Difference between revisions of "Amman"
Revision as of 14:09, 23 January 2009
Amman is the capital and largest city of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (population c. 2.1 million). Amman forms a great base for exploring the country and does, in fact, hold a few items of interest to the traveler. The city is generally well-appointed for the traveler and the people are very friendly.
Although not seen as much when in the air over Amman, the city holds many surprises for the visitor. Anything can be found in Amman if one asks. Visit Amman's Roman Amphitheatre or study in the University of Jordan or stay in the luxurious Marriott. Malls are abundant in Jordan. With new construction in Abdali, in a few years the traveler could eat in the most high-end restaurant, study in the American University of Jordan, stay in a five star hotel or shop in massive malls, all a few metres from one another.
Amman is experiencing a massive change from a quiet sleepy village to a bustling metropolis. Amman's roads have had a reputation of being very steep and narrow in some of the underdeveloped parts of the city but now the city has state of the art highways and paved avenues. New resorts and hotels dot the city and there are many things for the traveler to see and do. Use Amman as a staging point for travels to nearby cities and settlements in Jordan.
A city built of white stone, Amman's growth has skyrocketed since it was made the capital of Trans-Jordan in the early 1920s, but especially after the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel when hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees settled. Another wave arrived after the second Iraq war, with Iraqi refugees forming the majority of newcomers.
Its history, however, goes back many millennia. The settlement mentioned in the Bible as Rabbath Ammon was the capital of the Ammonites, which later fell to the Assyrians. It was dominated briefly by the Nabataeans before it became a great Roman trade center and was renamed Philadelphia. After the Islamic conquests, Amman became part of the Muslim empire, until the Ottomans were forced out by the Allies, with the help of the Hashimites, who formed a monarchy that continues to rule until the present.
Today, West Amman is a lively, modern city. The eastern part of the city, where the majority of Amman's residents live, is predominantly the residential area of the working class and is much older than the west. While possessing few sites itself, Amman makes a comfortable base from which to explore the northwestern parts of the country.
Amman is a very diverse city. Palestinian, Iraqi, Circassian, Armenian,and many other ethnic groups reside in Amman. Amman was damaged because of the events of Black September but the city was rebuilt. Amman never stops growing. The city went from 20,000 inhabitants to more than 2 million people in less than a century partly because of massive influxes of refugees from Palestine and Iraq.
Most Jordanians understand English so communication shouldn't be that much of a problem but it never hurts to know a few useful phrases and come prepared with a translation book.
Most travelers to Amman (and to Jordan) will arrive via Queen Alia International Airport. For most western visitors, entry visas to Jordan can be purchased at the airport, if not already obtained from a Jordanian consulate overseas. The price of visa is 10 Jordanian Dinars ($15); queue first at the line that says 'visa', and then move over to the passport line. Money exchange is available before passport control, ATMs after customs.
Taxi transportation from the airport to Amman should cost 19 Jordanian Dinars ($30).
Note that the Abdali bus station is now closed. The new bus station is called Tabarbour Bus Station and is in the North fringes of Amman. Most of the buses to the various cities ('Ajloun, Jerash, Irbid etc.) in Northern Jordan leave from here. To get there from downtown, take Serviis #6 from Raghadan Service Station which is located right next to the Colosseum. The Trababour Bus Station is the last stop on the Serviis' route. There are numerous buses pulling into the city of Amman, most of which are operated by JETT (Jordan Express Tourist Transport). From the bus station, you can take a taxi to the city center. As a guide, it NEVER costs more than 2 JD on the meter from the bus station to most places in town, so either go by the meter, or pay a maximum of 2 JD.
Be vary of the private cars posing as taxis around the bus stands. They would offer their services asking you to pay as much as you want but later on insist on pocketing more money from you.
Yellow taxis are readily available and can be easily found anywhere in Amman. Taxis for Amman will have a green logo on the driver and passenger doors. Resist hailing cabs with another color logo; these cabs are based in other cities and it is illegal for them to pick up fares in Amman. Taxis in Amman are required by law to use meteres and most drivers will reset the meter as soon as a fare is picked up. Most trips within Amman should be under JD3. Taxis are not required to use meters after midnight and drivers often expect double the normal fare for late night trips.
The base rate for the taxi meter was changed recently from 150 fills (JD 0.150) to 250 fills (JD 0.250) due to the rising oil prices, however, not all taxis have replaced their old meters with new ones, and when a taxi is using an old meter, it is legitimate for the driver to ask you for 10 extra piasters on top of the quoted meter fare. Make sure though that you note the initial fare as soon as the driver turns the meter on in order not to have the driver ask you for "the 10 piasters" when he has a new meter. Drivers are not normally tipped, instead the fare is simply rounded up to the nearest 5 or 10 piasters. It should be noted that many drivers do not carry much change, so exact change should be given when possible.
The going rate for a taxi from Amman to the airport is JD20, although some drivers can be talked down to JD15. If you are visiting the Citadel, call it al'Aqal. The driver may try to convince you that the Roman theater is nicer so that he can drop you off there at the bottom of the hill. It's best to be dropped off at the Citadel and walk down the hill to the Roman theater.
The Amman City Tour is a hop on hop off bus service that can be used for tourists and natives alike. Non-Jordanians pay a 10 JD fare while Jordanians pay a 5 JD fare. The tour consists of a circular bus route that encompasses a variety of locations, such as the Roman Theater, Shopping Malls, Downtown (or "Balad" as it is called), Museums, Parks and the Wakalat Street shopping district, amongst others. Amman City Tour offers its passengers the convenience of 35 stops in one bus ride, operating daily from 10AM to 8PM (until 6PM during winter months).
