Thursday Nights: Hummus, Pirated DVDs and Hookah
Amman is a very expensive place to live unless you find a way to do it right. Jordan actually has one of the highest costs of living in the Arab world, which may come as somewhat of a surprise. Prices for a lot of things are pretty similar to those in New York City – again, unless you find a way to do it right. My Thursday night schedule is definitely an example of that.
Dinner at Hashem’s Restaurant – 1.50 JD (about $2)
Hashem’s is a famous hole in the wall in downtown Amman that serves a menu of hummus, fool, falafel and all variations of those alongside great bread and wonderful tea. You aren’t given a plate, but rather a piece of paper to put on the table in front of you. The owner is this frog-like old man with a voice that sounds like it’s seen it’s fair share of tobacco products. Even ordering seconds and thirds, and numerous teas, it’s hard to get over 1.50 JD a person, a whopping $2. Two bucks for a great, authentic experience, and some of the best hummus/falafel in town… heaven.
Pirated DVDs at Hamoudeh DVD – 1 JD each, or 6 for 5 JD (about $1.40 each, or 6 for $7)
Literally right next to Hashem’s is Hamoudeh DVD store, a mecca for pirated DVDs. No one buys actual DVDs in Jordan, people just buy fake copies. It’s not like you have to go down a back alley and find a guy wearing a long trench coat and know some sort of secret password – these are regular stores that advertise themselves and are treated as legitimate commerce. Hamoudeh even prints their logo, phone number and location on all of their DVDs. The street with Hamoudeh has probably 8 or 9 of these stores, but Hamoudeh is the best. It’s like being a kid in a candy store – I just go in and buy a dozen movies for $14, sometimes even movies that are still in theaters, or full seasons of shows for $6-7. Occasionally the soundtrack is a bit off, but otherwise, they are great quality and great for the price. I’ll never be able to buy a $18 DVD again.
Argilah (hookah) at Jafra – 2 JD (about $2.75)
After a rousing dinner and some movie shopping, we trek on over to Jafra, a cafe about 50 yards away from Hashem’s and Hamoudeh. You pass between two fake DVD stores and head up to this wonderful second floor spot in this very old building, filled with Jordanians enjoying the cafe life of Amman. After a rough week of teaching class, it’s simply amazing just to relax and puff on a hookah while listening to their house singer dish out great Arabic music while playing the Oud, a traditional Arab instrument. People in Amman really love their cafes, and Jafra is one of the best in my humble, limited, foreigner opinion.
Total cost for a wonderful evening, with one DVD purchase – 4.50 JD (about $6.50)
Estimated price in a city in the US – about $25-30
Hummus + Hamoudeh + Hookah = Heaven.