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May 25, 2007

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Colin

Where will you be staying in Amman, Doug? I'd recommend the Four Seasons as actually one of the best hotel experiences in the world, but my guess is that BE will put you up at the InterCon, which is pretty good in its own right. Avoid Le Royal--overpriced and questionable service levels. True to its name, the King is a major shareholder--and for that reason I think USG contractors are usually steered away from it anyway (indirect funding of Hamas coffers from the royal wallet, I have heard).

Restaurants: Many to choose from, but pay a visit to The Blue Fig. Where the young and beautiful Amman set eats and parties (and drinks) when they don't make the trek to Tel Aviv nightclubs. Gorgeous Arab women in ultra-western clothes. Maybe to someone visiting from NYC or London it ain't much to write home about. Visit it after a couple months in a hardship post, though, and it's like arriving in heaven.

Petra is a full day trip away, but take it.

Jordan is one of only two countries (Sweden being the other) where I have seen more private citizens' displays of the national flag than in the United States. That's an odd group of nations.

Luke

Oh, I love Jordan. If you can, get out to Petra; you can still bribe the Bedouins to get up on the roof of the monastery, even though a woman died doing that a few years ago.

I guess you're going to Amman. It's not precisely the greatest city in the Middle East; I have more love for Cairo or Beirut, to a point. Amman has a larger middle class than most of the Middle East. The city's very clean--in terms of the region--and is relatively comfortable. It's one the three most friendly cities in the Middle East if you don't speak Arabic, though the increased Iraqi refugee population, plus the Palestinians, makes being American dodgy in some quarters--likely ones you'll not be seeing.

If you can't get out of Amman, you should at least manage to squeeze in the Citadel of Amman, the Abu Darweesh Mosque, and the King Abdullah Mosque. Abu Darweesh is famous for its black and white outside, and bizarrely plain interior; it's one of the few mosques built by Circassians outside of Cairo, and is rather older.

The King Abdullah Mosque is much more recent, built in the eighties, and is one of the few tasteful modern mosques in the region.

Also, as an absolute, hard-n-fast rule, never, never, never eat at chain hotel in Amman. Not because they're evil, so much as the fact that they employ peasants and so on, so, dirty. Private, family-owned hotels are fine, as are most restaurants on the street. I'll go through my notes from Amman and give you a quick list.

Best

L

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