Jordan, a land steeped in history, stands majestically as a pivotal bridge between the East and West.
This ancient realm, where time-honored roads once traversed the mystical desert sands, has been a meeting point of civilizations - from the Greeks and Nabataeans to the Romans, and later, the influential Umayyads and Ottomans.
Today, Jordan continues its legacy of connection, seamlessly blending a Western-style economy and cultural ethos with its rich Arab and Muslim heritage. This fusion has birthed a unique tapestry of cultures, setting this desert kingdom apart as a singular gem on the world stage.
Jordan emerges as a haven of political stability, a beacon of tranquility in a region often touched by turmoil. This peaceful oasis, a rarity in the Arab world, extends a warm invitation to global visitors. Adding to its allure is the temperate climate, a delightful middle ground avoiding the intense heat of the Gulf States and the chill of Europe. This harmonious balance of weather complements the country's inviting ambiance, making Jordan an irresistible destination for those seeking a journey through time, culture, and unspoiled landscapes.
Passing through passports and customs is easy and makes you feel welcome immediately.
As soon as you leave the airport and enter the city, you will start noticing the mix of old and new - east and west. Along the airport road, you will notice some old buildings with small shops and large modern stores like Ikea or Safeway.
Also, along the way, you will see several universities. Jordan is known for its large population of young, college-educated citizens. One could say that the workforce is one of Jordan’s exports. Many of them work in the Gulf States or overseas, bringing much-needed cash to their families.
As you enter the city, you will notice the mixed building styles. You will see contemporary architecture competing with Roman and Greek amphitheaters and Muslim Umayyad styles - all connected with modern highways and narrow alleyways.
Amman’s curse and blessing at the same time is that it is built on top of many hills and mountains. The hills make it look exceptionally beautiful, with magnificent views.
The hills also provide the fitness-minded with good places to hike. Many neighborhoods can only be reached via a series of steps and stairs.
But because of the hills, traffic is a nightmare, and getting from place to place is always a challenge. The hills also give Amman a strange phenomenon: Weather can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Some places get heavy rain, and others get none. Some places have winter snow, and others rarely see any snow.
Tip: If you don’t live in Amman don’t try to rent a car. You will get lost or get very friendly with another car or bus. Take a taxi or a bus. Hire a van for long-distance travel.
Talking about friendliness, the people here are genuinely nice and helpful. Most speak English and will be happy to direct you to your destination or even walk with you to show you the best route. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations for attractions or restaurants.
Jordan is full of must-see places. Some of the main attractions are The Roman Amphitheater, Temple of Hercules, Downtown Market, Rainbow Street, Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, Ajlun Fortress, Pela, Madaba, and Karak.
Within the city, you can go at your own pace. You should start with the Roman Amphitheater and visit the visitor center located next door. You can grab maps and useful information.
To venture outside of Amman, you need a tour guide. One way to accomplish this is to book your tours ahead of time. Those tours are usually expensive, and you must follow a grueling schedule.
An alternative is to book your tours with a local outfitter. You will save a lot of money, and you can customize your tour. This is much cheaper than booking your tours from the US or Europe.
The best way to experience Amman’s culture and history is to start in Downtown Amman. You can spend hours walking the narrow streets and shopping for souvenirs. Haggling is expected, so the first offered price is never the final price. While there, visit a traditional coffee shop and enjoy a water pipe (hookah), coffee, or tea – along with out-of-this-world desserts. Try kanafa or Baklava. If you are not ready for dessert, then you must try the traditional dish called Mansaf. It is rice and lamb meat with a yogurt-based dressing.
Close to the shops, you will find the Roman Amphitheater, which was built in the second century BC. It is one of the largest Roman theaters in the world and used to seat up to 6,000 spectators.
At the bottom of the theater, to one side, you will see the museum, which boasts a collection of Bedouin artwork and some Roman artifacts.
Next to the museum, our guide and photographer took some pictures of my wife in traditional Bedouin attire. Wearing the traditional dress and posing for the pics was a wonderful experience for my wife. Meanwhile, the kids and I were running up the stairs, exploring every corner of the theater and admiring the views.
On top of the highest hill in Amman, you will see a citadel and a Roman temple. This hill is called Jabal Al-Qalaa. To get to this Citadel and Temple, you can walk across the street from the theater and climb some steep steps to the top. If you prefer, you can take a taxi to the top.
At the top, you will see evidence of the Bronze Age, Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad civilizations. The most intact and impressive of them is the Umayyad Palace, which was built around AD 749. Near to this palace, you will find the Roman Temple of Hercules.
Next to the temple, you will find The National Archaeological Museum, where you can view 6000-year-old skulls from Jericho, Umayyad artwork, and examples of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Close to downtown, you can visit some popular spots like:
• Rainbow Street: a charming little street with shops, cafes, and bars. Many cafes have a commanding view of the city.
Tip: Go into one of Cafes in the late afternoon and stick around until dusk. You will witness the city lights come on and listen to the calls for prayer. If you are lucky, you will catch a great fireworks display.
• Darat al Funun (or “House of Arts”): it is located within 3 old villas and houses both permanent and visiting art collections.
• Gardens Street: a famous shopping area with many shops and restaurants.
• Wakalat Street: A pedestrian-only street in Sweifieh full of big Western stores, restaurants, and cafes. There are lots of benches along the way for resting and people-watching.
• Royal Automobile Museum: This is a good place to visit if you like cars and would like a quick history of the Royal family.
• Ahl Al Kahf: Whether it is the true location of the story about the sleepers – or not, it is an intriguing place to visit. All three main religions mention the 6 or 7 who slept for many years and woke up in the distant future.
• Reem Al Bawadi Traditional Restaurant: Although I did not visit this time, people are raving about the food and the atmosphere. I will definitely try it next time.
Finally, my visit to Jordan was short – only one week. It is not enough time to experience the kingdom's culture, history, and food. I definitely intend to visit again and explore the places I missed.
I also want to invite the readers – especially residents of Jordan – to contribute articles about their favorite places. You can send your articles in English or Arabic. I will translate Arabic into English for you. Go to the contact page at www.i-wish-you-were-here.com/contact or submit directly through email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also post an article on the website at www.i-wish-you-were-here.com/node/add/book, but you will need to register first. Please add or send photos to accompany your stories.
Away from Amman
- Some of the photos in this article were downloaded from Wikipedia under the Wikimedia Commons license.