Tuesday, November 21, 2023 – Squiz the World goes to… Jordan
An audio adventure to Jordan
Location of Jordan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jordan#/media/File:Jordan_(orthographic_projection).svg
Long-eared hedgehog: https://animalia.bio/long-eared-hedgehog
Dead Sea Science: https://video.link/w/ELitd
Mansaf recipe: https://theodehlicious.com/jordanian-mansaf-recipe/
Make jameed at home: https://www.ehow.com/how_5636754_make-jameed-home.html
Each week, we give the world globe a spin, and see where we land. Then we take the kids of Australia on an audio excursion to visit that country and its people.
I’m Amanda Bower, and today on Squiz the World we’re visiting a country whose ancient city, Petra, featured in movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade… Aladdin… The Mummy Returns … can you guess?
Let’s strap ourselves into the Squiz Kids Super Fast Supersonic Jetliner, as we take off and take a squiz at Jordan …
Just the Facts
If you look on a world map – I’ll pop one in your episode notes – you’ll see that Jordan is in the Middle East, at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe. Over the course of human history, it’s been in the middle of it all… crusades, trades, wars, trade wars.
In fact, Jordan’s population has grown significantly because of war. Its northern neighbour is Syria, which has been in a civil war for the last 11 years; and to the west are Israel and the Palestinian West Bank, which have been in conflict for decades. Jordan’s population is 11 million, and almost 3 million of those people are Syrian and Palestinian refugees.
That puts a big strain on the economy of Jordan. You might be thinking that Jordan, like a lot of other Middle Eastern countries, makes its money from oil. But there’s barely any oil in the kingdom… and hardly any trees, either. Only 2% of Jordan is forested, compared with the international average of 15% of a country.
But in the northern mountains, where there are oak and wild olive trees, there’s also something special… long-eared hedgehogs. They’ve got great hearing, thanks to those ears, and they’re actually surprisingly fast. I’ll pop a link in your episode notes to prove that they’re also super cute.
A lot of Jordan’s money comes from making fertiliser – who knew? – and from tourism. In a non-COVID year, about 5 million people come to visit … that’s almost half the population!
Some of those tourists actually walk all the way across Jordan to see the sites. It’s a small country alright… Australia is 86 times bigger! And I’d be shocked if every single one of those tourists didn’t visit Jordan’s most famous tourist site: Petra.
If you’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade… or Aladdin… or The Mummy Returns… you’ve seen Petra. One of the seven wonders of the world, it’s also called the Rose Red City, because of its buildings that have been cut out of rock faces. I’ll put a link to a video in your episode notes…
Whenever you travel, it’s important to learn a few words in that country’s language. It’s a great way to show respect. So, let’s….
Learn the Lingo
In Jordan the official language is Arabic. But Arabic sounds different in each country, the same way that our accent and dialect is very different from American, which is different from Irish, which is different from Scottish.
So we’ve asked Squiz Kid Alexander to teach us a typical Jordanian greeting. Alexander is 9, and lives in Melbourne—he was born in Australia, but he takes real pride in his completely fluent Arabic. His Dad’s Jordanian, and his Mum is half-Lebanese, half-Palestinian. Alexander, can you teach us a typical Jordanian greeting?
مرحبا شلونكم يا جماعه الخير؟”
The first thing Alexander says is “Marhaba”, which is a typical Arabic greeting. But it’s what he says afterwards that i find so beautiful. The translation is “Hello, how are you, people of kindness.” What a great way to start a conversation, with kindness!
People are always really grateful when you just try to speak their language. They may even thank you for it. Hey, Alexander, how do we say thank you?
And Shukran to you, too, Alexander.
Now that we can communicate a little bit, it’s….
Time for School
The first day of the school week in Jordan is Sunday… and your weekend starts on Friday!
That’s because Jordan is an Islamic country, and for Muslims, the most important religious day of prayer is Friday. So you have Friday and Saturday off from school, and Sunday is a regular workday.
Almost 100% of kids in Jordan go to primary school, but by grade 3, only one third of kids are reading at grade level.
The refugee crisis is a huge part of that problem – with so many extra kids, classes are overcrowded classes and the education budget has to stretch to cover many more kids. Lots of international non-government organisations, called NGOs, are trying to help with money, furtniture for classrooms, and more.
When people visit Australia, there are things they find AMAZING that we might take for granted. Like our unique wildlife, the food we eat, the games we play. And Jordan has something I find pretty astonishing….
Believe it or Not
I want you to think about swimming in the ocean… and what it feels like if you open your eyes underwater, or cop a mouthful. Salty, right? Maybe you’ve even noticed dried bits of salt on your skin once you get out?
Well, the water in this lake in Jordan is almost TEN times saltier than the ocean… !
Are you feeling brave? Yes? Okay, take two tablespoons of water, and mix them together with one tablespoon of salt. Then have a little drink. That’s how salty this water is… one third salt!
Because of this hypersalinity – salinity means saltiness, and hyper means alot —no plants or animals can grow in this lake. Which is why it’s called…
The Dead Sea.
Believe it or not, the Dead Sea was one of the world’s first health resorts. King Herod the Great went there more than 2,000 years ago to float in these waters, which are said to have healing properties.
And boy, can you float. Imagine how you normally float in a pool, or at the ocean. Now imagine trying to lift up your head and chest, and comfortably hold a book so that you can read and float at the same time.
Soggy book, right? But in the Dead Sea, it’s no problemo. There’s a fantastic video that goes into more detail about the science behind this, but essentially the hypersalinity means it’s impossible not to float in the Dead Sea. Why’s it so salty? Well, the video goes into that too, but it’s got a lot to do with the fact that the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet… the bottom of the lake is 728 metres below sea level.
As rain erodes salt out of rocks, that salty water makes it down to the landlocked lake and then has nowhere to go. Add that to average temperatures over the summer in the high 30s, and you can imagine how a lot of H2O evaporates, leaving hypersaline water behind.
All that floating is exhausting. I’m starving! I think it might be…
The national dish of Jordan is called mansaf. It’s a kind of lamb stew, cooked in a yogurt sauce and served with rice.
It’s served up at important events like weddings, funerals, and holidays. Now in Jordan, mansaf is made with a kind of dried, fermented goat’s yogurt, called jameed. I’ve put a recipe in your episode notes that uses plain Greek yogurt, but for those of you who are adventurous chefs, there’s also a recipe for making your own jameed.
This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening.
Question 1 What is the first day of the school week in Jordan?
Question 2 How much of the water in the Dead Sea is salt?
Question 3 What cute little critter lives in one of the few forests of Jordan?