Turkey Day the Jordanian Way…

Marhaba! (Hello!)

Hope you all enjoyed Thanksgiving break with your families and had crazy stories to share upon returning back to campus! I know that finals are around the corner so I hope that you will all still have time to read and comment on my blog.

To address some of the comments on the last blog, I’d like to say the snake was not scary and it was with a random guy who had a parrot and snake for tourists to take photos with. Eating Camels for Eid al-Adha was also new to me, but apparently if you are a wealthy Jordanian that is the way to go because you feed half of it to your family, the other half is to be distributed to your neighbors. There was more information that I wanted to share with you all that was more directed to the political and social issues facing the people there . I will have another blog soon addressing these issues, I would love if you all engaged in that post with your perspective and understanding of the Arab Israeli conflict.

Now, I am abroad on the biggest holiday in America second to Christmas. All the female students agreed that we would throw our own dinner party for Thanksgiving following a week of exams, papers, and presentations (our midterm week). Fortunately, the ISA program director, Mohammad, was awesome enough to plan a Thanksgiving meal at Jafra, one of the most well known and busiest restaurants in downtown Amman. Not only that, but he secured our reservation for Thursday, their busiest night (technically it is the day their weekend starts). He surprised us with a Thanksgiving feast, but surprises didn’t stop there…  We were told we were invited to the kitchen to observe the chefs cooking our Thanksgiving feast and we would be able to partake in cooking the meal as well.  We were expecting the meal to be an Arab version of Thanksgiving, instead of turkey we thought chicken and were unsure if mashed potatoes would be available. The day before an email was sent out by the restaurant, we were all excited to see that indeed we would be having an American Thanksgiving with turkey, mashed potatoes, sauteed veggies, cranberry sauce, Caesar salad, and a surprise dessert.

Our fabulous chef preparing a delicious Thanksigivng meal
The delicious meal!

Thanksgiving day rolled around and we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted by the owner and head chef who were extremely hospitable and excited to show American students how it is thrown down in a Middle Eastern restaurant. Many of us were expecting it to be rowdy, ingredients all over the floor, and fast paced moving. That is often the way restaurant kitchens are depicted in the States as well as through the media. It was quite clean, everyone communicated calmly, and moved at a pace that was if they were cooking in their home kitchen. One thing I did notice here and everywhere else in Jordan was that NO one wears gloves. If you are strict about that sort of health code when eating out then stay out of Jordan. Every time our chef touched a different dish that required him to use his hands instead of utensils he would wash his hands though.  He even let us help cook dessert called, loukoumades. It is both a Greek and Middle Eastern dessert; it is golden puffs of fried dough that contain bits of potatoes in them and are dipped in sugar syrup and usually covered in powdered sugar. Basically, it was carnival food for dessert which, we were all okay with. Our feast was ready by 7:30 pm and as a vegan I could not eat turkey or mashed potatoes, but the restaurant served me three bowls of vegetable soup, bread, sauteed veggies, and mashed sweet potatoes that had no butter or milk in them. Yes, that did make me full too. :) We were thankful to have an amazing program director to land us a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday which is the busiest day for all businesses and allow us access to witness how our Thanksgiving dinner was whipped up.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Have any of you spent Thanksgiving abroad? If so, how was it? Were the citizens of that country aware of what Thanksgiving is?

Till next time :)


24 thoughts

  1. That’s awesome that the director set up all of that for you guys. Has it been hard to find places to eat/ grocery shop seeing as you are a vegan? Has anyone begun to feel home sick or is everyone still enjoying themselves? To answer your question though, no I have not spent Thanksgiving abroad. However, I was in Europe for the 4th of July (can’t really remember where) about 8 years ago. It was kind of cool we actually found a place that was holding a party specifically for the 4th of July and went.
    Daniel Nagel

  2. Hello,
    That is so cool that your director was able to set this up for you guys. It must be very different celebrating a holiday in a different country and to still be able to celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day. That must be hard being vegan and to only be able to eat veggies my mom used to be a vegan and I remember when we used to go out to eat sometimes it was really difficult to fine something she could eat. I have never been in a different country for Thanksgiving but for a Christmas while I was in middle school I was in Russia while we were adopting my little brother. It was not much different there were still decorations and lots of light and christmas trees the hardest part was not being home for Christmas and not being able to do what I normally do but it was still a great experience.

  3. Merhaba Salam!

    Do you know Turkish??! I am learning a little and I definitely know what that means :) I am glad that you had that you still were able to have Thanksgiving even though you were abroad and that the people around you understood that. That food looks so good and actually healthy. Do you miss any American food that you can’t get there? Anything in particular? Good luck on your exams!

