One of the differences in working in the UAE compared to the U.S. is that schools are gender segregated pretty much from Grade 1 onwards. This means that the staffs are all male or all female for local schools which is the standard around the region, and while this takes a little getting used to at first it does foster a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood amongst colleagues which is strengthened by often sharing meals and enjoying staff outings 4-5 times per year. Another nice perk of working in the UAE is the ability to learn about and taste the various national dishes from many of the regions and countries that are prepared authentically by the locals.
Earlier this week after school was dismissed a few dozen of us headed out to the desert for a traditional Jordanian Mansaf. Mansaf is a traditional Jordanian dish served at special occasions and holidays that is popular in many countries in the region but perfected (so I’m told by my Jordanian friends) in Jordan that is prepared by boiling bone-in lamb along with herbs and onions and serving it in a sauce made from fermented and preserved yoghurt from a few specific regions in Jordan which is carefully salted, frozen, and preserved until needed. The Mansaf is served on a platter with a thin flat break (shark) which is then filled with rice, then the lamb is added and finally the yoghurt sauce is poured over the top. A handful for the guys headed out to the desert early to begin building the fire and preparing the Mansaf our in the desert about 4 hours before the main group got there to eat. The preparation is true to its bedouin origins, a small fire pit is created out, wood and brush are gathered, and then a giant pot is filled with water brought to a boil and the lamb is slowly cooked over a few hours.
The meal is eaten in traditional arabic style on the ground in various platters with no utensils. After the meal its time for tea and then an offering of nuts and seeds. We were out in the desert among some excellent sand dunes to go explore and get great pictures. Before and after the meal a few of us hiked around and to the top of the nearest dune to get a great view of the area complete with a few semi-permanent camel farms spread out along the desert. All in all we had a great time in the desert and enjoyed a delicious Jordanian Mansaf, definitely an experience to remember.