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Ruth Chris Steakhouse...Jordan version.

by - 1:03 PM

When life gives you 15 pounds of lamb, stuff into a car and have a barbecue in the middle of a Wadi? It actually started out in two cars, headed to a valley filled with fifty Jordanians laying on blankets, while their children waddled around [note the intentional removal of the verb, “swam”...I’ve never actually seen a Jordanian swim] in the “river” [which looks more like the shit-colored-lagoon next to my house in San Diego than a swimmable body of water]. Zaid, my host mom, and Ghada were in the first car while Emad (another host brother), Abdullah (Syrian cousin), Sarah (host sister) and I followed them in the second car, with agraad (the Arabic word for random, only half-useful things I usually like to refer to as crap) piled from our laps up to the ceiling of the car. We began our descent down to the “river,” and by descent I mean half-driving, half-skidding down an eighty degree angle dirt road. I started wondering how the hell we were going to make it back up the thing, but figured worst case scenario, i’d get a great picture of 10 Arab guys pushing a shiny, new red Honda up a dirt road. Apparently that thought didn’t cross their minds. We decided to change locations, going back up the nearly vertical dirt road, resulting in the car stalling [is that the correct car-term?], us sliding down backwards about five feet yelling a mix of English/Arabic cuss words, screams, and some “ALLLAH”s , before Emad remembered there was a thing called an emergency brake. When I looked out the window there were my 10 Arab guys, unfortunately I didn’t get the picture I was hoping for. They opened the doors yelling at us to get out while they each explained [more like yelled over one another] their theory for how Emad should get the car up the hill. Try #2...and #3 were an Epic fail, until Zaid took over and made it up. We continued on our journey, Zaid and Emad passing each other, yelling Arabic through open window for the two seconds their cars were parallel. Eventually Emad got pissed, and decided he wanted to go back home, resulting in us stuffing into one car for the remainder of the trip. We stopped at a gas station, putting straight up gas into a used empty water bottle, which I was informed was going to be used for our barbecue...I don’t know anything about barbecuing, or gas, but it probably would violate twenty laws in America. We ended up going to Al-Salt, the town where my whole host-families-family [more than 3,000 people] live, and own. We found a remote hill in the shade, I suggested the sun but that was quickly shut down as they reminded me of their desire to become pale [darker skin is seen as lower-class and Egyptian]. I guess I fit in here.  My host mom and Ghada prepared over 50 skewers of meat [no, seriously] while Zaid barbecued the veggies and Sarah and I were the unemployed photographers, occasionally getting to turn a skewer or peel a vegetable. The whole cooking process took about two hours, where my job description expanded to include hand-feeding pieces of meat and chips to everyone. On to the important part of this story, the meat was THE BEST meat i’ve ever tasted in my life...and i’ve been to some classy steak houses in my twenty years of life. It was infused with Jordanian seasoning, barbecued perfectly on the outside [mabrook, Zaid] and tender on the inside. There were four different kinds of meat including sheep, chicken, beef, and the fourth remaining unknown, i’ve learned it’s better this way. As we were enjoying the food, my host mom promptly stood up and proclaimed, “la, haram!”  Easiest translation: no, were good Muslims! We can’t let the neighbors smell the food and not bring them some! So she proceeded to wrap up kababs in pita and head on in to the house next to us. Zaid used the coals from the barbecue to set up arghella [hookah] and we smoked while drinking orange carrot juice, listening to my host mom explain to me what a pinecone is [she thinks we don’t have them in America], but it was extremely entertaining, and she was enjoying it, so I didn’t stop her.  After her usual half-Arabic half-charades explanation, we were all worn out and decided to pack everything up and head back to Amman. The spread out buildings and green valleys of Al-Salt were slowly replaced with tall buildings, dirty streets, and the never ending sound of the horn, Jordanians favorite invention. Can you tell i’m happy to be back in Amman?

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