When I first booked a tour to Jordan, all I knew about it was the ancient city of Petra. But as I started researching Jordan more – I found the capital Amman had plenty to do to fill a day or two – and I wasn’t disappointed with starting my journey here.
Here are five things to do in the Jordanian capital.
Amman’s citadel sits on the city’s highest hill and is surrounded by a stone wall. The area has been occupied since the Bronze Age, and you’ll see caves dating back to those early days throughout the precinct. My favourites sites at the Citadel were the Temple of Hercules and the Ummayad Palace complex.
Only a few columns remain from the once grand Temple of Hercules, but you can imagine what it must have looked like in its prime. The temple was built in the middle of the 2nd century AD. From the remaining columns, you can get a great view of Amman. The Umayyad Palace complex dates back to the 8th century AD 720. You can see where the streets and residential areas were as you wander through the complex.
The best-preserved part of the complex is the domed hall, which served as an entrance to the royal palace. The current wooden dome over the top of the hall was built by archeologists as this was thought to best represent how the hall looked like during the days of the palace. The citadel precinct is also home to an archaeological museum housing artifacts from the citadel area and surrounding areas such as the Roman city of Jerash. Entry to the citadel is AUD$5.50. If you want a detailed explanation of the Citadel site and Amman’s former life as the Roman city of Philadelphia, you can also hire a guide at the gate for AUD$47 between several people. Due to low tourist numbers in Jordan at the moment, it seems this price is negotiable and you may be able to get it down to around AUD$35.
Downhill from the citadel is the restored Roman amphitheatre. The amphitheatre was cut into the side of a hill and built to seat 6000 people. You can pay AUD$3.75 to go into the amphitheatre – with sunrise or sunset the best times for photos – or you can get a pretty good photo from the outside.
Amman’s distinctive blue domed King Abdullah Mosque is one of Amman’s most famous landmarks. It was built in 1989 and can seat up to 7000 people. Women are required to cover their hair, legs and arms to enter the mosque, however headscarves and full-length cloaks are available if you arrive unprepared. Entry is AUD$3.75. The mosque is usually closed on Fridays.
When in Amman, you have to try falafels and hommus. Don’t worry you’ll find it everywhere in downtown and it’s hard to go wrong. The downtown area starts on Prince Muhammad Street, and you’ll find lots of cafes and restaurants along here that cater for tourists with English menus. The cafes are easy to spot by the colourful verandah outdoor sitting areas. These are a great place to people watch and the food and drinks are moderately priced. Shisha (flavoured tobacco) is also readily available.
One of the favourite falafel joints of Amman locals is the Hashem Restaurant located in the downtown area. At night, this place is busy with locals, especially families. The restaurant has been operated by the Turk family since 1956 and is famous for its Bilad al-Sham cuisine. You won’t find a menu here, but ask for falafels and hummus, and they’ll bring out a generous serving of hommus dressed with olive oil, two large pieces of pita bread, a plate of fresh falafels and tomato, and tea. This will serve two and trust me you’ll be very full by the end of it. This will cost about AUD$7. While you’re downtown, make sure you take the time to wander the streets. This is the best place for souvenir shopping in Amman, and you’ll find traditional clothing, ceramics, bags, and Dead Sea products among other items. This is also a good place to get spices or some delicious Jordanian Medjool dates.
Rainbow Street is one of the bustling parts of Amman and is centred on tourists more so than the main downtown area. Rainbow Street is filled with restaurants and several excellent ice cream shops. In fact, I had some of the most creative and delicious ice creams I’ve ever tasted on Rainbow Street. Your first stop should be Pantastic Ice Cream. Pantastic has a unique system to make ice cream – one I’ve never seen before – and prepare your dessert in stainless steel bowls cooled to -30 degrees. In front of your eyes, they’ll take your flavour of choice such as Nutella, melted dark or white chocolate, or banana – pour it into the pan until it freezes, then mix it up to make ice cream. For an extra sugar hit, you can mix chocolate into your ice cream such as Maltesers, Ferrero Rocher, or Oreo.
Prices start from AUD$4.50 each. My tip is to try the banana Pantastic creation. They blend up real banana mixed with milk for this one – so you don’t feel so bad eating it. It’s kind of healthy! With more than one day in Amman, you can also try the Mr Lollies ice cream shop. Mr Lollies has a range of ice block flavours on offer ranging from salted caramel, blueberry and vanilla. Some are gelato, and some are sorbet flavours – but some taste more like frozen yoghurt than ice cream.
You can then have the ice block dipped in a chocolate or fruit sauce – either a half coat or a full coat - and then covered in a topping of your choices such as biscuits or pistachios.
Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia
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