31 Oct Jordan: 24 hours in Amman
Amman is often overlooked by visitors to Jordan, used as a place to sleep before heading to somewhere more exciting, or as a convenient base from which to take day trips to see other sights like Jerash or the Dead Sea.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by Amman, and glad we’d left a day for exploring the city before going anywhere else. We actually liked it so much that we changed our plans a little to be able to go back there for our last afternoon before heading back to Italy.
By now, you will have worked up an appetite, so you can walk back towards the main downtown area, up King Talal street where you’ll walk past a ton of little shops selling carpets, clothes, jewellery, and souvenirs (the closer you get to King Faisal street, the more touristy it becomes). Turn left up King Faisal street, and head for Hashem for lunch. This is one of Amman’s most famous restaurants, but it doesn’t look like much. They have the kind of plastic tables and chairs that your dad used to whip out of the garage for the family BBQ, and it’s pretty much always busy and noisy. Locals tend to head to the less attractive indoor area, but you’ll want to sit outside, in the crowded courtyard. Once you find a seat (they will always find you a seat), just tell the waiter that you’d like “a mix” and wait for those delicious dishes to arrive. You’ll probably end up with: a pile of the dreamiest falafel youve ever tasted, a few bigger, juicier falafel with unidentified something-delicious in the middle and sesame seeds on top, a plate of creamy hummus, another of baba ghanoush (also dreamy), some fries, some pickled veggies, some tomatoes (with mint, who knew that was a thing!), and the waiter will also throw some local bread unglamorously right down on the table in front of you. Get dipping, order a hot tea with mint, and enjoy. Locals only use their right hands to eat, but it’s not easy to master, and you sure won’t be given cutlery, so just do your best. The very best thing about Hashem is the price (ok, that”s a lie, the best thing about Hashem is the falafel). A “mix” with tea cost us about 7JD (around €9) in total, and we were very, very full.
You can walk down the hill again and see the Roman amphitheater, before heading back towards King Faisal Street. Take a wander around the markets (you can safely dive into backstreets) to see loads of elaborate traditional clothes, or fruit and vegetable stalls, depending on where you are exactly. There are juice stalls absolutely everywhere so grab a cup to quench your thirst (we saw a couple of slightly unhygienic ones, but it’s obvious where the locals go – follow them).
If you need some sweetness after dinner, hit Habibah, a famous dessert-maker 5 minutes down the road. I pointed at the first thing I saw with no idea what it was, and it was divine, so I imagine everything else is too. When I asked how much it cost, I thought the guy said ‘three’, when he was in fact saying ‘free’. Seems they have so much confidence in these syrupy delights that they know you’ll buy more as you have your free taste (obviously we came away with a box of the stuff).