THE STAR OF THE PARTY FOR ALL THE WRONG REASONS

October 15, 2015

We have been invited to several special occasions in and around Amman.

The first was a bus trip to Ajloun Castle, also known as Qa’lat ar-Rabad, a 12th-century Muslim castle in northwestern Jordan. On the way, we stopped in Jerash, the capital and largest city of Jerash Governorate, 48 kilometres north of Amman, towards Syria.

This journey is one I won’t forget. Here, people are generous and sincere.

So far, the only nuisance is that I’m celiac. This means I can’t eat gluten, and I’m quickly learning that breads and pastries are staples in the Arabic diet.

Another integral part of the traditional culture here just happens to be offering your guests food, and it’s considered rude when it is refused. It’s for this reason that Hala continually finds herself trying to explain why I basically can’t eat anything I’m offered.

The last stop on our way home from Ajloun was a homemade, picnic dinner. Cucumbers were the only dish where I could say, “Ne’am min fadlik,” followed by, “Shukran”. Forty kilometres outside of Amman, a cup of yogurt spilled, completely drenching my left-pant leg.

After two interviews, three cab rides and several phone calls the next day, we were looking forward to a traditional, Arabic wedding in the afternoon.

Since our hostess was running late, she decided to take a shortcut that I wasn’t aware of. Suddenly, we were in the left lane of the highway driving against the clearly painted, pristine white arrows on the pavement.

“Hala, we’re driving the wrong way,” I said. “I know, we’re taking a shortcut,” she said calmly, as if driving the wrong way on the highway was a completely normal occurrence.

Another thing about driving here is the honking. Certain common patterns exist, including double, triple and ultra long beeps, although I haven’t decoded their meaning just yet, other than to signal grievances about someone else’s driving. These honks are usually followed by forceful hand gestures.

We eventually made it to the wedding, recording equipment intact, and ready to celebrate. Valentina and I had never been to an Arabic wedding before.

Then, a huge slice of gluten-rich, strawberry, sponge cake appeared. A short while later, its chocolate counterpart arrived.

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