To know a city’s street food is to know the city, and Amman is no exception. Amid the jumble of traffic-clogged lanes and hills of the old east side, the clamour of daily life is perfumed with enticing aromas. They drift from little shops huddled at the base of apartment buildings, and stalls laden with bounties of seasonal greens; carts piled high with breads and nuts, and holes in the wall dispensing fresh juice with myriad health benefits.
From the crowded souqs stretching back from Al Husseini mosque, to the warren of narrow streets that wind through the Downtown area, food punctuates the rhythm of Ammani life. If the desert is the home of bedouin cuisine, then the streets give rise to a rich array of pan-Arabian treats, with influences from Lebanon, Egypt, Palestine and Iraq.
Tables spill out into dead-end alleyways, where creamy hummus, felafel sandwiches and bowls of steaming ful medammes (stewed fava beans) are relished. Crowds descend on shawarma dens, where wraps of grilled chicken and lamb are slathered in tahini (sesame seed) sauce. People meet on street corners to sip juice freshly squeezed from bundles of sugar cane outside cramped kiosks.
And since no meal in Amman is complete without something sweet and sticky to finish, clusters of pastry shops send sugar addicts onto the pavements, excitedly clutching their wares in paper bags. Baklava pastries of every shape are eaten on the go. The sugar-syrup drenched kunafe – soft cheese with a crumbly orange semolina crust – can present more of a challenge for the casual street eater. But this is social eating laid bare – man or woman, rich or poor, nobody will mind if you drip a little sugar syrup on your clothes.