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Best Jordanian Food | 7 Must-Try Places In Jordan

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Sharing borders at the Red Sea with Israel and Saudi Arabia with a view of Egypt across the water, and at the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberius) with Syria, Golan Heights, and the Jordan Valley with the north Palestinian Plains visible, it’s no surprise that this cultural crossroads that is the Kingdom of Jordan offers a wide selection of flavor profiles in the Jordanian food, often with a Bedouin twist. We learned quickly that cuisine is an essential part of any tour of Jordan.

What to know before you go: 

(1) If you’re flying from the US on Royal Jordanian Airlines, take a close look at their in-flight meal options. There are none suitable for individuals with celiac disease. While an agent for the airlines told me you are not allowed to take food or drink aboard, I learned at ORD they don’t actually restrict either on the outbound flight – so go prepared.

Buy water at the airport and take some fluid-filled fruits (like grapes) for the outbound flight. Otherwise, you’re likely to feel both hungry and parched on arrival in Amman. From Amman to the US, they confiscate any bottled water or drinks at the final security check before you reach the gate – even those you purchase at the airport. So go to the airport well-fed and hydrated.

(2) Royal Jordanian Airlines does not participate in the TSA Pre-Check program, so leave time to stand in the regular lines.

(3) About the water in Jordan: while they aren’t concerned with pathogens, as you would be in Mexico, Latin America, or Africa, Jordanians don’t drink water from the faucet because it’s chlorinated. All the hotels supply bottled water for drinking and teeth brushing. At the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, the hotels reported the water from the tap was safe to use for teeth brushing. 

Jordanian Food | What to Eat When Visiting Jordan

13/C Wine Bar

Arar St 129, Amman // +962 6 461 4125

Met by Khaled Zumot, one of the sons of the late founder of Bulos Y Zumot & Co. we enjoyed a wine tasting in the 13C store section. He offered multiple vintages that my wine connoisseur colleagues described as “delightful” to “exquisite.” They oohed and aahed over the Arak and several of the award-winning selections. Mr. Zumot was asked what he’d like others to know about Jordanian wine.

“What most people don’t know is that wine originated in this area. While Georgia is the oldest, perhaps 7,000 or 8,000 years, Jordan has 4,000 years of winemaking.”

While they’ve not gone through the Swiss process of being certified organic due to the cost, we are assured that the wine is completely organic, with no pesticides. The description of the grape being left on the vine, harvested late in the year, sometimes even in November, shows the love and care this family has for their culture and their product.

Mr. Zumot describes how this process allows the grape to become sweeter on the vine and how this makes for a thinner grape skin, which ultimately improves the taste and quality of the product.

Once photograph taking and wine tasting concluded, we were invited to the “Bar in the Back.”

From the front, you cannot tell it’s there. But straight through the showroom, lies a narrow doorway. You cross the threshold into a beautiful, dark, mellow space lined with wine bottles along the upper story in a calming atmosphere that is exactly as it appears.

Multiple wine flights accompany your meal if you’re able to accept the chef’s selections. First, a set of three wines, a white, a rose, and a red accompanied by mixed snacks – salty peanuts, fresh thin potato chips, and the largest olives I’ve ever seen, green, no pits, no pimento, and delectable.

Salads arrived – both baby greens (spinach) and celery Caesar. None of us had had a salad comprised of thinly sliced celery before. They offered delicious and interesting Jordanian food. While warned about eating vegetables washed in the water, these were all fresh and delightful. Garnished with a flower we thought to be an aster or a dahlia, the presentation was as gorgeous as the taste.

Jordanian Food: 13/C Wine Bar Celery Caesar

I ordered the watermelon salad. A thick central slice of watermelon, still with seeds, covered in balsamic-drenched arugula and feta cheese; this was my highlight dish of the meal. Sweet and thirst quenching, though I removed the cheese, I didn’t mind the arugula as I typically do. This was not typical Jordanian food but it was refreshing and delicious.

Jordanian Food: 13/C Wine Bar Watermelon Salad

Urged to “hurry along” with the completion of their first wine flight (we hadn’t been told whether to savor and save them or to complete per course, but complete it was meant to be), so that they could keep up, my colleagues were next treated to a set of two wines, one a pinot noir, the second a combination merlot and Nevele. 

“Delightful” Linda Milks declared. “I think I like this combination the best so far.”

With this wine pairing came molasses eggplant with sesame seeds, French fries, ham, and cheese sandwich bikini fried in garlic butter, beefsteak in bearnaise sauce, and the most exceptional dark puffed rice chicken tenders (gluten-free!) served with mayo and lemon. 

We were spoiled with our choices. They served a black cod with spinach and lime coconut that we’re still talking about days later – wishing we could have known what water source it had come from.

“It has a Jamaican Jordanian fusion kind of taste,” declared Rose.

“That fish might be my very favorite,” said Linda.

“That’s something I haven’t experienced before,” Sharon exclaimed.

But dessert was yet to come. A Barazek pistachio ice cream sandwich, served as a set of three and a mascarpone cheesecake with fig jam and a cinnamon and cardamom spice left it hard to leave even a morsel.

Charlene cracked me up as we were leaving, “You don’t know how much you’re eating with these small plates … until you get up and you realize just how much you’ve eaten with these small plates.”

