A Man in Amman

As my tour guide kept re-iterating: ‘Amman is Jordan, Jordan is Amman’.

Day 1 in Amman. I arrived into Jordan for the first time at 2am, queued for an hour in customs, arrived at my hostel at 4am (following a very jovial ride from the hotel’s shuttle service – I can highly recommend Boutique Hotel Amman if you’re arriving into Jordan at silly o’clock) and was bundled into a pitch black dorm room full of sleeping Chinese tourists where I managed to trip over a bag in the middle of the room and wake everyone up and slept only 4 hours so that I could take advantage of a 2JD (roughly £2) hostel breakfast. I had a couple of days to kill before my tour began, so I was looking forward to exploring Amman by myself for the day. The hotel manager gave me a map which I tried to absorb as quickly as I could to avoid looking like too much of a tourist, and then I set off into the 30 degree sunshine and Downtown Amman – a bustling, cosmopolitan area full of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. I got my bearings, then headed up to the Citadel – taking a taxi up the hill (2JD, probably got ripped off a little bit with that but ah well) and paid my entry onto the Citadel (3JD).

It was approximately 10am, the sun was hot, Amman was bustling, and up in the Citadel I was taken back in time to Roman Philadelphia, greeted first by the Temple of Hercules against the backdrop of Amman’s hills and limestone houses stretching out into the distance. A whole new world. I popped into the museum to find out a bit more about the different eras that the Citadel spanned – in fact, it had been settled upon long before the Romans got there and long after, spanning from the Neolithic period all the way to the Umayyad Period – before heading to the back corner of the park and finding myself completely alone among the ruins. I honestly can’t describe how absurdly content it made me, exploring the remains of the Umayyad Palace at my own pace with nobody else around, Amman’s daily life carrying on below, the sun beating down and the call to prayer floating along in the air between the hills. I was in love.

Amman Citadel

Eventually, I prised myself away from the Citadel and strolled back down the hill, realising on the way that the walk was roughly 10 minutes and my earlier taxi had been really unnecessary. I had to move hostels, so I picked up my backpack from Boutique Hotel and toddled along the road to Cliff Hostel – an extremely friendly and cheap hostel for backpackers with a sociable common room and comfortable beds right in the centre of Downtown Amman. After a bite to eat from the bakery opposite the hostel, I ventured back out into the afternoon sun with my sights set on Amman’s Roman Theatre.

View of the Roman Theatre and Amman from the Citadel

I had a quick wander around the Jordan Museum of Popular Tradition and the Jordan Folklore Museum situated at the foot of the Theatre (included in the 2/3JD entrance price) then, seeing as I had all the time in the world until sunset, I wandered around every nook and cranny of the theatre and sat and watched life go by for a bit. It was at this point that I was chased down by that group of teenagers who wanted to take a selfie with me – thankfully, while my Arabic is poor to non-existent, selfies are pretty universal so we got there in the end, but I wish I’d been able to chat more with them. I completely forgot to also take a selfie with them, which is definitely a regret.

That night I met some great people in the hostel common room and we sat and chatted for several hours, exchanging stories and learning more about each others’ countries, cultures and religions, and it was really the perfect evening – exactly what you want from a hostel. Eventually we dragged ourselves off to bed around 2am and said our goodbyes the following morning after a hearty, crazy cheap breakfast of hummus and falafel at Hashem’s restaurant right across the street!

Hummus and falafel at Hashem Restaurant

I had to move hotels again, this time because the tour began in a certain hotel, so I set off up the hill to the Bellevue Hotel, arriving with an unhealthy amount of sweat pouring down me. If any time would have been good to shell out on a taxi, that would have been it! It was tempting to spread-eagle myself on my double bed with views out over the city, but I was not in Jordan to sit in a hotel, so I poured some water down my throat and headed back downtown. I first checked out Rainbow Street – if Jordan ever has a big gay movement, they’ve got the venue nailed – a touristy street full of bars, cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlours. Later in the week we headed here for drinks and camel burgers – but more on that later!

Al-Rainbow Street, Amman

Earlier, I had spotted on a billboard that Amman Design Week was taking place this week up near the Roman Theatre. Naturally, I went to check it out. It was the first of what I believe is to become an annual festival in Amman, and had been officially opened by Queen Rania the day before. The festival was taking place across several venues and unfortunately I was only able to visit ‘The Crafts District’ at Raghadan Tourist Terminal due to time constraints. However, I had a brilliant afternoon exploring pop-up shops and design installations, chatting to business owners, designers and craftspeople from across Jordan, and eating traditional street food freshly prepared right in front of me. And, the best part, it was free (food aside)! A really fantastic insight into Jordanian culture and design that I’m really glad to have stumbled upon. The featured image on this post is of paper bowls designed by the Iraq al Amir Women’s Cooperative Association (again, I regret that I was not able to chat in a more in-depth manner with the woman who ran this stall) and the image of me below is from an installation representing local hand-blown glass manufacturers, a vocation which apparently is slowly dying. I would also like to highlight {Kees Chic}, a fashion brand and social enterprise producing handmade products such as bean bags, yoga mats and wallets from plastic bags in an attempt to reduce waste and lessen female unemployment. Can’t argue with that – their instagram is @kees_chic if anyone wants to check them out!

Installation designed by Onur Lambaz & Mais Taha

That night, I met up with my group for the week and we returned to Hashem Restaurant for more hummus and falafel. All in all, a fantastic couple of days exploring Amman and learning more about the beautiful and diverse country of Jordan. I’m so, so glad that I decided to have a few days to explore before my tour began as I really feel it made the trip just that bit more special.

Check in again soon for posts about Jaresh, the Dead Sea, Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba! (I’ll probably slow down a bit now with my rate of posting though, but definitely expect more by the end of the week). Aaaaand breathe.


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