Amman is the biggest city in Jordan, but with a population of just four million, it feels pretty compact. And you can get around it and see the major sights in a day if you know exactly what you want to do and you plan your time wisely. Two days is ample to take things at more of a leisurely pace. It’s a great place to begin your exploration of Jordan, which as a whole, is a fascinating country with an exciting mix of cultures, landscapes and history. It has so much to offer the intrepid traveller, but you have to start somewhere, and Amman offers the best introduction for what’s in store.
The Citadel and King Abdullah I Mosque
The centrepiece of downtown Amman, the Citadel, is made up of Roman ruins (including a stunning amphitheatre) scattered throughout the area, which sits at the top of Jebel Al Qala’a, the highest of Amman’s seven hills. It was known as Rabbath-Ammon when it was built more than 3,000 years ago, and set at a height of 850m above sea level it offers the perfect vantage point from which to view the city, and what a stunning view it is. It reveals how the modern metropolis sprawls around its ancient Roman past.
Among the many ruins and artefacts dating back to the Bronze Age is the temple of Hercules, which is thought to have been built more than 1,000 years ago during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius. There’s also The Umayyad Palace, built in the first half of the 8th century by Umayyad Arabs largely over the existing Roman structures. It’s fascinating to see the remains of two such distinct cultures and styles of architecture.
Once you’ve taken in the lofty views, head to the nearby architecturally impressive King Abdullah I Mosque, built by the late King Hussein as a memorial to his grandfather. It’s a grand blue-domed structure that is just as ornate inside as it is out. Its magnificent dome is decorated with inscriptions from the Qur’an. Visitors will need to be dressed conservatively to enter and women will need to cover their hair and wear an abaya to cover bare arms, knees or jeans (which will be supplied).
This is perhaps Amman’s coolest pedestrianised hangout. Located in the downtown district, the street bustles with retro cafés, quirky eateries and cool bars that are packed to the rafters of a Thursday and Friday night.
Another attraction on Rainbow Street is the sprawling Souk Jara. Browse the numerous stalls selling myriad funky souvenirs, handicrafts and one-off handmade items of clothing and jewellery, which bargain hunters will enjoy haggling for. And haggle away. Prices can initially be set quite high, since the sellers expect a negotiation.
Okay so its not in Amman, but being just 60km north of the city, it’s well worth visiting, as the ancient Greco-Roman city houses the most impressive ruins in the country and perhaps even outside of Rome itself. The Roman colonnades are well preserved and the site features paved streets, hilltop temples including those of Artemis and Zeus, impressive Roman theatres, the ruins of Roman baths, city walls and much more. It’s one of the biggest highlights of a holiday in the city and one that we’re sure will leave a lasting impression.
Where to stay
For the budget-conscious, the three-star Ibis Amman is a good, wallet-friendly option. The rooms are small and basic, but the hotel overall is clean and staff are friendly, helpful and accommodating. It has a bar, snack bar and restaurant serving buffet and à la carte meal options. It’s located close to Mecca Street and the popular Mecca Mall and City Mall shopping centres.
Grand Hyatt Amman
For those looking for something a bit more luxurious, the five-star Grand Hyatt Amman is a good choice. It’s set in the business district of Jebel Amman, three kilometres from the Citadel. The hotel features four restaurants, three bars and a spa, as well as an indoor and outdoor pool.
Flydubai, Royal Jordanian and Emirates fly direct from Dubai in just over three hours. If leaving from Abu Dhabi, Etihad and Royal Jordanian operate a direct service. From Doha, Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian fly to Ammam in under three hours.
Taxis are ubiquitous and affordable in Amman, making them by far the most convenient way to get around the city. Fares start from around JD0.25 (Dhs1.25). Ensure the meter is switched on to avoid being overcharged at the end of your journey.
It’s possible to negotiate a fixed day rate with your taxi driver if you know you’ll need to be picked-up and dropped-off at multiple locations in a day, which is great for a day’s sightseeing. Or, if you want to go outside of the city and get picked-up at a later time or date, this is possible, too. Great excursions outside of the city include the Roman ruins of Jerash and the nature reserve in the forest of Ajloun.
The Jerash Festival 2016 is a celebration of traditional Jordanian culture. This year it will take place from July 21 to 30 and will feature performances from local, Arab and international musicians. During the festival, visitors can also stroll through Jerash’s ancient streets, shopping for traditional handcrafts and attending exhibitions, including demonstrations on how to make crafts such as Bedouin rugs, jewellery and ceramics.