The Ultimate Amman Travel Guide

The Ultimate Amman Travel Guide

An Insider’s Guide to Amman’s Hidden Gems

 

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‘Time stands still,

remnants of history and civilization

travel with the breeze;

the molten sands of the desert

whisper the secrets of a bygone era

Unabashed we revel

like two bedazzled lovers.’

 

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been steeped in turbulence since time immemorial. The history of the country is woven into its fabric and the people living there, and is tangible the moment you step into the country. A visit to Jordan will change all doubts regarding the safety of the place because amid the turmoil is a place that will enthral its visitors with its monuments, landscape, faith, and distant past.

When I recently visited the country with my husband, I discovered the welcoming friendliness of locals and was provided with an opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds this diverse country has to offer, as a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board. The antiquity, civilization, sacred religious sites, unending stretches of desert, walking trails, art scene, bustling markets, and architectural marvels ~ gave us a glimpse of its soul. We ended up soaking in the magic of the place and Jordan goes down in our list of one of the most beautiful places that should to be visited by any traveller.

 

Vikram and I decided to begin our journey from the capital city, Amman and to be honest we were unprepared for the experience the metropolis had to offer. The city is peppered with remnants of its historical events ~ leftover from bygone eras that rise and fall like waves across human history ~ and we came back besotted with the beauty of the place and loaded with a flurry of enchanting memories ranging from its landmarks, tourist spots, art galleries, and cuisine.

 

Starting with Jordan’s Capital, Amman ~ Let the Adventure Begin!

Amman with its diverse culture and fascinating blend of time-honoured and monochromatic cityscapes to the most vibrant and contemporary buildings adding on to its charm, is a sprawling city built on seven hills. It’s colourful flavours and welcoming atmosphere with art galleries, souks, and cafes wraps you up into the most inviting and introspective journey helping you experience the hidden treasures of the city; a true tourist destination for any discerning traveller.

There are a numerous things to keep you busy in Amman before travelling to the other famous sites of Jordan. My advice: take a couple of days to discover what this charming city has to offer. Below is my list of the top ten things I would recommend to do.

My Top Ten

1. Visit the Citadel. Located at the centre of downtown Amman, on the city’s highest hill Jebel al-Qalia, this historical site is where you can enjoy a gorgeous sunset from the most peaceful location. My favourite sites here were the remains of the architecture of the Roman civilization at the legendary Temple of Hercules, remnants of the Byzantine Empire at the church ruins, and the magnificent Umayyud Palace welcome hall. Also, some of the best views of Amman can be got from the vantage point of the Citadel.

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2. Downhill from the Citadel is the striking Roman Amphitheatre, which dates back to the Roman period when the city was known as ‘Philadelphia’, translating to ‘brotherly love’ in Greek. The theatre has been restored and has a seating capacity for 6000, and is a spot where locals like to spend their time. Visit and watch kids playing soccer, friends chatting over Turkish coffee, and local families simply appreciating the scene.

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3. Another important landmark that is impressive and not to be missed, is the blue domed King Abdullah Mosque which is open to non-Muslims too. The cerulean blue dome of the Mosque can be seen miles across the city and showcases the distinctive Islamic architecture. It sits right in front of a Catholic church for a study in contrasts.

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4. Al-Balad is considered the heart of Amman and is the old downtown where you can better appreciate the pulse of the city and its people. The souks, shops, and eateries here have an energy that resonates with the warmth and hospitality of the Jordanians. You can lose your time meandering through the winding streets and picking up souvenirs like ceramics, colourful traditional clothing, and Dead Sea products to take back home. This is also the place to buy spices and delicious Medjool dates.

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5. I would also recommend taking some time off and heading to Jabal Al Weibdeh. This place is reminiscent of Amman’s glorious days, and is said to be steeped in culture and is home to many aristocratic families. The streets, outlandish eateries, boutiques, galleries, and villas make it hip and bohemian ~ relax at one of the many cafes and watch the colours of life unfold before your eyes.

