Hidden deep in a desert valley, the ancient Nabatean city of Petra was unknown to Europeans from the Crusades until the early 19th century.
Even today, when thousands of visitors arrive on busy days, the vast site hides deserted tombs and caves a stone's throw from the main trail.
But there are Bedouin tents lining even the steepest, most winding paths, and many hikers are invited for tiny glasses of sweetened tea, often steeped with aromatic sage.
Sharing tea is an important part of Bedouin culture, as is their remarkable hospitality. If you sit down to drink with the local Bedouin, called Bdoul, you may be in for infinite refills -- until you signal your satisfaction by placing a hand over the glass
Traditionally served in a large platter meant for communal eating, mansaf is a dish of tender meat layered with paper-thin flatbread and great piles of aromatic rice. The meal is garnished with toasted nuts, then eaten with more flatbread and bowls of jameed, a tangy yogurt sauce.
Celebrated as Jordan's national dish, mansaf has deep roots in the Bedouin kitchen, and like the nomadic tribes of the Levant, it's a tradition that transcends international borders, with recipes appearing from Israel to Iraq.
Warak Enab and Kousa Mahshi
Warak enab, or stuffed grape leaves, and kousa mahshi, which are stuffed zucchini, can sometimes be served together, and they are another fantastic addition to Jordanian cuisine. Versions of this dish are commonly eaten throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean.
Both the grape leaves and the zucchini are stuffed with a combination of rice and ground meat, onions, and light seasonings, then wrapped up, and slow cooked.
Sometimes called Arabic pizza, and spelled in all sorts of different letter combinations (manakish, manaeesh), manakish is essentially a round of dough, topped with za’atar (an herb thyme spice mixture), olive oil, and can then optionally include toppings like white cheese (halloumi), eggs, or ground meat. It’s then baked in a brick oven.
When manakish is hot and fresh, right out of the oven, it’s incredibly delicious – the crusty bread with a fluffy inside, and that wonderful herb taste.
Crisp balls of falafel shaped from spiced, ground chickpeas are a street food staple across the Levant.
As beloved at breakfast as for late-night snacks, falafel balls are often stuffed into warm pita bread for a quick sandwich. But at Amman's legendary Hashem Restaurant, falafel is plated with bundles of fresh mint, raw onion and tomatoes, then served alongside piles of flatbread fresh from the oven.
Tucked into a narrow alleyway, Hashem Restaurant feels like an open secret in the city center, and it's an obligatory stop for Amman food lovers -- even Jordan's royal family drops by from time to time.
With the hearty flavors of classic comfort food, maqluba's drama is all in the presentation. After a long, slow simmer over a low fire, this dish of rice, chicken, potatoes and vegetables is inverted tableside.
Depending on the skill of the cook, the result is a tidy cake of turned-out rice that hides rich lumps of meat, or a jumble of ingredients that's just as delicious.
The word maqluba, in fact, means "upside down," and it's a dish that goes back centuries -- a version appears in the 13th-century Kitāb Al-tabīkh, a collection of recipes from medieval Baghdad.
While maqluba is predominantly made at home, it's possible to find in some restaurants.
Drive through the rolling countryside of northern Jordan, and you'll pass trucks piled high with the season's harvest: great mounds of pomegranates from the city of Irbid, crates of freshly-picked olives, juicy lemons and tender dates.
Back in the cities, juice made from seasonal fruit is a favorite treat. Pomegranates are pressed by hand, producing a brilliant red drink made slightly bitter by the white pith that surrounds the ruby-colored flesh.
When the sugarcane harvest is in, vendors stack great bundles of stalks on the sidewalk. Powerful metal rollers produce lightly sweet, pale-green juice, which is served in heavy glass mugs topped with a sugary froth. It's not just sugar water, though -- aficionados claim that fresh sugarcane juice helps maintain a healthy gut
With a long tradition as pastoral nomads, Jordan's Bedouin people have developed a cuisine that's perfectly adapted to cooking over desert campfires.
A hearty meal best eaten under the stars, zaarb is a dish of marinated meat mixed with chunks of vegetables, then baked in a pit lined with hot coals and covered over by sand.
When the meat emerges from the ground after a long, slow bake, the tender flesh will be falling from the bones. To eat the zaarb in true, Bedouin style, however, requires a bit of tact and a little practice. Holding your left hand behind your back, scoop up food using the fingers of your right hand, then roll each bite into a compact ball and pop it into your mouth.
While plates of creamy hummus have spread far beyond the Middle East to local grocery stores around the world, this is not that hummus.
For visitors from outside the region, this rich variation may come as a delicious surprise.
Like the original, fattet hummus is a puree of tender chickpeas, but it's mixed with pieces of torn-up pita bread, tahini and pine nuts, then topped with a pale green pool of olive oil.
The version served at Amman's Hashem Restaurant is velvety and rich, a treat to eat with a spoon alongside a plate of piquant herbs and onions
If you didn’t know that ara’yes was grilled, you might actually think it’s deep fried, because it’s so crispy. . Ara’yes, which translates directly to the bride, is essentially two layers of pita bread, filled in the middle with minced lamb, onions, parsley, and with a fragrant allspice seasoning.
The quesadilla shaped ara’yes is then brushed with olive oil and grilled over hot charcoal so that it turns golden brown and crispy on the outside. The combination of that roasted olive oil bread and the oil of the minced lamb seeping into the bread, makes it irresistible.
Another import from the former Ottoman empire, slowly-rotating spits of sliced lamb, chicken or beef are ubiquitous in Jordan's cities and towns.
The rich, fatty meat is served in warm pockets of pita bread, then topped with everything from raw onions to za'atar, a spice blend that varies with the chef, but relies on sesame seeds and tangy sumac.
Seen from street level, one shawerma place looks much like another, but the sandwich that homesick Jordanians yearn for is the classic version from Shawarma Reem. Blended lamb and beef shawerma is the only option, so you won't need Arabic to order -- just show the cashier how many shawarmas you'd like, then join the huddle of locals on the sidewalk as you enjoy the sizzling meat
Kofta Bi Tahini
Kind of similar to shish kebabs, just in a completely different form, kofta bi tahini is a dish that includes a bottom base layer of minced kebab (or kofta) meat, flattened out into a patty, topped with thin slices of potato, doused in a thick tahini sauce, and then baked.
The meat on the bottom is like a base of sausage, that wonderful parsley flavored minced meat.
This dessert is popular throughout the Levant, especially known in Palestine and Jordan.
Cheese is the most noticeable of ingredients in kanafeh, which is paired with either noodles or semolina, drenched in a sticky rose scented syrup, and topped with a pinch of ground pistachios. The cheese on the bottom tastes similar to mozzarella, while the top crust is crunchy and gooey.