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As the sun sank over the rooftops of Jordan last night, the usual sunset prayer was louder and longer than ever, signaling to Muslims around the city and world that the month of Ramadan had ended. The signal, just like every year, was the final sliver of moon vanishing into the new moon of the next Islamic month. It’s interesting to compare the mostly static Christian holidays to their lunar Islamic counterparts. What would you do if you didn’t know exactly when Christmas was going to be? Whether it would be on the 25th of December of the 26th? Devout Muslims have to worry about that every year when they’re stocking up on groceries and gifts for the final iftaar and the first days of Eid, not to mention making their travel plans.

Nicholas and I tried to have an iftaar at the famous Hashem falafel restaurant a couple nights ago, but to no avail: even though we arrived 40 minutes before the 6:50 sunset, the restaurant was still packed beyond capacities and people were spilling out onto the sidewalk of the surrounding businesses, and some people were even running from surrounding streets bringing their own tables and chairs to the restaurant. After the two of us fruitlessly searched for any possible chair, or table, or bench, or even someone’s lap to sit on, we ended up going to a burger joint across the street, where the owner was more than happy to feed us while glaring balefully across the boulevard at the masses of Arabs breaking fast. You have to feel sorry for the restaurants that surround the most famous eating establishment in Jordan – I mean, this is where two sets of royal families have eaten before, they’re open 24/7, and everyone and their aunt has heard of them (my own aunt included).

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For yesterday’s iftaar, the last of 2009, Haitham called me up and invited me to join him for dinner at his home in Zarqa’. It was a conveniently-timed invitation, as I had returned only hours before from picking up a new Mitsubishi Lancer from a rental dealer in preparation for my parents’ upcoming arrival in Jordan, only two days from now. I figured I needed the practice anyway; driving in “OhMyGodEidIsTomorrow” traffic seemed like the best possible way to get re-acclimated to driving on Jordan’s highways after heading south half a year ago. After 20 minutes of crawling through a mere kilometer of traffic in the bell’ad downtown area (only a few blocks from where I had eaten the night before) I found myself wishing I had rented the helicopter option instead. I didn’t let it try my patience too much though – I understood that it had only been yesterday that the Islamic clerics of Saudi announced that the Eid al-Fitr celebration was officially going to start on the 20th.

Haitham served me his mother’s chicken schwarma with fried potatoes, and we listened to the aforementioned chorus of happy chanters singing from the minarets. For the first time, it sounded like there were multiple voices joined in harmony wailing happily down on us, and it created a neat auditory effect as the loudspeakers echoed and bounced around the faces of the concrete buildings of Zarqa’.

After dinner, Haitham and his friend Mohammad and I headed out into the Zarqa’ downtown. Although Zarqa’ is quite a bit smaller than Amman, its downtown district is massive and garishly lit like a miniature Las Vegas and it was filled with thousands and thousands of people. As we pressed through the mob, Haitham jokingly compared it to his haj to Mecca a few years ago, in which thousands of Muslims simultaneously circle the Kabba stone in the center of the mosque. “Everyone is shuffling forward, stepping on each others’ heels, and trying not to accidentally curse at someone because you’re in a holy place.” As always when I leave Amman, young slicked-hair teenagers got a kick out of randomly calling  “Hello, How are you,” “Welcome to Jordan,” and “Fuck you!” to me in the streets. I guess they have to practice their English somehow.

I went to lunch today with two new friends from America, Jon and Jonathan, who live down the street from me. I took them to The Pizza Company on Mecca street in the Lancer, and although the streets were empty of traffic compared with the previous day, the restaurants were quite full in the early afternoon. The three of us sat next to a table filled with maybe two dozen muhijabbeh (covered) women, excitedly talking and eating. Looks like everyone is just really happy to be able to eat whenever they want in the daylight again – at least until next year!