Scroll on down for a handy list of things to do in Amman, Jordan in bite-size form. But first, a short story about the city…
The Things We Remember the Most
Everywhere has them, I suppose. The naughty but nice hot streetside foods that define a city, to my tastebuds at least.In London, it’s roast chestnuts, steam smoking into the winter sky while amber embers blaze. In New York, it’s bagels, my first plaited bread sticks studded with cubic salt. Singapore surprised with the ice cream sandwich and in one of the oldest cities in the world, it was knafeh.
Now, London, and even New York, have influenced world history over the centuries but they’re spring city chickens when compared to Amman in Jordan. As one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, in one of the spiritual hot spots of the world, Amman’s family tree kicked off over 9000 years ago and it’s never let’s up.
It’s like an Old Testament line up: Ammonites, Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians and Nabateans before we even catch up to around 2000 years ago and the entrance stage right of the Romans.
Architecture abounds, as do the legends, scattered across the sands and through the fertile valleys that reach the Red Sea.
Yet for all the architecture, the woven threads and glinting coins in the museum beside the amphitheatre; the hilltop citadel with the fallen hand of Hercules and the monumental Greco-Roman city of Jerash…what stood out on this particular visit was hot, orange and came served on a paper plate.
Knafeh, like the stone and sand of Amman itself, has a deliciously rich history (and flavour, but we’ll come to that in a minute.)
It’s claimed across the Levant (a term that broadly incorporates modern day Jordan, Israel, Syria and the Lebanon) and it’s often bright orange.
It’s also delirious with calories as a butter-soaked slab of cheese rolled or pressed between syrup-soaked angel hair and sprinkled with rosewater and chopped pistachios.
Piping hot, it’s butteringly eye-wateringly delicious, (though the taste decays as it cools.)
Still, that doesn’t matter. It’s a snack to be shared on the run in the nooks and alleyways of the city as workmen and city men, veiled women and those with bouncing curls congregate for fleeting moments in the oldest city in the world (more or less.)
See, that’s what I love so much about knafeh, roast chestnuts, bagels and even currywurst.
They’re all flavours of great old cities that are still very much alive.
The citadel is to Amman what the Statue of Liberty is to New York: a city-defining icon (although that is where the similarities end.)
Instead of a tall green fire-bearing maiden, Amman’s citadel involves crumbling stones and walkways through scented gardens and a curiously large hand.
The grounds are fairly spread out but more manageable than Jerash and key points to catch are the Byzantine church, Umayyad Palace and the temple of Hercules as you are walking around.
The best time to visit is just before sunset when the crowds are thinning, the air turns peachy-pink brushed with twilight and the calls to prayer mingle with the sounds of the blare of car horns as commuters try to get home for the day.
As described above! Probably the easiest spot to find knafeh is at Habibah Knafeh on Al-Hazzar Street.
The marmite experience of Amman, you’ll either love Rainbow Street. Or hate it.
Beloved by visitors and bursting with ice cream, this area that runs from the First Circle to Mango Street decorates its pavements with small shops and optimism (or cynical capitalism, depending on your point of view.)
Learn how to make traditional Jordanian food with your own bare hands under the careful tuition of Maria, a life force to be reckoned with.
Nestled into a quiet street with a beautiful view across Amman as the lights flicker at night, I enjoyed this so much, I went there twice.
Wander around one of the oldest and most atmospheric areas of Amman in Jabal Al Weibdeh, the city’s hub for artistic, linguistic and musical machinations. As befits such a district, you’ll find plenty of coffee shops in which to soak up the literary atmosphere.
Wealth poured into this area when Amman became Jordan’s capital in 1946 and many of the buildings from that period have been renovated into artsy creative areas instead. Check out Fann Wa Chai, for example, a renovated old house that now works as an art gallery and creative space instead.
When in the area make sure to see the famous landmarks including Khalid Shoman, Paris Square, and Darat Al Funun.
I travelled to Jordan as part of iAmbassador’s #GoJordan project in partnership with Visit Jordan. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like and eat what I like. And I did like that knafeh. Mmmmm…
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