Recent blog posts

Posted by on in Other

Finding Roses in the Desert of Amman

Hi all! We’re Brittany & Karina. Ready to take on a semester in Jordan? If that means having our bellies full with Jordanian delicacies, traveling through the beautiful desert and serving here at Holy Land Designs, you bet!

To quickly introduce ourselves, here are some fun snip-bits about us:


My name is Brittany, and I rock at the game Two Truths and a Lie:

  1. I have eaten crocodile
  2. I have almost been killed by a giraffe
  3. I have ridden an ostrich

I am a junior at Palm Beach Atlantic University and am studying Cross-Cultural Studies and Exceptional Student Education.

#1 is a lie; did you guess it?


My name is Karina.

The desert is my home both here in Jordan and back in Utah, United States.

I am likely to be found backpacking, gardening or climbing the red rocks in southern Utah.

I am studying Global Development, Photography and Art History at Seattle Pacific University.


We will be interning at Holy Land Designs this fall, helping with visual communications, design and inventory. Our desire is to keep developing relationships with the loving, talented women who work to make the beautiful products at Holy Land Designs. These women truly are some of the most radiant roses we have found in our adventures in the desert of Amman. Check back in with our blog to hear about the many stories yet to be shared over tasty meals here at Holy Land Designs!

Last modified on
Hits: 548

Posted by on in Volunteer Stories

Hope and Elizabeth graced us with their presence yet again, and added a new skill to their resume, Interior Decorating, while making our show room more functional and beautiful!

But first, we cooked French Toast together! (I was mostly there for moral support and comic relief.) Oola, the culinary mastermind of all things Jordanian and delicious, quickly learned our strange ways. We told the ladies we hoped it would be Zaki, delicious! 




Sharook prepared tea for the morning break and joined the cooking adventure. We played How Many Cooks Can You Fit in a Kitchen? Though the space is small, we found that 4 to 5 people is a little tight, but the conversation and laughter makes it worth every second!




It's amazing how food brings people together!

We were unsure of how the women would like our traditional breakfast staple, but we managed to create something they found zaki! 




Hope (far right) "talking" with Rahab (far left). During her times at the shop, Hope has picked up the art of talking with her hands and listening with her eyes!


Plenty of dusting, rearranging, vacuuming, rearranging again, laughing, confusion, more rearranging and together we turned this:


Into this!


The perfect combination of work and play,

We say thank you to our friends for a fun-filled, productive day! 

Last modified on
Hits: 1239

Posted by on in Volunteer Stories
Chivalry is not Dead

A few days ago, I was doing some grocery shopping. It was around sunset, my favorite time of day, when the light begins to fade and people are out running errands. I stopped at the little grocery store, then the bakery, and just finished up at the tiny produce shop, which is my favorite. My hold on the shopping bags was a little precarious and as I adjusted it, I dropped my bag of nectarines and with two of them rolling down the sloped sidewalk, I picked up the unruly grocery sack and planned to just leave the fallen nectarines. They had a bit of a head-start on my bag-laden self and I figured they were lost. I already made a little bit of a spectacle and I wanted to move on. With all this going through my head, I saw a boy, about 8 or 9-years-old, walking towards me. He quickened his step and chased down my two sad little nectarines, picked them both up, and handed them to me. Though it caught me by surprise, I had enough of my wits about me to say Shoe-kron kteer, that is, thank you very much.

It's the little things that bring smiles and joy to my life. It is events like this, as I travel and I am in the States, that cause me to say that chivalry is not dead, it is very much alive. 

Last modified on
Hits: 1152

Posted by on in Olive Wood

While wandering through the shop today, I found Randa's work station where she is assembling 3-D Creche Ornaments.


So many hands are involved in the process to get it to this point. The olive wood logs are delivered to the shop. Downstairs, on the ground floor of the shop, is the Men's Workshop. There the men cut the logs into smaller pieces and they supply the women upstairs with slats of olive wood to create the elements included in this design. The men also complete the base and the roof of the creche. The slats are sent upstairs where the women stamp the design onto the wood and expertly cut the shapes, the palm tree, the manger scene, the star, and the back, out of the wood. They sand the rough edges off each piece and this brings us to bins of pieces ready for our artisans to assemble. 



Randa has already begun the assembly process for some!


The base and the back joined together.


The roof has been added!


A neat little stack, one step closer to completion.

Randa and Rania will put glue them together. The other ladies will put the finish on them, attach a ring and ribbon, and here we have an ornament ready for this holiday season!


A lot of steps go into this incredible creation!


So Beautiful!




