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Late Night Cravings

25 Comments 11 January 2011

baking bread

It doesn't get any fresher than this

When you get those late night hunger pains, attacking your insides as if they miners in an empty cavern; when you can hear the echoing grumbles of your insides – what do you do? In Amman you go to Salah El-Din sandwich shop.

At 10PM on Thursday night I had my pajamas on sitting at my host family’s home. We were all chatting and all of a sudden they asked me if I wanted to go downtown for a sandwich. I was a bit confused…”A sandwich, right now? I have my pajamas on.” I was convinced this was a ‘lost in translation’ type of conversation, but I was wrong; they really wanted to go for a sandwich. What made this even more surprising is that the family lives in Fuheis a town outside of Amman; basically a 30 minute drive to downtown if there’s no traffic.

As much as I wanted to simply call it a night and go to bed, I felt like this was one of those opportunities I should seize; however I wasn’t going to seize it in my pajamas. I quickly changed and 5 of us walked out the door to go get a sandwich.

Saif (the husband of Rawan) was not only our driver but my personal tour guide as we hit the Amman traffic circles in reverse order. One of the first things I learned about Amman was that the traffic circles were numbered starting with circle 1 near downtown and the further you go out the higher the numbers go. Saif pointed out every piece of Amman landmark trivia possible as I tried to take it all in under the cover of darkness. This was really my first trip into the city so I felt like a young child pressing my nose against the window hanging on his every word.

Amman waiting

A line of men...

We finally started to get into the valley of downtown as the hills of buildings rose up around us with twinkling lights. There were many people out walking around; after all in the Middle east Thursday night is the beginning of their weekend. We pulled up and doubled parked by some cars and Dana groaned, “oh, the place is full of men”. We had driven by the Salah El-Din and sure enough there was a line of men outside and mulling about. I didn’t really know what Dana’s comment meant, but Saif started taking sandwich orders in the car.

I innocently said, aren’t you all going to go inside? Thinking who in their right minds would drive all the way here and not go inside?! However I had to remind myself that I was in a foreign culture, one that I hardly understood and certainly didn’t understand the intricate balance of men and women interactions. Dana, Etedal, and Rawan had decided to stay in the car. However the adventurous side of me wanted to go in; after all, I had changed out of my pajamas to go on this trip, so I might as well get out of the car if it was acceptable! I asked the women if I could go in with Saif and they said sure that I would be fine because I was clearly western and no one would give me any problem.

That was all I needed, so I grabbed my camera and got out of the car. We walked into the small take away restaurant called Salah El-Din and I was the only woman there currently. It didn’t really bother me at all, mainly because I was fascinated by what was in front of me. A hot brick oven and two men working in what appeared to be a very chaotic environment. The place was a little messy, but you could tell that it just couldn’t keep up with the amount of people coming in. I asked Saif if I could take some pictures of the place and he quickly as the man behind the counter who wiggled his hands in a fashion with I thought meant no, but Saif turned around and said sure – no problem. Ah – the joy of foreign body language.

bread amman

Sesame seeds go on top

I took a couple of shots of the counter, and then the man motioned for me to come behind the counter to take more photos. I once again didn’t think that I understood what he was trying to say to me, but he kept on motioning for me to come around behind the counter, so finally I decided to follow his instructions. All of a sudden, there I was on the other side of the counter next to the guy shoveling break in and out of the oven. What a great vantage point; plus I had everyone looking at me..the crazy female tourist with the camera. It’s a good thing I decided to change out of my pajamas.

Saif ordered 8 sandwiches. The man handed him 8 loaves of bread as they came right out of the hot oven, 8 cheese triangles, a bag of thyme, and 8 eggs which appeared to be really dirty. I was a bit confused about the whole situation; and why we were they giving us a raw egg? Saif quickly explained that the egg wasn’t raw and that it had been baked in the oven…whew.

We walked over to a rather dirty counter and we sat down our bread and picked up one of the many knives laying randomly on the counter. Saif then proceeded to show me that this was a ‘make your own’ sandwich shop. We were given all of the ingredients – now it was up to us to put them all together!

