How To Eat Like A True Jordanian

Mansaf ©
Mansaf ©
Photo of Ginin Dunia Rifai
14 March 2017

Jordanians love food. The people of Jordan are accustomed to certain traditions when having any meal, regardless of whether it’s breakfast lunch or dinner. Here’s our guide to the traditions and customs which you should be aware of when you say ‘yes’ to a Jordanian food invitation.

Always wait for everyone

It is both polite and important to wait for everyone to sit down if you are invited to eat with a group, or have purchased or prepared their food, so that you can all start eating at the same time. Almost all Jordanians love to eat in groups, and they cherish the presence of everyone. In fact, they won’t take a single bite out of the food unless everyone is present. As a foreigner, the locals might not take it as seriously if your eating isn’t synchronising with everyone, but they will be delightfully happy if you wait like everyone else does, and will take it as a respectful gesture.

JORDAN 2015 | © Jeffrey Bruno/JTB/ALETEIA

Eat with your right hand only

Islam is the main religion in Jordan, and in accordance with some Islamic regulations, a person should always use their right hand when eating. Left-handed people are usually taught to use their right hands to eat since childhood. Try your best to use your right hand when in a group, and if it slips your mind, rest assured, for it is never taken as an offence, but you may have to listen to someone telling you that eating with your left hand is considered a bad omen.

Dig in with your hands

It is said that eating with your hands makes the food taste better, or at least the Jordanians believe that whole-heartedly. Table etiquettes are followed to a certain extent, but as easy-going and care-free as Jordanian people are, disregarding them sometimes won’t hurt, as long as the guest is enjoying the food offered. Chicken, meat and bread are always eaten using the hands, and in the case of Mansaf (a lamb dish), even the rice too!

People eat their Iftar (breaking of fast) during a local initiative called “Let's Have Iftar Together” during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Amman, Jordan June 27, 2015. | © Muhammad Hamed, Reuters

Never say never

When invited to have a meal with a Jordanian family or a group of friends, always be prepared to try something that you might not be totally comfortable with. The generous people of Jordan won’t take it offence when a guest announces that they are full, but they will, in the nicest possible way, try and force them to eat more. As a general rule, it is always best to accept the food offering, as repeatedly refusing might cause offence.

Pay tribute to the cooking

Jordanians love to be praised by visiting tourists for the beauty of their country, the majesty of Petra, the unforgettable experiences and, of course, their food. It is also a very common tradition as a visitor to a Jordanian household, when sharing a meal to thank the family for the food and the effort it took to prepare it.

Save room for dessert

Usually, the presence of a dessert is not essential after a heavy Jordanian meal, but in some cases you might be offered it. The custom is not to refuse food at all, and when offered a hot dish of Kanafeh, you will find your self-control weakening.

Oasis Bakery AUD4 | © Alpha

A crucial cup of tea

After lunch, it is accustomed among some locals to finish the ritual with a cup of delicious tea, either accompanied by dessert or not. Be sure to expect and accept it and enjoy the aromatic relief of a cup of Jordanian-prepared tea.

Bedouin Mint Tea, Petra, Jordan | © Colin Tsoi

Leave only when everyone does

It is considered extremely rude to abandon a household table after finishing eating, when everyone is still seated. Jordanians like to enjoy table talk after happily savouring a meal. Some Jordanians will take the conversation to the living room, and sit there to have dessert, tea or both. Nevertheless, an attempt to leave the group gathering without everyone else is considered impolite.

Women take a “selfie” as people gather to eat their Iftar (breaking of fast) during a local initiative called “Let's Have Iftar Together” during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Amman, Jordan June 27, 2015. | © Muhammad Hamed, Reuters

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