I was standing outside of Jabal Al-Qalaa – the highest vantage point to the rolling hilled city of Amman. Open your eyes here and in the heart of the city below, you’d see the large buff-colored stones of the roman theatre, look to your right and standing tall are the formidable pillars of the temple of Hercules, close your eyes and you’d hear the muezzin’s calls to prayer reverberating through the countless minarets of the city.
Inhabited by humans since the Paleolethic period, the country of Jordan was occupied by the Babylonian and Mesopotamian empires, the Nabateans, the Romans, the Greeks, the Persians, the Ottoman; at various points in its history. All that have ruled here have left their distinctive mark on the country’s culture, design and architecture and this has culminated in one the most harmonious juxtapositions of the modern era.
Out trip to Jordan commenced with Amman as our port of entry. While being the capital of Jordan, it is the political, cultural and commercial centre and of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Prior to our trip, we had purchased a Jordan pass which is essentially a super pass for your stay in Jordan – it not only provides entry to many tourist sites but also includes a visitor visa for the adults. As for the children’s visas, it was a visa on arrival, the fees can be paid through a credit card at the airport immigration counter; rented a car at the airport and drove to our hotel.
Day 1 – After breakfast we visited the old town. The narrow streets of the old town were clogged with selfie-snapping tourists and there was not a corner spared. We made our way through the most populous city in Jordan and reached King Faisal street in the heart of the downtown; here tucked away in a very unassuming by lane is perhaps the most famous name in Amman – the Hashem Restaurant. One of the oldest restaurants and an indisputable icon of Amman; it is a very humble street side joint but the best meal of Falafel, Hummus and Mint tea you’d ever treat yourself to.
After the meal we started walking towards the Roman Theatre. On the way we stopped at an Arabic sweet shop called the Habbineh – the kunafa and the baklava here are a must.
The Roman Theatre
Built into a hillside, the 6000 seat theatre was constructed during the time of the Roman emperor Antonius Pius (138-161 CE) and was oriented north to keep sun off the spectators.
The roman theatre with its steep seating has an excellent acoustics design (You can stand at the center of the stage and your voice will echo. The person sitting on top of the last row would be able to hear you clearly). It has an unbeatable vantage from the higher seats (the steps leading to the top are steep and the climb is tiresome but worth the effort). It is not happenstance that the theatre is hugely popular for hosting host various events even today.
The top seats of the amphitheatre were the revered ones. As against being closest to the performances, the royalty and other important dignitaries would sit in the top rows to get an unobstructed view of the performances, not to mention the incredible acoustics.
After visiting the roman theatre, we visited one of the popular malls in the city – the Abdali Mall. We then returned to our hotel and called it a day – a special mention for our hotel, the Amman Marriott, an exceptional property with superlative dining options.
Following breakfast we strolled through the old town again. Over the years, it has managed to retain its character reminiscent of an old Arabic Bazaar; many shops, however, have now been replaced by currency exchanges. The city also has its fair share of museums and art galleries. Another exquisite offering are the cafes here; the city is adorned with exquisite cafes. After a quick coffee at the Jafra Cafe we made a mandatory pit stop at the ice cream place outside the cafe and were on our way to the Amman Citadel.
The Amman Citadel
Atop the highest of the seven hills of the city is the Amman Citadel. It houses the ruins of the Temple of Hercules – the formidable towers of which are visible from almost any corner of Amman. Here, at the Citadel, you can get a bird’s eye view of the dramatic contrast in the architecture of the city below. It is absolutely mesmerising.
The entire area is surrounded by a 1,700 feet long wall which has been here since the bronze and iron ages. There’s plenty to see here, but the most striking are the temple of Hercules and the Ummayad palace.
After out visit to the Citadel , we went to one of the roof top restaurants. Amman has its surplus of quality roof top restaurants with breathtaking views of the the city that looks insistently graceful during the day time and surreal when illuminated under the night skies.
After dinner, we returned to our hotel and called it a day.
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