A wonderful way to say "Merry Christmas!" to the loved ones in your life!


For more on this fascinating process, some friends of the shop have created a video of the Tabletop Creche! Same idea, different size. 


Last modified on
Hits: 1322

I wish I could better describe the wonder of the senses which is a sunset in Amman. Pictures will have to do, that is, until you make the trek for yourself. Until then, here are a few glimpses of the lovely time of day when the air begins to cool and the sun bathes the city in a golden glow. 


And yes, I get some strange looks when I stop to take a picture of what people see everyday. 


Sometimes I purposely go shopping at this time of the day...Can you begin to guess why?





And as the sun goes down the city starts to light up, which is a whole different kind of beautiful.

Goodnight, Amman.

Last modified on
Hits: 1221

Posted by on in Volunteer Stories
Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Hello friends! My name is Katye. I'm a small-town girl from the Midwest and I've had the privilege of living in Chicago, Athens, and now Amman. I am a recent college-grad, a nerd about social sciences, and never imagined I would enjoy city life as much as I do. Making people laugh is one of my favorite past-times, especially if those people are my little nieces and nephews and we're giggling uncontrollably about something quite absurd. Other things you should know: I'm an introvert, my favorite number is five, I'm terrible at blowing bubbles with bubble gum, and as a child, my life aspiration was to be a librarian. Alas, that dream has not been realized. But there is still time. 


I will be interning here at Holy Land Designs this Autumn, doing quite a bit of writing for this organization. In addition to updating product descriptions, I will be sharing a little bit of what life is like, here in Jordan, and at the shop. I'm thrilled to be here and I can't wait to share it with all of you! 

Last modified on
Hits: 1189

Posted by on in Recipes
Cooking Lessons: Galayat Bandoura Edition
Recently Hope, Elizabeth, (two college students who are in Amman and gifting the shop their presence one day a week) and Katye had the privilege of a private cooking lesson with Oola. It was a grand time with limited verbal communication, much laughter, and many smiles. Hope and Elizabeth brushed up on the Arabic words for onion, garlic, green pepper, and tomato. Oola thought it quite entertaining when it came time to chop onions and Katye had to take a break because there were tears rolling down her face. "Kwaise" and "Shatra," words meaning good and smart, were  repeated many times by the patient instructor. So, for you at home. Here is the recipe for Galayat Bandoura.
Amounts are relative. Basically the tomatoes should be the main ingredient with a good amount of green pepper and onion to compliment it. Oola used a whole head of garlic for this batch serving 14 people. And, in the case of garlic, more is generally better. Seasonings are completely up to your discretion as our expert Oola just poured them in while we stirred. 
1. Peel the tomatoes. 
2. Dice green pepper and tomatoes. Do not combine, yet.
3. Cut onions into long strips. It's okay to cry. Just be sure to picture Oola's sweet smiling face. 
4. Chop or mince garlic. Either way is fine. 
5. In a pot large enough to combine all the ingredients, coat the bottom with sunflower oil or olive oil, add garlic, onion, and green pepper.
6. After these have cooked a little, add tomatoes. 
7. Bring to boil and simmer, stirring often.
8. Add salt and white pepper. 
9.Cover and simmer until the combination is the consistency of salsa. Stirring occasionally. 
10. Serve with pita bread. Preferably with the dish in the middle of the table circled by friends and family. And if you can manage to serve it with a kettle of chai, all the better. Enjoy! 
Last modified on
Hits: 1699

As you may know, we’ve had the privilege of learning how to cook Jordanian dishes from the wonderful ladies at Holy Land Designs. Lynn asked us to share a little bit of “our” culture with the women, so we tapped into our North American roots and introduced Taco Tuesday into the Holy Land portfolio.


This may surprise you, but it’s not always easy to find authentic Mexican ingredients in the Middle East. But have no fear, we adapted to the situation and created a mega Mexican-Middle-East hybrid taco. This culinary monstrosity was made possible by a large local flatbread, perfect for any burrito masquerading as a taco (or in Haddie’s words, a village masquerading as a burrito masquerading as a taco).

b2ap3_thumbnail_11047250_10205987558438855_149641322_n.jpg b2ap3_thumbnail_11040230_10205987558238850_1113778827_n.jpg

We could try to tell you how wide these ladies’ eyes got when they saw the size of their lunch, but you just had to be there. Nevertheless, when the going got tough, the tough got going, and only the most courageous of hearts succeeded in finishing their meal. Kathryn was not one of them.


