One of the oldest, continuously-inhabited cities on Earth, the Jordanian capital of Amman is considered by many to be simply a stopover on their way to more famous in-country destinations such as Petra, the Dead Sea, Madaba or one of the numerous crusader castles in the kingdom. But there are several things to do in Amman, Jordan if you have some extra time to spend.
Visit the King Hussein Mosque in downtown Amman.
If you happen to be staying in the downtown area (We bunked affordable at the Palace Hotel, near the Al Rashid Cafť.), then strolling down the street to check out the King Hussein Mosque is a great way to start your Amman travel experience. Itís also right next to several streetsí worth of souk stalls, making the location a great place to pick up trinkets and grab an affordable street lunch of falafel and freshly-squeezed juice. Itís also near an ancient Roman odeon and some other ruins, so you can easily spend the first part of the day in this area of town.
Spend the afternoon at the Amman citadel.
Situated on top of a large L-shaped hill known locally as Jebel al-Qalía, is the Amman citadel. At the time of our visit, the exterior area of the citadel was free to explore, although there was a small fee to visit the small archaeological museum there. While visiting the ruins you can see the Temple of Hercules, the ruins of large palace, a mosque and the ruins of a Byzantine church. There is also a giant cistern with stairs descending towards the bottom for what would have historically been routine maintenance. While not nearly as large as the full Roman city at Jerash, there is a reasonable amount here that you can explore at a leisurely pace.
Check out the Jordan Museum.
The Jordan Museum is currently in the development phase, and scheduled to open sometime in 2011. Personally, Iím thrilled to know this is finally going to happen. If youíve already toured Jordan for yourself, youíre aware that it seems a bit odd not to have a major national museum there. With all of the world treasures and history, this was definitely a missing jewel in the kingdomís tourism crown. Itís apparently a jewel thatís soon to be set however, and those heading to Amman within the next year will be able to pencil it into their itinerary.
The Roman theater in Amman is a popular photo op, and an interesting place to explore.
Easily accessible on foot from the King Hussein Mosque and the old souk, the ancient Roman theater in Amman provides a sense of just how strong the empireís influence was here at one time. Clearly, it was more than an outpost. Paired with a stroll by the odeon Ė used for musical performances Ė and the Amman citadel, youíve got yourself a great day of archaeological exploration without having to leave the city.
Take time for a cup of Arabic coffee and perhaps a sheesha at Al Rashid Court Cafť.
Also in the older section of Amman near the Palace Hotel and the King Hussein Mosque, this second-story cafť is a tradition for locals and budget travelers alike. It isnít fancy by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have a balcony where you can sit, read and people watch in downtown Amman. Itís a great place to plan the next dayís travel agenda or play a round of cards with some fellow travelers.
When it comes to Amman restaurants, your options are varied.
In addition to grabbing some falafel and hummus at Al Hashem downtown, my two favorite restaurants in Amman are Wild Jordan and the Blue Fig Cafť. Both have great food at mid-range prices, although they each have a slightly different atmosphere. While both work the industrial chic angle heavily, Wild Jordan is more casual and comes with a gift shop selling sustainable gifts from the area. Itís also attached to a hotel and the proceeds go to support sustainable tourism projects in Jordan. The Blue Fig Cafť on the other hand promotes the work of regional artists, has room for live entertainment and a great little outdoor seating area.
A far cry from the quiet serenity of Wadi Rum, the city of Amman, Jordan is more oriented business. That being said, there is a fair bit to do here. Thatís great news for tourists, as well as expats looking to relocate to the city for work. For those looking to explore neighboring Israel as well during this portion of their Middle East tour, researching the Israeli passport stamp issue will be critical to your success. Jordan is one of the easiest countries to launch from however, and the border guards are particularly accommodating as long as you communicate the need for alternative stamping arrangements ahead of time.
Photo Credits: The Amman pictures used in this post come from the folks here at Trek Hound. They, along with other images of Jordan, are available through a creative commons arrangement with our sister site, Pictures of Travel Places.