Returning through the 13C wine store, we had to take a few more photographs as we boarded our bus to return to the hotel. 

The Landmark Amman Hotel and Conference Center is a five-star hotel that has a tennis court, jacuzzi, sauna, and a beautiful pool, and, most conveniently for us as we started our tour of the country, a restaurant that opens at 0630.

Landmark Hotel Amman: Colours Restaurant – All Day Dining Buffet Style

From the lobby, walk toward the chandelier that looks like yellow and white ribbon and the beautiful horse mural to the left and enter the Colours all-day dining restaurant.

The gentleman will seat you immediately and orient you to the process. It’s serve yourself, with beverages at the station nearest the entry, tasty Jordanian food and then explore to your heart’s content. If you return to the buffet, take a clean plate. By the time you return to your table, it’s likely that the staff will have cleared your original plate.

NB: Traditional tip for buffet meals was 2 JD per person (about $3.26 when I visited)

The beverage bar offerings didn’t seem to change from breakfast to dinner, except for the milk, perhaps. Mineral water, tea, and coffee are all available. For breakfast, both orange juice and regular and skim milk are available. A tea caddy provides multiple flavors of tea, especially green and herbal.

The central fruit station includes oranges, red and green apples, cantaloupe, bananas, and dried fruit including pineapple, mango, raisins, apricots, kiwi, and almonds with honey, often with a fresh honeycomb, apricot jam, and orange jam were our sweets of the day. 

The kiwi and pineapple tasted like candy to me. Honey lovers had a great time adding this honey to their beverages or dishes, or even enjoying a piece of the honeycomb newly broken off. 

Dry cereals are available, including cornflakes and granola, and a type of Fruit Loops. Yogurt lives here too.

The hot food line includes hash browns and hard-boiled eggs, white rice, and a selection of both Americanized and Jordanian food. Included here are the manaqish (like a flatbread pizza), scrambled eggs, hot dogs, and a variety of proteins along with about 20 salads along the back wall for your eating pleasure. A chef remained on duty to cook omelets to your specifications.

The bread bar looks scrumptious with the bread, rolls, muffins, and occasional frosted latticework. Sweet and dry soft bread are both available. 

The salad bar includes sun-dried tomatoes, cucumbers, a variety of pickles, multiple options of hummus, pita, cheese, labaneh, and the Islam dish moutabel. 

I learned that labaneh (aka labneh) is a strained Greek yogurt while moutabel is a spicy eggplant dip.

For dinner, two sections were devoted to salads, including coleslaw, green salads, Russian salad, which was a potato salad with a mayonnaise base and carrots, which one of my colleagues shared is very common in this region of the world. 

Hot items included white rice, Om Ali (Bread Pudding), soup, Bukhari rice, Turkish lamb with lemon sauce, chicken with tomato sauce, potatoes, steamed vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, corn, and zucchini, beef soup, and a concoction of a light white fish with lemon and dill sauce. 

Colours Restaurant Om Ali

A variety of green salads and potato salads, Greek salad, Baba ghanoush, fresh tomatoes, and an assortment of olives, fattoush, salad, pickles, onions, noodles with vegetables, green beans, yellow peppers, red peppers were all available so any dish could be made both quite colorful and incredibly flavorful. The Jordanian food is very flavourful and exciting.

Colours Restaurant  Baba Ghanoush

The breakfast cereal bar was converted to a dessert bar and included house-made marshmallows, a variety of torts, cheesecakes, brownies, fresh fruit, and the Jordanian version of donut holes.

On my last day, they offered pistachio Halaweh. Some of my colleagues said they wouldn’t mind eating Jordanian food for breakfast every day. 

The buffet also came with smoked beef, turkey slices, cold cuts including cheese, halloumi cheese, sweet corn and olives, and buttercream, eggs, or pancakes to order with Nutella, strawberry, and chocolate flavored syrups for killer pancakes. 

Hard-boiled eggs were available daily as were potatoes, beef, bacon, hot dogs, chicken sausage, Zaatar (spices and sesame seeds), manaqish, cheese manaqish, fried rice, and usually a white rice option.

It was so nice to be able to fill my plate, with reasonable size servings of hard-boiled eggs, salad, breakfast potatoes or rice, Fattoush, and dried fruit. It held me in good stead for a long and adventurous day. For dinner, I’d try the white fish, the chicken with tomato sauce, and three or four salads as well as some white rice or potatoes. The Landmark made it easy to try new things and discover new favorites. 

Lunch with a local: Galsoum Al Sayyah

Our tour guide from the Acropolis, Ahmed Alomari, led us to our lunch and meal with Galsoum Al Sayyah. I can see why it would be very difficult to find her without his help, not only because the roads are a maze, but it’s also up a flight of stairs where you remove your shoes. If you are looking for the most amazing Jordanian food, the best way is to accept advice from the locals.

We entered the living space, which she has reconfigured to allow for 10 to 14 people to sit with cushions or the floor around a low table. Peach floral China with glasses, fork, and knife flatware decorate the table.

She provided us with some amazing food, including maqmoura, described as the “quote, “Jordan lasagna,” a layering of dough with chicken and onions in between. Which Ahmed told us,“If they really like you, they’ll bake it.“ It takes her, on average, five hours to prepare the meal for each large group and, he tells us, she has a large group daily during high season, which we are currently in.

