Post by Laura
Amman is the capital of Jordan and while there are several ancient sites to visit the majority of the city is relatively new having mostly been constructed within the last 100 years.
Queen Alia International airport is located about 20 miles south of Amman; when you arrive in Jordan you need to pay 40 Jordan Dinars (£44) for your visa. You can use cash or credit card for this. If you are planning to travel independently in Jordan it would be worth considering the Jordan Pass which waives the cost of the visa and gives you entry to a wide range of sites including Petra and Wadi Rum. As these were included as part of my Intrepid tour, I just paid for the visa when I arrived.
The airport is modern and efficient and I passed swiftly through immigration and customs. I purchased my bus ticket from the kiosk directly outside the Arrivals hall and took the Airport Express bus for 3.5 JD to the Tabarbour bus station and from there I paid 5 JD for a taxi to my hotel in the city centre. The taxi fare from the airport to the city centre is around 20 JD.
Having arrived at lunchtime, after checking into my hotel I set off in search of lunch. I didn’t have to go far as directly across the bustling street was Hashem a top tip from Lonely Planet and street food restaurant which specialises in ‘the best falafels in Amman’.
I was shown to a table in the alleyway and a thin plastic disposable tablecloth was peeled from the roll and strewn across the table. Shortly afterwards, without presentation of any menu, I was provided first with a large warm flatbread, then came a dish of hummus, then salad and finally the warm falafels! Something of a set meal for one… yum! This was followed by delicious mint tea and all for the equivalent of about £2.50.
I didn’t venture too far on this first afternoon as I had the whole of the next day to explore the main sites of Amman. Other than a short wander in the immediate area I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in my room before going out again in the early evening.
I found a place called the Jadal Knowledge and Culture centre and called in there thinking it was a cafe! A young American woman explained they hold events and have talks and quiet areas with books where people can learn about the culture of Jordan. I was given a cup of tea and sat quietly in the colourful court yard reading my Lonely Planet book and working out the action plan for tomorrow!
Following directions of Lonely Planet’s recommended Amman walking tour I began the day by walking for 20 minutes or so uphill to the Citadel, the highest point in Amman and offering amazing views of the city. Entry to this historic site was only 3 JD (£3.50) and for this you can explore the ruins of the Temple of Hercules, visit the museum and look inside the Citadel.
From the Citadel, following the Lonely Planet route I made my way down the hill and down steps towards the Roman Theatre. Halfway down the steps is a delightful art gallery with some fantastic paintings. I spent some time chatting to the artist although didn’t buy a painting.
There is a viewing platform half way down the hill and the steps which offers a great view of the Roman Theatre.
There was a small fee for the entrance to the Roman Theatre and this again offered amazing views of the city together with an interesting museum. Dating back to the 2nd century the capacity of this theatre is 6000. The steps are fairly steep but the views are well worth the climb.
Next up was the Nymphaeum, another site of ruins… compared with the wow factors of the Citadel and the Roman Theatre, this was kind of OK… I popped in for a few minutes before heading across the street to the markets!
The delicious aromas of spices and sweets greeted me as I walked through the markets. A variety of pastries, cakes and sticky baclavas presented in large round flat trays were abundant… and very tasty!
As well as the baclava I also brought a bag of pistachio’s which kept me going for the following first few days of trekking in Jordan…
Next on the agenda was the Grand Hussaine mosque in the bustling centre of Downtown; I walked past and peered in but didn’t go inside
Lonely Planet’s recommended end to the self directed walking tour was to have lunch in Hashem’s… having done that the previous day, I headed up to Wild Jordan…
I say headed up… The Wild Jordan centre is located on another hill, again offering splendid views overlooking Downtown Jordan. Wild Jordan is an ethical restaurant, shop, cultural centre and tour booking place which runs seminars and promotes ecotourism. The Centre was given as a gift to the people of Jordan by the United States and profits go towards conservation in rural communities. I had a tasty lunch as I sat overlooking the wonderful views!
Not far from the Jordan Centre is Rainbow Street. Having read reviews about this well known street I found my way there but was surprised to find an extremely quiet almost backstreet! I had to double check the street name a few times to confirm I was in the right place! Yep… this was Rainbow Street… not sure what to do I wandered up and down a couple of times until I found a skybar and had my one and only alcoholic drink during my time in Amman… and Ramadan hadn’t even started… yes; alcohol is somewhat limited in Jordan although available in larger international hotels and western bars.
From Rainbow Street I headed back down the hill and winding side streets towards my hotel. Back in the mayhem of Downtown, near to the hotel was the Duke of Mukhybers residence, apparently the oldest residence in the city. I wasn’t sure what to make of it… it was an old fashioned slightly quirky apartment and is some kind of meeting place… I was offered a cup of tea and again, kind of sat quietly flicking through my Lonely Planet book…
Back in the Art Hotel, I retired to my room to get changed and get prepared to join the Intrepid Trek Jordan welcome meeting at 6 pm!