Bread seems to be the main staple in the Arabic diet. It comes in all shapes and sizes; puffy, thin, really thin, really really thing, crunchy, soft, round, with sesame, and with wheat. But there is one thing that is always the same about the bread; it’s baked by men.
And – those men love to show off their bread. The moment I even came close to a bakery with my camera I was consistently invited inside. Not just inside….but to the deep, dark back rooms where the bread is given birth. The first few times it happened I was surprised, but at some point I kind of started expecting it.
The behind the scene tours varied, but I would always get them without fail. I was welcomed enthusiastically in the store, asked where I was from and then welcomed again. In Jordan, expect to be welcomed multiple times…they kill you with kindness. One of the men who probably knew the most English would then motion for me to come with him and I would follow him through a doorway to some sort of dark room or separate building in an alley. There I would walk in and startle the men working away, covered in flour; I was the last person they were expecting to see in their bakery.
A big grin would come across their faces, Arabic words flew around the room loudly and rapidly and then I would smile at them as to reassure them that ‘I came in peace and would do no harm.’ Yet no reassurance was necessary really. They proudly showed me the dough, oven, and the processes they went through. This normally culminated in them giving me a loaf/piece hot out of the oven for me to try. I then would ask if I could take a few pictures by doing my charade ‘may I take your picture routine’ and they gave me some confusing, yet positive body language answer.
I had the green light, I could shoot away.
They posed for me and did multiple takes as if they were hoping to turn in an Oscar winning performance. Typically, everyone in the shop would make their way to the back room to watch said performance.
One of my favorite bakery shoots was from the Sanabel Bakery and Sweets Shop in Wadi Musa. I walked inside the bakery full of men and there is was…manna from heaven; bread was dropping from the ceiling! There was a conveyer belt which came through a hole in the ceiling and fresh bread would drop off the belt and into a pile on the counter where a young man would bundle it and put it in plastics bags. There was a line of people buying the fresh bags of bread as fast as he could package them. I stood there in awe of this process, it never stopped, the bread just kept on coming! We did the obligatory photo shoot and I walked off with a bag of bread…given to me free of course!
I made sure I picked up some boxes of honey drenched baklava with pistachios crumbled on top and knaffe for my ride back to Amman. But the best, lasting souvenirs were my photos – and they are calorie free!
By Jim Wright February 8, 2011 - 7:30 am
I’ve always been a huge (you should pardon the expression) lover of bread. When I moved to Jordan I was astonished at the quality and seemingly endless quantity of the bread here! I’ve yet to sample any bread here I didn’t like. Some I adore, others I love, and a tiny few I like. Watching the men make the bread is something akin to watching a loving interlude. The smiles on the faces of them men as they squeeze and caress the dough into the desired shapes, the gentle way they move it into the oven and then retrieve it minutes later is like a ballet…hmmm, a bread ballet. I like that comparison! Thanks Sherry, for this post!
By Emilia February 8, 2011 - 8:58 am
Gotta love the bread, gotta love the smiles 🙂
Reading this post before lunch was not a good idea, I’m dying for a tasty bread right now!
I’ve always been a bread person, I’m sure I would feel at home in Jordan with such offer. I would especially like to try the puffy one. As to the favorite baker boy, I would vote for the last one. He’s really proud!
By Sherry February 10, 2011 - 12:33 pm
Yes – I’m a bread person too! However – after a month and a half of it – I finally broke down and said – “No bread today…I must have vegetables!!” However it didn’t take me long to get back to the bread!
By Anthony February 8, 2011 - 9:01 am
I love bread! There is nothing like a piece of hot baked bread lathered with butter. It looks like this bread would be so delicious, coming out of that stone oven. Sounds like these men were extremely kind to you. Nice post!
By Sherry February 10, 2011 - 12:29 pm
I never once saw butter when I was there! However – we did slather Happy Cow cheese on it hot of the oven many times!! I’m now a Happy Cow lover too!
By Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World February 8, 2011 - 11:28 am
Those bread looks delicious! Fresh baked bread out of the oven — can’t beat that.
By Mark H February 8, 2011 - 4:35 pm
Bread is such an artform in so many parts of the world. I love the feel of the timelessness of these bakeries – I can envisage their granffathers also tossing and rolling dough and digging baked products deep from the brick ovens.
By Barbara Weibel February 9, 2011 - 12:10 pm
OMG – bread is my downfall! I would be so fat if I lived there. But if your photos are any indication, I would really be loving all the handsome men. Wait, do they like fat women in Jordan? Hmmm…
By Sherry February 10, 2011 - 12:28 pm
They do like women to have a little roundness on them…at least in the ‘old days’! And yes…the men are quite handsome – and so nice to visitors!
By Sarah February 10, 2011 - 10:06 am
Sherri, Have you ever read A Fine Balance? It’s about India, but the characters made me think of these breads boys. Of course, why read the book when you can experience it first-hand?
By Sherry February 10, 2011 - 12:27 pm
No, I haven’t read it – but India is one of my favorite countries so I’m sure I would enjoy it!! Thanks Sarah!
By Anil February 22, 2011 - 12:32 pm
Looks like in Jordan you can’t have a meal without bread – sounds delicious!
By Shane February 22, 2011 - 3:52 pm
I showed your pictures to the baker boys today (and gave your web address to them too) and they seemed delighted. They gave us some baklava so I am delighted too.
On the subject of bread, we asked for some in a restaurant in Wadi Musa a couple of days ago and received a flat ‘no’. So wrong.
By Sherry February 22, 2011 - 4:31 pm
Oh – thanks for following up with the Baker Boys – I’m so happy they got to see it. That seldom ever happens – so it’s really cool that you did that. Regarding the no bread…that’s why you have to eat at Cleopetra! 🙂 How was Petra??
By Shane February 22, 2011 - 4:51 pm
Loving Petra. Going back for a third day tomorrow. We’ve left late both days so far and haven’t made it to dinner at Cleopetra yet. Thurday, our last day here, will be a work day hanging around the hotel and hopefully we will be eating here then. Fingers crossed they do dinner that day.
By Sue April 25, 2014 - 1:11 pm
Great photos…..can just smell the bread !
By Mel R July 21, 2018 - 3:34 am
I am surprised you say bread is baked exclusively by men. In bakeries, that are very open and public places, yes. But in no home bread is baked by a man.
By Sherry July 21, 2018 - 1:25 pm
I totally agree with you. I was talking more about the bakeries that I went into.