She also prepared Kubbah which is another wheat-based dish. She crushes the wheat herself, making her own flour, and adds either lamb or beef. It was beef on our day and she cooks it in a dish with holes in it to complete the dish properly.

Kubbah

Finally, mansaf, chicken, rice, and yogurt and other Jordanian food were provided, and the rice was delicious. She estimates 80% of her dishes include wheat. She buys it when it is in season and stores it in her second-floor area, where she also has a commercial kitchen. 

Her husband is a retired police officer, and they have four children.

I’m told this is Tiger Rice, and it looks as though it’s parsley with it. She adds olive oil and the salad includes vine fresh tomatoes that were very flavorful, arugula, onion, and pomegranate dressing with balsamic.

She started her business baking bread. She tells us that her sister was a teacher, and they have the same struggle as teachers our American and Australian colleagues do; no time to cook. There’s no fast food in Jordan, so she’s become the next best thing. Her sister continued to promote her, and she started branching out from bread to meals. She started delivery services and now needs her family’s participation to keep up with demand.

We asked how others could have this experience, and you can reach her through her website. Ahmed is the first experience at Umm Qais and then lunch is the second experience. He says he feels grateful to have found her, as his biggest problem is finding people that can do the hard work as he does. He can be found on Lonely Planet.

She prepares this feast daily during the high season. The mansaf has a lemony taste, and was “quote “very enjoyable” Jordanian food according to Linda. She’s been doing this with tourists for six years and had done catering with locals for 15 years.

It’s too hot to do in the summertime. We asked why local people might use her, and the answers were typically they didn’t have time to cook or that they enjoy her cooking more.

We asked what inspired her to start the business, and she talked about in the beginning she used the money for their house. And then told the story of her sister, followed by the Baraka designation, which is when Ahmed found her. The school is only 50 meters away. We passed it on our way in, with 700 students with a population of Ankara List being approximately 8000. Now she has too much business to handle.

She tells us that originally, she was not very well accepted. Now, she has inspired 15 other women to provide similar services.

She invites us to her second floor to see her commercial kitchen and storage areas. She has a very luxurious outdoor balcony with wonderful views, the largest storage area for onions we’ve ever seen, and joyfully shows us her wheat and the flour she grinds herself. 

We returned to help her serve the cookie and fig dessert, Ma’amoul. The cookie has the fig in the middle, the date brought many jokes.

“I came to Jordan and got a date,” was, perhaps the most popular one.

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Jordan Heritage Restaurant 

Jabal Al-Weibdeh, Al-Farazdaq Street // +962 77 773 3033

With  95 dishes and 11 distinct flavors that reflect the “diversity and richness of the Jordanian culture and geo-climatic landscapes,” their goals are to stay true to the heritage authenticity and to empower women-owned micro businesses. As with most of the restaurants in the region, approximately 90% contain some form of wheat product. 

They offer Rashouf, a hearty soup made with Jameed (dried yogurt), lentils, pulses, and seasonal greens as well as eight types of salads. Their walnut salad, we’re impressed to find, has rocca leaves, comparable to kale. The walnuts taste freshly shelled, my colleagues shared (bulgur, made from wheat, is part of the dish and very popular Jordanian food). 

Their appetizers have us excited. Gras Sabanekh (spinach), Gras Gare (pumpkin), and Gras Za’tar (thyme) sound like they’ll hit the spot on this cool Amman night. I so looked forward to that pumpkin, only to have it arrive stuffed in dough, so I had to pass it on to my colleagues. They found it “delightful” and explained it as a perfect and flavourful Jordanian food.

If you want authentic Jordanian food try out the Haliva (Circassian cottage cheese or potato like a pierogi), Ekbab Obeidat (lamb, chicken, bulgur, and molasses), Nabatean fettucini, Vartin aubergine (eggplant), Foul Akhdar bel zeit (fava beans in olive oil over Taboon bread), Zucchini Mtabbal (over Taboon bread), and Athan Al Shayab (minced lamb dumpling shaped like the ear of an old man).

Jordan Heritage Restaurant Haliva

They offer their main courses with a choice of protein (ergo the high number of possible options) including vegetarian, chicken, or meat. Several types of Mansaf were available and chosen by my colleagues, as was Makmoora (spelled other places Maqmoura), and a dish I could eat, Kushna, a Red Sea fish with the option of tomato sauce or Taheenah sauce.

While tomato sauce might not be an obvious choice for a white fish, when delivered, the flaky fish and flavorful sauce were both deeply appreciated. 

Jordan Heritage Restaurant Mansaf

The surprise of the night, according to my colleagues, was the Magloobeh. A “heartwarming Jordanian food” it’s compiled as three layers with rice spiced with local herbs, aubergine, and cauliflower then served upside down with a tomato and cucumber salad, yogurt sauce, and choice of vegetarian, chicken, beef, or lamb protein.

While this seemed like it should be gluten-free, the server confirmed there was bread within their version of the dish. My colleagues said they appreciated the complexity of the flavors and textures, with the salad adding a refreshing crunch.

Desserts included honey cake, Haltalyeh (milk pudding), Zalabya (dough balls) with ice cream, versions of Tamer (molasses), Halaweh, and Sammen. The dishes were colorful and went quickly after a long day touring the desert. We simply loved the Jordanian food.