We came up with the original idea of giving the meal for free to anyone who could eat the whole thing in less than an hour, but then we realized the meal was free for everyone. Alas, these victors names will only ever be etched into our memories as the noblest souls who ever crossed the threshold of a burrito bar.

And that’s a wrap,

Haddie & Kathryn

Last modified on
Hits: 1063

The story begins when the manager of We Three Beans (the café where Khalil is a barista) informed him that his 10 days of paid vacation were about to expire at the end of February. Being the bastion of spontaneity that he is, Khalil decided to treat himself to an arbitrary and lavish vacation. Unfortunately the cruise through the Arctic Circle was already booked, so he decided to aim for something a little closer to home: the Holy Land. Here are some highlights from Khalil’s adventures through Israel and the West Bank:


Like any urban camel would, Khalil dedicated a fair amount of time to exploring Jerusalem. He loved roaming through the Old City markets, eating delicious bagels, and seeing such a diversity of people all in the same place. Here Khalil visits the Dome of the Rock, which he gazed at from atop the Mount of Olives only a few days before.

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_8989.jpg b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_9866-2.jpg

Next on the agenda, Khalil headed for his namesake, al-Khalil (Al-Khalil means “The Friend”, so-called because of the Tomb of Abraham, who was the friend of God. It’s also called Hebron for those of us who are less fluent in Arabic).  


After a quick stop for some fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, Khalil set off for the Cave of the Patriarchs, burial site of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah, Hebron’s ultimate A-listers. Finally Khalil ended his day like any good tourist would: shopping his hooves off. Khalil bid farewell to Hebron with his saddlebags stuffed full of all kinds of priceless soon-to-be family heirlooms:  novelty t-shirts, snow globes, sun visors and even a foam finger.

Last modified on
Hits: 1360

Have you ever met someone with a Valley girl voice, who spends all her free time in the mall and refers to shopping as “retail therapy”? Because there is no description that will suffice to encapsulate our spirits better than this.


Well, maybe that’s not true. You could probably tell we aren’t the world’s classiest fashionistas by the way we trip on our maxi-skirts climbing up the stairs to Holy Land Designs, e v e r y  s i n g l e week.

But thanks to Holy Land and its jewelry-making neighbor FTE, we’re quickly becoming the flyest kids on the block.

This week on the runway:


Haddie accentuates her curls with a chic olive wood barrette from Holy Land’s A Touch of Class Collection. If you want to make it in this world, follow in the footsteps of fashion icon Haddie Smith: tame the flyaways, unleash your style.


Kathryn brings out the turquoise and wood grain in her eyes with these Free Spirit olive wood hoop earrings.   Nothing frames an exquisite face better than tastefully chosen accessories, so dazzle your peers with these red carpet-worthy pieces.


Khalil sophisticates his look with this designer starfish ornament. Take a page from Khalil’s book and don’t be afraid to customize pieces to fit your body type. Some of us are just too small for human-sized jewelry, and that’s ok. Rock what you got, and be confident in your own skin. And as Khalil was quoted by the great Tyra Banks (we’re not sure why Tyra gets the credit for this), “Work that hallway like a runway.”

These and more beautiful items can make your Cinderella story a reality.

Make it work designers,

Haddie & Kathryn

Last modified on
Hits: 1656

Posted by on in Recipes


An eggplant dip eaten with pita bread, often served instead of or in addition to hummus.


The finished product  - not to be confused with Baba Ganouj, which does not have the delicious sesame paste mixed in!  Enjoy!

Ingredients (feeds 12)

  • 6 eggplants
  • A 16 oz container of tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 lemon, or lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, or garlic salt
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional)
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil


An eggplant that's ready for step 2


  1. Cook eggplant over stove burner, or, wrap in tinfoil and bake in the oven for approximately one hour. When ready, eggplant should be soft and skin should be crispy.  This gives the dish its delicious smoky flavor!
  2. Scrape off eggplant skins and cut off tops. Place the soft, white portion that remains in a large bowl.
  3. Using the bottom of a cup (or weapon of your choice) smash eggplant until a thick paste is created
  4. Add container of tahini and mix thoroughly
  5. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into the bowl; be sure to remove any seeds.
  6. To make your own garlic salt, chop a clove and add about a tablespoon of salt. Cover in plastic (a grocery bag will do) and grind with the bottom of a cup or a spoon until it is combined. Mix into bowl. Alternatively, add about a tablespoon of store-bought garlic salt to the mix.
  7. Add cilantro and mix thoroughly.
  8. To serve, spread on rounded plates. Place a pinch of fresh cilantro or parsley at the center of every plate and add a drizzle of olive oil.
  9. Tear off pieces of fresh pita bread and use as a scoop for the warm mutabbel.  For a terrific sandwich, stuff pita bread with the mutabbel.  Mmmm, mmmm good!.  It also makes a fantastic dip for crisp fresh veggies of all kinds! 


