Love&Laughs ♥

I know I’m a little late for Valentine’s Day, but since Peter was in Dubai for the week we had to celebrate this weekend.

Since we both aren’t much for Valentine’s Day, we came up with a challenge. We had  to spend 100 Egyptian pounds or less (which is about $6) for the tackiest present we could find. And in Egypt, they really go big on Valentines day, and very kitschy displays found everywhere, so tacky is the name of the game.

Item: A heart shaped red pillow with our photo printed on it. It was the perfect tacky presenting, but it was also really embarrassing to explain what to the shopkeepers. The worst part was the only time I could pick it up was before a work dinner when the CEO was in town, so I attended the dinner with the pillow in tow. I was building my character as my dad would say.

Price: 80 Pounds 


Peter’s present for Caitlin

Item: Glass bobblehead. He returned from Dubai with a glass bobblehead of a Gulfi man in his traditional white garb and head scarf and sunglasses. Although tacky, he did stray from the Valentine’s theme.

Price: 100 Pounds 


Which do you vote as the tackiest Valentine’s present?


Wedding Crashing: Egyptian Style

I received a Facebook invite from a coworker…to his wedding only two weeks prior to the event! (So, PSA: We didn’t actually crash this wedding, but we were the only foreigners there so it almost felt like we did!) This was the second wedding invitation I had received via Facebook in Egypt, so this must be common practice. And if you think about it, it really saves time and money considering how much effort we put into save the dates and wedding invitations and pre-stamped RSVP cards!

Either way, I checked the “going” box to confirm my attendance. I asked Mohi, my coworker, if I could bring Peter as my plus one, a question to which he couldn’t stop laughing. I saw no humor in the situation, but he kept telling everybody after that that I had asked if I could bring my boyfriend, and they also started laughing! Still seeing no humor in the situation, I asked for an explanation, and he told me that it’s implied with the invitation that I could bring him. Apparently for Egyptian weddings, knowing the exact amount of guests for seating charts and food plans is not necessary. The invitation was open. When I told Peter about the wedding, he was thrilled. On his Egypt “bucket list”, going to a wedding was towards the top.  

Mohi warned us that his wedding was a-typical compared to other Egyptian weddings since his was in the “morning”. The Facebook invite said the event would last from 1-7 PM, but he said that was just the Egyptian time. He told me that since I’m American he’d give me the “real start time”, he knew I’d be there at the time he indicated.

We ended up getting there around 2:20, and in the car, Peter and I kept checking our phones nervous that we wouldn’t be there on time, and we’d miss the beginning! When we arrived to a beautiful, new in a clubhouse (in the middle of the desert), there was barely anybody there. Phew! The wedding didn’t actually start until

The wedding opened with a “zarfa”, which is where the bride arrives in her car, where the groom greets her and then they are surrounded by family and friends and a traditional band playing the drums, trumpets, and other instruments. They stood in the middle dancing with family members in a circle until the migrated towards a table and chairs. The bride and groom, Maisa and Mohi, sat at the table as we gathered around the chairs. Then began the signing of the contracts.


In a Muslim wedding, the contract is the symbol of marriage that is binding. It outlines the rights of a groom and bride, and the signing must have 2 male witnesses. As we all watched, Maisa and Mohi stamped heir fingerprints on 7 copies of the contract in order to be officially married. Then, Mohi took the and of the Maisa’s father and promised him that he would take care of his daughter. A prayer was said, and the ceremony was compete! Maisa and Mohi were married.


In terms of rings, in a Muslim marriage, the engagement ring is exchanged during the engagement and to be worn on the right ring finger of both parties. Then, during the wedding, the same ring will be transferred over to the left hand ring finger to be worn throughout their marriage. It’s quite a lovely symbol.

After the ceremony ended, everybody was shuffled inside to the tables, where the reception commenced. We ate, we drank (soda and tea), and we were merry. There was a really great live band with an apparently famous Egyptian singer named Hamaky that inspired a concert turned dance-party-on-stage, in which I did not participate of course (I rarely dance)!

Highlight of the wedding: Peter getting bitten by a little Egyptian boy when he tried to play with him and his nerf gun. The little boy latched on to his pants, and Peter tried to lightly shake him off, but he went in to take a good chunk out of his calf! Also, it’s even funnier to note that this is the second time Peter was bitten by an Egyptian child!


