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The streets of downtown Amman

So it’s been nearly a week since I’ve arrived here in Amman, and I’ve been having a blast. I have totally been won over by the sheer number of sites to visit that are all within an hour of the capital city: Jesus’ baptism site, Moses’ perch on Mt. Nebo, the amazingly well-preserved Roman city of Jersha, the Umayyad desert castles to the east, plus Lawrence of Arabia’s haunt in Wadi Rum and Indiana Jones’ “Last Crusade” in Petra. But enough of the sites—this isn’t a travel blog after all—and of course what everyone is interested in is the FOOD!

I’ve been staying with my best friend Liz and her family, and throughout the first week I’ve been able to go eat at a number of shawarma, plus Jordanian pizza, and of course your more generic Mediterranean mezze. For my first post, I thought I’d give my input on the most popular shawarma stand in the city:

Right off of second circle, look for the blue and red awning

This second-circle food stand has been written up by the New York Times, and can single-handedly slow down traffic around lunch and dinner time. Drew took me here my first day, explaining that the meat here is produced in a more Arabic style.

Reem, in Arabic

When you think of shawarma, think of a gyro without all the fixings and with a thinner pita. The meat is prepared on large rods the night before, with layers of fat intermixing with layers of meat to keep the inner levels juicy and tender.

The meat on a stick

At the stand, workers shred the meat, then add in a pinch of onions (I couldn’t detect any in my sandwich), a handful of tomatoes (giving the meat a juicy, acid pairing), and a sauce that makes the entire thing pretty drippy—definitely keep the paper wrapper on as you eat. While the sauce is a secret, I’m guessing they use a little tahini in there because Drew’s friend who is allergic to seeds and nuts avoids this place.

Inside you get meat, with a light coating sauce and tomatoes

Ordering shawarma is a push-and-shove affair. Make your way up to the counter and order 1-2 per person (they are small enough two is a good-sized lunch but 1 will keep you relatively sustained). They give you a number, and while it has English and Arabic on the ticket, they call out numbers in Arabic so if you are unfamiliar, just pay attention to the people grabbing their orders before you so you know where you are in line.

Waiting for shawarma

My first question is why shawarma isn’t more popular in the states. The thinner bread makes shawarma much easier to eat then a gyro, and with the food-stand craze in full swing, someone should be thinking about it. The aroma of the meat on the grill is enough to guarantee business.

Waiting for shawarma

So how does the shawarma at Reem stack up to the hype? I was actually less impressed with the meat. At this stand beef is the only option, and while the char on the pieces was absolutely amazing and gave the meat a fantastic flavor, it was a little tough and dry. I’m not saying I didn’t wolf them down, but after trying Drew’s favorite stand in Swfara, I definitely prefer the second stand to Reem. More on that stand next time….