6. Touring the art galleries is a must-do to step into the rich history of Jordan. Darat-al-Funun exhibits the work of contemporary Arab and Jordanian artists and will delight with its wide collection, gardens and peaceful café with beautiful views of Amman.

7. As Jordan steps towards modernization and urbanization, walk the Abdali Boulevard to soak in the cosmopolitan façade of Amman. The pedestrian strip is a good example of Amman’s modernity and development. The contemporary architecture, modern cafés, food kiosks, duty-free shops, and mall complete the ‘new’ experience of Amman.

8. Indulge your taste buds to falafels, hummus, and shawarma. The Turkish family run Hashem is a good stop to savour the culinary flavours of Jordan {Bilad al Sham cuisine}. Wander downtown Amman to one of the six main streets, Prince Mohammed Street which will cater to all your whims and fancies with its cafes showcasing colourful outdoor sitting areas, to trinket shops offering handmade goods.

9. Brush up your culinary skills by learning to cook Arabic food in a homely ambiance at Beiti Sitte in Weibdeh, and return home with mouthwatering recipes of hummus, fattoush, and other dishes from the Jordanian cuisine.

10. A trip to Amman is incomplete without experiencing the Shisha. All cafes located in Rainbow Street and Al Weidbeh will give you that unforgettable-smoking-Shisha moment. My favourite was at Rakwet Arab in Weibdeh.

 

Haunts

There are a number of sophisticated joints to frequent in the city; I am listing a few that I found ritzy and rakish. 😀

FANN WA CHAI ~ Complex No 25, Kullyet Al Sharea St 25
This is a tasteful place with an artsy milieu where many flavoured teas are served. I loved the set up and found it to be an ideal spot to work and have meaningful conversations with friends over a cuppa tea and sandwiches.

JADAL FOR KNOWLEDGE & CULTURE ~ Downtown, King Hussein’s street, Al Kalha stairs house number 5
With its tranquil atmosphere amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, Jadal is more of a community place or “Anti Café” if you will, where you can meet people from different walks of life and bond over cups of unlimited tea and coffee, and free wifi.

RUMI CAFE ~ Kulliyat Al Shareaa Street 14, Jabal Al Weibdeh
A swanky bar located in the expat area of Weibdeh, Rumi Café has the perfect outdoor seating to soak in the city vibes. It is mostly frequented by youngsters and expats and is the place to meet and make new friends. Everything served here is unique; be it their coffee, cakes, or tea.

RAKWET ARAB CAFE ~ 4 Al Baouniyah Street
This well-curated trendy restaurant has a beautifully calming atmosphere making it a great place to eat, drink, and smoke Shisha. The traditional décor is tasteful taking you back in time to the Arabian days and culture, and having a meal here will not disappoint you as they serve good portions.

SHAMS AL BALAD ~ Jabal Amman
This one goes into my favourites because of the organic food served with reasonable rates. The terrace gives a lovely view of the surroundings and the Citadel, making it a great spot for a juice and a snack while people-watching. This cosy café is also connected to a boutique that sells souvenirs and local arts and crafts products.

ZAIZAFOUN ~ Daraj Al Kalha
Amid the throngs of the city, this café is such a hidden jewel in Amman! The artist couple who run the place have lent their aesthetic eye on all areas of the café. Located in one of the alleyways, discovering this gem was really worth it and it was the right place to take a break after a busy day in the city.

 

Flavours of Jordan’s Culinary Delights

HASHEM ~ Al-Amir Mohammed St, Downtown

This place is an institution! Renowned for being the best place for your falafel lunch, the fare is authentic and though a small eatery, it is one of the most popular eating joints serving the best hummus I’ve had! There are such a large number of restaurants in Amman as you stroll around but while you’re downtown, set aside time to search this place out. Oh, and try their mint tea too.