    See ya!
    Rose :)

  4. Salam… Again an enjoyable blog to read and great photos so we can get a real sense of some of your experiences. The food looks delicious.. and yes, we in America are much too concerned with the cleanliness issue.. no gloves… that is how most of the world is .. and it builds up resistance, i’m sure.. How wonderful the chef cooked up a great Thanksgiving. And it helps us be aware that when others are in our country, it is important to also respect and understand their culture and customs and acknowledge their special days. The Jordanians sound very warm and welcoming. . I have not been in a foreign country for Thanksgiving, but I have been in Switzerland for Christmas and New Years. Magical…Happy travels. (p.s. and what is that yummy looking shake drink?)

  5. Wow! It sounds like you had an amazing thanksgiving despite being abroad! I think it is amazing how your director was still able to surprise you with your thanksgiving you all had. It looks like you are just having such an amazing time up there during your abroad trip!
    Aimee Fischer

  6. I suppose it would be an interesting experience to have a uniquely American holiday outside of the States. Maybe it would allow one to truly appreciate the meaning and purpose of the day, rather than eating as much turkey and watching as much football as possible. Then again, who wouldn’t be thankful for the ability to watch football all day while stuffing one’s face with such delicious food? (The Canadians maybe… They celebrate Thanksgiving too, but its obviously not as good as America’s version)

  7. Hey all,
    If you want to see the photos at their normal size on the previous blogs just click on them and it will expand the image.


  8. Its great your director was able to surprise you guys with an “Americanized” thanksgiving meal from a Jordanian restaurant. Im sure it would have been interesting to experience a Jordanian Thanksgiving meal though as well. I was wondering, what did your classmates say about the camel meat? Like what did it taste like?

    I was also wondering what sort of things an average college student in Jordan’s every day life is like?

    I personally have never had a turkey dinner; my grandpa and my dad are both allergic to all fowl, so for every major holiday…ham it is!

    I’ll be looking forward to your next blog post!


  9. That is so awesome that you still got to celebrate thanksgiving! I have been wondering though, has it been tough for you being a vegan in another country? Or have you usually been able to find something that you could eat. Also are there no health codes when cooking food there? What if someone has a severe peanut allergy and the cooks touch it and touch something the person with the allergy eats. I’ve personally never spent thanksgiving in another country but I did spend 4th of July in France one year. There was definatly no aknowledgement of the holiday, and I couldn’t even find a hot dog I was bummed. Honestly I wasn’t expecting anything either though haha :) -Stephanie Warshaw

  10. I love the pictures! the food looks great.. That’s a nice surprise your trip advisor planned at least you got to feel and live an american holiday out of america :)
    It’s funny how you noticed that no one wears gloves while cooking but it’s good they wash their hands before touching any food haha Jordanians have good immunity :p
    Have fun
    Farah Rassas

  11. You are very lucky to have spent Thanksgiving in a different country and away from home for once. The food looks amazing and there’s a lot of it! You mentioned that the chefs don’t use gloves when they cook…I’m not sure if I would be alright with that but you also mentioned that they wash their hands in between serving dishes so that’s good. I have never spent a holiday outside of the country and my first though would be what kind of food I would eat. I’m sure many people would be grossed out or concerned as to what kind of food a different country has to offer but I would be eager to taste it! Once again good pictures and have a Merry Christmas there also!

    Derek Mateo

  12. Hello Salam,

    What a wonderful surprise to have that Thanksgiving feast! I am sure that you were all pretty surprised :) I bet it was also cool to be able to go behind the scenes to see how they prepared your food and such. I would think that spending a holiday like thanksgiving away from family would make anyone a little homesick so that is great they did that for your group. I have spent a Thanksgiving in Czech Republic and it was a day like any other day there. No one was gracious enough to try to serve anything besides beer, salami (or pork) and dumplings but thats OK :) The beer made me forget about it anyway ;) Will you be spending Christmas there as well?
    Keep enjoying yourself!
    Michelle Svoboda

  13. Hi Salam
    That’s really neat you guys got to celebrate dinner kind of as a family, I guess it kind of make up for miss our own family! Wow so of the food looked great; over all would you say the food was better than your usual thanksgiving in the states?
    I was wondering what some of the expectation for Christmas? Are there any interesting traditions that might surprise us? sometimes in the US during the holiday issues regarding politics economic or even social issue kind of get pushed to the side because it is that time of the year do you feel people in Jordan feel the same or are they still focusing on political issues that occurring into eh area surrounding them?
    Thanks so much
    Have a great time and a great Christmas it has been a lot of fun learning from your blog!!!

