The Road to Jerash

Artisan, Jordan, Shops

IMG_0170Yesterday we took a morning ride to Jerash,  a small town just 45 minutes drive North of Amman, and home to the majestic remains of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa. While we weren’t visiting the ancient ruins, they are visible from the main road into town, their gorgeous gold hue the same color as the caverns’ rocks we walked through on our hike a couple of weeks ago.  I adore the contrast between the perfect clear blue sky, the sandy landscape, and the dark green olive trees – the drive reminded me of why it’s so wonderful to live here.

Along the highway, literally every few metres, a farmer had set up shop for the day, selling whatever is in season on his land. Some of the stands are just stacks of cardboard boxes while others are trucks opened up to display their wares. Right now there are a whole array of olives for sale, enormous ruby red pomegranates, citrus, and perfect little eggplants which are primarily used to make makdous a pickled, garlicy, walnut-filled mainstay of this region’s cuisine (check out this makdous recipe). I couldn’t help but stop  to explore. I now am the proud owner of several kilos of large green olives which I plan to cure myself…once I ask some of the experts in my family how they’d suggest I do so.

In Jerash our mission was cheese at Al Haris, a family owned dairy which my mother-in-law is partial to.  Apparently, Jerash is famous for its cheese and jameed, which is the fermented balls of sheeps’ yoghurt used in mansef which is essentially Jordan’s national dish. On this Friday it was bustling, the owners’ sons all on hand to help serve their customers. They will undoubtedly be next in line to run the business. In the shops’ simplicity, I couldn’t help but marvel at how it wouldn’t be out of place on the streets of Brooklyn, it’s jars of honey, and bees’ pollen and gee and molasses, a foodie’s delight.  Their lebneh, a very thick yoghurt that’s sort of like sour cream, is the best I’ve ever eaten.

On the way home I decided we needed a pomegranate. Sweet little Ammar, the farmers’ nephew and in the 8th grade, sold us 4 kilos (about 8 pounds) worth! He urged us to try his tart, sweet jewels and I’ve decided they’re going on every salad I make until they’re gone. In the meantime they’re a gorgeous centrepiece for our Thanksgiving table.  Next weekend, we’ll leave my in-laws at home and go see the ruins up close for ourselves…and likely pick up a few more treats along the way!

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