RTW Trip Arriving in Amman, Jordan Day 61 and 62: What to do in Amman
Have you ever been to a country really only knowing one thing about it? I hate to admit it, but the only thing I knew about Jordan, was Petra, that historical and archaeological site that looks amazing in pictures!
After Egypt, we were headed for Jordan, saying good-bye to kushari, and hello to falafel. This was our third and last Arabic country we were headed to, starting off in the chilly city of Amman. We first arrived at Amman Queen Alia International Airport, and quickly processed our on arrival visa. You must pay in Jordanian dinar, but do not worry. There are ATMs and currency exchange offices before you purchase your visa on arrival. You can also charge your credit card right at the visa counter (we were offered to have it charged in dinar or USD). It is pretty simple and straight forward!
We arrived in Amman in the evening. Since Egypt was so warm, it was a bit of shock to be in chilly mountainous weather in Amman. We decided to take an airport bus as far as we could, to get to our hotel. We ended up taking the airport bus to the 7th Circle, as we were told we could take a taxi from there to our hotel. We were a little worried, as it was dark, and the bus just stopped on the side of a very busy street. Airport information was right, taxis were there, ready and waiting. We hopped in the regular looking Toyota car with our twenty-something driver. We couldn’t get much of an idea of what Amman was like, but all I saw were Chilli’s, McDonald’s, and New York’s horrible grocery store, C-Town. Was I in America? We drove by a couple of malls, an IKEA, and were driving on streets that were so steep, they reminded me of San Francisco. I did not say that Amman LOOKED like the gorgeous city of San Francisco at all, just that the steep streets were similar.
It was very easy to give directions to Cliff Hotel, as it is located directly across from Hashem, the ever famous falafel place. Its location is central, and it was one of the cheaper places we could find online. From the outside, Cliff Hotel looks kind of like a dump, reminiscent of the bombed out buildings in Cairo, but definitely not as bad. We climbed up a few set of stairs (where we often found the same homeless guy drinking little mickeys of alcohol), and reached reception. We were greeted by Faoud, the owner of Cliff Hotel. He was a very gentle Jordanian man who was always polite, pleasant, and kind. He showed us to our room that had two twin beds, a sink, with very loud music playing outside. It was very cold, so he got us extra blankets. I felt our room looked like we were in solitary confinement, as it looked like the door had a slot in the door large enough for a guard to slip a food tray through.
While I referred to our room at Cliff Hotel as jail, Faoud’s kindness made up for it. We managed the cold showers in the shared bathrooms, wore half the clothes in our backpacks to overcome the cold, and wore earplugs to mute the loud music blaring all night.
By morning, we were hungry and still cold. The first thing we ate, were fresh from the oven potato pastries (think of a pizza pocket with just potatoes and herbs) from the bakery just at the bottom of the stairs. If you are staying at Cliff Hotel, I highly suggest coming here as there is a huge array of pastries and breads to your heart’s desire.
We headed two great sights in Amman. We walked a short walk to the Roman Theater, which surprisingly gave me vertigo when I reached the top steps. It has crumbling, steep steps, and a mini Roman Theater beside it. I wonder if they still use it for concerts, because it would be amazing to see a live show here.
We then walked up a huge hill to Amman Citadel, which has remnants of the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine Church, and the Umayyad Palace. I really liked this place since it has spectacular views of the city, with the most beautiful Islamic call to prayer I have EVER heard.
From what I can remember, I have only heard these Adhans in Singapore, Malaysia, India, Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt. Greg thought one of our best Adhans was on a rooftop restaurant in the blue city of Jodpur, but I definitely think that Amman has THE BEST Adhan. You really have to go to Amman Citadel to experience it though, as you get views of the mountainous hills with buildings clustered together, with birds flying above, and the Adhan loud and echoing between the mountains.
To follow up on a fabulous Adhan experience, we were to Hashem Restaurant, where I ate the best falafel and hummus I have ever had. I had read about this local legend and I have seen it in video clips of must eats in Jordan, and clearly it is popular with both tourists and locals. It is a casual place that seemed to be busy all day long. For 3-4 Jordanian Dinar, they give you mouthwatering hummus, the lightest and fluffiest falafel, some fuul, some tea, and some onion, cucumber, tomato, and sprigs of mint. This place is fast, casual, and a definite crowd pleaser.
We spent the late afternoon running around to get our bus ticket for our upcoming trip to Petra, and then decided to check out a bar in the city of Amman. We heard that there was a trendy little area with restaurants and bars, so we decided to head down to Rainbow Street. As soon as we arrived, it reminded me of a lot of the other expat frequented neighborhoods in other countries. They always tend to look the same. Rainbow Street basically has all the comforts of the West, in one neighborhood. I find these types of areas are great for expats, and nothing special for tourists, unless you are needing wood fired pizza, an espresso, or are looking for something that is hard to find in that country. Regardless, alcohol can sometimes be hard to find in Jordan, so we opted to visit Le Calle.
Le Calle sort of looked like going to a relative’s home, and hanging out in their dining room. It felt like a cross between a bar, a restaurant, and a home. There was an advertised happy hour, so we went in, had a couple drinks, and read some of their magazines. The drinks were fine, but let me warn you that their happy hour is not on everything (actually a small selection of items), so you really have to be careful with what you order. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones that made this mistake when reading the reviews on Trip Advisor.
We walked around the hilly area a bit longer, and knew we couldn’t afford to eat here with our budget, so we opted to head closer to our hotel, and take one of Lonely Planet’s restaurant suggestions. When we arrived at Cairo Restaurant, we were a bit scared to eat here, just based on what we saw. There were large metal containers filled with food that we were to choose from, and everything didn’t exactly look fresh. Still, there were a couple people eating here, so we headed into the family seating, and sat down. In some restaurants in Jordan, there are segregated seating. One is for men only, and the other type of seating is family seating, for men with their wives and children.
The food we had was greasy, heavy, and seemed like it was sitting in liquid for hours. The cabbage rolls were absolutely soggy. We had wished we had just gone back to Hashem’s, but we thought it would be bad to eat at the same place every time we went out for a meal. The tomato stew was good, but the whole time we thought we were going to get sick. Luckily, I was okay, but sadly, this meal seemed to have ruined Greg’s stomach for the rest of the time in Jordan.
Cliff Hotel 14 JD
Potato pastries 0.5 JD
Roman Theater 2JD
Amman Citadel 4 JD
Hashem falafel and hummus 3 JD
Taxi to buy Petra bus 1.5 JD
La Calle beer and pop 8 JD
Cairo restaurant – rice, cabbage rolls, and tomato stew, Pepsi 6 JD
Bananas 1 JD
Total cost for Nov. 4 (for Nov. 3, please refer to Day 61 entry): 40 JD / 2 = $28.22 per person
What I learned: Amman is by no means a walkable city. Since there are so many hills, there are no straight walking paths. You will need to hail cabs when you need to go to specific places that are further than normal. We wasted a lot of time trying to navigate the city on foot. Sometimes it may be a challenge getting cabs, especially when it rains!
Actual dates of travel: Nov. 3 and 4, 2014