  14. Hello Salam,
    It seems like you got a taste of home. The food looks delicious. It is extremely nice and thoughtful that the director made such arrangements, seems like Jordanians are very hospitable. Like everyone I would really like to know how you manage staying vegan in Jordan? To answer your question I was in Brazil Eight years when it was Fourth of July and I did not see fireworks. I remember being really bummed out. I think I even swore I would never leave US when there was a holiday I am glad you are still enjoying yourself. When will you be back? Maybe you can have an event presentation on campus telling us all about your experiences

  15. Hi Salam,
    I have not spent T-day in another country but I did spend July 4 in Italy; my mom and I forgot it was a holiday, haha. That was so kind of the director to set up such a feast, and of the chef for accommodating your vegan needs. I used to be vegetarian and I remember there was nothing worse than not being able to find something on the menu!
    You said that the weekend in Jordan technically starts on Thursday; does that mean that they have Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays off?
    I can’t wait to hear about those political and social issues you mentioned!
    Til next time,
    Joelle Mestemacher

  16. Hello Salam,
    You have so fortunate to be able to spend Thanksgiving away from the United States! The food looks absolutely delicious. I think it’s great how they decided to surprise everyone with an American version of Thanksgiving, although I would have loved to see pictures of an Arab Thanksgiving dinner. It’s interesting how chefs don’t use gloves in the kitchen, is that just a norm or is it because the health department doesn’t care? Will you be in Jordan for Christmas as well? It would be great to see pictures and hear about how the holidays are celebrated.

    Judy Chan

  17. Hello Salam,

    I just had a few questions in regards to your post. Is veganism common in Jordan? I know that my own family has a hard time coming to terms with the lifestyle, as do a number of Americans. I don’t know how many Jordanians do not eat meat (let alone animal products), so that would be interesting to find out. Further, do Jordanians know about Thanksgiving? A number of my friends have been studying abroad in France and Germany, and it has been interesting to see the responses they made on Thanksgiving. What non-religious holidays are important in Jordan?

    Thank you for the post. The week starting on Thursday is such a strange concept to me… I’m surely going to be irrationally fixated on that for the rest of finals week at least.

    -Lacie Longest

  18. hi salam, are camels expensive to buy? and how do they taste? it is nice that the camel is shared that nothign goes to waste but is the whole camel eaten, like is every part of the camel used when it is eaten, kind of like how all the unused parts of animals in the united states are formed into hotdogs?

  19. Hi Salam,
    That is so awesome that you were surprised with an American Thanksgiving, and that you were able to prepare your food as well! Did having Thanksgiving away from home make you miss your normal Thanksgiving with your family, or were you glad you spent it the way you did? Have you been able to stay in contact with your family at home, and hear about what they did for their thanksgiving without you!? How has being away for so long affected you, especially during the holidays? Do you get home sick often? I’m glad you were able to having a filling meal and enjoy the holiday! The dessert looked amazing, sounds like something I would love to try! Thanks again for sharing your trip with all of us!

    Savannah Reeve

  20. It looks like you enjoyed a Middle-Eastern version of Thanksgiving. Its nice to see that Jordanians are tolerant to other peoples’ customs and traditions. Your report goes against the standard message in most U.S news media which portray most Arabs as intolerant people.

  21. Looks good Salam! yes i have had a thanksgiving abroad. Your story really reminds me of a thanksgiving i had in Iran when i was 6. surprisingly, we had a huge turkey, but other than that we served up some delicious persian entrees. we had rice with kabob, ghorme sabzi, a persian delicacy, and many other delicious meals. im glad you got to experience thanksgiving outside america. how was the food compared to american entrees? since you did have an “american/Jordanian” style of food.

  22. Salam it looks like you had a great unexpected Thanksgiving! I have never studied abroad during a holiday however my cousin did! She was in Ireland during the holiday, she was missed as I’m sure your family & friends missed you, but she had exciting stories too! I think it is interesting how the food is prepared and treated, and how many common beliefs are being proven wrong through your posts! I also noticed that you mentioned that the weekend generally starts on Thursday there? Do they usually have four day weekends?

  23. Salam,

    Happy Thanksgiving to you too! I am sooo obsessed about cooking and I think that was so sweet of Mohammad to let you into the kitchen and watch the chef cook your meal as well as reserve a spot for you! I know that you probably miss your family but I think that is soo cool!! I would love to try there food over there even though you guys were cooked up an American meal lol I would love to try and eat some of the food they prepare over there. What type of food do they usually serve? By the way, why does the weekend generally start on a thursday?? Hope you had a great holiday!!


  24. The food looked delicious! Yummm! That’s so awesome that your program director planned and surprised you with this! That is so kind of him. That’s pretty cool that you guys got to watch the chief cook and even help with the dessert. You guys got to go behind the scenes. It’s nice to know that all you guys were able to have the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner..I can’t imagine not having turkey for Thanksgiving. I’ve never spent Thanksgiving abroad, but I know my family in the Philippines know and celebrate it.

    It looks like you’re enjoying yourself. I hope you did well on your exams!

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