Travel Jordan and don’t miss the Citadel atop Amman’s highest hill.
A camel stood alongside the highway while, between the road and small fields, circles of people sat eating beneath dusky, olive trees. A row of bright flags flapped above an overpass and a blue sign in Arabic unmistakably advertised IKEA. These were my first minutes in the Middle East. I soon learned that when you travel Jordan you dance constantly between ancient traditions and new world buzz. travel Jordan
Bridge crossing while approaching Amman
Soon we crossed through an intersection as a clutch of sheep poured over a roadside meridian. That scene repeated itself dozens of times in the ten days while I traveled through Jordan. The Amman road led through low valleys, the Wadi, and up into hills, Jabal, then through neighborhoods that bore their names.
One of the Street signs in Amman
A historical glimpse of Amman
The city is laid out over seven hills, then it expanded to 27, and today across the metropolis, layers of civilizations peel back in surprising glimpses. Jabal Amman, the tallest hill, was settled in Neolithic times and never fortified as the lower hills were. Waves of invasions left their marks. Roman Greco ruins still dot the country, many wait for excavation still.
Ottomans swept in to establish a route to Mecca. Centuries later the British sought influence in the region. Their legacy remains in the writings and admiration of T.E. Lawrence and his novel, Lawrence of Arabia. Finally, while other Middle Eastern countries shift allegiances, and through all the upheavals, the Bedouin tribes preserved their independence.
Amman becomes the capital
In the 19th century, Amman was named the capital of Transjordan and the city soon swelled in wealth and position. With two million visitors in 2014, Amman made it to lists of the 100 most visited cities in the world and it became the 5th most visited Arab city.
Safe and protected when you travel Jordan
I never felt uncomfortable while traveling Jordan. We passed through security fortifications and metal-detectors at western-style hotels, and then quickly passed through military checkpoints on the highways. Jordan is determined to remain stable and safe. After recent shootings and the rattling, political circus in the US, traveling Jordan was peaceful and calm.
It took me more than fifteen hours to get to Jordan from San Diego. Make sure you don’t miss a thing on your trip. Overcome Jet Lag from long flights with these suggestions from my earlier post.
I won’t travel without the strategies.
The Sugar Cane Juice shop in downtown Amman
Shop styles in downtown Amman
Our guide, Ramzi, led us to downtown and into the Souk, the streets of shops. It was a busy, Friday night with families and foreign visitors sharing the sidewalks. Lit dramatically, dotted with clusters of people, the Roman Amphitheater rolled back from the street. A man lifted a box of flatbreads, laying out tempting stacks on a folding table. Teenagers jumped to loud music. Women, wrapped in full dark cloth from head-to-toe, raised cellphones to take pictures. Our group dressed casually and walked through it all.
Friday night in the Roman Amphitheater plaza in downtown Amman
A faint call flowed out of an alley and then rose more loudly into my consciousness. It was the call to prayer – another first. We passed trays of spices, stacks of sweets, a Shwarma tower sliced with a sword, a sugar cane juice press, and offers of tea. I wanted to stop by the dress shops and get something beautiful that I’d never wear, but we kept moving until the crowds thinned on the second hill.
Inside Sufra, the Amman garden restaurant
Shops lined the street and small cafes. We entered a softly lit dining room inside a walled garden. This was Sufra
and our table was soon stacked with small plates, bowls, and platters. Lemonade thick with ground mint leaves, sweet sage tea, and baskets of warm bread found their place. In an open alcove adjacent to the dining room, a man stood over a round, ceramic oven. He pummeled dough and used a flat pillow to knock it onto the sides. I’ve no doubt he made hundreds during his shift.
Inside the palace of Jordan’s Amman Citadel
Jordanian bagpipers lead students in Amman
Amman students pose at the Citadel
Getting to the Citadel early was a great strategy. At the top of Amman’s highest hill are two giant pillars, they’re all that remains of the Roman Temple of Hercules and the area was nearly vacant as we wandered. Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-80) erected the columns and temples.
I heard a surprising drone – bagpipes! (They were most likely developed in the Jordanian region, although the British claim responsibility for their appearance here.) The bagpipers led a group of young students on their way to the steps of the Umayyad Palace Plaza. Teachers soon wrangled them into position for class pictures.
Two of the oldest human statues, 7250 BC, inside the Jordan Museum.
I was drawn to two rough figures inside the museum. They are the Ain Ghazal Statues, dated back to 7250 B.C. and considered some of the oldest statues ever found. The small museum is well worth a visit with overstuffed cases, skulls, goblets, and statues.
After wandering the grounds, marveling at the old palace, courtyards and views we left the metropolis of Amman for the wilds of the Dana Biosphere Reserve and a candle-lit eco-lodge set in a hilly divide of Wadi Feynan. More about that adventure to come!
One lobby in the Grand Hyatt Lobby
Lobby fountain inside the Marriott Amman
When you travel Jordan consider these hotels:
Thank you to the Jordanian Tourism Board and IFWTWA, who made my first visit to the Middle East so wonderful. All photos and opinions are my own.
I hope you enjoyed this short tour of Amman, Jordan. Please share!