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HABIBAH KNAFEH SWEETS ~ Al Hazar St 2, Marwan Madi Complex

Kanafeh, the specialty dish here, is a crispy and cheesy dessert that will satiate your sweet cravings. Envision revelling into layers of delicate baked pastry crumbs sitting over incredibly soft and airy cheese, all cooked in the oven and canvassed in syrup and pistachios on top! Slrup!

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SUFRA ~ Al Rainbow St 26

A little trendy road that has an amazing atmosphere and great setting housing numerous shops and restaurants, I loved looking at the Ottoman architecture alongside the colourful graffiti on Rainbow Street. Sufra is in fact an old house that has been converted into a restaurant making it more personalized, and I can vouch for their dish Mansaf; a Jordanian specialty made of rice, lamb, and yogurt. Yum!

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Best Daytrips from Amman

Amman Jordan is usually people’s starting off point before they visit the most talked about nearby tourist spots ~ Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Dead Sea, but I hope you take at least a couple of days to explore what the city has to offer.

PETRA

This city of monuments, tombs, and sacred structures will leave you awe-struck with its magnificence! It’s no wonder that movies such as Transformers and Indian Jones have used Petra for filming locations.

Derived from the Greek word ‘Petros’ which means ‘rocks’, the ancient city of Petra is also known by the name ‘The Rose City’ because of the colour of the sandstone out of which it has been carved. The entrance to the city is through a 2km narrow gorge, and at the end of the Siq is the Al-Khazneh Treasury which will literally take your breath away!

Points to note: Mid-morning will be ideal to click pictures as the sunlight enhances the natural beauty of the place. Motor vehicles are not allowed into the site, but you can always hire a horse, camel or mule from a local Bedouin and get a different experience of seeing the place. Do not miss out on the Monastery which is one of the largest monuments in Petra and gives an elaborate view bridging the gap between reality and surrealism!

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WADI RUM

Exploring and experiencing the Wadi Rum is extraordinary and it is magical to see the endless stretches of red sand and sand dunes painting the landscape dotting them with camels roaming freely. The beauty of the place has been captured in the celluloid frames of ‘The Martian’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

Points to note: The best way to enjoy the sights and sounds of this desert valley is by spending a night in a Bedouin camp. We took a jeep tour into the interiors and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets where the sun uniting with the red sand and filling the desert with crimson and scarlet was exquisitely gorgeous.

The one night in the camp with the night sky, moon, stars, sand dunes, shadows, singing, and the Bedouin food cooked in the earth will blow your mind away!

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THE DEAD SEA

The Dead Sea ~ the lowest point on earth ~ is a 45 minute drive from Amman. The area provides you with the very unique experience of floating in waters rich in minerals and salt ~ words fail to explain this once-in-a-lifetime experience Vikram and I had. Additionally, have a mud bath; the hydrating, beautifying, purgative and relieving properties will further rejuvenate your body.

Points to note: You will need to book into a hotel to access the Dead Sea. They will charge you a daily fee and apart from accessing the waters you will be given access to their facilities as well.

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Side note: Visiting these places will leave you wanting for more adventure and there are more intriguing and splendid places to discover in this beautiful land if you have the time to get under its skin to find out the hidden treasures.

 

Tips To Keep In Mind Before You Travel

* Although Amman is a city of contrasts, a unique blend of old and new; there is still an expectation, especially as a woman traveller, that you should be covered fully from your neck to your ankles. I would also advise you to avoid public physical contact with your partner.

* Today the town Amman is spread over at least 20 hills and is difficult to get around just by foot. Carry local currency in cash, in case you are tired of walking and want to take a cab, it will come in handy.

* Bargain while picking up trinkets at the souks, unless of course the price is written on the product.