You can visit the fascinating Roman Theater and Nymphaeum, that reflect the historic legacy of the city, and the enchanting Citadel which has stood since the ancient times of the Ammonites. Or enjoy a leisurely stroll through the King Hussein Park and visit the Automobile Museum, which contains the late King Hussein's car collection, or the Children's Museum.
Jabal Amman 1st Circle Walking Trail is also interesting, with its coffeshops and grand traditional villas.
If it's shopping you're after,then the pedestrian Wakalat shopping district offers a wide selection of international brand names to choose from.
For a more exotic and traditional experience you can visit the old-downtown, also known as the Souq, and take in the traditional sights and smells of the spice market, and shop for authentic souvenirs. (All of this info can be found at )
Although the capital of a diverse kingdom, Amman is not what one would call "packed" with things to see, making it a great gateway to explorations further afield. Even so, the city does hold a few items of historical and cultural interest (allow maximum 2 days to see them).
The cultural scene in Amman has seen some increased activities, notably cultural centers and clubs such as Makan House, Al Balad Theater, the Amman Filmmakers Cooperative, Remall, and Zara gallery. Around the 1st of September the Jordan Short Film Festival takes place.
It is highly avisable to see the sunset from the view point near the Citadel. But pay also your attention to the time of the muezzin call. If you listen to it from the view point, where the whole city lies before you, you get the unforgettable acoustic impression.
Due to accelerated growth the past several decades, the styles of living differs considerably as one travels from east to west throughout Amman. Visitors desiring to experience "Old Amman" should explore the central downtown, or Balad, which features numerous souqs, shops, and street vendors.
Besides touring the city, shopping is also advisible for the traveler. The Mecca Mall is your best bet. The City Mall, the Abdoun Mall, and the Plaza Mall are all large shopping centers scattered across Amman. For night clubs and bars visit the cosmopolitan West Amman where many Western and American franchises operate here. The nightlife in Amman is not as vibrant as other Middle Eastern cities like Beirut or Tel Aviv, however, there are a few clubs and bars in Amman.
Abdali, a section of downtown Amman, is being transformed into a magnificent center for tourists and natives alike. The plan includes a broad pedestrian boulevard where visitors can shop, eat, or do numerous other activities. New office buildings and residential hi-rises are being constructed. "New Abdali" should be completed by 2010.
To see more about this new construction phase in Abdali see at 
Amman has numerous antique dealers littered throughout the city. Those located in the western parts of the city will most likely be serviced by those with a competent grasp of the English language, but you run the risk of the items being a bit overpriced. For the more adventurous, some of the best tourist shopping can be done in downtown Amman (the Balad). Shopping in the Balad has a more primitive feel with shop after shop filled with wares and prices not always clearly marked and extremely negotiable.
Some interesting, original souvenir items that one may consider taking home are:
For the coffee lover, Amman's Starbucks locations (Swefieh, Adboun, Mecca Mall) offer various mugs, tumblers, and to-go cups with distinctive Jordanian and Middle Eastern flair.
Those who crave gourmet coffee have a number of choices such as Broadway in Abdoun, or Wakim and Chez Helda in Swefieh, or Paris Cafe in Elwaibdeh.
Beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks can be bought at the Rainbow Supermarket on Rainbow Street.
There are numerous universities one can study in. Irbid, Madaba, and Aqaba also hold many educational institutes for foreigners.
Amman features many different styles of restaurants, from traditional Middle Eastern fare to more familiar Western fast food and franchises. Prices range from ultra-cheap to moderate, depending on one's taste buds. For those on a budget, Arabic food is very affordable and can be obtained everywhere.
Arabic food generally consists of several general basic groups. Meat dishes will generally consist of lamb or chicken; beef is more rare and pork is never offered. Shwarma, which is cooked lamb meat with a special sauce rolled in piece of flat bread, is a local favorite. Rice and flat bread are typical sides to any meal. Jordan's specialty, mansaf, is a delicious lamb and rice meal, typically eaten with one's hands. Arabs serve plenty of cucumbers and tomatoes, many times accompanied by a plain white yogurt condiment. Another favorite is chick pea-based foods such as falafel, hummus, and fuul. One of Amman's most famous local foods restaurant is Hashem, located in downtown Amman. Nearby, there is Habeebah, which serves traditional east Mediterranean sweets such as baklava, but is most famous for serving a traditional dessert known as knafeh nabelseyyeh in reference to its origin from the Palestinian city of Nables.
And even if you can afford the above-mentioned, do not forget the good surprises coming from the countless shawarma outlets and other very cheap places.
The majority of Amman's pubs and night clubs can be found in West Amman.
Amman has the full range of accommodation options from very basic 1 star accommodation to luxurious 5 star facilities.
Report to the Jordanian police any suspicious activity. In light of the 2005 Amman bombings, the Jordanian government is on alert for any terrorist cells operating within the country. Amman is safe at all hours for tourists and you find Amman to be very hospitable.
Jordan is a majority Muslim country, so do not insult Islam. Women should wear fairly conservative clothing, covering their shoulders, chests, and legs. Do not, under any circumstances, say anything that might be considered an insult to King Abdullah II or his family unless you want to spend time being interrogated by the Jordanian Police.
Amman makes a convenient base for day trips to: