Greek and Roman Philadelphia
It’s been a long while since we had a great desire to visit Jordan. Unfortunately, the flight fares were always so high that we kept selecting any other destination instead. At the time we went there, the city and the country was not that open to the air traffic and the mass tourism as it is now of course. So thankfully to our benefit, Easyjet announced their new route to the capital, Amman. And what’s best, with any new route, they release some tickets at an introductory offer, and we managed three! Now that was the real deal.
Amman is a rapidly growing city, which basically kicked off some 80 years ago. It’s relatively a very new city, and the architecture you will find is rather ugly and tasteless. But in any case, it’s still worth the visit, not only for the enormous maze of little streets; very charming indeed, but also for the many nice mosques, and of course, the Roman great remains, specially at Citadel Hill, from where you will see the whole of Amman and beyond built on hill after hill.
Citadel Hill, known in Arabic as Jabal al-Qal’a, is what can be considered, the centre of the city. At the top you will find the remains of the Temple of Hercules, and plenty more. Also an Ottoman style mosque, and the most stunning view you can get of the city. Let’s not forget that although the city is very new, it sits atop many layers of different civilizations making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world at over 7500 years.
If I could recommend the bets time to visit the Citadel Hill is to get there at least one hour before sunset, do all the sightseeing within, and then wait for the stunning sunset. It’s spectacular to see the colours changing constantly, and right after the sunset, listen the call of pray from the thousands of loud speakers coming from the countless minarets of the mosques. I have never heard it like this before, even though I have been to some Muslim countries before so I speak from experience. The fact that you are at the top of a hill and have the whole city below, the echo produced is much worth to record a video out of it for your memories.
In overall, it’s a very safe city in regards to petty crime or thieves, but very dangerous if you need to cross the streets! Notice most of the places do not even have pedestrian crossings; basically, pedestrians are the lowest level on a street. Car is everything. To complicate things, on main roads, the pavements, if any, are very high with respect to the road, so you need to keep jumping around, and sneak your way through the heavy traffic.
That you are visiting Jordan is highly likely because you have also planned to visit Petra, or any resort by the Dead Sea. Or like us, both of them, plus Jerash, a great preserved Roman city not far from Amman. Therefore we only stay here for visiting the city the day of arrival and the following one, although Amman would be still our base during the 4 nights we’ve been in Jordan.
In terms of food, you will find plenty of places everywhere, where you can get excellent food including humus, mansaf, falafel, manaqish, shawarma, etc. Up to date, and considering I have reviewed and updated this guide in 2019, it is still the place from the Arab world where I’ve eaten some of the most delicious food and the best ever hummus. Inexpensive, great quantities and great quality. Rarely is to find a bad place; and while most of the western chains are in the city, it’s not so obvious as say for example, Dubai, Doha o Beirut.
The best places are the ones near the Downtown area, which you can actually see being recommended all over internet with good reviews such as Mata’m Hashem, where you can get authentic street food and perfect hummus; or Mata’m Al-Quds, famous for their Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan (lamb or chicken on yellow rice with a creamy oily white sauce).
For more information about the city visit Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Jordan’s currency is the Jordanian Dinar (JD). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Amman
- Citadel Hill (Jabal al-Qal’a) The main hill of the city, and one of the most ancient where the main temples in antiquity stood, considered as one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places. This is where to get the best views over the city and the countless buildings on the hills.
-Temple of Hercules Perhaps the most symbolic structure from the Roman period in Amman, together of course with the incredibly well preserved Roman Theatre down below the hill.
-Hand of Hercules Although just 3 fingers remain from the statue built by the Romans in his honor.
-Umayyad Palace Built during the 8th century, nowadays also in ruins, with the main domed gate restored.
-Umayyad Water Cistern Entirely preserved and excavated.
- Roman Theatre and Odeon Located down below the Citadel Hill. The theatre is very well preserved, and so is the smaller Odeon. This is where the ancient Roman forum was located. Notice the many columns and original pavements all around the site.
- Wasat Al-Balad (The Downtown) This is where most shops, souks, restaurants and cafes are. Quite a large maze of streets and little alleys.
- Jabal Amman Within the Downtown district, this is the hill where you find the famous Rainbow Street (شارع الرينبو), Mango Street (شارع عمر بن الخطاب) and the craft shops at the Souq Jara. The major museums, monuments and most historic buildings are around this hill, the most visited by tourists.
- King Hussein Mosque Is also in downtown, by Jabal Al Hussein.
- The Jordan Museum The largest of its kind i n the country, home to countless and priceless artefacts from antiquity covering all civilizations and eras.
- King Abdullah I Mosque A pretty new mosque with blue mosaic dome dating from 1989, which has become quite symbolic to the city of Amman.
From the airport buses go to Abdali (Mid town) departing every 30 minutes from 7am to 10pm, and every 60 minutes from 10pm to 7am. Ticket costs JD 1.5 plus 0.25 per piece of luggage. Also, you will find minibuses for a little bit more, around JD 5 to 8 per person. Those are very convenient too, and will drop you at one of the “Circles”. Notice that they name the 5th Circle for example to denote the 5th roundabout on the main avenue running east to west of the city. There are 8 in total, so locate your hotel to the nearest circle and let the driver know where you are going. The 5th circle is where HSBC building is and where many hotels and hostels are located. This is, in any case, not near downtown and you will need further transportation to reach the centre.
Yellow taxis are everywhere. The key is to negotiate a price before getting or make sure to ask the Taxi driver to put on the meter. If he tells you it’s broken, just walk away. A normal taxi fare should range from 2 JD to 10 JD around Amman . Short trips from 5 to 20 minutes shouldn’t cost more than 5 JD.
Buses. They are very common everywhere in the city, but complicated to find where the route goes or the stop itself. They can stop whenever you tell them, but they will pick up people at the “designated” stops. The best you can do is ask at your hotel or locals, and they will help you around. They are extremely cheap, and you can use them to go to Jerash and the Dead Sea for less than 1£ and those are long distances. One of the principal bus stations is called Raghadan. This is where you are likely to be taking the bus to the Dead Sea.
As for any capital city of a country, any hotel chain is present, from the upper class top luxurious to the more modest ones and everything in between, but can be expensive. Smaller 3* hotels are likely to be your best bet in Amman. And since you don’t need to fear for safety in the city, any location is pretty much a safe one. Only by the downtown area, have in mind it can be very noisy, so you are better off if selecting anywhere else outside. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo or Ebookers.
Form our experience; we were at the Gondola Hotel and Suites, Sa’d Bin Abi Waqqas St. Building 6, 5th Circle, 11195. Directly located on the main road towards the city centre, few minutes away by taxi, and next to the HSBC building. Very friendly staff, big and comfortable rooms and nice breakfast. That’s all you really need as you will come only to sleep.