As a relatively new city, Amman provides a fascinating blend of history and modernity. Crumbling ancient ruins stand alongside trendy cafés and shops, and there is a westernised energy that makes it stand apart from other cities in the region. The urban hubs are a great way to experience the city’s, at times, chaotic heartbeat, but the mosques and historic sites offer quieter places to reflect, for both locals and visitors.
Miles above the likes of Starbucks and Costa, coffee drinking is deeply woven into Jordanian culture – used to welcome guests and respect old friends. Producing the perfect cup is more an art form than a process, and to enjoy the rich flavour of a cup of Arabic coffee with deep undertones of cardamom as you watch the world go by in Amman is an experience all in itself. Remember, you don’t add sugar to Arabic coffee, so Jordanian dates provide a great accompaniment.
Boasting Petra, Wadi Rum and the legend of Lawrence of Arabia, you can’t visit Jordan without discovering some of the history that helped shape it. With some time in Amman, you can explore some of the local ruins at leisure, or perhaps head to the Jordan Museum, arguably one of the best museums in the country, which can be found next to the City Hall. The museum provides an insight into the Nabataean civilisation that built Petra, and also displays the incredible Dead Sea Scrolls.
Today Amman continues to evolve, and it now nurtures a creative side that sees artists throughout the Arab world contributing new works that stand alongside classic pieces. Murals can be found emblazoned on some buildings throughout the city, street artists are often seen scribbling away on makeshift easels, and the cultural centre of Darat Al Funun features an art gallery and exhibitions dedicated to emerging sculptors and painters.
Perched on Amman’s highest hill, the Citadel offers excellent views of the bustling city below, and an opportunity to take a step back in time as you explore the ruins. Two towering pillars are all that remain of the Roman Temple of Hercules, while a giant hand and elbow from the statue of the Roman demi-god shows the skill craftsmen had in creating these incredible structures. The Citadel’s most impressive buildings can be found around the Umayyad Palace – a great place to spend an hour or two.
There’s no such thing as a holiday to Jordan without sampling authentic falafel. There are plenty of eateries in Amman, but Hashem Restaurant is probably the most noteworthy, having delighted its patron’s taste buds for decades. Freshly fried balls of ground chickpeas and spice, served with smooth hummus makes a light and delicious lunch, or perhaps enjoy warm falafel in pitta bread with a yoghurt dressing. In Rainbow Street, they’ve also been known to serve falafel on a French baguette, which is certainly worth a try.
This mighty 6,000-seat monument disrupts the landscape of more modern buildings and illustrates how Amman combines old and new. Dating from the 2nd century, it’s an impressive amphitheatre, providing fantastic acoustics that you’ll be tempted to try out. Morning provides the best light to snap a picture or two, and during your visit, why not also visit the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions, where you’ll discover traditional Bedouin clothing and jewellery and a variety of ceramics.
One of the oldest areas in the city, Rainbow Street is a hive of activity, where the local Ammanis come to soak up the café culture and shisha joints, and where visitors experience the colour of life in Amman, exploring its boutiques for a memento or two to take home. Explore the street on foot to immerse yourself in the atmosphere, and if you visit on Thursday – the start of the weekend in Jordan – you’ll find it even livelier than usual.
The cooler temperatures in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are an ideal time to visit, and mean you can explore the sites in the open air for longer without the beaming sunshine.
If you are a British citizen you’ll need a one month, single-entry visa which can be obtained on arrival. For the latest information on travel regulations, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/jordan/entry-requirements.
The currency in Amman is the Dinar (JD), broken down into 100 piastres or 1,000 fils.
The language spoken in Amman is Arabic.