I think what surprised me was that the bride and groom never actually kissed. Not a single time at the wedding. There were no glass-clinking-kiss-now-toasts, there was no “you may now kiss the bride”, there was no first-dance-kiss, nothing!

Overall, the wedding was a wonderful cultural experience that I am glad I could be a part of. Congrats to Mohi and Maisa!!

Our Journey to Jordan

Peter and I decided to take a long weekend trip to Jordan since it’s only one hour away from Cairo by plane. If you want to travel to an outer suburb of Cairo from downtown, it might take you more than 1 hour given the terrible traffic, but by 10:00 AM that day we  were in another country on the road to Wadi Rum!

Quite frankly, the thought of renting a car was scary at first since I had never driven outside of the US, but it was absolutely worth it to have a car instead of trying to navigate public transportation, and it enabled us to see more of the country. On the last day we had some extra time before needing to be at the airport, so we decided to take a 30 min trip to see the Ajloun castle, which we wouldn’t have been able to do on short notice without the car.

I’ve been to Jordan three times now, once for 6 months, and the others for shorter trips, but every time the country takes my breath away. Follow our stops along the way!

Wadi Rum

This spectacular desert was the highlight of our trip, and if you’re planning a trip to Jordan is a sight that cannot be missed! We made the 3.5 hour drive straight from the airport to   the Wadi Rum Visitor’s Center, and for the full experience, we stayed a night in a Bedouin camp. We were met by our guide in his well-worn Toyota pickup, and we climbed into the bed which was modified with “benches” for an off-roading experience. We spent the afternoon climbing rock formations, the burnt orange sand dunes, and exploring the caves until sundown, when we were driven to the campgrounds.

We ate a traditional dinner of meat and roasted vegetables, cooked underground and finished the night around a campfire with sweet (very sweet) sage tea. We two tiny beings absolutely in awe of Mother Earth, surrounded by the profound silence of nature and the clear, starry sky. It was incredibly breathtaking.

The following morning we departed on a 2-hour camel trek back to the visitor’s center, and our desert experience came to an end. It’s not the most comfortable mode of transportation, but knowing that you are recreating the routes people have taken for centuries upon centuries is spectacular.


From Wadi Rum, we drove an hour to Petra, through on back roads and through tiny mountain towns (which I still am unsure as to whether it’s the actual route or the GPS took us the wrong way), but we managed to get there despite an intense fog covering the roads. It got to the point that I was driving by the yellow line of the side of the road since I couldn’t even see 2 feet in front of me!

The roads down to Petra were so steep, that at one intersection Peter told me to keep going straight, but the road looked like it was a complete drop. Like I was about to drive off a cliff. There was a bulldozer trying to come up the road I was coming down, there were people trying to pass through the intersection, and I was frozen thinking about trying to drive straight down this hill. The bulldozer flashed his lights at us, and I just started crying. Peter looked at me like “oh my God what is happening here” and immediately offered to take over, so we switched drivers. The bulldozer is still flashing his lights, people are trying to pass us on this hill, and now the Peter can’t move from park to drive. A Jordanian man comes over to the window and I’m half crying, half yelling “fi mushkila” (there is a problem), and the guy reaches into the car and starts it, Peter manages to move the gear to drive, and off we go down this hill. Turns out that Peter (who has only driven a manual car) didn’t realize he needed to keep his food on the break in order to switch gears.

Despite this harrowing experience, we made it to Petra. We stayed at the Movenpick, which is right outside the gates of Petra. And let me be honest, the bright white hotel sign was the the beacon of hope that kept us going those last 20-30 minutes of hiking back to the main gates.

And Petra really is a hike, especially if you climb the monastery. The walk down to the treasury is downhill, but boy, is that walk back to the entrance is daunting, uphill and seemingly never ending, especially considering that you’ve already walked the entire site from the Monastery to the Treasury, and there’s still 30 more minutes to go!

We entered the site at about 1:45, and we were warned that it would close by 5 or 5:30 latest. And by 3:25 we had seen the Treasury, hiked up to the tombs, explored the caves, and walked down to the beginning of the Monastery trail. We saw increasingly fewer people on our way, and we were told that the full hike up to the Monastery is about 1 hour. Since it was already quite late, Peter was hesitating as to whether or not we should start then or just leave it for tomorrow. But there was no question for me. We had made it this far, we were hiking the Monastery and not coming back the next day (that was my true motivation). And so we hiked.

