Saturday, August 11, 2012

Swefieh Tour

The CLO's office regularly organizes awesome tours, whether it's to Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, or the Swefieh neighborhood near the Embassy.  Today was the latter (we won't make it to Egypt this year).

Swefieh reminds us of India.  The roads are tight, people park in weird places, electrical wires hang in dangerous waves, and the shops are plentiful and packed in.  It's where to go if you need a watch battery.  If you need shoes repaired.  If you want good falafel and amazing bread.

There is a 24 hour bakery in Swefieh.  It. Is. Divine.  They don't bother with packaging most of the food stuffs, it's rolled straight out of the ovens on those tall multi-shelved baking racks, and folks fill bags with all the hot steamy goodness.  Flat breads, sliced breads (ok, yes, they are packaged), rolls, buns, bread sticks, white, whole wheat, sesame seeded, cakes, cookies, treats of all kinds.  We walked out of there with a bag of 4 large flat breads, 6 demi-baguette types, a bag of fresh bread sticks, a loaf of sliced bread, a lemon and chocolate bundt cake, all for 4.50JD.

Nearby was the "Calories Snacks."  I believe it was closed.  Most sit-down food stores are still closed during the day for Ramadan, which precludes places like the bread shop or Pinkberry or the Starbucks drive-through.  If you bring your food or drink home (Pinkberry will package your frozen yogurt with ice packs for the ride home), then all is good.  But no sitting in a cafe' enjoying your cool beverage.

Here's a juxtaposition for you.  On one side, Amman is a growing, packed city with malls filled with Breitling and Louis Vuitton.  On the other, litearlly across the road from the Taj Mall, we had to stop for a herd of sheep apparently grazing on the asphalt and not on the scrub a few feet away.  A couple honks brought the shepherd running down the way to shoo them off.  We don't see much in the way of camels in the city, but the periodic donkey and plenty of sheep and goats are around, even across the street from the Embassy.  The thing with Amman is there are loads of empty lots.  Some appear empty but actually are garden plots, so they are tended to.  I'm not sure they are actually, legally, garden plots, but that's what they are for now, as long as a building isn't going up on them.  Apparently at some recent point in history the cost of land in Amman skyrocketed so while there are loads of big expensive homes in clumps, it's not uncommon for every other plot to be empty.  It doesn't help that this city is really really hilly.  Houses are built right into the hills which is quite the challenge.  I should take a photo of our street from the bottom of the hill, and you'll see what I mean.

It is a beautiful city though. And small. I know we're sort of on the edge of the city, but with only 3-3.5million people in the city, and nothing immediately beyond but olive groves and lots of sand, it feels very small.  Of course, we compare everything to our last post.  Chennai had 4 million in the city, but nearly 10 million with its suburbs.  Amman doesn't really have any suburbs so 3 million it is.

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