological Museum of Jordan, and visited an ancient church. Interestingly, there is a sign in the museum that said, “No explaining allowed”. It was obviously a strange statement and we were confused about it as it did not make any sense. As we were walking with Nadia, our NSLI-Y program’s amazing Local Coordinator, and she told us that we could take the stairs in the back to exit. Just then a security guard stopped us and told Nadia that she wasn’t allowed to explain anything to us. As it turns out, to show people around, or to even tell them something about the place, one had to be a registered tour guide!!!!
After eating a delicious meal of falafel, hummus, and french fries for lunch, we went shopping!! Now, for those who know me, the level of excitement in this statement could be perceived as sarcasm, but I assure you, it isn’t. You see, we were given an hour and a half to shop for gifts, goodies, and souvenirs at the Balad, or Old Amman. I loved how the streets reminded me of New Delhi! The roads were crowded with cars, the sidewalks taken up by vendors, and the shops bustling with locals and tourists alike. Everyone in our group was set on buying scarves, so Nadia took us to her favorite hijab store. It was great to have a local with us, because the store was tucked away in a crowded alley, and I don’t think anyone of us would have noticed it being there. At the store, we stocked up on scarves for family, friends, and of course, ourselves, and then went back to main street.
After grabbing some fresh juice (strawberry and kiwi), we piled into the bus and headed to our final stop: the Roman Amphitheater. The place was massive, and I think I burned off the calories from lunch after walking up the steep steps. We got some great photos at the top, before coming down, which, in my opinion was the scariest part. For someone who is afraid of heights, descending steep, jagged, stairs isn’t something I would do for fun. However, once you’re up, you have to come down, so I didn’t have much of a choice.
The past weekend was really busy, but I certainly had a great time exploring the beautiful city that I have been calling home since last week. I have to go now because I must admit, I left my homework half done before writing this blogpost, so it’s time I go back and finish those listening activities!