The restaurant’s seating is predominantly outdoors with twinkle lights festooned across the courtyard providing a celebratory mood. Just ten minutes from our hotel, it was a fantastic way to end the evening and memorize the perfect taste of their Jordanian food.

Haret Jdoudna

Madaba // +962 05 324 8650

Opened in the last century, Zaid Goussous joined Ibrahim and Waddah Jumean in a vision to transform a historical property into a “magical village of restaurants, coffee shops, and a traditional Jordanian Souk and Crafts Market.” Entering, you feel their mission of creating a space where time ceases to exist.

You could be in the 1950s, the 1990s, or today, as the time you spend over your meal with friends is uninterrupted by the technology of the era (as long as you set your mobile phone to vibrate).

Our guide tells us the Haret Jdoudna restaurant is one of the most popular restaurants in the entire country if you want to taste real Jordanian food. Near the Greek Orthodox Church that houses the Mosaic Map, you can enter from the front along King Tala Street or park in the back.

We arrive on the first day of the Muslim work week, Sunday, so the roads are busy, and school is in session. It’s safest to exit our bus from the parking lot.

Enter a peaceful, restful, garden-like area with rich fabrics and lush vegetation, through wood doors with surprising touches, like a golden Grumpy Gourmet award in a transparent box at the entrance, wedding photos, and letters of thanks from a variety of mayors, including one from Richard Daley, then mayor of Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Seated at a table for eight, it was a tight fit for eight of us to have our drinks, individual plates, and then the succession of delivered dishes. Prior to arriving, our guide had confirmed we’d like to try all the customary dishes as well as barbecued meat and a dessert, if available.

The first server brought bottled water and the Jordanian version of a Caprese salad, fresh, delicate, and artfully arranged in a single file across white china with light grey flowers. Next, a spinach salad with thin slices of mushroom and two slices of deep red tomatoes doused in olive oil arrived. All of this was a great experience of Jordanian food.

Tabbouleh, finely chopped parsley with tomatoes, mint, and onion, seasoned with olive oil, salt, lemon juice, and sweet pepper was delivered with a happy sigh from the nearest diner. This has become one of the favorite Jordanian food of the trip. 

Haret Jdoudna  Tabbouleh

They served a dill-sauced lamb, and Baba ghanoush, the first time I’ve seen it in the country without pomegranate seeds. Shifta, chicken swimming in tahini, a sesame seed sauce, arrived simultaneously with the barbecued chicken on the bone, with thin slices of potato atop each portion.

With so many of the dishes containing gluten, the barbecued chicken and potato became my primary meal with a few new dishes to try including the hummus and falafel, which I compared to hush puppies from the southern US, but the chickpea filling is lighter that the typical stuffing, and the spinach dish.

Haret Jdoudna Baba Ghanoush

They provided a tremendous basket of pita bread, some traditionally flat, others puffed, that smelled delicious, and I was sad to have to forego it due to the gluten. They also offered a cheese-filled pastry that my colleagues delighted in with the cheese “explosion” with the first bite.

For dessert, they served a square of almond semolina, sweetened, we think, with honey. 

When you go, if you need the restroom, you can find it up the stairs (interior doors from the main dining area) on the left. If you go too far up the stairs, you’ll reach part of the kitchen, including a pizza oven, and a view over the dining area if all the umbrellas aren’t up.

Petra Hotel Movenpick

Tourism St Petra Wadi Musa, 71810, Jordan // Tel: +96232157111

One of the first things we learned as we drove into the city, the most popular tourist destination in the country, is that while the archeological site is called “Petra,” the city is actually called “Wadi Musa” or the “Valley of Moses.” We arrived late in the evening after a four-hour drive along the Desert Highway, dropped our bags in our room, and headed directly to the buffet dinner service at the Al Saraya Restaurant to try out some Jordanian food.

With space for 220 guests and a buffet to feed us all, it’s quite the display. With three chefs working at two different stations to provide you with customized, cooked items, the salad bars, bread station, cheese kept at perfect refrigeration temperature, soup, entire wall display of dessert items, and selections from pizza with vegetable to mansaf, fruit and vegetable choices, everyone’s food needs are easily met.

Prior to arriving, I’d read that this resort believes in “indulgence done right.” They certainly accomplished this with their fresh cuisine and abundance of choices.

Walking beneath the three-story chandelier to enter the restaurant, Al-Iwan for Fine Mediterranean Dining may indicate a second dining area, it’s hard to tell. The entrance for this buffet at Al Saraya Restaurant is obvious, though, and a good place to rejoin your party. 

The breads are arranged on a table that appears to be a vendor’s cart, adding to the atmosphere. Along the far-right wall are the active chef stations, with other vendor-like carts in the center of the room.

It’s good to make a circle of the room first to check the available dishes prior to making your choices. You may want to start with dessert first, as they offer everything from dark chocolate shavings to strawberry mousse to decadent-appearing brownies and apricot pudding. 

Many of my colleagues started with the pizza with vegetables, the freshly made shish kabobs, and chicken in my case, with BBQ sauce, some sliced potatoes with onion, and other delicious Jordanian food.

