I knew that I was going to love Amman the moment I stepped out of Queen Alia International Airport. After leaving Perth on a cold wintry evening and travelling for 17 hours, the first thing I felt when stepping out of the airport was the warm sultry air of a middle eastern summer. That gloriously warm air was a relief after a horrible winter, and I just knew that I had made the right choice in choosing Jordan as my destination.
From the airport the drive into Amman central confirmed that this was going to be a great city! I just loved the craziness of the traffic. Amman is a city built on numerous hills, and because of this roads are all twisty and winding and chaotic. The tooting of horns, the boys on the roadsides selling fresh melons, the ladies in various hijab and chador all added to what I pictured a middle eastern city to be like. As for when I heard my first call to prayer…. I just got tingles all over and it made me realise that I was about as far from my ‘normal’ life as I could get. This is what travel is about right? Well for me it is anyway!
After getting to our hotel my travel mate Miss L (who lives in Singapore but we connected at Dubai) and I were absolutely exhausted by our respective flights. We didn’t want to miss out on Amman though! Our tour was due to start the next day and the tour gave really minimal time to Amman. It would be a shame to miss out the capital of a country, even if it might not be the number 1 thing to do in Jordan. (amazingly, Amman might not even be the 3rd or 4th “best” thing to do in Jordan but I don’t know why that is because I thought it was great!). After freshening up we went out to grab a bite to eat at some random little fast food joint that had 3 old men in it drinking coffee. We entered and all eyes zoomed in on us. But then they all smiled, and even though nobody in the store spoke english we ended up with some tasty meat and chicken kebab things. I have no idea what we ate but it was delicious, and it was a sign of great culinary things to come!
From our late lunch we took a taxi to the Amman Citadel. As mentioned Amman is built on numerous hills. On the map we could/should have been easily able to walk. But with the heat, winding roads and uphills we opted for a taxi. Right call – we would have died before we even got up to the citadel! This is one thing I definitely recommend in Amman; take a taxi even if the distance doesnt look so great. Taxis are cheap, price can be agreed before getting in (and bartered a bit) and you will save your energy for the large sites and museums!
The citadel (Jebel al-Qala’a) is an amazing site situated high on top of a hill overlooking the old downtown and the urban sprawl of the city. This site has been occupied for centuries by various civilizations, from the Bronze Age, to the Hellenistic Age, the Ummayads, the Romans and many more believe it or not! After walking around exploring the various remains we visited the National Archaeological Museum which is inside the citadel complex. It really was an amazing museum signed well in English as well and spanning all the civilizations mentioned previously. The citadel was absolutely fabulous and a must not just for the history but the amazing views of Amman as well. From the citadel we went down to the Roman Theatre which we had seen from above at the citadel. Another cool place with lots of tourists and locals alike hanging out in the square in front of the theatre. After walking around here we went into the heart of downtown which was hectic! There was so many shops along the main street selling everything from the usual souvenirs geared towards tourists to dress shops for local ladies. I swear, I have never seen so many clothing shops for ladies in my life in one zone! There was also lots of streetside vendors selling grilled corn, nuts and juices. It felt like the whole of Amman was out and that’s when we realized it was a Saturday afternoon after all! We had forgotten what day it was! It was little wonder there were so many families out and about shopping and enjoying the city.
After feeling slightly claustrophobic by all the crowds we ducked into the famous Hashem Restaurant for a snack. Located on Al-Amir Mohammed street in a side alleyway we could relax and enjoy some of the cheapest but yummiest food you will ever have! For the two of us we got copious amount of felafel, hummus, salad, fuul and freshly roasted bread washed down with a mint tea for the princely sum of JD2.50 each. And there was soooo much left over from that! The place isn’t fancy, but it was packed full of locals and tourists alike. Definitely a must visit! It was after this meal that I realized I loved this sort of cuisine and couldn’t wait for each meal to come around (although I will admit after 9 days of Jordanian cuisine I did sink my teeth into a Big Mac at the airport on the way home. lol)
The next evening (after a day exploring Jerash) we decided to do one more thing in Amman that I personally had never done before, and that was visiting a mosque. Now, there are heaps of mosques in Amman, but the one that openly welcomes tourists also happened to be the one we could see from our hotel room, the King Abdullah Mosque. (although please note since writing this I have learnt that tourists can go to other mosques but having a local by your side would make it easier.) Famed for its impressive blue domed roof, this amazing place can house 7000 people inside and a further 3000 in the courtyard! Inside there is an amazing chandelier and the hugest single piece of carpet I’ve ever seen. For me it was interesting to see the interior of a mosque and the surrounding courtyard. It was also an experience to wear the chador that we were required to put on at the entrance. Now, I know the chador we were given was a cheap synthetic item that trapped in heat, and that perhaps the chador that locals wear is made of cotton or other breathable material, but by gosh I was sweating in the thing! I thought I was going to pass out it was just so hot in it! Anyway for the entry of JD2 you too can experience a cheap synthetic chador and go inside an amazing mosque and see such a beautiful peaceful place of prayer. Well worth it!
After an amazing 1 and a half days it was time to start touring the rest of the country. While I was satisfied that 1.5 days was enough to see the sites of Amman, I wish I had more time to explore some of the other museums and try more of the restaurants and cafes! I missed out on other recommended places to eat such as Wild Jordan cafe and Sufra, which I had really wanted to try. Oh well, I’ll have to try them next time I visit Amman (because trust me there will be a next time!)