4 reasons to visit Jordan (EXCLUDING Petra)!
So! You read my last post about Petra and now you are wondering is there anything else worth seeing in Jordan? I mean surely you could just fly in for a weekend, see Petra and head off back to your home? Nope, that isn’t a good idea. This post will explain why and so much more! Jordan has HEAPS of things worth seeing and doing. My 4 night, 5 day trip didn’t even come close to touching on everything that Jordan has to offer. If you are wondering why you should visit Jordan, here are my 4 reasons:
Experience a different side of the Middle East in Amman
Amman is unlike any other Middle Eastern capital city that I have visited. It has a vibe and energy about it that is similar to Hong Kong, the cost of things reminded me of Singapore, the streets reminded me of Kuala Lumpur and all of these is coupled with an Arabic twist. There are no super cars, gleaming skyscrapers or many expats around. English isn’t as widely spoken as it is in Kuwait and you get used to being the only non-Jordanian at any given point in time. Amman is steeped in history and culture and you don’t even have to leave the city centre to see the attractions.
You can start with The Citadel. The ticket cost was JD2. The complex covers a large area but the structures worth mentioning are the temple of Hercules (mind you, there is no temple. There are only remains of the temple), the byzantine church (mind you, there is no church. There are only remains of the church), and the Umayyad palace. Luckily, the Umayyad palace was not completely run down like the first 2 places, and is a beautiful structure.
Downhill from the citadel is the restored Roman amphitheater. The amphitheater was cut into the side of a hill and built to seat 6000 people. You pay 1JD to go into the amphitheater. Walk/climb all the way up to the top of the uneven stairs for some quick cardio.
2. Explore the largest collection of Roman Ruins outside of Italy
Outside Italy, hilly Jerash or Jarash or Gerasa or the Pompeii of the East – is one of the largest and one of the most well preserved sites of Roman architecture. The ruins date back to about 2,000 years; within the same site, archaeologists have found ruins dating to even a further thousands of years back. In less than an hour by road north of Amman, you can reach the site and be able to see some of the most impressive, most spectacular, beautifully preserved Roman ruins:
The Romans left many ruins all over the Mediterranean region. Many were built in a very similar way with: colonnaded streets, theaters, temples and fountains. Jerash is an amazing experience, one not to be missed! Walking around the ruins you are treated to glimpses of life from over 2000 years ago. Entrance is 8JD per person.
3. Float in the Dead Sea
Who hasn’t heard about people who came back from Jordan or Israel with tales of how they floated around in the Dead Sea? It is one of those experiences that have to be had to be described. Again, this is another day trip from Amman worth doing if your budget doesn’t extend to staying at one of the luxurious resorts that surround the Dead Sea in Jordan.
It is best arranged through the place you are staying at in Amman and try to negotiate for a deal that includes lunch, beach and pool access as well as the hour long drive there from Amman.
Not being a very strong swimmer, I was convinced that I would be one on the first people to ever sink despite the excessive saltiness however, of course I did not. It is a great way to spend an hour or two before your skin tires and gets a little itchy. Its tempting to wear flip flops into the sea because there isn’t much soft sand under your feet; instead its crystallised salt which is murderous on the feet. The funny part is coming out of the Dead Sea covered in salt. So, grab a nice cup of chai, float on your back and take in the view of the pretty waters!
4. Eat your body weight in Jordan
If you follow me on social media, you know that I am majorly besotted with food, especially food in the Middle East. Jordan does not disappoint in this respect AT ALL. Just look at some of the yummy items I was fortunate enough to consume:
The national dish of Jordan is Mansaf: lamb seasoned with aromatic herbs, sometimes lightly spiced, cooked in yoghurt, and served with huge quantities of rice. Feasting on Mansaf is taken seriously, and hours are spent on its preparation. We had the chicken version at the Rocky Mountain Hotel and it was delicious!
The falafel at Hashem Restaurant (downtown Amman) was the BEST I HAVE EVER EATEN. EVER. Falafel, a combination of ground chickpeas, mixed with a variety of spices, then deep fried into mini patty like shapes, is one of the most common street food snacks or light meals in Jordan. They can be eaten on their own like veggie nuggets, eaten with bread, or stuffed into sandwiches. The falafel I had there was the best I’ve ever had, light and fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, with an aroma of cumin, garlic, and parsley. Fox isn’t a falafel lover but even he admitted that the falafel there was majestic.
Jordanian food is as diverse and varied as its culture, history, and landscapes.
Ok so here are a few last quick points about Jordan:
- We stayed at the Amman Pasha Hotel, which was AMAZING. Even though the room was basic, the people at the hotel really went out of their way to make our stay memorable. They organized our excursions, let us have alone time in the hotel spa at no additional cost and the food at the restaurant was delicious. They’re a short walk away from most of the attractions in Amman as well as the post office, banks and many restaurants. Oh and they have bunnies and turtles on their rooftop terrace. Go, go!
- People smoke everywhere. I am not talking about shisha, I mean cigarettes too. Get used to your clothes and hair smelling like smoke.
- Whatever your budget is, double it. As I said in my last post, Jordan is expensive. Unlike the GCC, they pay 16% tax on everything and in general, a non-Jordanian face means a higher price especially regarding taxi fare. If anyone is hassling you, threaten to call the tourism police (yes they exist) and this was the only way Fox and I were able to buy a bus ticket on the public buses (they wanted to send us and other foreigners in taxis so that the cabbies could make money off us).
- Jordan, just like Kuwait, is utterly safe! Don’t be put off by any misleading reports you hear about apparent unrest in Jordan. It must be the same news sources portraying Kuwait as dangerous.
- Although you may be surprised that you can buy a few beers during happy hour, this is still a predominantly Islamic country. Dress modestly in public areas and behave accordingly!
- Jordan is an exciting, fun place to visit but like most travel destinations it’s best if you just relax and go with the flow. Amman can be chaotic, but not overly so and there are many quiet nooks and crannies to explore. The rest of the country is dynamic and not easily summed up in one word, but your patience and flexibility when exploring the best the country has to offer will always be rewarded with amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Amman was where I said goodbye to Fox as he boarded his plane to Durban and I boarded mine to Kuwait. Although we were sad to be headed in different directions, we were also so happy that we had spent such quality time together!
P.S. How amazing are our new sneakers brought all the way from South Africa to me by Fox? Customisation done by Dhiantha (Laced Designs).