Nostalgia is a funny thing!
Two year away in the UAE made me realize that the things I love the most in Amman are the small and simple details.The smell of jasmines in the morning, the unique and beautiful white stone clad buildings in the sunset,the buzz of the downtown markets, the calls of the kaek carts in the morning, the breeze that carries the smell of fig trees in the summer,the smiles and chatter of people in the streets on a cool summer evening, the carts and vans that sell all sorts of fruits and vegetables in the old neighbourhoods , a cup of tea with my mum and dad in their kitchen, My kids digging out potatoes that my dad planted months ago just for them.
All the small details that give a city its soul and transform it from a place on the map to a home..
Since I am in Amman on vacation, I thought I’d share a bit about Amman with all of you. If you are here for the recipe, simply scroll down to find it but if you are in the mood for a little virtual journey,read on 🙂
Amman is the capital of Jordan. It is one of oldest continuously inhabited cities of the world. The name Amman comes from the 13th century BC when the Ammonites named it “Rabbath Ammon”, with the term Rabbath meaning the “Capital” or the “King’s Quarters”. Over time, the term “Rabbath” was no longer used and the city became known as “Ammon”. Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Macedonian ruler of Egypt, who occupied and rebuilt the city, named it “Philadelphia”, which means “brotherly love” in Greek. The name was given as an adulation to his own nickname, Philadelphus. In the 630s,the Rashidun army conquered the region from the Byzantines, beginning the Islamic era in the Levant. Philadelphia was renamed “Amman” and it has maintained that name ever since then.
Modern Amman has two distinct parts: urbane Western Amman, with modern residential districts, state of the art malls, cafes, restaurants and art galleries; and earthy Eastern Amman, where it’s easier to sense the more traditional and conservative pulse of the capital . In today’s post I thought I’d take you on a tour in the oldest part of Eastern Amman: Wasat al balad.
‘Downtown Amman’, or “wasat al balad” in Arabic (wasat means middle and balad means city so the name literally means the center of the city) is the chaotic labyrinthine heart of Amman .It lies at the bottom of Amman’s many hills, and it is overlooked by the magisterial Citadel.
Downtown Amman features spectacular Roman ruins, an international-standard museum and the hubbub of mosques, souqs, restaurants and coffee houses
The oldest fruit and vegetable market in the Amman is also located in wasat al balad. There you can find the freshest and the cheapest fruits and vegetables in the city.
You can also find all kinds of dates, pickles, cheese and spices,and nuts
If you are in the mood for souvenirs, antiques, hand sewn and hand stitched traditional clothes and accessories, downtown Amman is the place to visit. There are multiple souqs dedicated to selling handmade souvenirs
A short stroll through the throbbing streets of the heart of downtown Amman will bring you to the Husseini mosque. This Ottoman style mosque was rebuilt using striking pink-and-white stone in 1924 by the late King Abdullah I on the site of an ancient mosque built originally in 640 AD by Omar ibn Al-Khattab the 2nd Caliph of Islam.
Since this is a food blog, I can’t take you on a tour in downtown Amman without telling you about the food!
If you have a sweet tooth and you find yourself in downtown Amman, you MUST try Habiba knafeh, this place is literally a hole in the wall but it makes THE BEST knafeh in Amman!
You will find it in the alley next to the Arab bank building, it is hard to miss because of the long queues of people waiting for a plate of fresh knafeh
If knafeh is not your thing (insert a gasp of disbelief) you can try al Mardini harrissa, people make the trip from all over Amman just to buy their traditional Harissa, it is rich, owy gooy and oh so good!
If you’re in Amman in the summer and you’re looking for a cold and refreshing drink and you’re feeling a little adventurous , try Sugar cane juice. You get to watch as the huge juicing machine transforms the long stalks of sugar cane into an ice-cold sweet drink. It is a fun, memorable and sweet experience that my kids insist on having whenever we’re in wasat al balad
I do hope that you’ve enjoyed our virtual tour in downtown Amman.
If you’d like to “see” more of Amman and read about it in my upcoming posts please let me know in the comments and tell me, what -in your opinion gives a city its soul? what do you miss the most about your hometown when you travel?
Now, back to today’s recipe
Since everyone in the Northern hemisphere is gearing up for school, I thought I’d share one of my kids’ favorite snacks. If you are looking for a crispy, salty, crunchy snack that is actually good for you, look no further. Roasted chickpeas are high in fiber and protein and you can enjoy them guilt free.
They are a great afterschool snack but it does not end there, you can also toss them with salads or sprinkle them over soup instead of croutons.
The flavor possibilities are endless. You can make them sweet or savory, spicy or mild. Have fun experimenting and let me know what is your favorite flavor combination
- 2 cans chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian blend herbs
- Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven
- Heat the oven to 200 C.
- Rinse the chickpeas and then place them into a strainer and allow them to drain
- Pat the chickpeas dry with a clean dishtowel or paper towels. Try to get them as dry as possible. If you have time, leave them to air dry for some time
- Spread the chickpeas out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Stir with your hands or a spatula to make sure the chickpeas are evenly coated.
- Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes: Stir the chickpeas or shake the pan every 10 minutes. After 20 minutes keep a close eye on them.The chickpeas are done when golden and slightly darkened, dry and crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle.
- Sprinkle the spices over the chickpeas and stir to coat evenly. Serve while the chickpeas are still warm and crispy. They will gradually lose their crispiness as they cool