Video of Saif teaching me how to put together the perfect sandwich:

I was fascinated with the process, quickly I jumped in and started helping out; I felt like a local. And for all purposes, I was as there weren’t any tourists in the place. After the fact when I tried to look it up on Google I realized that the place was so ‘local’ I can’t even find it on a Google Search. We quickly put together our 8 piping hot sandwiches and then grabbed 5 cups of tea and took it all to the car for our late night feast.

Amman Sandwich

Me making a few sandwiches

Let me tell you…this fresh out of the oven self service sandwich was better than any egg sandwich I had ever ordered in NYC. Pure yumminess. Plus to top it off – 8 sandwiches and 5 teas cost us 6 Jordanian Dinar (aprox. $8US).

We drove around downtown Amman some more and did a bit more site-seeing, before heading back to Fuheis. I was overjoyed with our impromptu sandwich outing; being exposed to places like that; a place I would’ve have never found on my own, is what travel is all about to me. More than ever my travel style is changing; it’s not about seeing a ton of places to tick off a list. It’s about slow travel; integrating into the culture and being local. My host family and I were off to a great start!

Your Comments

25 Comments so far

  1. DAD says:

    I just got done with my breakfast of Mom’s homemade pancacks. The egg sandwich would have gone well with them. Interesting sandwich and sometimes the “spur of the moment” things turn out the best. Have another one for me!


  2. Looks so good and so fresh! Have another for me!

  3. Alisha says:

    Love local experiences! I’m sitting in my cube living vicariously through you until I leave in a couple of months.It is almost lunch time here in Texas…..hmm now I want a sandwich!

  4. I absolutely love this post, but what I love the most is the last paragraph. I’m so happy for you:

    …being exposed to places like that; a place I would’ve have never found on my own, is what travel is all about to me. More than ever my travel style is changing; it’s not about seeing a ton of places to tick off a list. It’s about slow travel; integrating into the culture and being local. My host family and I were off to a great start!

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks Randy…as you can tell – it’s going well. So many things to write about! Just left Feynan…you about had to drag me away from there. I want to go live there!! I fell in love with the community. Was in the school this morning helping administer the English tests for the students! Thanks!!

  5. I feel like I was there with you. Want to eat one of those sandwiches. Great that you had the courage to ask to go in. Amazing that they have different standards for western women.

  6. Nice nice nice! I always love to experience places through food and it’s these types that usually make their mark in my memories of travel.

  7. Alison says:

    I love this! What a great cultural experience and looks delicious too!

  8. A late night sandwich run in Amman – what a great story! And it’s one you don’t hear every day. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard anyone say, “That reminds me of this one time I was in Fuheis and we decided to drive to Amman for sandwiches, and…”

    The part I found most intriguing was when the women decided it would be okay for you to go in though the shop was filled with men because you were clearly Western.

    In the video, it looked to me like the egg was brown. Is that right? In any case, it’s an interesting concept I’m surprised I had not heard of before.

    • Sherry says:

      Yes – the egg was brown…I’m not sure if it started that way or if it became more brown from being in the oven. It looked rather dirty at first – I thought they had taken it right from the chicken coup! Glad you liked the story – and yes- it will be great to share in the future!

  9. Fantastic post – loved the atmosphere. And love this place, too – I’ve been there many times, at about the same time of day (night)!

    I wrote about it here, back in 2007:

    It looks like the magazine has now taken that page down (boo). But if you can see in the screen-grab they’ve reproduced, the second box along is headlined “Kaak” (see it?) That’s where I describe the same experience you just had – at the same shop…

    Not sure what you’re up to in Jordan (I need to click my way through your blog a bit more…) but whatever it is – enjoy. Fabulous country. Hope you’ve got hold of this, written by, erhmm, well…


    • Sherry says:

      Thanks for stopping by Matthew! I’m in Amman for a month doing some volunteering work and a bunch of writing and photography – so far I love it!

  10. Hazem Abu-Lughod says:

    This is indeed one of the must-see places if you eve visit Amman. I’ve lived here for 20 years and there’s no way that a month passes by and i don’t visit that place.
    If anyone reading this is in Amman visiting, I’d take them there with pleasure. Best of all it’s open 24/7…great late late night pigging out place ;)))

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks for offering your sandwich expertise to my readers! You may very well get people contacting you to accompany them there! Any other great advice for me for must do’s in Amman?

