Jordan has been one my ‘bucket list’ destinations for a while now. I think I first decided I would like to visit in about 2009, but living in New Zealand, getting to Jordan proved to be impossible. Too expensive, too far, and the Arab Spring meant I was a little bit hesitant to visit that part of the world. Fast forward eight years, and I’m living in the Middle East. I asked mum where she would like to go for a weekend away from Dubai, and to my surprise, she chose Jordan.
We started our trip by flying into Amman, and meeting our driver, Wael. Wael was amazing. He worked for Jordan Day Trips and Tours, under the watchful eye of his employer Omran, who was always a phone call away. Omran was very responsive and checked up on us during our trip. Wael was an excellent driver, and took us into Amman city to view some of the sites.
After driving through some of the more affluent areas of Amman, we visited the King Abdullah I Mosque. Construction of the Mosque began in 1982 on the orders of the late King Hussein of Jordan. It was to be a tribute to King Hussein’s grandfather, King Abdullah I of Jordan, and finally completed in 1986. It is big – though not as big as the Shiekh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi – and about 3000 people can fit in it at any one time.
The cavernous prayer hall is capped by a wonderful blue dome 35m in diameter, decorated with Quranic inscriptions. This is the only mosque in Amman that openly welcomes non-Muslim visitors.We visited on a Friday morning, and the place was empty. We drove past it later that afternoon… and you could barely drive past, it was so busy. People had just stopped their cars and parked in the street! You should dress modestly, but they provide abaya’s for women.
Wael was an amazing driver who provided us so much information on Jordan itself. We spoke about what it was like to live there, particularly the strain on the country with the refugee crisis in the region. He spoke excellent English, and had many funny anecdotes to share with us. It was so nice to have a driver where we felt safe, comfortable and looked after.
Next, we visited Amman Citadel. Situated on one of the seven hills that make up the city of Amman, the Citadel provides a magnificant view. Also known as Jabal al-Qal’a, meaning Citadel Hill, Amman Citadel has been continuously inhabited since the neolithic period. It was fortified during the Bronze age, and today is an open-air museum within its fortified walls. We saw the Temple of Hercules – although I completely missed the Hand of Hercules – an a Bronze era cave. The remains of the Umayyad Palace are impressive, built during the early Islamic period, possibly upon an old Greek palace. Located next to it is a Hamman for bathing.
While we didn’t visit, the Jordan Archelogical Museum is also located on the site. If we had more time, we certainly would have taken a look. However, we were pretty awestruck by the view. Amman Citadel provides a vantage point from where you can have an incredible viewpoint of Amman. While Amman is not a massive city in terms of population, the fact that it is nearly all low rise buildings means it covers an immense amount of land. It’s pink and white tones also make a gorgeous site.
Lastly, we visited the Roman Theater. Once upon a time, Amman was the capital of the Roman Empire, but it went by a different name – Philadelphia, after its Ptolemaic ruler, Philadelphus. The Roman Theater was built from 138 to 161 CE. It could seat up to 6,000 people on its steep stairs, separated by status, gender and nationality.
The government of Jordan started restoring the theatre in 1957. It is an impressive structure, and doesn’t take very long to climb to the top for some incredible views. If you don’t fancy a climb, there is a small Museum of Folklore at the bottom of the theater which features some interesting garments and historical artifacts. There was one guy visiting the museum with two budgies in a cage. You know its good when someone goes to all the effort of taking their budgies along.
We didn’t spend long in Amman, but I was pleasantly surprised at the city. I hadn’t heard great things. In fact, we were told to skip it entirely. I’m so glad I didn’t. The history was fascinating, and I found it a beautiful place. Yes, it doesn’t quite have the magical appeal of Petra. However, it is the centre of Jordanian life – and a very interesting destination. I would certainly recommend that you pass through on your visit to Jordan.
Wael then started driving us to the Dead Sea, stopping on the way for some souvenirs and to take our photo at sea level. Our ears requisitely popped as we descended to the lowest point on earth. We arrived at our hotel, the Dead Sea Hilton, around 2PM and explored the grounds.
All looked pretty good. While plagued with the flies that seemed to be ever-present in Jordan, our suite was very nice – albeit missing the extra bed that we had paid for. As a new hotel, things were rather slow, and information on our upgrade and services purchased seemed to have gone missing. The birthday cake we had ordered for Sunday arrived at around 3PM on Friday afternoon, stating ‘Happy Barthday’. You had to giggle.
Unfortunately, however, things took a bit of a turn later in the day. The world’s worst band practiced in the open outside our suite. There was no escaping the horrific noise. We discovered later – when the music didn’t cease – that a baptism was occurring. We were told this would happen until 10pm, but when the music was still blaring at 12AM, my husband complained. To their credit, we did receive one night’s free accommodation. The resort itself was lovely. However, I’m not sure what kind of Events Manager allows an open-air concert to occur outside of your most expensive rooms. I feel the Dead Sea Hilton lost a fair bit of money that night.
Ever-prepared with earplugs, I got about five hours sleep before we got up early the next day to drive to Petra. Poor old mum and Matt didn’t fare so well. We were all a bit drowsy as we started the three and a half hour drive South.
Hotel: Hilton Dead Sea Resort and Spa, Dead Sea Road، Sweimeh. From 460AED per night.
Transport and Guide: Jordan Day Trips and Tours
Visit: King Abdullah 1 Mosque, Suleiman Al Nabulsi St, 2JD per person. Amman Citadel, Jebel Al Qala’a, 2JD per person. Roman Theater, 2JD per person (includes museum entry). Or, check out the https://www.jordanpass.jo. Ours included our visa and made our stay a lot cheaper. It included entry to all of the above Amman sites (plus Petra).