One of Holy Land Designs' very talented deaf women demonstrates step 3

Last modified on
Hits: 1338

Posted by on in Volunteer Stories

Here marks our fourth week at Holy Land Designs, and oh how time flies. Aside from composing an array of amusing blog posts (mostly just amusing to us, we realize), we’ve picked up some valuable life skills along the way. Things to add to our combined resume:

#1. Cooking a very limited selection of Jordanian Food

Look out Top Chef, because Haddie & Kathryn have made their entrée into the world of fine cuisine. Last week, some of the women at Holy Land taught us to make galayet bandoura, a tomato-based dip eaten with bread. It consists of onions, bell peppers, garlic, tomato, and a healthy splash of oil. Delicious. On today’s menu is mtubal, an eggplant paste similar to the consistency of hummus, and also eaten with bread. Keep a look out for recipes on the blog!


#2. Arabic Sign Language

Several of the amazing deaf women at Holy Land have been helping us along with our Arabic sign language. The consensus on this matter is that Arabic sign language is way easier to learn than Arabic, so we’ve been enjoying the process. We can describe our families and have some short conversations with the women, not to mention our hand-dance moves have significantly improved.

#3. Matching forks and spoons

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_8738.JPG b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_8724.JPG

So one of Holy Land’s beautiful products is a set of olive wood serving utensils. Now, the uniqueness of olive wood is a blessing and a curse: every single piece is different. Some are pinkish, some are yellowish, some are brownish-grayish-reddish with swirls, so you want a fork and a spoon to really complement each other. And that’s why we created Here, every utensil fills out a thorough profile, including questions about what they value most in a relationship and their long-term goals. Cutlery Couplery has been voted #1 matching algorithm by Fork Report magazine for six consecutive years. A satisfied Cutlery Couplery user said, “I met my ideal partner on Cutlery Couplery, and we’ve been together for three happy years. There’s no one I’d rather serve a dinner party with.” Another user raved, “Thanks Cutlery Couplery! I never thought the online thing wood work out, but I’m so in love with my spouse. It’s like we were cut from the same block.” Here at Cutlery Couplery, we believe every utensil deserves their perfect pair. And that’s the scoop on that.

All in all, we’ve loved our time at Holy Land Designs so far, and we can’t wait to learn more about this business and culture. Keep an eye out for future Haddie & Kathryn sightings.

We’re Haddie & Kathryn, and we approve this message.

Last modified on
Hits: 1643

Like so many introspective youths across the world, Khalil the Camel’s lifelong desire is to find his soulmate. This Valentine’s day, Khalil is on a quest to woo the elusive she-camel of his dreams, equipped with only an artillery of love-related puns and his indelible dromedary charm.

But even Khalil knows that no romantic sonnet is complete if it doesn’t come elegantly displayed in a handcrafted olive wood cardholder. Join Khalil on his mission to spread the love with one of these snazzy devices, perfect for friends, love interests, moms, dads, coworkers, and mammals of all kinds. Click here to get your very own photo or card holder, now 20% off of all Valentine's Day merchandise!


Olive you (get it?),

Haddie & Kathryn

Last modified on
Hits: 1963

As promised, this week Khalil embarked on his first adventure into the majestic Jordanian countryside. A mere 45 minutes outside of Amman, Khalil’s first stop was the Jordan River, featuring the celebrated baptism site of Jesus.


Khalil was enamored by the location, with its rich history, marauding river, and patches of wildflowers interrupting the desert landscape. As a rule, camels never miss the opportunity to socialize, so Khalil would say his favorite part of the morning was Super Bowl trash-talking with other world-travelers on the bus.

(Side note: his least favorite part was decidedly when we wouldn’t let him dip his hooves in the Jordan River. Look Khalil, just because you have a beautiful finish doesn’t mean you’re water-resistant. It was a hard moment in parenting, but if you ask me, a pouty camel is better than a sodden saddlebag.)


Next stop on Khalil’s tour was Mount Nebo, where the Bible reports Moses got to look out over the Promised Land before he died. From the peak, you can see the spread of the whole countryside, smattered with green. Khalil spotted Amman and Jericho in the distance, and he was told on a clear day, you can see as far as Jerusalem.


