Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Touring Middle East 1: Madaba and Our First Lunch

In just slightly less than 12 hours, our uneventful Royal Jordanian flight (a new Boeing 787-Dreamliner by the way) landed at Amman Airport at day-break. We try to do at least one long trip every year and this year our destination is Jordan and Israel. It’s only our first time setting foot in the Middle East.

Sunrise near Amman Airport - we landed right on time for this gorgeous view
Many thought this is our "pilgrimage" trip to the Holy Land, but me personally I didn’t necessarily see it that way. Yes we were travelling with over 30 people from our church, and we went through sites that were significant in The Bible through Old Testament and New Testament times, tracing back the footsteps of Jesus. We were blessed to have traveled through the land where He lived, talked, performed miracles, persecuted, died and raised from death, but there were a lot more to see, to hear, to feel, and to reflect upon, and we didn't do it out of obligations. It’s an eye-opening journey in so many ways – tiring, but fruitful.

Greek Orthodox Church of St George

The ancient mosaic map. Right in the center is Jerusalem.

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Our trip didn’t start at Amman, the capital city of Jordan where we landed, but instead at Madaba, a small town 30km south of Amman mentioned a few times in Old Testament (like Joshua 13:9). Now it’s best known for the 6th century mosaic map recovered underneath the Greek Orthodox Church of St George. The map - partially damaged - was considered one of the earliest discovered in the region and provided much insight to the geography and important sites from Egypt to Jordan at that time, including the city of Jerusalem right in the center of the mosaic piece made with stones.

Memorial Church of Moses
Moses Memorial overlooking the Holy Land and Jordan Valley
We then proceeded to the nearby Mount Nebo, where Moses was shown the promised land by God before he died and was buried here (Deuteronomy 34:1-8) On top of the mountain stood a basilica now maintained by the Franciscans order of the Roman Catholics along with the tall memorial, in the form of a pole with snake wrapped around looking over Israel and the Jordan Valley, in a park right outside the church. Just like the one Moses was told to make in Numbers 21:8.

Haret Jdoudna Restaurant
We had one of the better tour-inclusive meals whilst in Madaba. Haret Jdoudna restaurant may look like one of those places frequented only by tour groups – evident by the troupe of coaches parked outside and the lack of local customers even during peak lunch hours – but no matter what, the place was comfortable and dishes were tasty.

Muttabbal - Smoked Eggplant Dip
The surrounding of the restaurant reminded me of Tuscany, with the similar Roman-style stone structure completed with a gorgeous courtyard - where we were seated - with long tables under the shades of old vines. I probably wouldn’t consider the restaurant to be the most authentic of all, but it’s good to have our first taste of Middle-eastern flavor here. We began with a sumptuous spread of hot and cold appetizer dishes served mezze-style across our table. Among them I am probably most familiar with Hummus, dip made with chickpeas, but today I actually enjoyed their Muttabbal more with a similar appearance but instead made with smoked eggplant.

Appetizers served Mezza Style
A few salads were there as well, including fattoush (made with cucumbers, mixed greens and baked pita pieces), tabbouleh (with chopped herbs and tomatoes) and makdous (with pickled eggplant). The hot appetizers were the most popular in our group – we finished them in no time. My favorite was the simple sautéed mushrooms with olive oil but the gallayet bandora (tomato stew) worked well with the freshly-baked bread (called khubz which looked somewhat like pita) being passed around as well. The Sambusek looked like a samosa but instead it’s filled with Arab cheese – they were very decent too.

Grilled Chicken with Fries
We also had the main course afterwards with a giant platter of grilled chicken served with fries. We managed to finish most of the dish but it didn’t win our hearts as much as the mezza dishes. We were also introduced to the iced mint-lemonade drink at the restaurant and fell in love with it since then throughout our trip. Cold, aromatic, refreshing, what’s not to like having a sip of that under such heat?

Haret Jdoudna Restaurant - Adel Jumean Street, Madaba, Jordan (

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