Jerash and Umm Qais Photos


One of the many Greco-Roman remains in the ancient city of Jerash. This was a temple dedicated to the Greek God Artemis.

The ancient city of Jerash is sometimes misleadingly referred to as the “Pompeii” of the Middle East or Asia”, referring to its size, extent of excavation and level of preservation (though Jerash was never buried by a volcano). Jerash is considered one of the most important and best preserved Roman cities in the Middle East.


The sky was ominous and silent. It was such a beautiful experience. You could almost hear a bustling city from the silence.


A pathway leading to a once Greco-Roman temple.


Ancient ruins are scattered across this once vibrant city.


I thought the herd was a nice touch to the scenery, so I had to snap a picture!


Doesn’t this remind you of the Disney film Hercules? Except, this is definitely in the Middle East and not Greece. The influences are undeniable huh?


The nearly unique oval Forum, which is surrounded by a fine colonnade.


This area was once the market place of the city.


This is situated in the extreme north-west of the country, where the borders of Jordan, Israel and Syria meet, perched on a hilltop (378 metres above sea level), overlooking the sea of Tiberias, the Golan heights and the Yarmuk gorge. Crazy you can look in every direction and a different country is in the horizon.


The entrance to the ancient city of Jerash.

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Coffee in Italy

By Laura Hough

Clockwise from top left: a cafe maurochino, a cafe shakirato, a latte, and my empty cup after I couldn't stop drinking the cafe maurochino!

Clockwise from top left: a cafe maurochino, a cafe shakirato, a latte, and my empty cup after I couldn’t stop drinking the cafe maurochino!

I know I already mentioned coffee in one of my posts, but a paragraph doesn’t do Italian coffee justice. Italians love coffee. It completely permeates the culture and they drink it all the time. That being said, there are an awful lot of rules about coffee drinking in Italy. In the U.S., especially on college campuses, you order what you want, when you want it, and then you drink it. One Wednesday night I learned all about drinking coffee in Italy from one of Umbra’s food science professors, and a lot of fun facts about coffee too.

Coffee was originally discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia, who noticed one day that his goats were really hyper after eating some seeds. Somehow, that led to discovering that grinding said seeds and then soaking them in hot water made a delicious drink that would also make humans hyper. Coffee was first commercially grown in Yemen, on the Arabian Peninsula. The Islamic world started drinking it, probably because they don’t drink alcohol, as per the rules of their religion.

Coffee managed to get to Venice, which was a bustling port in the Middle Ages. It was originally sold in pharmacies as a cure-all: If you couldn’t sleep, drink some coffee. If you couldn’t stay awake, drink some coffee. If you had stomach pains, drink some coffee. It got so popular that even a pope weighed in, and said it was OK for Christians to drink coffee.

Fast forward to modern Italy. Coffee, and I mean great coffee, is on every street corner, available in every bar and café. They call it some different names, though, so if you’re ordering coffee in Italy, keep these tips in mind:

Un café” will get you a shot of espresso. I am not a fan — it’s strong and dark and bitter, and makes me want to gag. It’s also only about a shot’s worth of coffee.

Un café Americano” will get you a watered down espresso. It’s as close to a regular cup of coffee as it gets, and then you can add sugar.

Don’t make the mistake of ordering “un latte,” because you will get a funny look, and then receive a warm cup of milk. That’s what latte is in Italian — milk.

Instead, you either want a “un latte machiato” or “un café macchiato.” “Macchia” is Italian for stain, so when you order “un latte machiato,” you get milk with a stain of coffee, while “un café macchiato” is coffee with a stain of milk.

You can also order a cappuccino in Italy, but only do so in the mornings for breakfast. The Italians believe that the milk will fill you up, so you don’t want to drink it after noon, otherwise you won’t be hungry. Fun fact about a cappuccino: It’s named after the capuchin monkey, the black and white creature from South America. Those were named after an order of monks, known as Capuchin. These monks wore a black and white hood, and a cappuccino, with espresso, then milk, and then the foam on top sort of resembles a capuchin monkey.

