August 2011

So, a lot of people are wondering what to do during Ramadan. It’s quiet, boring, slow, things shut down, our routines are disrupted and it seems like there is nothing to do! The other part of this is money, everything costs a lot of money to do… so here is my list of things to do during Ramadan, in Amman, for under 10 JD.

1- Go to Turtle Green for a coffee and manousheh, hang out on your own, or with friends with an internet connection and a chilled out atmosphere. Don’t forget to check out the original artwork on the wall downstairs- It is really cool.
Cost= -about JD 5

2- Walk down a side street at sunset and revel in the silence, enjoy it… Amman only becomes this quiet at this time during Ramadan. Alternatively,  take a walk in with Fast Walk – or do your own walk in one of the old neighborhoods of Amman and smell the fabulous jasmine bushes that waft round the corners. This is a whopping zero to do and lots of fun with the right persons.
Cost = ZERO

3- Experiment with your atayef – make them from from scratch or buy them ready made and just stuff them with different things. I’ve done cream and jam, dried fruits, nutella, labneh, pumpkin pie stuffing, bananas… try  anything you like, its fun to experiment.
Cost = about a dinar for a kilo of atayef  and the cost of stuffing. It really is cheap, fun and yummy.

4- Go to Citadel Nights– you can stroll around and have some evening fun in an amazing setting and cool night breezes. Cost= entrance is JD 5 and  if you see a Qalaa kid hanging around and can’t get in buy them a ticket and let them in (makes it an even 10JD).

5- Feed someone: check out Tkiyet Um Ali, smile in a box, under my olive tree, or just do your own thing…
Costs= the costs vary depending on what you do… and it is very rewarding a lot can be done for under 10 though.

6- Hang out with one of the kids in Jabal Al Qala and ask them if they can teach you to make a kite- they will love it and so will you.
Cost=  about 3 JD tops.

7- Goto one of the art galleries in Amman – there are many and learn about the Art. Jacaranda is happy to talk to you about the Jordanian Artists they exhibit and are open from 12 pm- 5pm.
Cost= ZERO

8- Check out one of the ramadan tents that have argileh, cards and other great things…
Costs= The costs vary depending on where you go, but I am sure you can manage to get a nice cup of tea for under 10 JD somewhere… just make sure there are no cover charges or minimum charges.

9- Downtown Amman is a must, before iftar go to the vegtable market and stock up, the closer it is to eid the more you want to check out the craziness that is Italian Street, great buys and lots of fun. After iftar you can have a ramadani juice at any of the juice stands, Creme caramel at al quds, S7our at Hashems, or buy yourself a DVD for a fun night in with your friends. You can also check out the new lights of King Faisal Street- I am told they are really cool.
Cost= anywhere from 1 JD for a DVD and upwards depending on what you do and what you buy. The walk around the hood is free and very energizing 🙂

10- At su7our, go out and talk to your local musa7arati- you know the guy with the drum (He’s like santa only comes out once a year and is hard to catch).

Feel free to add your favorite thing to do in Ramadan for under 10 JD… and watch for the Arabic version- It is coming soon.

Ramadan Kareem.

For years I have believed that I can only kill plants. Anything green left in my care will wither and die. I even managed to kill a cactus at one point. Late last year the Jasmine tree cutting went brown, and I didn’t have to do anything really just leave them in water and they will take care of themselves. It’s quiet pathetic. Yet I cann’t reconcile this belief with the desire to have a big green indoor garden. One of my most vivid memories of leaving Kuwait was the collection of potted plants my mother was leaving behind. It filled a third of a room and was just beautiful.

So, following in my mother’s foot steps, and inspired by a wonderful person here in Beirut and yet another all the way in California I have started to introduce greens into my home. I got a cutting of an Aloe for my balcony from my friend. And this month I have Jasmine cutting from a tree I walk by everyday. Next I think I will start some herbs for the kitchen and slowly I will turn my ever so brown thumbs into vibrant greens.

Aloe on Balcony

Aloe thriving on balcony ledge

So it is the first day of Ramadan, or is it? When I look around me, there is no Ramadan. Nothing around  me tells me it is except for the facebook statuses of old friends and of course the call to my mother where we chat about the ritual that is the first meal in family. There are no Ramadan decorations,  food stalls with Ramadan specials, or any of the other signs that it is Ramadan today. If you are wondering where I am, I am smack in the middle of a Christian neighborhood  in Beirut.


Nothing really changes here, offices hours remain the same, banks stay open and operate with the same hours and restaurants continue to serve food throughout the day and it is not against the law to eat on the street. Many of the people I know think this is all cool and great. But me, well, I grew up for 33 years in countries that rearranged public life to accommodate Ramadan.  I grew in a home where I was taught to fast and it was a struggle to unlearn that. I grew up in countries where shops, restaurants, schools, banks everything really ran on a different schedule for a month. I was surrounded by things that only appeared during Ramadan like atayef stands, amareldin juice, Big charity food tents for iftar and an overall sense of something different. At night people divided into three groups: those that prayed taraweh, those that played cards (in Ramadan tents or at home), and those that stayed in and for 30 days watch Ramadan specials on TV. Sometimes people mix and match between the three evening activities. But here I find none of that, and it makes me sad and nostalgic.


Growing up I went through phases of dealing with Ramadan from believing to questioning to disgruntlement to acceptance and today living in a place where there is no Ramadan I am in a phase of missing it. I have no issue with being told not to eat or drink on the street during the day, or any other “restriction”. For a month there used to be an atmosphere of community even if that atmosphere was one of disgruntlement at all the angry drivers or the nicotine withdrawal  shouting. For a month our social calendars would be full of invitations to share and break our fasts with different groups of friends and family. Ramadan is not just about the religion and the farida of fasting, it is a social event with it very own rituals and rules, and it lasts one whole month.


This is my second year of Ramadan away from Ramadan and I am going to try to recreate some of it in my home , even just a little bit. Happy Ramadan to you where ever you are… and when you breaking your fast this month and you are having atayef, have one for me.


Ramadan Kareem.