Jordanian Hospitality and Secrets to the Perfect Cup of Tea
Taline Khansa | KF19 | Jordan
Jordan has been my home for the past five weeks, and in this short time I’ve felt more than welcomed by newly gained friends, Tamweelcom’s staff, borrowers, and strangers alike. Every day holds its share of new faces and places, introducing me to people from diverse professional and socio-economic backgrounds. The one common factor among all is an innate sense of hospitality that always leaves me loving and appreciating the people of Jordan more and more.
Regardless of the purpose or length of the meeting or visit, it all starts with a cup of coffee, tea, or juice. Saying no is not an option! If the visit is any longer than an hour, you are almost guaranteed to be fed. Again, you should delete the word “No” from your vocabulary, because it is considered rude to decline such an invitation…. and you really won’t be given an alternate option! Occasionally, the conversation may even lead to an invitation to an unexpected adventure.
The pictures below are merely a glimpse into some of the food, caffeine, and new experiences to which I’ve been invited and was smart enough to say yes!
On my first night in Jordan, my host family invited me to a traditional Jordanian dinner. Leave the fork and spoon behind. Food here is meant to be enjoyed using freshly baked bread to scoop up some delicious falafel, hummus, or beans.
On most days, I eat breakfast at home. But that doesn’t mean that I would reject an invitation to a second “fotoor.” When my MFI’s local branch swears that they have the best cold pressed olive oil, thyme spread, and labneh (yogurt spread), I have an obligation to verify their claims!
But I make sure to leave a little space in my stomach knowing that the borrower visit after breakfast will no doubt include coffee. Khader is a Kiva borrower who runs a coffee shack along one of Jordan’s main highways connecting Amman to the northern regions. After being introduced by the branch manager, the conversation does not begin until the coffee has been served.
There are valid claims that Arabic coffee aids with digestion… because on the following borrower visit Khaled, a Kiva borrower who grows fruit trees, offers me a plateful of the most delicious guavas I’ve ever tasted. Seeing how quickly I ate all the fruit, Khaled did not let me leave without a bagful of his harvest.
Five borrower visits into the day, the loan officer insists that it’s time for lunch and refuses to let me pay for this delicious meat shawarma sandwich. Did I leave any crumbs behind? You bet not! By the time I get home from a day in the field, I am well-fed and over-caffeinated.
On weekends, I head out to explore Jordan’s rich archaeological sites, and there are multiple pit stops along the way to discover anything that catches the eye. Rich in cardamom, this coffee is the best Arabic java I’ve ever had! Courtesy of a bedouin who has a tent set up – in the middle of nowhere – along a highway leading south.
Jordan’s Bedouin population is well known for its hospitality, and travelers can typically book tour packages with these communities. But becoming friends with Bedouins and foregoing the tourist title in priceless! And full of unexpected adventures:
My first experience horseback riding! (Abhi isn’t the only Kiva fellow to ride a horse for the first time during his fellowship!)
Camping in the desert and sleeping overnight on top of a sand dune…
Preparing BBQ Chicken over the hot coals of a fire…
Even the goats welcome me with kisses!
Last, but definitely not least… the time is always right for a cup of tea: Before and after every meal, during meetings, while camping… or in the middle of the desert heat when taking a break from horseback riding.
I’ve been paying close attention to the preparation techniques and the most delicious cups are brewed as follows:
- ALWAYS use loose leaf tea. No exceptions!
- Pour the water into the tea kettle and add the sugar. (This is a key step! Letting the sugar boil with the water and tea leaves makes all the difference)
- Add the loose tea leaves on top of the water. The leaves will remain floating on top. Do not stir.
- Place the kettle over fire and allow the tea to boil and brew to a beautiful dark amber color.
- If brewing over a camp fire, lift the cover off the tea kettle for a few minutes as it boils to obtain a delicious smokey flavor. A must try!
- For additional flavors, add a spring of fresh mint or thyme into your glass and pour the tea over it. Do not boil the herbs with tea as some may become bitter with boiling.
- Settle into a comfy spot and enjoy with good company!
- You can never have enough tea. Refill any empty glass promptly.
Thank you to all the Jordanians from all walks of life who have welcomed me into their country and shown me hospitality that I could not have expected.
Support Jordan’s population and lend to a local who would be delighted to offer you coffee or tea.