* And last but not least ~ it is a slower-paced culture and being early isn’t the norm. Anticipate and accept this before you visit, and just relax into this patient and vibrant culture

 

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End note: With a rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and excellent eco-adventures, Jordan makes for a magnificent Middle East vacation destination. If you are looking for something different in your travels this year, be sure to give Jordan a try.

Visit Jordan has all the details on what to see, where to go, and what to do and a trip to this mesmerizing country will not disappoint you.

 

** Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the Jordan Tourism Board. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review.

* Our stay in Amman was hosted by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

36 Comments

  • You’ve so beautifully described all that you’ve experienced on this trip 🙂 I felt as a a traveller in-requirement of you tips and recommendations!!

    • It’s a country that truly captured my heart. And among all the things to do in Amman, trying Jordanian food is the best. It would be no exaggeration to say that the highlight of your complete trip is going to be the food. 🙂

  • Much obliged for sharing this! I’m planning to visit Jordan next year, and your blog helped me persuade my spouse that it is a safe place for us to travel to. 🙂

    • I’m glad you can agree that it is safe, Elizabeth! I receive messages asking sometimes, as though they don’t trust me! Haha!!

  • Appears you have really enjoyed Amman, and your pics and videos are so raw & fun ~ a complete departure from your usual style. I too love to travel, and am now planning to visit Jordan with family and the experience you’ve shared will help me.

  • I adore your interpretation of this trip ~ the photographs are completely such a fun take on this beautiful city!

  • Awesome post, Tanya! Always intriguing to peruse your point on travel; haven’t been to Jordan yet but it has now earned a place on my must-travel-to list!

  • Always exciting to see more people travel to the Middle East! I haven’t been to Jordan yet but I’m hoping to combine it with my next trip to Egypt in 2019.

    • Jordan is an incredible place, Dawn ~ especially if you’ve been travelling for some time, it’s an extraordinary country to just soak it all in!

  • Love this blog, Tanya and happy it has reaffirmed that Jordan should definitely be on my bucket list! Thanks for sharing and glad to see you had a great and hospitable visit!

  • I adore this post – exceptionally envious of how many countries you’ve had the pleasure of visiting. I have only managed three, despite the fact that regardless I feel like my world has really opened up!

  • When I read one of your posts first thing upon waking up, I know it will be an awesome day because I’m now refreshing my Bucket List before the adventure begins. Sharing this post!

  • How do you immerse yourself in the destination’s culture? EAT dammit! This foodie and culture lover dependably gets fluffalicious on vacay!

    • You’re so right about the endless food options there, and the people are wonderful, both Jordanians and expats. Hope you can visit soon!

  • What a wonderful guide, Tanya! My dream place to visit next ~ you have inspired me to finally do so, so you rock!

  • Appears like such a dazzling spot and those restaurant options are all hella gorgeous! I think this blog is telling me to make it happen! xx

  • I do love a city (or a region) that has ruins to visit ~ why? ‘cause it feels like you are attempting to take a peek into the past :). Jordan is unquestionably on my bucket list! <3

    • You’ve really gotta make it there soon ~ the local cuisine and those stunning ruins are totally worth it!

  • Oh this post is bringing back some exceptionally happy recollections of my trip there 8 years ago. I really enjoyed Amman, and thank you for sharing these pictures and videos – it looks like the city hasn’t changed that much <3

    • Glad this brought back some happy memories for you! Amman was SUCH a surprise to me ~ I had no clue what to expect.

  • I’m visiting Jordan in November this year with a certain special someone who loves culturally and historically relevant places – thank you for this guide!! 😀

  • Perfect timing! I’m heading off to Jordan in a couple of weeks and I delighted in perusing this. Loved the hang-out suggestions, and of course the pictures are wonderful!

  • What a fascinating read! Amman looks like an incredible place especially with the intermingling of cultures. I look forward to reading more of your adventures (I just recently discovered your blog).

    • Great! Glad I’m getting positive feedback on the history lessons 🙂 & happy you found my blog, Patricia! 🙂

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