Amman, the capital of Jordan, has two very distinct parts. Urban Western Amman has a modern residential district, cafes, bars, fancy malls and artistic views. On the other hand, earthy Eastern Amman is more traditional, conservative and where the real Jordan resides in the heart of people. The heart of the city is in Downtown, which is also the home of city’s must-see Roman Ruins, Magisterial citadel and famous mosques. I stayed at Jordan Tower Hostel that was right at the bottom of the hill that held the Roman Ruins and Citadel. The city might not have the most exciting historical connections, but there is enough to get you excited about at least spending a couple of nights there. Here is the list of things one can do in Amman and around the city to make most of your stay.
Amman Citadel and Roman Theater:
One of the main attractions of Amman are the Roman ruins and the place called the Amman Citadel, which sits on the top of the highest hill in Amman called Jabal al-Qal’a. The Citadel is from the Bronze Age, and it’s surrounded by a 1700 meter wall that has been rebuilt many times over the centuries. Some of the famous sights to see at the Citadel are Temple of Hercules and Ummayad Palace. Since the citadel is on the highest place on the hill, it’s better to start the journey from there. Take a taxi from the bottom of the hill to the top for 1 JOD and walk down to the hill exploring the Roman ruins. On the way walking back from the Citadel, you must see the magnificent Roman Theatre. The Theatre is located on the north side of the hill with the capacity of 6000. A lot of musical programs and live events take place in the heart of the city in the Theatre.
Amman has an amazing nightlife. When the Sun sets in the Jordanian capital, head to Jebel Amman, Shmeisani, and the famous Rainbow Street. Funky cafes, flashy streets, and range of bars will be waiting to welcome you. Almost all the bars serve food with drinks, and it might not be the cheapest drinks you have. But given the time and location, it’s worth it. Some of the famous bars and restaurants in the town are Orient Bar and Restaurant, Al-Rashid Court Café, Book@cafe, Living Room and La Calle. Rainbow Street is the biggest hit in the city. If you have trouble finding any of these places, just hail a cab and tell him you want to go to the Rainbow Street on 2nd Circle. Don’t forget to try the most famous falafels of Jordan at Hashem Restaurant at just 2 JOD where dinner is served with the mint tea.
It is the ‘Pompeii of Asia’. The city of Jerash should be on top of your list when you are in Jordan. Jerash is one of Jordan’s main attractions and also one of the many gems in Middle East’s rich history. The Roman ruins in Jerash are well preserved, with many ancient temples and amphitheatres. Located about 56 km in the North, Jerash can be reached by local bus from the North bus station. It costs less than a JOD for this ride. The ticket to Jerash city costs about 10 JOD. It’s best to start early in the morning, as the city opens about 8 am. Since there is little cover in the ruins, it’s best to reach there before the Sun reaches its peak. Don’t miss The Hippodrome, The Oval Plaza, The Great Temple of Zeus, South Theatre, Temple of Artemis and North Theatre.
140 km in south of Amman, we have the Karak city. It is also the home of the third largest castle in the region, called Kerak Castle. It is located on the ancient King’s Highway, which is also one of the two lines connecting the South to North in the country, apart from the Desert highway. The castle has been there from the 11th century and has seen Judaism, Christianity and the Islamic era. There is a great view of the Dead Sea from the top of the hill where the castle is located.
Apart from being a historical monument, Mount Nebo has a special place in Christianity. According to the Bible, Moses saw the Promised Land before he died. Mt. Nebo is one of the most important places of Christian pilgrimage. On the platform at the summit, there is a modern sculpture by an Italian artist representing Moses’ staff and Jesus’ words in John 3: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
Drive on the Desert Highway:
The two lifelines of the country are the King’s Highway and the Desert Highway, which connect the two ends of the country. All the buses and public transport use the Desert Highway to go to the South of the country because it’s a non-stop drive and faster than King’s Highway. On the other end, King’s Highway is the one that crosses all the major attractions like Mt. Nebo, Kerak Castle, and the Dead Sea. Since it is a mountain drive and usually takes longer, buses prefer to take the desert drive to save time. I took the drive from Amman to Petra, and it was a 3.5-hour drive through the desert of Jordan. I realised how beautiful and satisfying the desert can be. The views were just astonishing. Even though I was sitting in an uncomfortable seat of a local minibus with almost no leg space, I just forgot everything and kept admiring the desert. The long drive felt like moments, the most beautiful moments.