Monday, March 25, 2013

Ajlun's Castle, dates, and hookah

Today marked our final day in Irbid. We spent the first half of the day at JUST, touring the campus, engaging in scholarly presentations, and interacting with our academic partners. I found myself more comfortable on campus today than the day before despite the fact that I was wearing a dress. I also engaged in very interesting conversation with Nisreen, my academic partner, who is Christian, a shrinking minority group in Jordan. As a Christian myself I found it very interesting to hear how the very Islamic dominant culture still largely directs how one lives their life, even when in conflict with Biblical teachings. At lunch I was also able to ask how the conflict in neighboring Syria was impacting the people of Jordan personally. It was great for honest feedback and the opportunity to learn more about Jordanian culture and current events.

After lunch and a quick change of clothes, we then headed off to Ajloun Castle, an Ayyubid castle that stands atop Jabal Auf, near Ajloun, in northern Jordan. We arrived to find that it had closed an hour previously, but thanks to the persistence of our JUST companion, they allowed our group in to the outer grounds of the castle and gave us a private tour of the castle. I am so glad they did. The castle was amazing and the views from the castle grounds were beautiful.

On the way to dinner, we stopped at a local store to check out the dates and other dried fruit they had for sale. I had never seen so many types of dates before. The store owner let us sample some of the produce. It was delicious.

After leaving the store we went out for dinner where we met up with some of our partners from JUST. I was interested to find that the restaurant offered hookah. Also known as a waterpipe, hookah is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for smoking flavored tobacco called shisha in which the smoke is passed through a water basin (often glass based) before inhalation. It's use is very common in Jordan and other parts of the Middle East. Seeing our curiosity, the wait staff kindly provided is with a demonstration on how hookah is set up (see attached video). Some persons even tried hookah for the first time, including our college president! I was not one of them.

Tomorrow we leave Irbid bright and early and are headed to Jerash and then onto the Dead Sea. We will also be visiting Bethany beyond the Jordan, the site of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River. I can hardly wait. Our Internet connect will be limited but I will post photos as soon as I can.

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