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Amman is one of the most underrated cities I have been to. Petra gets all the credit when it comes to Jordan and for most people, it is the landing city and they go directly to Petra and south and I was given the same suggestion.
Read my country guide about Jordan to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.
Me being me decided against it (because this is where I have always found the most fun and wonders) and I was so right. This city offers a beautiful perspective to what life in the Middle East could be like if all the GCC countries weren’t running after and copying western ideas on to their culture.
I was arriving from Lebanon and there was a stark difference between the two places. Lebanon has this crazy energy in the air where’s Amman and Jordan have a soothing, calming effect. I needed it!
I arrived at the airport, paid (a lot) for the visa and then made my way to the city first by bus and then by taking an Uber to my Airbnb.
Where to Stay
Amman is loaded with hotels but I prefer to stay local and booked an Airbnb near downtown and it was a good decision. It is a fun, lively area with some traditional restaurants running for decades. The downtown area is called Al Balad in Arabic.
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The 7 hills and 8 Circles:
Amman is built on 7 hills (like Lisbon) and you have to go up and down to get to different areas.
Downtown is sort of in the middle of The Valley. The areas names start with Jabal – mountain or wadi – valley so you can decipher whether it is up a hill or down in the valley. The original 7 hills have been expanded to 19 now but most touristy stuff lies within the original 7.
The circles were more like roundabouts and some of them still are. They are used as reference points. The seventh circle is the wider area of Amman where buses from the airport arrive.
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The transport within the city is pretty bad and I took a taxi everywhere. You can use Uber, Careem (Middle Eastern rival of Uber) or you can book local yellow cabs from Uber app. This is the first place where getting a taxi was cheaper than Uber.
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Beit Sitti and the cooking experiment
I’d read about the cooking classes where you make local food with the hosts and then eat it together. Beit Sitti took it to another level. The three founders used their grandmothers’ home to teach cooking employing local women. (Beit Sitti means grandmothers house). It’s was amazing to learn making Maqlouba rice, Moutabbel and Bousbussa. You can check some live shots in the stories above. A must-do in Amman and a great place to meet other fellow travellers.
Walking through Al Balad
The downtown area is very lively and has the real touch of Jordanian life beyond Amman and its posh areas. There are vendors selling stuff and small traditional restaurants selling perfected Falafel to Knefeh and my favourite sugar cane juice with lemon.
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Explore Jabal Al-Lweibdeh
This is the artsy district and there are multiple places to explore the art that resides within this beautiful city. Darat Al Funoon is an absolute must-do, the gallery is built on the side of the hill in layers integrating the Roman ruins, gallery space and the garden.
Another beautiful place to not miss is the Zaizafoun Gallery when you walk down the stairs to the downtown area.
This is also the party district with bars and (maybe) some clubs. Alcohol is legal in Jordan and you should definitely try Araq. The bars look like ordinary buildings and no flashy signs, you’ll have to know some names before heading there.
Rainbow street is a long street with multiple restaurants and cafes lined up. It makes up the perfect evening stroll after a delicious mansaf dinner. Rainbow street is located on Jabal Amman, the mountain named after the city (or other way around). It is also host to the first circle and host to some interesting rooftop restaurants and pubs. The only gay bar (that I found out) is also here. It’s called ‘Books at Cafe’.
You can learn how to manage your budget during travelling in this guide.
Amman citadel is located on the top of Jabal al Qa’la and you can see the famous two pillars from most of the city. The citadel covers quite a lot of area and to be honest it is mostly just ruins but there’s another reason to come here; the view of the entire city. You can see a million windows of mono colour houses with trees sparingly popping their heads.
The walk around in the citadel is fun, don’t miss the mosque at the back with its gorgeous dome.
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The Roman Amphitheatre
The Roman amphitheatre can be seen from the citadel. It is a big reminder of Roman times and much grander and in better condition. The way to go down to amphitheatre is downhill and it is a pleasant walk through the streets.
Amman has a lot to offer and there’s plenty to do there and I would definitely recommend a couple of days here if not more. The next day I hired the car and headed to Petra via Wadi Mujib…
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