As my American friends back home prepared for their annual Halloween activities, my October 31st was spent along the Jordan Valley in a region called Ghor Al Mazraa. Standing as the country’s most fertile region, its unique agricultural climate has excelled Jordan’s all-year-round fruit and vegetable exports for decades. With that being said, Ghor is known for more than just its fertile land and agricultural richness. It is home to a unique, authentic community which sustains itself through resourceful, agricultural living. The people of Ghor exemplify a strong bond between man and nature, one that has held generation after generation and is portrayed throughout their daily lives. I was lucky enough to spend the day with a local family there, who invited my peers and I over for some dinner and more.
Below is a picture of Madia. Madia, who was kind enough to invite us to her small home in Ghor Al Mazraa, introduced us to a whole different lifestyle inside her community, one based on agricultural sustainment. In the picture below, Madia is teaching us dough-stretching techniques used to make Arabic flatbread. Similar to rolling a pizza, it is done by flopping the dough back and forth between your hands. Once a large circle is formed, the dough is placed onto a large, heated dome.
This large black dome sits above burning wooden sticks. It is heated and used to cook bread in a matter of seconds. Among many traditional cooking techniques utilized by Madia and her family, this particular method is used to solely to make bread, a staple component in almost every Arabic meal.
After Madia’s lesson on flatbread making, she gave everyone the chance to make their own piece. I decided to have a go at it myself and to my surprise I ended up making a decent flatbread! I even received a few compliments.
Throughout Madia’s home, there were several stations set up for the students in my program which were meant to expose us to the unique lifestyle of the community. After the bread-making station, I decided to check out the other ones located in and out of the house. Among them was a seed-grinding station, where a few of my peers were grinding lentils with a traditional grinder made up of two rocks and a wooden handle. This grinder is used by pouring seeds into the small opening at the top and using a wooden handle to turn two rocks against each other until enough friction is created to break the seeds apart.
After spending some time at the seed-grinding station, I decided to move on to one of the stations outside. I came across another cooking station, which I would later find out was being utilized to make our dinner for that very night. Here a few of my peers were helping some of the women peel tomatoes. In order to give you a true understanding of the community’s resourcefulness, let it be known that the skins and other parts of the tomato which were not used for the soup were fed to the goats in the backyard!
Just across the tomato station was another station set up for sauteing vegetables. To my realization, Madia’s family did not own a stove and relied on a pan, metal rack, and burning wood in order to fry the peppers and onions.
Lo and behold, the tomatoes that we previously peeled were eventually combined with the fried peppers and onions, and simmered together to make a delicious homemade tomato soup. We enjoyed our soup with the flatbread we made earlier.
After dinner, Madia and her family invited us back 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 utilized to make model cars which are then played with as toys. At this station, one especially talented boy by the name of Khalid displayed his collection of bikes, motorcycles, cars, and airplanes. He even showed us how to bend and form the wires to form the models seen below.
Among the most interesting and traditional crafts was the natural eyeliner station. One of the young women explained the process of creating this organic makeup– a three hour long process 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 and used as eyeliner. They made everyone, both men and women, put it on! Below is a picture of my friend Meghan sporting the traditional eyeliner.
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 Ghor’s community. Coming from Western society where waste is an all too common thing, being exposed to the lifestyle in Ghor Al Mazraa was very inspiring.