All in all, Khalil gives his trek out of the city five stars. Between the golden domes of Greek Orthodox churches and the quiet villages tucked among the hills, the Jordan River and Mount Nebo made for a much needed R&R in the life of one busy camel.

Tune in next time for Khalil’s travels across the Middle East and into the hearts of adoring fans everywhere.

Live long and prosper,

Haddie & Kathryn

Last modified on
Hits: 1602

Posted by on in Volunteer Stories

Meet Khalil the Camel, the great-grandchild of the very first Holy Land camels, on whose backs the vision of Holy Land Designs was carried.


In the days of old, 1998 to be exact, a young woman named Nancy had the dream of going to college. The ninth of eleven children and raised in a small village, Nancy's chances of achieving that dream were slim to none. That is, until she teamed up with a retired American teacher (and full-time rockstar). Neither woman had any idea what they were getting themselves into.

Armed with a simple sewing machine, a bolt of fabric, and a trusty wood-working sidekick named Peter, Nancy produced the first generation of Holy Land camels, and Amal the Camel (the great-grandfather of Khalil the Camel) was born.

What started with a suitcase of 90 olive wood camels and a dream catapulted into a company that employs over 20 full-time workers. Nancy has received her business degree, and Holy Land Designs has afforded countless opportunities for deaf, disabled, or disadvantaged Jordanians and their families.


And, because of Holy Land, Khalil the Camel has the opportunity to travel the world with us (Haddie & Kathryn, in case you forgot). Keep up with Khalil's adventures with his personal hashtag: #khalilthecamel and keep an eye out for more Camel Cameos.

In the meantime, we thought you might like to get to know Khalil a little bit better. Cue theme music:


Khalil “the Camel” the Camel


-4 years old

-Handcrafted in Amman, Jordan

-Fluent in Arabic, English, French and Camelese

-Dreams to find himself by backpacking through Europe

-Hobbies include (but are not limited to) interpretive dance, underwater basket-weaving, performance haikus and freestyle rap battles

-Known to cry in romantic movies and recite eloquent verse as the sun dips softly below the horizon

-Short-term goals: resume-building, move out of parent's basement, and learn what it means to fall in love

-Long-term goals: pay off college debt, build a substantial 401K, teach his son to play catch, have a son

-Favorite day of the week: Wednesday


Back to you Charlotte,

Haddie & Kathryn

Last modified on
Hits: 1649

Hi all,

We're Haddie & Kathryn, the Dream Team, as our friends like to call us.


Okay, so we may not be the Dream Team, but we're living the dream: traveling the world, eating too much food, and taking pictures of wooden camels everywhere we go. This semester we've found ourselves living in Amman, Jordan, and even better, hanging out at Holy Land Designs (the veritable El Dorado of wooden camels).

Just so you can get to know us a little better, here's some stats about us:


Haddie “Peter Parker” Smith


-23 years old

-From “the Palm Springs of Washington”: Yakima, Washington

-Acclaimed Cereal Chef

-National Nap Champion 2014

-Eyes: blue

-Face: Usually obscured by camera

-Known to dabble in Martial Arts

-Majors in International Studies at Trinity Western University


Kathryn “Steinbeck” Schuyler


-20 years old

- From “the Real Palm Springs...almost”: Imperial, California

-Cat Whisperer

-Studies English & Art at Westmont College

-World Famous Baton Twirler (Career-ending injury: broken pinkie toe)

-Part-Time Mime (I don't like to talk about it)

-Can usually be identified by excessive scribbling in notebook and thoughtful stare into the distance


So now that you're acquainted with us on a deeper and more personal level, we invite you to adventure with us through our semester in Jordan and our work with Holy Land Designs.

Holy Land Designs is an organization that employs deaf, disabled, and disadvantaged Jordanians to make quality handicrafts that get shipped around the world. To learn more about Holy Land and their mission, click here. And to browse their beautiful inventory, click here.


Over and out,

Haddie & Kathryn

Last modified on
Hits: 3382

Posted by on in Other


2015 Jordan Wildflower Calendars are now on sale in USA for $6.99 (normally $11.99).  Click here to view now!

Last modified on
Hits: 1315

Posted by on in Other


2015 Jordan Wildflower Calendars are now on sale in USA for $6.99 (normally $11.99).  Click here to view now!

Last modified on
Hits: 1441

Posted by on in Stories

Welcome to the new Holy Land Designs blog!  We have created this because we want you to have the opportunity to be more involved in the day-to-day life of our workshop and our business.  We're glad you stopped by!

Last modified on
Hits: 1682
Powered by EasyBlog for Joomla!


Blog Archive

User Area