Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dinner with the Sheikhs

The Whole gang with a TON of food

Today was the infamous dinner with the Sheikhs and other wonderful adventures that filled the day and made it spectacular.

Outside of the Mosque
 This morning we headed back to work and because of our bus sitting for 20 minutes waiting for more passengers we didn't get there until almost 10:00 o'clock and our boss was a little bit angry.  The funny part was that the only thing they had for us to do was to rip out some carpet that literally took 15 minutes to do.  After that, we swept and organized the room and did some extra work in the bathroom cleaning off some of the grout that had been left behind.  When we asked our boss what else we could do he led us outside and talked to us for an hour about nonsense and then told me that I should take a nap which was extremely wonderful.  Finally a little before 12:00 we told them we were leaving and would return the next day.  We decided that since the day was still young we would go on some adventures and headed off on the bus to Wisit-il Balad or the old down-town where all of the cool little shops and things are.  Also, we decided we would visit one of the larger mosques in Jordan and one of the only ones that allowed non-muslims into the prayer hall itself, the King Abdullah Mosque.
The person in Orange is Austin and
that is right where I took my little cat-nap
  The King Abdullah Mosque is monstrous and very new.  It was built in honor of King Abdullah "The Martyr" (For more information go to this website:  Anyway, it has HUGE minarets that can be seen from most spots in the city and a ginormious blue dome.  We were really excited to go in and found the prayer hall generally empty so we walked around and took a number of pictures.  Well, after our experience with our naps last week we were both thoroughly encouraged to take naps here as well.  I ventured out to the middle of the mosque with the intention of taking a few pictures of what I thought was a very cool roof.  Next thing I know, I woke myself up with my snoring in the middle of the mosque.  Luckily there were no worshippers close by that I could have offended but we did beat a hasty retreat.  We then went to the Museum which was pretty interesting and the Charity Bazaar which was very nice and reasonably priced.  As soon as we entered the bazaar both myself and Aussie were gifted with female companions who literally followed us around the whole time and anytime we decided to look at an item they would pick it up and tell us all about it.  It was very annoying, but they did succeed in guilting both of us into purchasing something (btw, stamps here are ridiculously expensive so I hope everyone wasn't expecting a lot of letters from me).  Anyway it was quite a nice little adventure and as we were walking out we met some Americans from Oregon who talked to us for a little while because I was wearing and OSU t-shirt GO BEAVERS!
My friend the calligraphy artist
  Well, from the Mosque we walked a little ways and got some amazing Lamb Kebab in a sandwich and then proceeded to the barbers where I got my weekly shave and Austin decided to have one too.  I love those shaves, they hurt so good!  We had a suitably interesting religious conversation with Omar the owner (I mainly listened and nodded but I cold understand some of it) before leaving and heading down the street towards Wisit il-Balad.  On the way to Wisit il-Ballad we stopped in to see my calligraphy friend who was glad to see us but very busy.  We stayed for a while and had a great time talking to him about many things and giving him our opinion on his art-work, which stuff would sell best where and what colors he should use in his calligraphy/paintings.  He also did a sweet sketch where he wrote Austin's name in calligraphy which was really awesome.  I'm gonna see him a number of more times as I try to figure out what calligraphy stuff I want from him and plus he's just fun to be with and talk to.  From there we headed into Wisit il-Balad where I was able to buy a Quran that is in both English and Arabic and which I have been dying to get my hands on.  I can't wait to read it and understand a lot more about Islam and the people that are all around me.  We then jumped on a service taxi and headed home to change before going to the Sheikhs home for dinner.
Sheikh Yusef serenading us
  Dinner with the Sheikhs.... I'm not going to lie, we were a bit nervous.  The entire time we were joking about all the bad things that could happen but we took all the necessary precautions by telling people where we were going, using public transportation and having contact numbers in case of emergency.  It turns out that all of our fears were unfounded and we had yet another amazing cultural experience.  When we arrived we found that it was not only us and Sheikh Yusef but the other Sheikh from the parade, Sheikh Hussin and another Sheikh who both had traveled over 100 kilometers to meet us for dinner!  To start off we all sat around and talked for about an hour about all sorts of different subjects.  They spoke almost no English so Austin spoke a lot as did our friend and translator "Luai" who was friends with their son and our go between for the night.  They had a bunch of pictures of Sheikh Yusef up on the wall so I asked if he could explain them to me.  They were really cool and showed him with all sorts of important people like meeting the King, the Prime Minister, big time generals and him as a young soldier.  In addition to idle small talk we asked them about what it means to be a Sheikh.  Apparently Sheikh Yusef is a member of parliament and many other organizations.  He became Sheikh both by blood but also by democratic consent of his "family" or tribe over which he is the head.  It is a full time job and he apparently has quite a bit of power as there are only 24 Sheikhs in Amman.  Sheikh Hussin is from a small village called Jordan Valley and his main duty is to act as a judge.  They all said that being a sheikh was very important and surprisingly informed us that there were even female sheikhs from time to time.  I thought that was pretty cool.  Other interesting parts of our conversation were that when they found out I was engaged they told me they were going to come to my wedding!  I told them that it was really far away and would be really expensive but they said it was no problem and that they had a friend at the airport who would get them a flight for free.  How cool will it be if some Sheikhs actually come to my wedding?  After talking and taking pictures for awhile Sheikh Yusef pulled out the Arabic version of a guitar and began serenading us for the next hour.  A number of the songs were quite interesting, especially since we didn't understand anything except for when he said our names.  It was an awesome time, and he even sang a song about my fiancee missing me in America which was hilariously awesome to say the least.  After he finished singing and before we ate dinner I asked if I could sing them a song from my homeland in gratitude and I sang them the song "Shenandoah", which I think they enjoyed.
Eating it in the traditional way!
     After I sang we all sat done to an amazing platter of the Jordanian National Dish, mansef, with lamb's meat.  The traditional way to eat the mansef is to roll the rice into a ball along with the meat and the bread and eat it all in one big bite.  Apparently the bigger the ball you make the cooler you are and the Sheikhs thoroughly enjoyed watching us try to make the balls.  I actually made an instructional video for everyone to see but since my internet is so slow I don't know when I'll be able to upload it along with my pictures.  The mansef was absolutely amazing and just as wonderful as it sounds.  I was completely full by the end of the evening and had such an awesome experience it is hard for me to realize it actually happened.
  Let me just say, in case you can't tell already, that Jordanians are some of the nicest and most hospitable people that I have ever met.  They are so willing to be friends and if you show any interest in them or their lives they are more than willing to go out of there way to help you and make you comfortable.  Sometimes it can seem a bit excessive but it most definitely wonderful and once you settle into the role of guest it makes it all worth it.  I love being here and hope to continue to meet and see many wonderful people!


  1. What a wonderful people the Jordanians seem to be. This has been the best part of reading these blogs: learning about these great people.

  2. Your posts give me goosebumps. You've done more in Jordan than I've ever got to do and you inspire me to want to see it all!
    Now, all I've got to do is finish school and book a ticket...

  3. I'm glad you liked my posts! Although I returned a year-ago I still think about it often and am planning on returning next year for language training. Did you mainly live in Amman?