Lawrence of Arabia was a favourite of mine growing up as a kid. I dreamed of echoing canyons and dusty red rock as far as the eye could see. There was a sense of majesty and peace in the whistling wind and glowing sunsets that I yearned to see in person. Finally, that day arrived. Ryanair was so good as to have a 25 euro flight from Budapest to Amman and after a roundabout Journey flying from Dublin – Vienna and then taking a bus to Budapest we were finally waiting in line for the next adventure of a lifetime!
Arriving late at night we had a pre-booked taxi waiting for us to avoid the airport haggling and rip offs that usually occurs when flying in. We arrived on May 25th the Jordanian day of independence and the break of the daily Ramadan fast so the streets were packed with parades, celebration and families eating enough to last them through the following day. It was an amazing entrance to this beautiful country. The first few days took some adjusting. I learned some lessons on what Ramadan means and discovered that even drinking on the street could be considered offensive. For future reference, water is considered acceptable as a tourist but try not to drink juice or smoothies in public as much as you may be tempted!
One of our favourite experiences was entering a local restaurant around 5:30 pm ordering food and then waiting in complete silence with 100s of other guests for over an hour as we all watched the countdown to Iftar the break of the days fast. Then there was absolute chaos as the waiters brought in the prepared food and everyone exploded into chatter and feasting.
Amman was hot hot hot, with traffic as wild as any you have seen and winding streets, it is however rather safe and taxis are SO cheap. You can get almost anywhere in the centre for a few euros and don’t bother bargaining just ask for the meter and you will be fine. We found people to be very honest and genuine. We stayed outside the main hubbub at – Aljazeera Hotel Apartments for 27 euros a night we got a two-bedroom apartment that could have fit 5 people. Yes, it was basic but it was clean and had aircon which is all we needed. From there it was a 2 euro cab ride to any of the places we wanted to see. We did walk a few times which was a great way to see the local neighbourhoods but with the heat, it was worth just getting a cab. In Amman, the main attractions are an impressive amphitheatre Roman ruins and the local markets and mosques. We spent some nights smoking hookah in a rooftop bar admiring the view and listening to the calls to breakfast, some of the highlights that I would recommend for any visitor are below
Eat at – Hashem Restaurant Down Town
Seriously the best hummus I have had and at a ridiculous price! We paid about 3 euros (which is expensive for locals) for a meal for both of us, hummus, falafel, tomatoes and onions, beans and pita bread. It’s the same meal for everyone and the service is fast and good.
View at – Wild Jordan Center
Its expensive but if you have time have a cup of tea in the evening and watch the sunset with the view of the old city and Roman citadel. I would only recommend staying if you get a seat in the balcony up front where the view is unparalleled as other than the view the food is overpriced and not so good.
Go out at – Rainbow street
Jordan is a Muslim country so if you want to drink I would recommend going out on the famous rainbow street, there are lots of rooftop bars where you can have a cocktail and smoke shisha, but keep in mind there will be tourist prices.
Explore – Citadel and Amphitheatre
We walked to all the sights but on a hot day you might want to take a cab up to the citadel. However, we enjoyed walking through narrow alleyways and talking to locals.
Day trips – Jeresh and Dead Sea
If you don’t have a lot of time you can do day trips to Jerash and the dead sea quite easily from Amman. There are two ways to do this, book a private taxi for the day they will charge around 40-50 euros and will take you anywhere you want and wait for you. Or you can rough it and just spend a few euros. We got a taxi to the North Terminal Bus Station in Amman, from there you can catch regular minibuses to Jerash. Our taxi driver brought us straight to the right bay and we got on the minibus and waited for it to fill up before departing. We only had to wait about 15 minutes. The mini-bus costs 1JD (1.50USD) for a one way trip from Amman to Jerash. From the bus stop in Jerash, it is only a short walk to the historic Roman ruins of Jerash. We visited the dead sea from the Israeli side later on our trip but it was easy to find a driver willing to take you and your hotel can organise this as well.