Luca Azzara is a student at Montclair State University and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. He is currently studying and participating in service-learning abroad with ISA in Amman, Jordan.
As my American friends back home prepared themselves for annual Halloween festivities, my October 31st was spent along the Jordan Valley, in a region called Ghor Al Mazraa. The country’s most fertile region, its unique agricultural climate has powered Jordan’s all-year-round fruit and vegetable exports for decades. That being said, Ghor is known for more than just its fertile land and agricultural richness. It is home to a unique, authentic community, one who sustains itself through resourceful, agricultural living. The people of Ghor exemplify a strong bond between human and nature, one held generation after generation, that is portrayed throughout their daily lives. I was lucky enough to spend the day with a local family there, who invited my friends and me over for dinner.
Madia, who was kind enough to invite us to her home, taught us dough-stretching techniques used to make Arabic flatbread. Similar to rolling out a pizza, it is done by flopping the dough back and forth between both hands. Once a medium sized circle is formed, the dough is placed onto a large, heated dome.
I had a go at it myself, and to my surprise, I managed to make a decent piece. I even received a few compliments.
At this station, a couple girls were grinding lentils with a traditional seed-grinder. The lentils are inserted into a small hole at the top, while a handle is used to churn them.
Just outside, a few other peers and I prepared tomatoes for dinner. The skins of the tomatoes were later used to feed the backyard goats.
Meanwhile, peppers and onions were frying in a metal pan, on top of several lit wooden sticks. Seeing as there was no stove in the house, the family relies on this cooking method still today.
Lo and behold, the tomatoes that we previously peeled were combined with the grilled vegetables, and simmered into a delicious homemade soup. We enjoyed this meal with the very flatbread we had made earlier.
After dinner, the family invited us inside for some arts and crafts. Among one of the varying sessions, was “model-car making.” As a common hobby among children in the community, various wires and other seemingly “useless” materials are used to make toy cars. At this station, one especially talented boy named Khalid displayed his collection of bikes, motorcycles, cars, and airplanes. He even showed us how to bend and form the wires into the models seen above.
At this station, a few women showed us how to crochet. They even let us keep our projects !
Among the the most unique crafts was the natural eye-liner. One of the young women explained the process of creating this organic makeup, which takes three hours, using a black aluminum bowl, olive oil, and a piece of cotton cloth. The cloth is burned over the olive oil, while the aluminum tin is placed on top of forming smoke. At the end of the process, a thick black layer is formed on the inner surface of aluminum bowl, and then scraped off to be used as eyeliner.They made everyone, both men and women, put it on!
The day-trip to Ghor was among one of my favorite thus far, and it really put into perspective the manner in which natural resources and agricultural methods are cherished and utilized within the Ghor Al Mazraa community.
The world awaits…discover it.