Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jordan Challenge 10 and 11: Not on the List: Rain and Eid al-Adha

So, when I drew up my initial list of challenges, it never occurred to me to add either of the ones that have loomed large this week.  Both are actually blessings, yet for a foreigner (two foreigners in fact, since Chris is now here visiting me), they entail a few challenges.  They are rain, and Eid al-Adha.
Chris standing in front of the Royal Cultural Center, underneath a picture of King Abdullah II and his ancestors

Back in Vermont we get lots of precipitation, though the flood levels it reached not once but twice in the 2011 were a major cause of damage.  But here in Jordan, one of the most water-scarce countries on earth, rain just wasn't in my mental array of challenges to watch out for.  Though again, nothing in comparison to the snowstorm that the East Coast of the United States got over Halloween weekend, it's gotten noticeably colder in the last couple of weeks, and that made the rain all the more uncomfortable when it arrived with a bang on Thursday night.  That was the night that Chris and I, and my Fulbright colleagues Tess and Angela had been invited to the home of Dr. Nidal Younis and his wife, Dr. Abla Al-bsoul, for a dinner with the Jordanian Commissioners of the Fulbright program here.

As is often the case here, the major complication is actually getting there.  Though we had a detailed map we had no idea where we were going, nor did our driver, who was filling in for Mohammad (about whom I wrote in the previous post), and we were meeting a previous Fulbrighter, Kathryn, who lived in another part of the city and would be following us. Apparently the first major rain here is a particularly treacherous thing because it mixes with the long-term accumulation of dust and oil on the road to create a slick surface that cars spin out in easily. Although we arrived a half hour late for the dinner and saw several accidents on the road, we were all happy to get there in one piece.  One of the purposes of the dinner was to introduce us to traditional Jordanian food, which our hosts did with a vengeance, but just as I was taking my first pictures the power went out (which our hosts surmised happened because of someone having an accident with the power line down the road). So, alas, I have only a shot or two of the impressive spread as a memento of our dinner.

This is mensaf, the Jordanian national dish. It is lamb cooked in a fermented yogurt sauce over rice with pine nuts and/or almonds and more sauce on the side.  It is served covered with a very thin bread called shrak.
Since Thursday night the skies have stayed most grey, with on and off rain during the day and evening. 

Finding a place where Chris could run outside was another pretty major challenge.  Here he is preparing to dodge the rain at Sports City, a giant complex of gyms and courts with an outdoor running path.
Although the rain may have put a damper on things, the timing of Eid this year has most people in a great mood.  Unlike in the Christian calendar where the dates of holidays are fixed, in the Muslim one they move around.  And because the start date depends on the moon's movements, the exact dates are not usually fixed until a week or even less before the holiday starts.  Eid al-Adha marks the end of the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and it commemorates the story in the Old Testament when the prophet Abraham agreed to sacrifice his only son Ishmael as proof of his obedience.  At the last minute Allah intervened and let him sacrifice a lamb instead.  Now Eid al-Adha is a multi-day family holiday involving prayer, animal sacrifice (and both feasting on and donating the meat to the poor) and gifts, particularly new clothes. (The Jordan Times carried an interesting not-like-it-used-to-be story on the celebration of Eid, for anyone interested in a bit more detail.)
These billboards advertising 99 JD (about $140) sheep for Eid have sprung up all over the city in the last month.  If you are in a mall there are stalls kind of like the Salvation Army bell ringers in the States, facilitating the sponsorship of a sheep donation for a poor family for Eid.

This year Eid starts today (November 6), a fact that became obvious this morning sometime around 5 am when the usual morning call to prayer was replaced by a very long prayer that was repeated over and over for at least 45 minutes. Today is a Sunday and the beginning of the work week here.  Therefore, the authorities have officially decided that the country can take the whole week off and Eid will extend all the way to Thursday, which allows for a 9-day break if one tacks on the weekends at both ends.
Overcast day or no, I had to show Chris Books Cafe, and I'm sure we'll be back multiple times during the course of his visit.

While I'm certainly not going to argue against a nine-day break, it has put a wrench in some of our travel plans, as it has meant that Jordanians have flocked to some of the places we had thought likely candidates for travel during this period.  The original plan had been to go to Israel and the West Bank, but my residence permit processing is another casualty of the  Eid holiday period, and without that travel over the Israeli border is problematic.  So, it's looking like Petra and possibly Wadi Rum are our Plan B, and hopefully we'll take off tomorrow. After all, we are Vermonters (or honorary ones, at least).  What's a little inclement weather and a few delays in the face of an impending outdoor adventure?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like the beginning of great adventures! (Chris, from the photo, books suits you.) and Mensaf looks delicious!