Losing ourselves in Amman.

Amman Travel Blog

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Ferocious kitties in our path!
Amman is a city built on 19 hills. Today, it seems we climbed each and every one of them. And at no point did we have any idea where we were! But somehow we managed to find some of Amman’s best sights, and overall we had a very favorable impression of this lovely city.

The hotel’s map lacked any sort of detail, which made finding Downtown challenging for us. We climbed up and up, when it turns out we should have been going down and down (guess they were being literal when they named it downtown). Finally we found ourselves in front of the landmark Grand Hasayni Mosque. You can always tell where the mosques are, not just for their distinctive architecture -- there are always loads of shoes out front, too.
Nuts for sale.
A wide street passed in each direction, and small shopping areas, souks, were tucked into the alleyways of this street (the area is called Al Balad). We wandered through these shops and found the vendors to be very amiable. At one point we paused to admire some baskets of nuts, and soon the owner was literally dragging Steve into the store by his arm. Although this would probably piss us off in most places, this man was good-natured and funny and impossible to be mad at. So we ended up with about $5 of nougats, which was probably not a very good deal, but worth it in entertainment value. (Steve said they were tasty, but I didn’t try them. My stomach is still messed up so I can eat only yogurt and toast!)

One thing that surprised me during our walk was the number of local people with blue eyes and olive skin, which really is a surprising combination.
Nice venue for a concert! Although I guess one's butt would disagree after a couple hours sitting on stone.
I tried to do some online research on the origin of people in these parts, but didn’t find much information along these lines. [I did find a really interesting article that said that genetic scientists recently traced the origin of blue eyes to a single individual with a genetic mutation about 6 to 10 thousand years ago. Before that, there were no blue eyes! This really has nothing to do with travel, just kind of interesting.]

So anyway, back to Jordan. After the souks, we decided to walk towards the Citadel. Some police officers pointed us in the right direction, and along the way we ran into the Roman Theatre (built in 2nd century). The “bleachers” are cut right into the side of one of Jordan’s many stony hills. What’s amazing about this place is that it’s still actively used as a venue for concerts! In fact, they were setting up a stage with speakers, lights and a piano for a big concert tomorrow night.
Seating at the Roman Theater.
A portly American man was running the production, and Steve and I speculated that he would have a heart attack before the job was finished. He was barking out orders and no one was moving fast enough for him (maybe because it was nearly 100ºF), so the poor guy was just a sweaty, frustrated mess. Just a heart attack waiting to happen.

There were two museums to explore there, of moderate interest: The Folklore Museum and The Museum of Popular Tradition. The guards were smoking, of course. Around old textiles! Amazing. Smoking is allowed EVERYWHERE here, and people exercise that privilege on a near constant basis.

From the Roman Theatre, we wanted to go to the Citadel, which was close but couldn’t be seen.
Really old columns of Hercules Temple (AD 80).
We asked a man, and he ended up leading us part way there (he has a brother in the US -- Michigan!). We could then see it -- ancient Roman looking columns -- perched way up there, but we could not for the life of us find the route up. We ended up walking straight up the hill through some residential area where people were burning trash and there was garbage and broken glass -- not a pleasant walk. I wonder if this is the Palestine refugee camp I had read about? Finally we arrived, and it was just incredible. There is a whole ancient complex up there, with the 2nd century Hercules Temple columns, the remains of a 6th century Byzantine Basilica (church), and the very impressive domed 8th century Umayyad Vestibule.
8th century Umayyad Vestibule.
All this, surrounded by incredible views of the city. We could have spent hours there, except it was very hot, with no clouds and no shade, AND we were out of water. Not very smart, really. Time to head out.

Getting down from the Citadel proved just as difficult as getting up. After searching high and low for a “nice” path, we ended up walking through the same trash heap, where I nearly lost my footing twice. By the time I got to the bottom I was a little cranky. Then we found a cab driver, who didn’t know where our hotel (one of the city’s largest) was, and then couldn’t read the paper we gave him that had the hotel name on it. Sign language was attempted, to no avail. He finally just stopped after a couple blocks to let us off, and Steve gave him 2JD for his trouble, which made me even crankier.
Basilica remains, against an Amman backdrop.


