This week I made a couple day trips to destinations outside Amman and I moved in with my host family. A week ago today however, I visited the Souk Jara (Jara Market). It was purely by chance that I stumbled upon the market. I was near the city center on my way to pick up a dictionary in colloquial Jordanian Arabic when I saw a street mobbed with people and lined with vendors. For those of you who are interested, the dictionary is called Diwan Baladna (the dictionary of our country). I've had multiple Jordanians take a look at the book and they all thought it was great. While walking through the market their was a stand selling these dictionaries. The vendors themselves looked like bouncers you might see outside a club. It turns out though that they were the dictionary's co-authors. Most of my friends bought copies there and we all had our books signed by the authors. Sunday of this past week, the beginning of the work week here, my Islamic Art class made a field trip to Salt. There is an arts college there where I will travel to twice a week during the second half of the semester to learn woodcarving. On the road to Salt I saw scenery unlike anything I've ever seen before. The rolling hills melted into dunes and the dunes merged into the mountains separating the West Bank and Jordan. The two shots to the left are from our trip to Salt. We were up so high and on such a steep cliff that the picture to the immediate left almost appears to be an aerial shot. The landscape was dotted with olive groves and flocks of sheep. From that distance I couldn't tell if the shepherds were amongst their flocks. When we got to the art institute the masters there put on a demonstration of pottery making and wood carving. My professor for that class is wonderful. Her approach to visual art is unlike any other I've ever seen or heard. For her it is a form of meditation and letting the sacred geometry run its course. If you look closely the two pictures below are before and after shots of the wood carving master and a component he made for an elaborate window blind. As I'm writing I can hear a cat fight outside. This is pretty common here. Jordanians don't keep pets, but the streets are full of stray cats.
The small tea table I have included is representative of what the woodcarving masters I'll be learning under make on a day to day basis. I asked my host mother and the piece is close to a hundred years old and is of Syrian origin. If you look closely the miniature table is one big wooden mosaic. Someone tediously pieced thousands of geometrically cut pieces of wood together to form this single table. This week I made a new friend in my Amideast language partner Khaled. Earlier this week he took a few of my friends and I out to a café where we learned the card game Trix. For all of you from my immediate family you know I'm not usually one for cards. But I really had a lot of fun learning it and have since played Trix with my host brother.
Yesterday we visited Saladin's castle at Ajloun. The fortress was fantastic. To think that someone a thousand years ago trekked hundreds of miles from Jerusalem and Damascus and had the vision to build such a structure is truly amazing. We were up so high we could see into both the West Bank and Syria. We pretty much had the fortress to ourselves as we went early in the day and it was the day of prayer. Later on we went to a nature preserve that was full of pine and olive trees. With the elevation and the amount of flora I got the feeling of being in the Adirondacks. But when I looked out from the top of the mountain there beyond the tree line was nothing but dunes as far as I could see.