Petra Hotel Movenpick Shish Kabobs

Salad selections include hummus, red cabbage, pickled items, Moutabel, Fattoush, broccoli salad, fruit salad, and multiple olive-combining salads.

Pita bread was easily available to use as your side or to create a pita pocket.

For breakfast our first morning in town, we found a tea station where the pizza had been, with milk and dry cereal nearby. The chef stations include hard-boiled eggs and a chef ready to create your omelet or pancakes. Scrambled eggs, waffles, Nutella, and peanut butter are all available.

They even have gluten-free bread with dried fruit, far from the cart of delicious-looking bread loaves and rolls and the dessert breads along the back wall. There’s even a pizza oven in the back right, offering slices of Margherita pizza one morning and a cheeseless pizza the next.

Petra Hotel Margherita Pizza
Sliced Margherita pizza on wooden background, close up

The Arabic salad station with olives and a very wide selection of cheeses and cold cuts, beef sausage, beans with tomato, beef bacon, cold cut smoked turkey, blue cheese, Camembert, feta, halloumi, and Huhtala cheeses, joined sardines for the savory, while fruit salad and dried fruits including kiwi, pineapple, apricots, and more rounded out the sweets. 

My go-to meal for protein to sustain us through long touring days remained the hard-boiled eggs, gluten-free bread with peanut butter (sweeter than ours in the US), black tea, and a variety of dried fruit. I enjoyed the falafel, new to me on this trip and unforgettable Jordanian food when available.

Bedouin Experience at Wadi Feynan

We quickly realized that our favorite excursions involved those with local people. The Feynan EcoLodge opened on the Dana Biosphere Preserve in 2005 and has become a wonderful combination of way station for weary travelers with Bedouin experiences, including bread making, eyeliner making, and stargazing. Wadi Feynan is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth, documented back to the Neolithic era (10,000 BC).

After a local Bedouin experience with a gentleman making fresh bread, made with flour, salt, and water, in a shallow firepit, we returned to the EcoLodge for lunch. They had a buffet for us with items that are becoming our new normal.

We go into the dining hall and enjoy a buffet of so many of the dishes to which we’ve become accustomed. A mixed green salad, potatoes, hummus, corn, olives, cucumbers, nut-filled artichokes, plums, pears, and fattoush, the bread-chipped eggplant dish in a yogurt sauce. Fresh hibiscus tea and water complete the meal.

When you go to Jordan, make a point of visiting the EcoLodge. They’re independently sustainable, so an environmentally conscious way to reduce your carbon footprint whilst traveling and benefit the local community.

Cooking & dining experience at the Petra Kitchen in (Wadi Musa) Petra, Jordan

Have you ever decided to have a cooking experience while on a vacation or business trip? If that’s of interest, the next time you’re in Jordan, specifically in Petra, or Waya Musa, check out Petra Kitchen.

It’s a great way to get to know the local fare more intimately and meet other like-minded travelers while being taught by an executive chef who might just be kind enough to provide you with the recipes for tasty Jordanian food you cook so you can prepare them once you return home.

We eight were exhausted after our day in Petra, but travel writers persist and were excited to participate with other travelers under the supervision of an executive chef and his assistant chefs.

Just down the block from the Movenpick Petra, we entered the Petra Kitchen, to find a whiteboard with the menu of Jordanian food for the night:

Lentil soup

Fattoush

Baba Ganuj (many spellings for this dish, aka Baba ganoush.)

Tabbouleh

Tahina salata

Sambousek with cheese (pastries, both sweet and savory)

Mana’eesh bi Zaatar

Galayat Bandura (Pan-cooked tomatoes)

Kofta bi bandura (Flattened meat with tomato sauce – beef and no wheat!)

Five tables of six to eight honorary sous chefs participate. During my visit, our group of eight travel writers commandeered one table. Several of us perched or leaned on stools for the prep section of the night – it was a great experience, but we were tired!

A sous chef divided up the vegetables between each of our cutting boards as we prepared each dish – – – 

For the Tahini salata: Cucumbers to one, tomatoes to a few, parsley to another, green peppers, onion, garlic to more. It was finally confirmed for me that garlic is a clove by section; good to know.

Two eggplants sat on a cutting board in front of my seat. I recognized the eggplant, of course, though couldn’t tell what they’d done to it. It was the typical purple; they refer to it as aubergine, but it was shriveled. They explained that they had steamed it for the Baba Ganuj.

That would explain my reaction of dismay, I think, as the others laughed when I asked the sous chef to show me how, precisely, he wanted it prepared. I was not ready – not at all ready – with an upset stomach after a long and tiring day – to have the goo emerge from that skin. I’ve seen less gore on an operating table. It looked as though something had just been disemboweled – thank goodness it didn’t smell that way!

After the chef (thankfully) cored the thing, he had me chop it into smaller sections – I can’t say pieces because it was all goo – but it was properly prepped before he returned with the large mixing bowl upon which to mix it together. I’ll point out, though, he got to wear gloves.

The chef planned nine dishes in all, including the main dish, appetizers, vegetables, salads, and desserts. He split the menu between tables, so we’d be sharing our entrees and salads with one group and the soup and dessert makers shared with us.

I liked how they organized it, so they only did one dish at a time.

