I have been in Jordan for about 24 hours now and feel completely as though I’ve made the right choice in coming here. The staff from my program seems excellent, and the country itself seems like a place I’m going to fall in love with rather quickly.

Many of you know that I have a tendency to wax poetic and to analyze things from an intellectual level, but I also mostly want to use this blog as a place to update everyone on my life here and to make (brief) observations on my experiences. As I mentioned recently on Facebook, I have joined Aslan Media as a contributor and will be writing a regular blog for them entitled Letters from Amman to give a more analytical perspective, so look for that.

So some initial updates? Well, due to flight delays caused by Hurricane Irene, a number of the other students in the program are arriving late, so we are following a pretty relaxed schedule. Today was the final day of Ramadan, so we ate lunch in one of the few restaurants that was serving food down on Rainbow Street. It was pretty delicious American cuisine and pretty similar to an American diner in style. I know what you’re thinking. I ate American food for my first meal in Amman? I know, I know.

As you know, during Ramadan most Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, including water, which is obviously a difficult task in the desert. Most people seem to wake up early to eat before sunrise and then go back to sleep until late morning. Then, once they take iftar (evening meal) they stay up late into the night. Anyway, because it is so difficult to fast it is considered very impolite if you aren’t fasting to take food or drink in front of someone who is, so the restaurant had all of the windows covered with shades.

Ramadan ends once the new moon is spotted for the first time, which is usually officially announced by each country’s top religious authority. Because of this practice, countries often celebrate Eid al-Fitr [Festivity of Breaking (the fast)] on different days because one cleric in Egypt might see the moon while a Bahraini cleric might not be able to on the same night. This year, however, a new precedent was set by Jordan. The new moon was not seen in Jordan tonight, yet Eid has been announced. Interestingly, this is because the moon was seen in Saudi, where the two holiest cities in Islam are located (Mecca and Medina). Jordan’s top cleric announced that, as a symbol of unity and so the neighboring countries could celebrate together, Jordan would follow the Saudi lead in the matter. It’s an interesting development and makes a ton of sense in a lot of ways.

That side of it aside, it is now Eid so Jordan is about to descend into three days of celebrations. This should be an interesting first week here!