Jordan’s capital of Amman is a sprawling city that rolls across 7 mountains and is home to nearly all of Jordan’s inhabitants as well as hundreds of historical relics and important culturel sites. It is often the landing point for foreign visitors, and it is likely to be your point of entry & exit to Jordan.
Although a lot of people blow off Amman for other more famous areas like Wadi Rum or Petra, I think it is worth exploring for a day or two! Jordan is an incredibly safe country, especially in relation to it’s turmoil filled neighbors, and has long been a favorite travel destination for people from around the world. It is home to many ancient relics and ruins, as well as important religious sites for Christians.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous about traveling here by myself, as a woman who speaks no Arabic, is from the States and is white as a glove. I knew I would stand out.
First I made a stop at the Citadel. As if I hadn’t gotten enough Roman & Greek ruins in Greece, the Citadel is a centrally located site which houses ruins from many different centuries. This is one of the few sites around the world that has been continuously used & inhabited since the early BCs. It was so interesting to see the ruins of a Roman temple, next to a Byzantine church next to an Islamic palace.
The site was nearly empty, as Jordan’s tourism industry has taken a big hit to the unrest in the region, which left me open for exploring. When you arrive at the gates, you’ll be hawked by English speaking guides. If you can fend them off, they are not really necessary. The site has some nice signs, and you are given a small guide book when you arrive. The site is perched up on one of the 7 hills that make up central Amman, so you can have a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Really stunning to see it all spread out in front of your eyes. I can imagine sunset is a very nice time to visit, plus it won’t be nearly as hot.
The next stop on my short tour was the Roman Theater. An easy walk from the Citadel, it makes sense to see these two sites in succession. I’ve seen a fair amount of theaters in my travels. They’re like EVERYWHERE in southern Europe, so it’s hard to miss. But I have got to say, this one was probably one of the most impressive. It was relatively smaller (only 6,000 people) but it was amazingly preserved & restored. You can really get a feel for it’s size. I also thought it was really neat how it was in the center of town. You can see it from the Citadel! As with all Roman theaters, the acoustics are spectacular, so much so that the modern Jordanians hold concerts there almost every week night for only a few dinars.
That night, I took a cooking class at Beit Sitti. This is a unique Amman experience that I would highly recommend. It was one of the highlights of my entire backpacking trip in 2014. You can read a more detailed write-up of my Jordanian cooking class here.
For day 2, I met one of my Intrepid Travel trip mates, Mel, who also arrived a little early. Since we were sharing a room, we met up and decided to explore the city together. It always feels better walking the streets of a new city with a buddy, so I was more than thankful to have her join me.
Easy walking distance for our hotel, we went to the King Abdullah II mosque to check it out. When traveling in Muslim countries, always remember there are several call to prayer times throughout the day. During prayer, visitors are not allowed inside the mosque (for obvious reasons) and are invited to come back during off hours.
We arrived at the mosque just a few minutes before it opened for the public. Built by King Abdullah II in the mid 80s, this mosque has beautiful blue tilework and mosaics all around the outside and on the top domes. It was so beautiful against the bright shining sun! In order for us to go in, we needed to dress in a coverall provided by the tourist office, as well as a head scarf. So we came prepared! Inside the mosque, it is carpeted with a domed ceiling and more tilework. This was truly a beautiful stop, and since you can see it from around the city, we couldn’t help but make a stop!
After finishing at the mosque, we took a cab out to Royal Automobile Museum on the west side of town. Now I am not a car lover by any means. Actually, I know little to nothing about cars. Admittedly, I was a little weary about going to this museum, since I wasn’t too interest. But it came highly recommend by some other travelers (as well as Trip Advisor, which we all know would never lead us astray….), so I figured why not.
And I’ve got to say, I’m really happy I went. It was a surprisingly interesting museum with some cool things! The museum holds the private car and motorcycle collection of Jordan’s royal family. And boy, is it an impressive collection. They have vehicles dating back to the turn of the century, as well as a replica of the first car ever created! You wander through the collection, which in itself is cool. But I really appreciate that the curators collected stories and photos of the royal family in each of the vehicles over the years, as well as video clips and interviews about various events in the cars.
It was so interesting watching video of old parades or war video standing in front of the car you see in the black and white real. I learned a lot about the history of the royal family, which I honestly knew nothing about. Plus, there were some really rare cars including a couple Rolls-Royce Phantoms, Lamborghinis and a really cool orange Mercedes SLR McLaren, which apparently is one of the fastest and rarest cards in the world.
After spending a while with the fast and furious, we headed back to the hotel and meet up with the rest of the group. I was really excited to meet all the other folks I would be traveling with, and I was not disappointed with their openness and friendly attitudes. There will be a total of 10 of us in Jordan, and the 5 will leave, and 5 will continue in Egypt. There is an older couple from New Zealand, a mom & daughter duo from Australia, 2 young Canadians, a young couple also from Australia, Mel a 25 y/o from Australia and myself.
Plus our guide Usama, who is going to be such a pool of knowledge. I can’t wait to learn from him. After an informational meeting about the itinerary, we all headed out for a lovely dinner in downtown Amman. I got the most delicious and filling dish, called Kulfi (spelling?) with tahini. It consists of ground lamb and potatoes in a creamy yogurt tahini sauce and a delicious spice blend. It is them baked in a deep dish pizza type dish, and served piping hot with pitas. It was so rich, but really savory. It was such a goey, salty, tasty mix and I loved every minute of it! If the rest of our meals on the trip are going to be like this, I will be one happy (and fat!) camper.