We arrived mid-evening at Amman airport to be greeted by our tour guide we arranged for the whole trip who flawlessly whizzed us through the security and visa lines and straight into the car without a single hiccup, which seemed rather impressive for a Middle Eastern country. He dropped us off at our hotel, the Le Meridien, and suggested some places we could head for a late dinner on a Sunday evening, which would be the equivalent of heading out on a Monday evening in the western-world. We headed out not knowing what to expect with me dressed in pants and a long sleeved shirt in +25 degree Celsius weather. What we found were some lively, modern restaurants filled with what seemed like young professionals and women dressed in less clothing than myself. Everyone we stumbled across seemed very helpful and kind, and luckily spoke English. My first impression of Jordan was that of a peaceful and open-minded country.
We had 3 full days to see the country, which is not a lot, but here is how we did it and some insight into what I would suggest to those planning to go.
Originally built on 7 hills, but now sprawling over 19 hills, or as they call them there, “jebels”, the city of Amman is a very large and dense city and one can quickly catch on to the fact it is not a walking city.
In the city itself there are some breathtaking sites to be seen. The Amman Citadel, that sits on the highest hill in the city called Jebel al-Qala’a, houses the few remains of the Roman Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace as well as the Jordan Archaeological Museum. We took an hour or so to wander around the ancient ruins, you may want more time if you want to visit the museum. With signs of civilization dating back to 1650-1550 BC, there is so much history and culture to experience and explore here. What was an added bonus was the view of the city you get up here. Breathtaking views of the urban sprawl of Amman really help you juxtapose the city’s landscape.
Just down the hill from the Citadel is the old town area where the Roman Theatre is located. You can walk around the old town and find all sorts of little cafes and baklava bakeries, but by all means it’s not big and exciting enough to make a day of it.
After a morning of sightseeing in Amman we embarked on a 4-hour drive south to Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is the largest and most popular wadi (valley) in Jordan and is also referred to as the “Valley of the Moon”. The drive itself is long and hot with not a lot of scenery to be seen. I had seen photos of Wadi Rum before but they had not prepared me for the beauty and serenity of this place. We drove around the sand dunes, climbed a sandstone mountain, had tea with a Bedouin community and rode camels into the horizon without a single other tourist in site. I have never felt so peaceful and at one with the earth, it was truly an experience of a lifetime.
We called it an early evening that first night as our tour guide insisted we depart at 4am the next morning to ensure we were at Petra before the masses. I thought he was a bit crazy however this was the best advice I have yet received. To our astonishment, we were the first people to enter the grounds that morning and essentially got this entire place to ourselves for an hour. We would have never had this serene jaw-dropping moment all to ourselves and not to mention the subsequent amazing photos if it hadn’t been for Ibraham knocking down our door at 4am!
Some people believe the famous façade of Petra above is all there is to see, however this is not the case. The ancient city with all its carvings and architecture is rather large and takes hours to walk around. The massive façade of the monastery is also an awe-inspiring sight to see and sits about an hour hike up a mountain from the city. As daunting as this may sound in the desert heat, the trail is well carved out and not too steep. Donkey rides are available and water is sold along the way so bring a bit of cash and courage as its well worth the effort. We were rather aggressive, took no breaks and feel as though we covered every corner of the city and it took us about 6 hours to do it all.
The next day we headed to the Dead Sea, which is over an hour drive from Amman, and of a must do experience. Even if you are not staying at one of the hotels along the Dead Sea, your tour guide can arrange for you to use facilities so you can wash up after floating in the salty waters and covering yourself with mud.
On the way back to Amman our tour guide suggested a stop in Jerash. An ancient Roman city that despite being on no major transport route was a prominent city due to its rich soil. This city is remarkable due its state of preservation and remaining opulence, you can really get a feeling of how these Roman cities operated. We topped the day off with dinner atop a mountail overlooking a rural area of Jordan with the call to prayer in the background and felt like I cam, we saw and we did!
Where to Stay
Kempinski Hotel Ishtar $$
For a more relaxing time in Jordan and a bit of a tropical feel, this place is a beautiful resort with all the amenities.
Le Meridian $$
Great hotel for the price and not to mention it was free on our SPG points.
Four Seasons $$$
Stunning modern hotel with a great location and a great outdoor dining space.
Where to Eat
Dinner at Fakhr El-Din http://fakhreldin.com/
Dinner at Fakhr El-Din is a must. So many traditional dishes and treats in a luxurious setting. A bit on the expensive side but that’s to be expected since the Prime Minister dines here.