Amman Destination Guide
Jordan’s capital is an intriguing twentieth-century creation. Without the imposing history of Jerusalem, grand tension of Damascus or monumental sites like Cairo, Amman is a city sadly too often overlooked by travelers. Those that venture though are always greeted with great rewards in this multicultural city of 1.5 million. Bathed in an optimistic spirit and humming with cafes, Amman is more than an excellent base for seeing nearby sites like Jerash and Petra, and those with an interest in seeing the buzzing new Arab world should linger much longer than a day.
Taking in the vast collection of ancient ruins is on the top of most people’s to see and do list in Amman. The most famous of the sites is the towering ancient Citadel, an essential visit both for the archeological ruins and the sweeping views over Amman from either side. Next peek into history at the 6,000 seat Roman amphitheatre that was built in second-century AD, and save some time too for Ahl Al Kahf, a famous cave and Muslim holy site featured in The Quran. Amman is also a great base to explore nearby sites including Jerash, one of the world’s largest and best-preserved Roman towns, and the awe-inspiring Petra, an ancient city famous for its rock cut architecture.
Being home to a large migrant population means that visitors to Amman are greeted with a veritable smorgasbord of cuisines to choose from. Downtown Amman is one of the best places to seek out a memorable meal, and Zorba and Hashem will both make it easy for you to avoid having to lucky-dip pick thanks to having English-speaking staff. As the name may suggest, Rainbow Street is home to all manner of bibs and bobs. It’s also a suitably fine place to people watch, shop and eat. There you’ll find The Wild Jordan Café, which beats its competitors in the healthy meal market and offers organic food, vegetarian dishes, homemade cakes and fresh juices.
Where to Stay
Amman has two contrasting sides, the poorer downtown East Armann, and the green Abdoun area, often referred to as Jordan’s Beverly Hills. As you can probably guess, most visitors decide to stay within the big hotels of hilly West and North-Western Amman with the Sheraton, Four Seasons, InterContinental and Le Meridien all located within the area. For something more unique, try the family-run Hisham Hotel, or The Bonita, a homely guesthouse with six-old fashioned rooms above a Spanish restaurant. Those on a budget will find more value for money in the downtown area and comfortable and clean rooms at the Arab Tower Hotel and The Amman Pasha Hotel can be found for around US$50 a night.
Amman may be the address of many modern malls, but to really experience the city you need to visit King Al Hussein Street’s famous bazaar. Home to more than the usual sense and spice collections you’ll find in other capital city souks, the market is also home to Dead Sea products, Bedouin-made rugs and more than enough Jordanian souvenirs to please your friends and family. Rainbow Street is Amman’s most interesting place to people watch and is also where to fill your suitcase with charming boutique products. Local emporiums there sell products such as antiques, art, crafts and gold jewelery so unique you’ll kick yourself if you leave without buying it.
Amman Like a Local
Don’t despair if you’re having trouble putting your finger on local Ammani identity. Being located in the heart of the Middle-East and as a major migration destination means that local identity is diverse, with many locals identifying themselves as originating elsewhere. What this means is that Amman is a melting pot of Middle-Eastern culture and each distinctive culture has brought to Amman it’s own tradition, and with it food. Sample some traditional Jordanian cuisine and you’ll also taste the flavours of Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. Unfortunately the best tasting stuff rarely leaves the house, but some legitimate substitutes for a home cooked meal can be found at Fakhr El-Din on Taha Hussein Street and Tannoureen on Shatt Al-Arab Street. Very unlike a local, both serve alcohol.