I always have a soft corner for Amman. Amman, capital city of The Hashemite Kingdom Of Jordan, was not only the first Middle Eastern city I visited, but also the first ever overseas travel on my own (A well converted business to leisure trip). Even after seeing many European & Asian countries now, somehow Amman always draws me back, with its unassuming air and pleasant jumble of old and new.
I’m struck by how this once sleepy town has so rapidly become one of the most sophisticated and touristic cities in the Middle East. Ancient even before the Greeks named it Philadelphia, Amman was chosen as the capital of the new kingdom of Tran-jordan in 1921. Now, it’s one of the region’s liveliest – and most underrated – centers.
It is also one of the safest. The Indian foreign office never advised against visit to Jordan and the country is pretty quiet as compared to some areas in Middle East.
Many people fly into Jordan’s capital and rush straight to the Treasury and Monastery tombs of the ancient Nabataean city of Petra without allowing time to explore the sand-colored city built on seven hills.
But there is plenty to see, which if not seen, no trip to Jordan can be complete.
The city doesn’t have magnificent mosques or even enchanting souqs. But it makes up for them by its cinemas, restaurants, galleries, etc.
Amman also serves as an excellent base for seeing nearby sites like Jerash, Dead Sea, Petra and Aqaba.
Unlike Oman’s capital Muscat, which is less conservative than further out areas, I was briefed that Amman was a conservative area and was asked to wear respectful clothing that covered the arms, legs and chest although a head covering was not necessary.
On the way to hotel I spot street vendors selling boxes of strawberries, carrots, radishes and Jordanian bananas. Pure white camels sit amongst those caramel coloured and herds of goats congregate nibbling on grass on the side of the highway. Amongst the Arabic script are a Starbucks store and ads for Oreos. Limestone brick houses create a creamy white multiple layered backdrop. A blue mosque sits alongside two churches.
Jordan is a small country and is very easily traversed by car. Amman being set on 7 hills is a hilly city and hence difficult to cover on foot, though once at the destination, one can just get out and walk around to get the local feel. All the major car hire companies have rentals, including Hertz which has branches in Amman and Aqaba. Most flights go to Amman or Aqaba.