Amman | The Capital of Jordan and a Fabulous Destination
Created by Colleen Sims * 3 March 2023 * Updated 15 August 2023
We planned this trip in 2019. We wanted a destination for February; thinking that Jordan would be warm. It’s not warm! But history and culture and majestic nature won us over; Jordan would be our winter holiday in 2020.
Our plans changed in 2020 and we decided instead on a family holiday in Frigiliana in Southern Spain. Jordan was postponed and little did we know that it would be the last time that we would all be together as a family. COVID changed the world and in the midst of this worldwide trauma we lost my very dear and much loved mum.
When in Amman Choose a Downtown Hotel
There are many accommodation options in Amman from the big chain international hotels to hostels and everything in-between. We opted for a small hotel in downtown Amman. Hotel Layaali is in a great location, everyone was super helpful and the room is simple but clean and comfortable; It was easy for walking around the older part of town and had just the right feel for us.
We woke early with the call to prayer; a sound that will forever remind us of this beautiful country. We enjoyed our first Jordanian breakfast of eggs and hummus and fruit and nuts and bread and cakes and copious amounts of tea or coffee. We look across at the Roman Amphitheatre and we’re very happy with our choice. Breakfast was self service and plentiful and if I was to return to Amman I would stay here again. The hotel also send details of airport transfers and taxis which we used and they were great too!
Walking Tour of Amman (Day 1)
After a wonderful Jordanian breakfast we headed off to meet our guide Mujalie for our walking tour of Amman. We’d found him though Guru Walk (I LOVE this website!); walking tours help us settle and I’ve yet to be disappointed with a Guru.
Today it was just us and Mujalie and so he adapted our tour to fit in with our other plans. We talked about Jordan, the Middle East and politics. We talked about religion and young people and COVID. We talked about history and culture and all the while we walked. We learned so so much from this young man and didn’t want the tour to end.
We visited the markets and souks, and discovered the tiny streets that make up the different shopping areas. We drank coffee with locals and bought bags of spices and saffron and fat juicy dates with change from just a few JODs. We ate pastries and sweets and tasted olives and pistachios and green chick peas and it seemed like everyone knew our guide and we heard a 1000 times “welcome to Jordan”
The Citadel | The Original Philadelphia
We had a lunch of fruit and nuts and camomile tea before walking high above Amman to the ancient Citadel, originally called Philadelphia.
The Citadel has archaeological remains that suggest human occupation since the Bronze Age (around 1600 BCE). It has a long history of occupation by great civilizations; the Kingdom of Ammon, the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Ptolemies, the Seleucids, the Romans (who named it Philadelphia) and the Byzantines. Amman’s popularity declined in the 7th Century but regardless it is still considered one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
Much architectural ruins remain, particularly Roman and there is also a museum. The Citadel is a large site so allow plenty of time to explore it fully and the views of the city and the Roman Amphitheatre on the opposite hill are wonderful.
We were really impressed with the ruins and the musuem, and we are glad we took the time to visit. With hindsight if you have limited time in Jordan and you plan to visit Jeresh then you might choose to skip The Citadel. We had time and we have no regrets. We chose to walk to the site. We walked and walked up and up through residential areas and then we walked more around the ancient ruins and then we walked back down again; indeed we walked a lot today. If you’re not such keen walkers you may prefer to take a cab because there is a lot of walking involved.
The Jordan Pass
We used our Jordon Pass to gain access to the Citadel. I cannot stress enough how fabulous this little pass is. For starters it will ease your passage through customs when you arrive in Jordan but also it gives you ‘free’ access to so many cultural sites in Jordan. We opted for the Jordan Expert pass but what you choose will depend on your stay in Jordan; but do buy it in advance.
Walking Tour of Amman (Day 2)
The clocks changed yesterday in Jordan declaring the start of Summer time although someone forgot to tell the weather because we woke to rain and a cold wind. Today we’d booked our second walking tour, but this one was specifically going to be a Jordanian food tour. We met our guide at 11am and the tour started with a small cup of Jordanian coffee, its strong but not bitter and it has a hint of cardamom and we’re both really loving it! I’m definitely going to do this at home.
