Jordan: 24 hours in Amman | The Gap Life Diaries
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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.

Certainly, it’s not the kind of place you’d want to stay for days on end, but you should definitely give it a chance, at least for a day or two, as it’s an authentic but also incredibly safe Middle Eastern city.
If you’ve got 24 hours to spend in Amman, here’s how I’d recommend making the most of it. I’m not a fan of public transport in general, so it was walking-only for us, meaning we stayed downtown.  
You’ll be woken up very early by the muezzin’s call to prayer. You might’ve imagined this being a bit irritating, but it actually helped us to start our days really well. It won’t wake you fully, but will get you in the wake-up mood before your alarm, so by the time that goes off, you’re ready to start the day. Much less annoying than the Sunday morning church bells in Italy.

Wild Jordan Centre

Breakfast: Head to the Wild Jordan Centre. The uphill walk will be worth it, as not only can you get delicious breakfast foods (I went for date molasses and tahini served with local bread, while S chose the more European friendly French toast) and dreamy fresh juices, but it’s the ideal place to sit with your guide book, or logged in to their free WiFi, to get your bearings and work out how to arrive at your next destination. The menu is a nice mix of the familiar and the adventurous, and while it isn’t mega cheap, prices aren’t exorbitant either. The café wouldn’t feel out of place in a Nordic city like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, with its super comfy sofas, light wood panelling, marble touches, and mason jar smoothies. But as soon as you look out from the window or the terrace upstairs, you really couldn’t be anywhere else but the Middle East. The views are stunning, and you can look out at the Citadel and the enormous Jordanian flag while you sip your coffee. If you’re after some nice souvenirs (read: a bit on the pricey side), check out the WIld Jordan gift shop which has a range of products like ceramics or jewellery, all made-in-Jordan, and many with profits going to local initiatives. Wild Jordan also organises day trips and excursions, so if you still have gaps in your itinerary, take a look at what they have to offer while you’re there.
Just down the hill is the beginning of Rainbow Street, one of Amman’s most famous roads, and an area which at times feels more like LA than Jordan, as it’s full of cafés, restaurants, and little boutiques. While there’s not a whole lot to actually do, it’s a nice street to wander down, and if you’re still low on coffee, you can dive into one of the cafés along the way for a cardamom coffee before arriving at the next stop.
From the other end of Rainbow Street, make your way down to Ali Ben Abi Taleb St, where you’ll find the modern looking Jordan Museum. Unfortunately, entry isn’t included in the Jordan Pass, but you can’t win ’em all. I have to admit that (once we’d actually found the entrance – not as easy as you’d think) we whizzed through the museum at lightning speed as we’d also been to see the Amman Design week exhibitions and had walked a silly amount so by this point our feet felt like they were about to drop off, and S was already in desperate need of another coffee. We’d also very recently been to the Egyptian Museum in Turin so were not yet psychologically ready for more displays of ancient pottery and jewels, but objectively the museum is very interesting if you have more patience than I do (not difficult). They also have on display some of the Dead Sea scrolls, so that’s worth a look for sure.

The cutest little street next to Zajal restaurant


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. 

Once you’re done, it’s time to burn off all those chickpeas. Wander slowly (it’s all uphill – slowly is the only option) to the Citadel. Flash your Jordan Pass for free entry, and walk around the ruins. There’s not a whole lot of signposting, so you’d do well to read up before visiting, but the site offers great views over the city and is a nice place for a little walk. 

The Citadel

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).

By this time, it’ll be dark, and downtown Amman really comes alive. Walk up King Faisal Street and take in the atmosphere. There’s a cute little staircase covered with colored umbrellas next to a restaurant called Zajal, pop in for a pre-dinner drink, it’s a super cute place. For dinner, just go two doors down and head in to Jafra. Order assorted mezze (I loved the stuffed vine leaves and the grilled halloumi, and S fell genuinely in love with the hummus) and then do not miss the meat pots – cooked in clay, the pot is smashed open in front of you before you’re left to tuck in, and the meat is oh so succulent and delicious. You can get some shisha and sit for a while as your legs recover. 

Downtown Amman

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).

Belly full and feet in need of a rest, head back to your hotel and start planning your next Jordanian adventure…
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