And then there was this time that I meandered down south, past the dust and dirt of Amman to the beautifully gritty town of Madaba.
Plunked straight in the middle of a bunch of green fields (woo, nature!) Madaba is a funny little place. Tourists come here to see St. George’s Church which has a mosaic map of the old cities in the region on the floor (everything from Athens to Jerusalem). Other pieces of ancient mosaics have been dug up and preserved, and the art of making mosaics has been passed down to different artists in the town.
There is also the church where John the Baptist was beheaded, and you can go up into the bell tower where there is a stunning view of the surrounding areas. From up here you can escape the street noise for a minute and enjoy the wind, the fresh air, and the inevitable call to prayer that will echo across the fields.
Underneath the church are tunnels which have been mostly excavated. Underground rooms show more mosaic bits and a history of the region, and another level of the church has just been discovered but not excavated yet. Cool!
The locals put up with the tourists, but just barely. Even Jordanians from outside of Madaba are likely to get ripped off sometimes, so I don’t feel too bad!
However, this trip to Madaba I was there for one reason and one reason only: shwarma pizza. An adventure a year and a half ago led to this discovery and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since.
Tamer, Marwan and I settled into our little plastic chairs and waited impatiently for the delicious treats to come up. As two large, hot, and spectacularly cheesy pizzas were delivered to our table I found myself chowing down into the kind of culinary heaven even Rachel Ray can’t imagine.
Rules of shwarma pizza:
I will not speak when eating.
Don’t speak to me- you won’t get a reply.
I will glare at you when you give the begging garbage kitty a piece of the pizza. I know the kitty was hungry, but so am I.
Don’t ever feel bad about what it is doing to your body. Just don’t.
And, finally, though shalt not suggest that someone spread this recipe elsewhere. It should stay special, local, and known to but a few.
Sit back and enjoy the food coma, friends! And if you should ever find yourself in Madaba head to a restaurant called Darna, right across the street from St. George’s, and order the chicken shwarma pizza- you won’t regret it.
We then were off to the workshop of a local mosaic artist, archaeologist and all around badass named Ali. I met him about a year and a half ago and was enthralled by his tales of desert digs as well as his intricate mosaic designs he creates for his projects. The shop was closed when we got there but we soon saw him bounding down the street towards us, a partially completed mosaic on its design board clutched in his hands between tools, stones, and a variety of other materials. We all said hello and he remembered me from last time, which is one of those awesome things about Jordan. I never expect people to remember me and yet time and time again I am greeted by name, the last time they saw me, and hospitality beyond belief.
His shop was a glorious mess- you can tell that he knew exactly where everything was even though to an outsider it was chaos. He spends some of his nights there, working late around tight schedules for projects and hosting international artists who come work with him. The guy is crazy talented, and prides himself on working for a purpose rather than for money.
We retired to a dark little cafe and drank coffee while catching up with the last year of all of our lives. It’s cool to see a familiar face and to have a more personal connection to a city than just the tourist attractions.
All too soon we said our goodbyes and headed back to Amman, the fields turning into suburbs and the fresh air receding into distant memory. We passed herds of goats, sheep, and saw more than a few baby camels (sqeeeee!!!! they’re so awkward it’s adorable) along the side of the road which cements in my mind the awesomeness that is Jordan.
We’ve got shwarma pizza, baby camels, and mosaics, baby.
(My post from 2012 about Madaba can be found here: http://womanoffthemap.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2375&action=edit)