We hit the streets with Osama and he walked us back to the souks. This time we sampled herbs and vegetables, more green chickpeas that taste just like peas from the pod, and the pods look like young green almonds. We saw small aubergines, which in Jordan are cut in half and stuffed with nuts and pickled, and likewise small cucumbers which are kept for salads or pickles.
We walked on to the meat and fish markets. The fish were still swimming in tanks and you selected your lunch and they cooked it there and then for you. The meat market was just as busy but I’ll be honest, I think I prefer the scent from the spice and fruits. Every part of the animal was on display and whilst this might not be comfortable viewing, I guess it’s more honest than our sterile supermarket fridges where the meat we buy doesn’t always look like the animals that we slaughter.
A Walking Tour with a Fabulous Lunch
Onwards through more shops and stalls, more spices and nuts to sample (and buy) until we ended back in Rainbow Street. Here Osama invited us into his home where lunch had been prepared for us. We ate traditional Jordanian food with Hummus and Arabic Salad and a wonderful aubergine dish of Mutabal. For the main we enjoyed Maqluba, a rice, vegetable and chicken dish that has really subtle spices that reminded me a little of Paella. We ate until we were full; Osama offered us more but gosh there was just too much.
As we ate the heavens had opened and the rain came down so heavily that when we returned to downtown Amman the streets had flooded. We dodged the rain and the puddles, meandering through the cake district, with fruit juice and ice creams and sweet pastry shops lined up to tempt us. I found a really tasty treat made of honey and nuts and sesame seeds called Pastila, it’s like the original energy bar as it’s been around for a few thousand years and is gluten and dairy free!
Our tour ended as it began back at the coffee shop. Gerry had more coffee and I chose mint tea. We thanked Osama for his kindness and his welcome and headed back towards our hotel. But first we had one more stop
The Roman Amphitheatre.
The Amphitheatre is built into the hillside opposite the roman Citadel of Philadelphia. Lucky for us that it’s also directly opposite our hotel so we didn’t have far to walk. A Greek inscription on one of the pillars indicates that it was built in honour of emperor Pius in 138 AD. This enormous structure seats up to 6000 people and is still used for concerts and events and it’s oriented north to keep the sun off the spectators. The sun wasn’t a problem for us today though, keeping warm was our main concern.
We climbed up and up the steep sides to reach the top, crikey our thighs were aching from all the steps that we’ve been walking. This was so steep that Gerry had a bit of a vertigo wobble, like me he has no head for heights but a few young Jordanian lads offered him a helping hand and he managed to reach the top. Indeed for me going up was fine but going down felt a bit iffy!
Half way down the heavens opened again and whilst folks quickly descended and left, we took our time and we ended up alone and the rain had provided me with a fabulous opportunity. I wanted to test the acoustics of the stadium and with everyone gone I grabbed my chance and belted out a quick chorus of Rolling in the Deep and I can vouch that the acoustics were great; what clever Romans! As we turned to leave the ticket collector came out from his little booth and smiled; I guess we weren’t as alone as we thought.
The Kindness of Jordanians
We wandered back to our hotel, stopping off for hot tea in one of the little coffee shops that line the streets downtown. Lots of friends have asked if we feel safe here alone. YES! We have felt totally safe. I’ve lost count of the number of times people stopped us in the street just to talk… “where are you from?” “do you like Jordan?” “welcome to Amman” we have found nothing but a genuinely warm and friendly people.
We have loved Amman. We had two full day and I wish we’d allowed a third. We’re off exploring tomorrow but so far our introduction to Jordan has more than exceeded our expectations.
What to Book a Walking Tour of Amman?
Guruwalk are my favourite walking tour company. We use them around the world where-ever we go. Here’s a selection of their Amman Tours.