When we did the meat dish, the Kofta, plastic gloves were provided as egg and beef were mixed, kneaded like dough to combine the ingredients, then the spices were added, then spread it out along the bottom of the large round pan. We tossed potatoes, peppers, and onions into the pan like shooting poker cards to each other as we dealt at a girls’ night poker game. An amazing way to enjoy Jordanian food!

If you want to be sure you get your own tray back, bring a pen to make your mark – but try not to press too hard or you’ll create a tear in the aluminum foil.

Once we’d sliced our ingredients for four or five different dishes – our ingredients poured each one from our cutting boards into a large stainless steel mixing bowl except when we made the meat dish (Kofta) and whisked away by the sous chef to place in the oven or on the stove to boil or to refrigerate as appropriate.

Then, we made a Tahina salad, the minced parsley that I’d come to see as a staple of my new Jordanian food diet. The onions and tomatoes can be diced as finely as you like when you make it yourself – and maybe not douse it with quite as much balsamic.

When the chopping and mincing are all over, they clear the tables and have the participants sit in the middle of the room as they spread fresh tablecloths and place dinner settings.

Voila.

It’s time to eat.

They time things so there’s not much downtime. We had a chance to meet some of the other groups. Two extraordinarily well-behaved little girls, ages 5 and 9, pushed cookie cutters into dough with their doting father looking on.

We congratulated the mom, a British lady living in Jerusalem, on how well-behaved they were. She smiled, allowed us to take photos of the girls over their shoulders, and was ready for dinner when the chef asked us to take our seats.

It’s a late night after a day in the archeological site of Petra, but not too late for a typical evening meal here. We arrived before 7 and were probably eating by 8 pm. The salads were fresh, not dissimilar to what we’d experienced at every hotel buffet we’ve visited during our stay – which was somehow reassuring.

The dough items were even more delicious, my wheat-eating colleagues assured me, making me sad I couldn’t try them. There were both sweet and savory treats, as tasty as their pictures, I’m told. Hopefully, they’ll develop even better gluten-free flours so those of us with celiac disease can enjoy them.

Celiac disease is not common in those from the Middle East and wheat is prevalent in their dishes, I estimate 80% of the dishes offered as entrees contain wheat.

Fortunately, the salads and meat and potato dishes can help balance the diet and, as many of my colleagues noted, there are more vegetables in this Arabic diet than most of us eat at home. Instead of four to six servings of vegetables, we probably reached ten servings daily. No one had to worry about being constipated.

If you can participate in a cooking class and meal in a foreign land, it behooves you to do it. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the experience. If you’re a traveler, looking to understand the culture more intimately, it’s a great way to explore the origins of the dishes as you learn intimately how each item is prepared – from steamed eggplant to minced beef and lamb fat.

And it provides the opportunity for someone to laugh at someone else’s reaction (like me and the steamed eggplant) which will be a long-standing memory.

None of us refused to do any of the tasks assigned – though those tearing up while cutting onions may have been sorely tempted.

Better still, you join like-minded people and it’s typical to find something in common. For me, in addition to the British family, I met a cardiologist at the next table, he and his family traveling from Scarsdale, NY, perhaps fifteen minutes from where I attended medical school. Even 30 years after graduating, and him at another city school (NYU), we shared common colleagues and experiences.

You just never know whom you’ll meet as you travel around the world – so often, it’s someone from just down the road at home.

Sharah Luxury Camp

Sharah DAILY LUNCH BUFFET Salad Station
Four Arabic mezzeh, four western-style salads
Four Appetizers such as hummus, moutabel, tabouleh, three assorted lettuce leaf, three Italian antipasti dishes
Assorted pickles and olives
Assorted condiments
Assorted salad dressings
Bread display
Sharah homemade bread
Live cooking station/ Jordanian food
Three kinds of delicious main courses (beef, fish, pasta)
Arabic station
Maglubah (upside-down) with chicken, vegetables, and spices.
Side dishes of white rice, potatoes, and buttered vegetables
Desserts
Sharah famous dessert buffet offering of seasonal fruit assortments and original Arabic desserts

Lunch was quick as we were headed for a 4×4 ride. While those that arrived on time feasted on the above menu, we late-comers were served a special buffet. The biggest surprise? French fries. Somehow it felt like the first time – it wasn’t until I was writing this article, I realized we’d had them at 13/c so actually three times during our journey. These were soggy, but we appreciated their efforts. I had the tahini salad, beef kabobs with lamb fat, and French fries. 

Dinner was a highlight for many of my colleagues, primarily because of the cooking display prior to the meal. The roasted potatoes were “amazing,” “delightful,” “the best I’ve had on the trip,” and “wonderful!” As sad as I am to have missed them, I needed to rest more and skipped dinner in favor of retiring early in my Bubble Tent, only getting up once in the middle of the night for a little stargazing.

Roasted Potatoes

Fair warning, though. If you do intend to take the sunrise camel ride (0545 departure), make sure you have something to eat before you go. Breakfast is far away with a return time of about 0700 (it’s farther away than that sounds) and best to ride a camel when you have something in your stomach. A Kind bar saved my morning.

