Riyad generously offered us a ride to Amman, where we spent the day wandering the streets of downtown. driving north from Petra, the first thing i noticed was the change in colors. as much as i love Cairo, i must admit that it's relentlessly brown. driving north through Jordan you begin to see more variation in color. Amman is a hilly city, all cream colored buildings couched in green hillsides. and the air - unlike the haze of Cairo - is clear and crisp. much to the amusement of its all male clientele, we wandered into a hole-in-the-wall Iraqi restaurant, where we indelicately devoured our food before taking to the streets to buy Meghan some pirated DVDs and search out some silver jewelry. that night Riyad took us to a bookstore/cafe/bar in the christian quarter. you enter through the bookstore, out a door into a back hallway and upstairs to the cafe. it's populated by foreigners and young Jordanians who don't mind a little liquor in their lives. i indulged in my first mojito in months, and i must admit it was well done. Meghan commented that it was pretty ingenious on the part of the bookstore owners to make it obligatory to pass through their shop after you've indulged in a little alcohol. she did end up making a purchase. we ended the evening at an overpopulated shawarma hole in the wall where the only meat option is goat. the kind of place that is completely nondescript from the outside but sports a line around the block.
next morning before leaving town, Riyad and his cousin took us to a famous breakfast place for beans, beans and more beans, accompanied by the hottest, freshest pita known to man. fuul, hummus, tahina, and any number of bean dishes i couldn't identify, slathered in the most flavorful olive oil and accompanied by fresh falafel and pickled veggies. can't argue with that.
the final destination for the day was the dead sea, but we stopped first for a look around mount nebo, which is held in christian and jewish tradition to be the final resting place of moses. from the top you can look out over the holy land and catch sight of the river jordan.
the site's 4th century church is famous in part for its mosaic floors. we stopped at a craft center on the way where they're still making mosaics in a workshop to one side of the gift shop. Erin commented that she found the colors too washed out for her taste, but what i noticed was that they perfectly reflected the colors in the surrounding landscape - subtle creams, browns, olive greens and dusty blues. i bought myself a blue and white Hand of Fatima (for protection against what, i'm uncertain, but everyone needs protection from something).
we ended the day at a Dead Sea resort, bobbing along the surface like many an astonished newcomer before us. it really is an extraordinary experience to be unable to stay anchored. the guys at the resort have the process well worked out. float a bit, slather yourself in salty, stinging Dead Sea mud kept in clay pots along the shore, bake in the sun till dry, back to the sea for a rinse, then off to the fresh water showers. and presto, you've got the softest skin known to man. rinse and repeat. an experience unlike any other, to be sure.