  11. Jim Wright says:

    This is a great post! I’ve been living in Amman now for about 18 months (from Birmingham, AL) and absolutely adore everything about it! One of my first discoveries was Salah El-Din and you can find me there at least a couple times a month. I hope you will continue to enjoy your stay in Jordan. As for me, I’ve decided to make it my home!

    • Sherry says:

      Thanks for stopping by the site Jim! Wow – you are living here now…how cool. I think it would be a pretty easy city to be an expat in…except for the driving at times! If you have any other great ‘insider advice’ for me please share!! I hope to get into some of the coffee shops later this week to check it that scene.

  12. Emilia says:

    Hi, Sherry! I’ve been enjoying your posts (and the book) for a while, it has been one of my ‘must visit’ blogs. After this delicious post (in all senses!), I had to stop to say a hello. I still haven’t been to this part of the world, but I’m looking forward to visiting Syria and Lebanon in the near future. Maybe Jordan…
    A big kiss!

    • Sherry says:

      So happy you said hello! I’m heading to Lebanon next month – so will hopefully have some great things to share about Lebanon too. I really hope you stop by Jordan if you are in the area – it has been such a surprise to me. I just got back from a week in Petra, Dead Sea and this amazing eco lodge – will be writing about it over the next few weeks. And the food in this part of the world…yum, yum, yum.

      • Emilia says:

        I love food from Syria and Lebanon, I imagine Jordan should be so good as well! Despite not having levantine ascendence, syrians and lebanese were a great imigrant wave to Brazil in the beggining of the 20th and we got used to their food on a day-to-day basis…thankfully!
        I’ve been reading ‘From the Holy Mountain’, from William Dalrymple and this region has been growing strong on me.
        A kiss, Sherry!

  13. Donna Hull says:

    What an experience. I’m glad you just went with the flow of things. Look what you discovered? How to make egg sandwiches in an off-the-beaten-path sandwich shop in Amman. Your words (and photos) truly captured the atmosphere. Thanks for taking me there.

  14. Joey Phi says:

    YUM! Oh how I miss good food… Peru isnt the best place for that:(

  15. Janelle says:

    Slow travel it is, my friend. That’s what living overseas is all about, eh? :)

  16. Hazem Abu-Lughod says:

    Hi Sherry,

    If you’re asking about food in Amman you’ve definitely hit the jackpot. I suggest you have an intense food trip…along with a serious work out routing during yoru stay.
    For those interested in running, there’s a 242km relay race dead2red (dead2red.com). It’s teams of 10 people…we ran it last year…and to be honest it’s like no other run or marathon…i strongly recommend it if any of you are here in early march 2011.

    As for mroe food…for thos ewho crave shawerma…there’s a great meat shawerma place called reem (it has multiple locations bu tthe original is on the 2nd circle for those of u familiar with amman). there’s al;so a famous chicken shawerma place…al faris…it’s in sweifieh. if u still ned more, a trip to jordan is not complete without falafel alquds (jerusalem falafel) on rainbow street (1st circle). I just love it.

    Plz don;t hesitate to contact me should you need any help or guidance. Hope all of you reading this get a chance to visit jordan, enjoy it and gain a few pounds ;)))


    • Sherry says:

      Fabulous tips…THANKS!! I had heard about the shawerma near 2nd circle – so that was on my list. But I’m planning on heading to Rainbow street this weekend – so will have to stop at falafel alquds! Do you have any recommendations for great places or people to photograph? Any cool festivals happening this month yet?
      Unfortunately I leave at the end of the month so I won’t be around for your cool sounding relay! I did one similar to that in California once and loved it! If I were here in March I’d totally do it! Are you on a team? I’ve been trying to run here – but it’s rather hard – and hilly!

  17. Deb says:

    Sounds like an amazing experience. And yes, I think you and your host family are off to an incredible start! I love making my own sandwich, what fun and the bread looks yummy. So fresh.

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

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