Visiting Jordan: Amman – your city guide
Amman, the capital of Jordan formed the base for our Jordanian adventure, predominantly using the city as a place to sleep between our visits to the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and Petra. It was a good introduction to Jordan as we spent half a day visiting some of the sights in town.
What to see
Jabal Al Qal’a (Amman Citadel Hill)
We asked the guide from our Madaba, Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea day tour to drop us off at the Citadel instead of the hotel as we finished earlier than expected (around 3:30 pm) as there wasn’t a great deal of traffic! Whilst we did not plan on seeing anything in Amman, the guide recommended the Citadel to us and we’re glad he did!
When we arrived, we bought our tickets (only 2 JOD each) and typical to these sites, a local guide was lurking near the entrance offering his services. On this occasion we did not take him up on the offer, it was 45 degrees and after the 50 degrees we endured at the Dead Sea we did not feel up to the possibility of entrapment, standing and listening to the guide for the full hour! Instead, we picked up a map from the entrance and independently walked around the Citadel, briefly reading what we were looking at and more importantly taking in the incredible panoramic views over Amman!
Recognising that we were visiting the Middle East at a time tourism levels are very low (given the issues in bordering countries, Syria and Iraq!), the Citadel was not busy and it certainly does not seem to be patrolled to protect the ruins. Potentially breaking a couple of rules (or not?), I took the opportunity to take a seat and admire the Temple of Hercules (not pictured) in front of me.
Wandering around the edge of the Citadel you’re able to walk along the walls to take in the panoramic views of Amman, for the first time, appreciating the size of the city and it’s c. 4m population!
This was another spot along the Citadel walls, couldn’t help but take a seat, feeling like the king of the world (or Amman for that matter!).
The King Abdullah I Mosque (Blue Mosque)
After our visit to the Citadel, we found a number of taxi drivers out front. The drivers all appeared to be fluent in English and we easily negotiated his service, transferring us back to our hotel, via the Blue Mosque (at a cost of 20 JOD).
Upon arrival at the Blue Mosque, we were lead into a shop entrance, we thought this was quite odd and I was wondering what we were doing in the shop, thinking here we go, it’s time to get ripped off and unable to escape until you buy something, however it ended up being quite the opposite! We thought we haven’t done any of our usual ornament shopping and we may as well take the opportunity to look at what was available. Speaking to the storekeeper, we learned that the shop was actually owned and attached to the Mosque itself, therefore the goods are sold tax-free and apparently cheaper than many of the other shops around Amman.
Both the storekeeper and our driver were great, neither of them rushed and they are either both genuinely nice guys or just enjoyed a bit of company on a slow day (again the only customers in sight!). We were offered some tea and they even helped us try on the Arabic headwear (called Keffiyeh). I enjoyed this experience and was interested either way as I thought about buying one for our day in Wadi Rum (i.e. the desert!) to protect me from the sun, however, I honestly believe they enjoyed it even more!!
They could have easily shown me one way to tie it and convinced me to buy the Keffiyeh, but I was shown four styles, including how the Prince wears it, most young men, the elders and also a more casual look, my preference was the below, which I believe is how the Prince wears it!
I must admit, after seeing the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, this one wasn’t as extravagant, but it was still probably worth visiting, but if you have been in a Mosque before, I don’t think you would need more than 5 – 10 minutes for your pictures!
The cost of a tourist to enter the Mosque is 2 JOD and unless modestly dressed (shoulders and legs covered), women need to wear an abaya, provided in the shop at the entrance. Irrespective of your sex, you will need to remove your shoes before entering the Mosque.
The highlight of this stop was not the Mosque itself, but rather the shop attached to the Mosque!
Where to stay (or not to stay!)
We had two separate stays in Amman, two nights at the start and a further night at the end of our Jordanian adventure. We stayed the Ibis Amman and I wouldn’t recommend anyone stay at this hotel!
Our first reaction was positive, the hotel seemed relatively modern, has a terrace, a bar on the ground floor and a separate restaurant on the first level. We generally do not stay at the Ibis branded hotels, however, those that we have stayed at have certainly not looked as good and also did not offer a restaurant (other than for breakfast).
The food was mostly inedible (when it came out) and the service was well below average. If we did not have a noncancellable reservation for the last night we would have changed but we thought we may as well give the hotel another chance and avoid unnecessary costs as we travelling on leave without pay!
Without going into the specifics, we will review the hotel in more detail at a later date. However I should mention that I have since been in discussion with the operations, brand and quality manager of the Ibis Amman hotel who has been very receptive to the feedback and hopefully the service was either an anomaly or through their ongoing training, will be improved going forward.
Most people will need a visa to enter Jordan, these are purchased upon arrival at the airport and as at August 2015, cost 40 JOD per person. There is an ATM as well as a currency conversion desk if you were unable to obtain Jordanian Dinar prior to arrival!
Getting to and from the Airport
We booked private transfers to and from the airport. We booked using Resort Hoppa. You can often find a discount code to use at checkout to save you a bit of money! Resort Hoppa by all our experience, seems to be an agency who then separately uses a local transfer company. In Jordan, our transfers were completed by Travco Jordan, which I would certainly recommend based on our experience as the driver was on time and the cars were clean and tidy.
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“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination with reality, and instead of thinking of how things may be, see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
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