The walk was tough, but worth the view, and we made it in exactly 30 minutes (although we did go quite fast and took 2 short breaks). We could have gone up by donkey, but honestly the stairs are steep and slippery so it’s almost easier to walk up yourself. The path was littered with tents selling jewelry, scarves, and other knickknacks, but the really tempting tents are the ones selling refreshments making for a nice little pitstop! But onwards we went, past the tents, past other couples resting, for fear that we would be locked in Petra until the following day! Peter had even already picked out our cave for the night.

But we went quickly, stoped to take in the breathtaking monastery and view from the top, and made it back to the front gates by 6:00 PM! No cave dwelling for us!

Dead Sea 

Peter and I have both been to the Dead Sea before, so we didn’t stop again. However, we did take the “scenic” (and also very scary, mountainous route) from Petra to Amman that goes through the Jordan Valley and along the Dead Sea. It was worth the view. From the mountainous terrain to the farmland of the Jordan Valley to the beautiful turquoise of the Dead Sea, the 4 hour drive was breathtaking at every turn.

*Also, I have to put this little tidbit in here just for Peter since it was legitimately one of the highlights of his trip. Whilst driving through the mountains we came across a couple of stray dogs, which for Jordan is not abnormal, but we were so confused by what they were doing in the mountains. Then we turned the corner and we saw hundreds of dogs and an old abandoned train car teetering off the side of the cliff. As we slowed the car in awe, the dogs surrounded us barking loudly, to the point that if we had gotten out, I think we would have been attacked. So that option was off the table.  As we drove off, they faded into the distance, and Peter’s only regret was not taking a photo.


From Amman, we drove about an hour north to Jerash. What astounds me about Jerash is how an ancient Roman city is preserved right along side the modern Jordanian one, where the old city walls run alongside the main through street.   Jerash “boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years,”*  and the ruins are really well preserved. You can walk down the Cardo Maximus (the main road of the city) that is lined with in tact columns and still see where the chariots passed through thousands of years ago. The site also features Roman baths, two amphitheaters, many temples and churches, old markets, and rolling hills for miles. Ultimately the city faced fire and an earthquake that led to the destruction of some structures, but what is left in tact is worth a visit.


As the capital, Amman cannot be missed, however you really only need one or two days to cover the city. Having lived in Amman for 6 months, there really is not much to do. Nobody walks around the city since it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer, and it’s very, very hilly (the city was built on 7 hills), so you can’t really even go for a walk. But there are a couple sights worth exploring. Unfortunately for us, it was rainy, windy, and really cold, which made touring around miserable, but we still managed to see the main sights.

Our first stop was Rainbow Street right off of Circle One, which is a nice almost-pedestrian street lined with European-esque cafes, restaurants, and shops. To escape the pouring rain, we went had a burger and french fries at a particularly Westery-style restaurant, and then got ice cream as we walked to the lookout point before turning back to the hotel to escape the weather. We ventured back to Rainbow Street the next day for a little walk and brunch at Books@Cafe, which was one of my favorite spots when I was studying in Amman.


From Rainbow Street, we went to explore the sights downtown. First stop, the Citadel, which sits at the highest hill of the city and has a breathtaking view (even in the rain!). It was occupied in since the Bronze Age, and like Jerash, it is amazing to stand in ruins from centuries prior and look out over the modern city of Amman. After the Citadel, we went to the nearby Roman Amphitheater, which is very well preserved as well. It was built in the 2nd century and sat 6,000 people!

To escape the rain again, we went to Hashem for their famous falafel, and we didn’t even have to order; we sat down, and they brought us the full spread of foul (a bean dip), hummus, falafel, and french fries to build our own sandwich – all for 4.50JD. When we finished,  we walked 250 meters down the road to Habiba to try their famous kenafa for desert! We had more than enough to eat in Amman, especially after having finished up the night at Jafra, a restaurant serving typical Jordanian food with a great atmosphere.

A bit outside downtown, we visited the King Abdullah II Mosque (or the Blue Mosque) is absolutely gorgeous. It’s quite modern inside, but beautiful with the blue and gold inscription, the stained glass windows, and the marble surroundings. We made it just before prayer time, which made it seemingly more serene, and was the perfect way to end our sightseeing tour in Amman.

Peter’s and my first vacation together was a success, so here’s to documenting many more adventures around the world!