Amman: Journeys through the Jordan capital

Wings of Oman takes a journey through Jordan’s capital city, Amman – the city with an ancient past, which now offers the modern traveller delicious food, markets and malls, museums, art galleries, a trendy nightlife scene, music festivals, and much more.
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“In the commercial heart of Amman, modern buildings, hotels, smart restaurants, art galleries and designer boutiques rub shoulders comfortably with traditional coffee shops and tiny artisans’ workshops,” the official Jordan Tourism guide explains. At the same time, everywhere you go in this city, you’ll find evidence of its thousands-of-years-old past. For first time travellers, the tried and tested way to kick off your Amman adventure would be a visit to its two top tourism spots – the ancient ruins of the Citadel, and the Roman Theatre.

Located right on top of Jebel Al Qala’a – the highest hill in Amman – the Citadel is considered a significant site due to its long and rich history of occupation by many great civilizations. It includes the ruins of the ancient Roman Temple of Hercules, as well as the around twelve century old Ummayad Palace, with its domed entrance chamber which has now been magnificently restored. The Citadel is a place where you feel as if you’re travelling back in time, and from its elevated viewpoint, it gives a splendid overview of the city – and the perfect place for your first Amman photos.

Then, the magnificently restored 6,000 seat Roman Theatre is another top spot to begin your Amman adventure. It’s a fascinating site to spend a few hours exploring, and another good spot for photos. If you can, try attending one of the several concerts and music festivals taking place here throughout the year.

Adventures around Amman…

After the Citadel and the Roman Theatre, there’s a world of things to see and do around Amman. Keep in mind that this is a city that reveals its magic and beauty in the little journeys and adventures you have while making your way from site to site around the city…

For history buffs, the Jordan Museum is located in the dynamic new downtown area of Ras al-Ayn and presents the cultural past, present and future of Jordan in a series of exhibits. There’s also the Jordan Archaeological Museum with its showcase of the nation and its people’s illustrious past.

For lovers of art and culture, the Darat Al Funun art institute in downtown Amman is a home for the contemporary works of Jordanian and visiting sculptors and painters. The smaller Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts is another home of contemporary painting, sculpture and pottery. There’s also the beautiful King Abdullah I Mosque, and King Hussein Mosque to check out – both of which are masterpieces of Islamic architecture.

Then, Rainbow Street is a popular socialising space in the historic area of Jabal Amman, in downtown Amman. The street runs east from the First Circle to Mango Street, and has a bunch of trendy rooftop restaurants, cocktail lounges, coffee shops, cinemas, souqs and markets – all making it a top spot to get a feel for what Amman and its people are all about.

Car aficionados will enjoy the Royal Automobile Museum, which is where you can see dozens of vintage-era cars and

motorbikes from the personal collection of Jordan’s late King Hussein; and for shoppers, along with the malls and markets, Amman’s Gold Souq, located in the city’s downtown area, has a dazzling array of handmade gold and silver work for sale. Keep in mind that, as the Jordan Tourism guide points out, “Don’t be surprised if the shopkeeper offers you a cup of coffee while you’re browsing – it’s all part of the friendly, Jordanian shopping experience!”

Amman is very much a city of food and any gastronome worth their salt will love this place. If you’re travelling on a budget, you can still dine like kings and queens at many street food-style eateries and cafes across town – who serve up fine feasts based on falafel, hummus, pita, lamb, and pickles. You should also try Mansaf – Amman’s traditional dish of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with saffron infused rice. And, the city’s specialty coffees served with sweet pastries will provide plenty energy for the day ahead. Of course, there’s lots of fine dining to be had at Amman’s top restaurants, and at the luxury 5 Star hotels around town.

Amman inspiration

Searching for ideas on what to do next in Amman? Check out Jordan Tourism’s “99 things to do in Amman” guide (www.visitjordan.com/99things) for more inspiration.

Journeys through Jordan…

Amman is the gateway from which to head off and explore destinations like Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba and the famous Dead Sea. Here’s a quick look at what’s on offer…

Petra: Jordan’s ancient city of stone

Glimpse into the past at Petra – the ancient city carved into the rose-red rock of Jordan’s desert, 240 kilometres south of Amman. While it’s not known precisely when Petra was built, historians say that Petra began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire around 2,500 years ago. These days, Petra is now one of the nation’s most valuable treasures and greatest tourist attractions, where the highlight is making your way through the narrow entry “siq” – enclosed on each side by massive walls of rock – that leads to the magnificent 40 metre-high façade known as the “Treasury” or “Al Khanza”, with its elaborate features carved into a giant section of vertical rock face.

Wadi Rum: Desert adventure under the stars

Wadi Rum is the spectacular desert valley in southern Jordan, around 60 kilometres east of Aqaba, which you can explore by four-wheel-drive with one of the several adventure tour companies operating the region; via camel safari with local Bedouin guides; or while staying at one of the region’s luxury-style desert camps – where you can spend the evening next to the desert campfire, and drift off to sleep under the crystal clear night sky and stars.

Aqaba: Jordan’s jewell of the Red Sea

For its relatively small size, Jordan’s Red Sea resort town of Aqaba packs a punch. There’s a lot to experience: Laze around the beaches and mix it up with Jordan’s cool crowds; explore a world of undersea treasures while diving; set sail on a Red Sea sundowner cruise; or pamper yourself with a spa treatment at one of Aqaba’s many luxury hotels. There are also souqs and fresh food marketplaces to shop at; ancient ruins, Islamic architecture, and art galleries to explore, and much more.

Dead Sea: The health-enhancing sea of salt

At just over 400 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the surface of the earth and its waters contain a rich cocktail of salts and minerals that are said to have excellent health benefits. The best way to experience them? Stay at one of the Dead Sea’s luxury resorts which are a short road trip outside of Amman, where you can indulge in a bunch of Dead Sea-specific spa treatments, before floating the day away in the Dead Sea’s healing waters.

Fly Oman Air! Visit www.omanair.com to book your flight to Amman. 

Online Info! Travelling to Amman and Jordan? For an overview of what to see and do, check out Jordan Tourism’s  www.visitjordan.com. For more info on visiting Petra, Wadi Rum, Aqaba and the Dead Sea, go to the official site www.aqaba.jo

Images: © Shutterstock