From there we had the idea of finding this nice lunch spot listed on our map, called Wild Jordan Café. We seemed to be so near it! But we could not find it walking left, not walking right. So we walked up and we walked down. No luck. And I was starting to feel very conspicuous in my knee length skirt, which had caused stares and a few comments all day long (tomorrow I will wear pants). I asked for help from about five people, and no one could tell us where the café was, or where we were on the map. Oh, it was all a fruitless exercise. After what seemed like hours of searching and gawking at street signs (all in Arabic and nothing we could read no matter how hard we stared), we finally just found a taxi to bring us back to the hotel. We ate at one of the hotel’s many  restaurants, where I had a nice bowl of carrot soup that didn’t even make me feel sick.
An unfriendly looking flower.
Steve had an awful “salad” comprised of spaghetti noodles and mayo. Ick!

Back in the room, I studied the Lonely Planet map (which we didn’t bring with us today), and it was actually helpful! It turns out we had walked right past the Wild Jordan Café earlier in the day, so I thought we would be able to retrace our steps and go there for dinner. And we did indeed find it this evening, and it was worth the wait: very modern and cool, with outdoor seating (the evenings are so pleasantly cool!) and a nice view. There were plenty of vegetarian options, but I just couldn’t eat the cheese sandwich I ordered. My stomach problem makes everything seem unpalatable. I really enjoyed my banana smoothie though, and it actually made a fine dinner.
Poor housing below the Citadel.
Steve had a really wonderful looking fish, baked in parchment. He said it was fresh and delicious.

So it was a very good day here in Amman. We both like this city! Which is kind of odd because there seems a dearth of cafes and “hanging out” places in our neighborhood (kind of the other side of the spectrum from, say, Paris), there is too much smoking, and the architecture is not particularly special… I guess it’s the friendly faces and the fact that we feel so welcome here that are attractive? The cool evenings are a bonus, too. And the sun setting over the rolling hills is something I could look at every evening. Anyway, I am really looking forward to the coming days, and I am really happy to have chosen Jordan for a longer (10 day) stay!
Travellish says:
I am from Amman...I can't resist reading the whole blog...interesting to see how new comers interact with things that we cross daily without any notice...Steve, since you are a member here you should seek help of some locals...much better than a blind maps you had with you:). welcome to Jordan...
Posted on: Jul 04, 2014
cmgervais says:
Thank you! I love your blogs and look forward to YOUR next trip!
Posted on: Jun 20, 2008
portia says:
really enjoyed your writing, it's like I took a walk with you! cool evening is nice. It's blistering here in Santa Cruz today, and it won't cool off til late.
Posted on: Jun 20, 2008
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Ferocious kitties in our path!
Ferocious kitties in our path!
Nuts for sale.
Nuts for sale.
Nice venue for a concert! Although…
Nice venue for a concert! Althoug…
Seating at the Roman Theater.
Seating at the Roman Theater.
Really old columns of Hercules Tem…
Really old columns of Hercules Te…
8th century Umayyad Vestibule.
8th century Umayyad Vestibule.
Basilica remains, against an Amman…
Basilica remains, against an Amma…
An unfriendly looking flower.
An unfriendly looking flower.
Poor housing below the Citadel.
Poor housing below the Citadel.
Kind of an exclusive club, I imagi…
Kind of an exclusive club, I imag…
At this point we had no idea where…
At this point we had no idea wher…
Amman vendor.
Amman vendor.
Like a kid with his hand in the co…
Like a kid with his hand in the c…
Grains and spice in Al Balad.
Grains and spice in Al Balad.
The air smelled of peaches.
The air smelled of peaches.
Fruit vendors in Al Balad.
Fruit vendors in Al Balad.
Human traffic in Al Balad.
Human traffic in Al Balad.
Houses on the hill.
Houses on the hill.
Self portrait at the Roman Theater.
Self portrait at the Roman Theater.
Me at the Roman Theatre.
Me at the Roman Theatre.
Diorama at the Jordan Museum of Po…
Diorama at the Jordan Museum of P…
Hercules Temple columns.
Hercules Temple columns.
Hercules Temple.
Hercules Temple.
Steve, hiding from the sun.
Steve, hiding from the sun.
Chilling at Hercules Temple.
Chilling at Hercules Temple.
Me, exploring and enjoying Hercule…
Me, exploring and enjoying Hercul…
Mmm, looks like the columns are ti…
Mmm, looks like the columns are t…
Citadel ruins.
Citadel ruins.
Steve exploring the Citadel ruins.
Steve exploring the Citadel ruins.
Citadel ruins, with the Umayyad Ve…
Citadel ruins, with the Umayyad V…
Amman
photo by: benwielenga