Another excellent coffee drink is “un café shakirato.” It’s a shot of espresso, lightly sweetened and shaken with ice until it’s all foamy on top. It’s delicious. Unfortunately, if you order one in the wintertime, you will receive odd looks, because the Italians believe if you drink something chilly in the winter, you will die. I’m thinking about doing it anyway, because it’s delicious.

The last drink I have for you is called “un café maurochino.” It’s a coffee in a glass rimmed in cocoa powder. It’s also quite delicious, and perfectly acceptable to drink in the winter because it’s hot. Mine was the perfect balance of coffee and chocolate flavor.

But, even with all the variations, my Italian friends told me, “If you don’t like espresso, you don’t like coffee.” I’m definitely still working on drinking espresso like a real Italian (no sugar, no cream), but I’m really enjoying it all. And hopefully, when you get to Italy, you will manage to order exactly what you want!

Touchdown in Amman, Jordan

By John Mitchell

After being on several planes for 18+ hours, I finally landed in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (اَلمَمْلَكَة اَلأُرْدُنِيَّة اَلهَاشِمِيَّة), in their capital of Amman, around 4 a.m. Sunday. Because it was so early, I didn’t really get the glamorous entrance I was hoping for where I would be flooded with Ahlan wa Sahlan, Marhaba or other forms of the word “welcome/hello.” It was probably better that way because I was exhausted! After getting my luggage from the slow conveyor belt, I headed to my first destination, the Landmark Hotel, where the people in my program and I would stay temporarily until we move to our homestays or apartments.


On Monday, we headed off to explore the city of Amman. One of my first stops was the Royal Automobile Museum. This was a museum devoted to the former King Hussein’s car collection an, boy, did he have one. The museum had every car you could ask for. King Hussein had great taste! I, of course, marveled at the light Blue Aston Martin (being a James Bond fanatic does that to you).


Our next stop was the Roman Citadel and Theatre. This was such a picturesque area. The Roman Theatre felt like I had just walked into the scene in “Gladiator” where Maximus looks around to the silent Romans screaming, “Are you not entertained!?” This theater was huge and the steps to go up were so steep, one could fall to their death. I made it to the top, but it was a traumatic experience trying to get down. The Roman Citadel rises above the city of Amman, overlooking the ancient city. I found it fascinating when our guide said that, just like Rome, Amman was built on seven hills. Due to expansion and laws on how tall buildings can be, Amman now covers more than 23 hills. You really felt like the king of the world gazing across the city at the Roman Citadel.


For food, we headed to a popular place in downtown Amman called Jafra. When we got there, several Arabic dishes such as kebab, hummus, and various salads and pita lay spread across the table for us. For those who don’t know, I kind of like to eat a lot, so I had a blast. Also, like many cafes around Amman, the smell of argeela (hookah in the U.S.) fills the air. It is a favorite past time here.


The next day, I moved in with my homestay family. The family, a lovely nuclear family, does not speak much English, which is good because it forces me to use the Arabic I know and improve on it. So, although sometimes it is difficult to get my point across, in the long-term, I’ll be very thankful. They have two little kids named Rami (6 years old) and Lara (9 years old). They treat me like an older brother, which is good sometimes and bad when I’m trying to study, etc. The family has taken me in as their own, so I have to visit family and travel with them, but they also give me the freedom I need to do my own thing. My house mom, Rania, keeps the food coming non-stop. A few days ago, she asked me if I was hungry and I said I wasn’t… well the next minute, she came from the kitchen with three huge burgers all for me and said eat! So if I get fat here, you all know why. Also, every 30 minutes she asks if I’d like shiae (tea) or qahawa (coffee), and won’t let me help out with anything. It’s definitely different.

Look out for my next post about my visit to the lowest point on Earth, Bahar al-Miiyaat (the Dead Sea), my first experiences with taxi drivers and being a student at the University of Jordan.