Breakfast continued buffet style with black tea, coffee, and cold milk with dark and light cornflakes, individually made silver dollar-sized pancakes with batter poured directly onto a circular hot surface, with red beans, gravy, and potatoes that taste like they were baked in bacon grease, sausage with onions, hard-boiled eggs, a selection of cheeses and cold cuts, multiple types of olives, cucumber, tomato, orange and fruit salad, limes, carrot, an assortment of bread and pita, with a green salad that looks like romaine lettuce available.

In addition to my hard-boiled eggs and breakfast potatoes, I enjoyed the fruit salad, cucumber, and carrots. From all Jordanian food, maybe the breakfast was my favorite part and kept me full all day long.

Movenpick Aqaba

King Hussein Street // +96 23 203 4020

Our stop at a second Movenpick felt like a welcome home. Even though the properties couldn’t be more different, with one near the Archeological Park of Petra (desert) and the other by the Gulf of Aqaba (water!), the rooms functioned similarly as did the Jordanian food for dinner and breakfast.

Some might say they’re tired of eating the same thing at each buffet. It’s funny how, with the variety of items offered, you can fall into a rut and eat just a few items. 

One thing I purposefully committed to doing this trip was to try at least one new thing a day. Sometimes, it was four new things as the typical Jordanian food which was all foreign to me. Sometimes it was trying one of those new dishes at a new place.

So, while my breakfast meal became as close to my American menu of hard-boiled eggs (which, I’m thrilled to report each place offered) for adequate protein, and breakfast potatoes, I appreciated the gluten-free bread available at the Movenpick (nowhere else offered this accommodation) and some very sweet peanut butter. I never did see margarine or butter, which surprised me, but always found enough I both could and would eat. That’s not always the case with celiacs.

The dinner buffet was like the Movenpick Petra with a variety of salads, Mansaf, Fattoush, wood-fired pizza (this time pizza with sesame), lamb, beef, and fish in various sauces, white rice, potatoes, multiple vegetable dishes and other Jordanian food. As always, the dessert bar was ladened with gluten-containing concoctions that looked delightful from a distance. I think that may be how I lost five pounds on this trip.

Movenpick Aqaba Fattoush

The breakfast buffet included a cereal bar with fruit juices, lemon wedges, cucumber, olives, tomatoes, vegetables, salads, an assortment of cheeses, cold cuts, beef, bacon, baked beans, chicken, sausage, potato rolls which are like hashbrowns, spicy rice and noodles, and pancakes served with either chocolate syrup or maple syrup. For me, they had hard-boiled eggs, grilled vegetables, and dried fruit. 

The Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa 

Dead Sea Road, Hotels Area // +96 25 349 3000

We arrived from the Aqaba and the Red Sea to the Dead Sea excited to check out the floating potential in this highly salted sea at the lowest place on earth. But before we could jump in the water, we had to fortify ourselves. Rather than the buffet, the management invited us to enjoy Bacchus, their Italian restaurant on the property. Three restaurants were open during our stay, Bacchus, Spectrum, their buffet dining area, and 1312, their Lebanese restaurant. We were fortunate to enjoy all three. 

Bacchus 

We hadn’t seen a menu in quite some time, perhaps since our very first night arriving at 13/c and the Bar in the Back, so it took a minute to explore our options. Here is not only Jordanian food but also Italian food on the menu.

Six of my colleagues savored the Bruschetta al Pomodoro. Four slices per plate were just enough to whet their appetite for their entrees. The Carpaccio di manzo, vitello tonnato, and carpaccio tonnato Parmigiana di melanzane, and fritto misto were not chosen and will have to wait for a return visit to be enjoyed.

When we entered the restaurant, the first vision is of the pizza oven. Several women were excited by the idea but only two succumbed to the pizza fritta. One truly enjoyed her four-cheese, declaring it “really good,” while the other quickly learned the buffalo salami was thick and “too much” but the pizza dough was “delicious.”

None of us chose from the four salad or mare and verde soup options this time round. 

The spaghetti al pomodoro delighted our tour guide. He tells us he doesn’t often eat at this restaurant, so it was a particular treat. 

Bacchus  Spaghetti Al Pomodoro

They trimmed down their meat lover’s family meal for me so I could have their steak and potatoes. It was filling, yummy, and the most American-style dish I’d had since entering Jordan. The potato was limited to two wedges, perhaps totaling half of one potato, and left me wanting more. 

For dinner, we were back at the buffet. 

Hilton Dinner Buffet at the Spectrum Restaurant:

The salad station began with coleslaw salad, yogurt, olives, cucumbers, fish salad, different dressings, Greek salad, pasta salad, apples, bananas, and vegetables. 

Proteins included beef kabobs with lamb fat, grilled chicken breast with mushroom sauce, fish with garlic and lemon sauce, mushroom soup, seafood clear soup, and stew and white rice.

There were plenty of carbs available including roasted potatoes, pasta, and a wide bread selection even before you reached the dessert bar. 

Their dessert bar included Chocolate mousse cake (I broke down and ate the mousse away from the cake), mango mousse, chilled fruit with apples, bananas, oranges, peanut cake, chocolate cake, Windsor cake, Pistachio opera cake, and asabe Zainab, the fried doughnuts that never seemed to last long.

