Amman isn’t the most interesting capital cities in the world, but spending a day in Amman is always a good idea before beginning your journey into Jordan. Despite being a new and modern city, it does offer some level of good atmosphere. You do feel you are in the Middle East.
Top Things To Do and Eat in Amman:
1. Visit Jebel Amman for it’s sweeping views over Amman City, go in the evening.
2. Go to Hashem Restaurant for a proper Arabic fastfood meal. Order the fatteh.
3. Go to Al-Quds to have Arabic sweets, especially the Kunefe.
4. Go to Pizza Roma Cafe near the Amphitheater for an Arabic breakfast.
5. Roam around the Amman souk, however, don’t expect something very exotic like the Bazars of Turkey or Morocco.
Accommodation: I stayed at the Cliff Hotel, a budget hotel in downtown Amman. I got a dorm bed for a mere 5 JD. The staff’s good, wifi’s decent, but the location and cost makes it a winner.
Getting into Amman : Visa & transfer to the city from Airport
As our flight neared Amman, the landscape suddenly changed, from the brown-brown deserts of Arabia to the green fields and plantations of the Levant(North Jordan, Syria, Israel) . Reached Amman at midday. The visa process wasn’t exactly hassle free, the visa officer wasn’t too happy that I had only 1000 USD for 9 days(although I had a forex and a credit card) , so he was to give me a visa only for a week(and some fine while going back), but then I found another 200 USD with me, and immediately I got the visa stamped for 2 weeks.
Took an aiport bus to the Tabarbour bus station. The bus journey through Amman’s suburbs and outskirts was quite interesting, first we had plenty of farms, olive plantations, many vendors selling fruit on the highway(very much like India), greenhouses giving way to the residential localities with it’s block like boring structures. But some houses were built really well using a different kind of stone.
I had to take a taxi from the bus station, I managed to bring down the fare from 10 Dinars to 4.25 dinars(altough maybe 3.5 would have been appropriate), giving me a reminder that I was no longer in hassle free countries I had traveled before ( like Europe, Turkey). I even had to request the taxi driver not to smoke in the taxi, much to his annoyance.
Reached my hotel, Cliff Hotel, a favorite among budget travelers, right in the middle of the downtown. Not a very likeable place, but was clean, had a good helpful,staff and the best part was that it was right infront of the famous Hashem Restaurant, Jordan-famous for it’s falafel, Hummus and such middle eastern fast food.
The City of Amman
I go my money exchanged at a Western Union place(708 Dinars for 1000 USD).Amman felt very much like the cities of South-East Turkey(Gaziantep, Sanliurfa) I had visited an year back. You can read about it here. Souks, albeit modern, neat streets, going up and down, scarf clad women, sweet shops, the wonderful smell of flavored Hookah(nargileh), very few tourists, a very local atmosphere, wedding dress shops and so on..I was expecting a chaotic city like Cairo(I haven’t been there, just heard of it), but was pleasantly surprised.
Reached the castle after a small hike up the road( a local showed me a shortcut), This pretty much the top of Amman( Jebel Amman) from where you get to see sweeping views of the city, the never ending blocks of houses, mosques, the beautiful Roman Amphitheater, modern skyscrapers. The Roman columns on the top were spectacular too, but the star site was the huge Jordan flags you could see from the top, I mean they were really really big.
Stayed there almost till sunset, met a Jordanian Bollywood fan(much to his disappointment I did not know too much about Bollywood), admired the Umayyad Palace, and finally walked down to the Roman Amphitheater. The Amphitheater was a breathaking site, but the evening lighting could have been done in a better way. However, the biggest draw was the sweetshop right infront of the Theater, I had a big plate of Kunefe (a sugar syrup-cheese-fried vermicelli dessert) for a mere 0.6 Dinars. The next stop was the Hashem Restaurant. A very,clean, lively Middle eastern place(I was expecting a canteen like place, since it’s so popular). The chef dishes ou large servings of hummus, drizzles them with loads of olive oil, then you have “fool” or “ful”, a red paste made of Fava beans, Fatteh, an aubergine-yoghurt based paste with several toppings and garnishing, olive oil and a green chilli sauce being the most important ones. And you have a falafel counter. I ordered a “ful” and a plate of falafel. All big portions, it came with bread and salad. The falafel was green from the inside and crisp. After a fulfilling meal, which cost me only 1.5 Dinars I came back to the hotel, had a talk a with a few guys out there and wen to bed straigtaway. Afterall, there was some anount of jetlag.