The idea for this trip was formed in 2019. We wanted to travel somewhere in February that would be warm. We looked at a range of different countries but in the end, history and culture and majestic nature won us over… Jordan would be our winter holiday in 2020. But in 2020 we decided instead to have a family holiday closer to home. Our kids had planned their worldwide travel and it could be the last time in a few years that we’d all get together… so Jordan was postponed. But no matter because we had a glorious family holiday in southern Spain and little did we know that it would be the last time that we would all be together.
COVID of course changed the world. And in the midst of this worldwide trauma we lost my very dear and much loved mother in law. She had been the matriarch of our family and had lived a great life; we miss her terribly but also we are so thankful for that last glorious holiday in the hills east of Malaga before the world changed.
And so 2020 came and went. We rescheduled to 2021 but this too was postponed. We rescheduled for 2022 and held our breath. Thankfully the borders re-opened, quarantine was cancelled and we both had two negative COVID tests and all our vaccines and boosters. It took 2 trains, 2 taxis and a flight, a Jordon Pass and another negative COVID test and we were good to go!
We planned to visit Amman first before hiring a car and exploring the more remote areas of the country. We had 24 days and a packed itinerary and I was beyond excited!
Walking Tour of Amman (Day 1)
We had a good nights sleep in our downtown hotel and woke early with the call to prayer. After a wonderful Jordanian breakfast of eggs and hummus and fruit and nuts and bread and cakes we headed off to meet our guide for a walking tour of Amman. We’d found him though Guru Walk and he was absolutely fabulous. It was just us and him and so he adapted his walk to fit in with our other plans. We talked about Jordan, the Middle East and politics. We talked about religion and young people and covid. We talked about history and culture and all the while we walked. We really learned so so much from this young man and didn’t want the tour to end.
We visited the markets and souks, and discovered the tiny streets that make up the different shopping areas. We drank coffee with locals and bought bags of spices and saffron and fat juicy dates with change from just a few JODs. We ate pastries and sweets and tasted olives and pistachios and green chick peas and it seemed like everyone knew our guide and we heard a 1000 times “welcome to Jordan”
We stopped for more coffee and finally had to say our goodbyes but with a promise to meet later for another drink. We had a lunch of fruit and nuts and camomile tea before walking high above Amman to the ancient Citadel, originally called Philadelphia. We were really impressed with the ruins and the little musuem, although with hindsight if you have limited time and you are visiting Jeresh you might choose to skip this visit.
We walked and walked up and up through residential areas and then we walked all again around these ancient ruins and then we walked back down again; indeed we walked a lot today.
We returned to our hotel for a rest and to freshen up and then called a taxi to take us to Rainbow Street where we’d arranged to meet our guide. He bought us beers and told us a little about himself and his love for Jordan; he also said that we’re friends now and we must meet again. If you’re every in Amman book a walking tour with Mujallie; you really won’t be dissapointed!
We wandered back to our hotel, stopping off to buy a pair of nail scissors from a tiny little kiosk, the scissors came with free sweets and a couple of Jordanian flags as a gift.
Walking Tour of Amman (Day 2)
The clocks changed yesterday in Jordan declaring the start of Summer time although someone forgot to tell the weather because we woke to rain and a cold wind.
Today we’d booked a second walking tour, but this one was specifically going to be about Jordanian food. We met our guide at 11 and our tour started with a small cup of Jordanian coffee, its strong but not bitter and it has a hint of cardamon and we’re both really loving it! I’m definitely going to do this at home now.
So we hit the streets with Osama. He walked us back to the souks we visited yesterday. This time we sampled herbs and vegetables, more green chickpeas that taste just like peas when eaten from the pod, although the pods look like young green almonds. He showed us small aubergines, which in Jordan are cut in half and stuffed with nuts and then pickled, and likewise small cucumbers are kept for salads or pickles. We walked on to the meat and fish markets. The fish were still swimming in tanks and you selected your lunch and they cooked it there and then for you. The meat market was just as busy but I’ll be honest, I think I prefer the scent from the spice and fruits. Every part of the animal was on display and whilst this might not be comfortable viewing, I guess it’s more honest than our sterile supermarket fridges where the meat we buy doesn’t always look like the animals that we slaughter.
Onwards we walked through more shops and stalls, more spices and nuts to sample (and buy) until we ended back in Rainbow Street. Here Osama invited us into his home where lunch had been prepared for us. We ate traditional Jordanian food with Hummus and Arabic Salad and a wonderful aubergine dish of Mutabal. For the main we enjoyed Maqluba, a rice, vegetable and chicken dish that has really subtle spices that reminded me a little of Paella. We ate until we were full… Osama offered us more but gosh there was just too much.
As we ate the heavens opened and the rain came down so heavily that when we returned to downtown Amman the streets had flooded. We dodged the rain and the puddles, meandering through the cake district, with fruit juice and ice creams and sweet pastry shops lined up to tempt us. I found a really tasty treat made of honey and nuts and sesame seeds, it’s called Pastila and it’s like the original energy bar as it’s been around for a few thousand years… and is gluten and dairy free!
Our tour ended as it began back at the coffee shop. Gerry had more coffee and I chose mint tea. We thanked Osama for his kindness and his welcome and headed back towards our hotel. But first we had one more stop… the Roman Amphitheatre.
The Amphitheatre is built into the hillside opposite the roman Citadel of Philadelphia that we visited yesterday. Lucky for us that it’s directly opposite our hotel so we didn’t have far to walk. A Greek inscription on one of the pillars indicates that it was built in honour of emperor Pius in 138 AD. This enormous structure seats up to 6000 people and is still used for concerts and events and it’s oriented north to keep the sun off the spectators. The sun wasn’t a problem for us today though, keeping warm was our main concern.
We climbed up and up the steep sides to reach the top, crikey our thighs were aching from all the steps that we’ve been walking. This was so steep that Gerry had a bit of a vertigo wobble, like me he has no head for heights but a few young Jordanian lads offered him a helping hand and he managed to reach the top. Indeed for me going up was fine but going down felt a bit iffy!
Half way down the heavens opened again and whilst folks quickly descended and left, we took our time. The rain had provided me with a fabulous opportunity. I really wanted to test the acoustics of the stadium and with everyone gone I grabbed my chance and belted out a quick chorus of Rolling in the Deep and the acoustics were great; what clever Romans! As we turned to leave the ticket collector came out from his little booth and smiled… we weren’t as alone as we thought.
We wandered back towards our hotel, stopping off for one more hot drink in one of the little coffee shops that line the streets. I’ve lost count of the times people stop us in the street just to talk… “where are you from?” “do you like Jordan?” “welcome to Amman” such a genuinely warm and friendly people. Gosh we’ve enjoyed Amman. We’re off exploring tomorrow but our introduction to Jordan has more than exceeded our expectations.