Spectrum Restaurant Chocolate Mousse Cake

Hilton Breakfast Buffet at the Spectrum Restaurant:

As we’d become accustomed, items included tea and crackers at the tea and coffee station, yogurts, cheeses, both fresh and dried fruit, cereal at the breakfast bar and hard-boiled eggs, American beef bacon, pancakes, an egg station scrambled eggs, hashbrowns, Fattoush, hummus, and falafel at the hot station. There is also American and Jordanian food available.

Spectrum Restaurant Fattoush

The salad bar included tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and cold cuts. 

The breakfast pastries carried center stage with zaatar croissants, muffins, “regular” croissants, fruit Danish, chocolate doughnuts with a chocolate and white chocolate frosting, chocolate brownies, and muffins.

1312 – The Lebanese restaurant at the hotel

One of us was leaving (on to Thailand!) so this meal was our last as a group. They offered a set menu with Jordanian food, Lebanese and some international dishes. We were allowed an appetizer, a main, and a dessert with water offered complimentary with the meal. 

While I played it safe knowing we had a 12-hour flight the next day and ordered the salmon (hold the cheese sauce) – and changed the rice to potato, I wanted you to have the information about the other dishes they offer that several of my colleagues enjoyed. It also helps explain any dishes not already described above.

The Jordanian people have been very welcoming to other cultures and speak fondly of their neighbors to the north which likely explains a Lebanese restaurant here. 

Lebanese dishes with pita (like always) – 

Fattoush topped with grilled Halloumi: the traditional Lebanese salad made of tomato, cucumber, radish, capsicum, rocca leaves, parsley, fresh thyme, purslane, spring onions, mint leaves, and grilled halloumi

The infamous traditional Lebanon Tabbouleh: finely chopped parsley with tomatoes bulgur and a drizzle of olive oil

1312 Lebanon Tabbouleh

Salatet Zahle: chef’s special: Rocca, basil, spinach, purslane, romaine lettuce, and marinated mushroom

Rocca salad with green apple and cheese: Rocca and basil leaves seasoned with lemon and olive oil dressing, topped with shredded cheese

Hummus: traditionally blended chickpeas with tahini

Moutabal: eggplant puree garnished with pomegranate

Muhammara: breadcrumbs with chili tomato paste, pomegranate, and walnuts

Labneh with zaatar: with green olives salad

Cauliflower salad: marinated with garlic and coriander

Hot Sawada (sauteed chicken liver w coriander, corn flour, and pomegranate molasses), Batata harra (potato cubes, fresh coriander, peeled tomatoes, and spicy shatta), Kibbeh (stuffed with minced beef, lamb fat, onions, and pine nuts)

Sambousek (puff pastry stuffed with minced meat and lamb fat)

Rkakat Jebneh (original cheese rolls)

Hummus bel Kawarma (traditional fatteh of chickpeas, rice, tahini, yogurt, onions, and lamb fat topped with local pine nuts)

Mains: 

Shawarma platter (beef or chicken shawarma platter served with garlic paste or tarator, pickles, and French fries) – this was ordered by several of my fellow travel writers, both beef and chicken. While the meats were finished, none of them could eat all of the French fries offered – and they were hot and crispy on arrival. 

Shish Tawook (Traditional Lebanese recipe for grilled chicken tawook on a skewer)

Lamb Ouzi (slow roasted lamb, served with oriental rice topped with mixed nuts served with laban airan)

Sayadiyet Bfrikeh (crushed wheat cooked in fish stock, topped with sea bass and fried onion, roasted pine seeds, and tahini with yogurt sauce)

Vegetarian Kunafa (Mixed vegetables with bechamel sauce and kunafa dough)

Kebab (lamb with minced beef w grilled vegetables, tahini sauce, and pickles)

Arayes (grilled beef and lamb kebab grilled in pita bread served with hummus and pickles)

Halloumi Taouk (marinated halloumi cheese, mushroom, tomato, capsicum, and onion with tahini sauce and vegetable pickles on the side) 

Djeu Msahhab Meshwe (grilled boneless chicken breast served w garlic paste, french fries, and pickles) 

Kebab lahmeh (minced grilled beef kebab, with lamb fat on a skewer)

Grilled salmon (smoked salmon w feta cheese sauce and savory rice),

She’af (grilled beef cubes on a skewer) 

Grilled shrimps (grilled shrimps (yes, they have plural on the menu!) with baked potatoes, onions, tomato wedge, and tartar sauce.

Dessert: rice pudding, brownies with halawe, sarab (Brittany biscuit with milk chocolate mousse, rose Turkish delight and pistachio powder served with vanilla bean ice cream), fruit platter

For dessert, when pressed, I asked for just the milk chocolate mousse, not the entire sarab. They surprised me with an entire bowl, perhaps 20 ounces, rather than the small serving I’d expected. It was sad that I could only eat about three ounces. It tasted a bit like a rich chocolate pudding. 

It was bittersweet, only because we were leaving the next morning and had so much to review from our whirlwind trip. I can see spending an entire week at most places we only stayed the day, or a day at places we only spent an hour. It’s a wonderful, bucket list kind of trip that everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. 

This was a press trip hosted by Visit Jordan and sponsored by the International Travel, Wine, and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), and the opinions contained are mine alone. With me on the trip were seven other travel writers, bloggers, and content creators. The quotes contained are from this group of women unless otherwise identified.

Check out more of our food guides and restaurants guides here.

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