Jordan is an ancient land that dates back to 9000 BC. Nestled in the Middle East’s Levant region, it hosts one of the world’s oldest cultures with spectacular sites to satisfy any ancient civilization buff.
Queen Alia International Airport is Jordan’s largest airport. I’m in Amman to have my senses reawakened, the way that the Middle East tends to do with its ancient sites and mouthwatering cuisine, to rub my hands over a handmade rug, and to hear the never-ending sounds of traffic horns and the call to prayer.
Amman is a great place to start your sightseeing visit in Jordan. Amman has gone through many name changes -from Rabbath Ammon to Philadelphia, to what we know today as Amman. Both Greece and Rome had influence in the country, starting in the 3rd century, and the Greco-Roman architectural structures can be seen all across the capital.
Having high tea in the St. Regis Amman’s Tea Lounge, which serves fine teas and refreshments was my first stop. From here I want to get out and stretch my legs in the city, so I head to the Al Rjoum neighborhood of Amman and Shams El Balad restaurant. A family-owned restaurant, it gives off Beirut vibes with its architecture and style, but it is quintessentially Ammani. Offering Levantine flavors with a Jordanian twist, the restaurant offers healthy but tasty options that will satisfy after a long day of walking.
In the Evening
Newly inaugurated at the St. Regis Amman are the iconic Midnight Suppers, started by Caroline Astor, the mother of John Jacob Astor, American businessman and real estate developer who perished on the Titanic in 1912. Caroline hosted her famed suppers for New York society and the St. Regis Amman has started their own suppers, with a touch of Jordanian hospitality. Guests enter a grand ballroom filled with foliage-lined dining tables and tall candelabras, ready for a seven-course dinner, which sets Jordan and the hotel as a stunning juxtaposition of the traditional and the modern.
In the Morning
The ancient city of Petra is a must-visit destination in Jordan. Just three and a half hours from Amman, it is believed to have been built in the 5th century BC and is located in the Jordanian desert. Once the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom, it contains tombs and temple sites that are carved into sandstone cliffs. The Siq is a 1 km long, narrow passageway that leads from the mouth of Petra to the Treasury, the most famous of Petra’s structures with its temple architecture. You’ll find many stalls of Bedouins selling their artisanal creations throughout your walk in Petra, from handbags, to bracelets, to magnets. Ideally, you need 3 days to see all of Petra, but if you only have one day to give the ancient city, then you need 8 full hours.
Amman is a city that’s important to the three Abrahamic faiths. There are many Old Testament references to the city and to Jordan as a whole -from Mount Nebo, Jesus’s baptism site at the River Jordan, Umm Qais, Lot’s Cave, and Mukawir where John the Baptist was beheaded –all of which can be visited on a day trip.
Upon returning to Amman from one of these sites, walk around the downtown area, called albalad in Arabic, at night. It is the place to go for souvenir shopping from the red-and-white Jordanian keffiyeh to magnets
Before You Leave
If you’re looking for souvenirs that promote social entrepreneurship, Jordan River Designs showroom, located in Amman’s 5th circle, is the place to go. It employs local women artisans who create handmade embroidery products, home furnishings, fashion accessories, handcrafts, and pottery that promote Jordanian culture and give income to the women artisans.
From there, I go to the Roman Theater. Recently restored, the large structure mirrors Roman Philadelphia, and sees thousands of visitors a year. My last stop is the famous Citadel, which gives visitors a taste of ancient Amman during the Bronze Age. Perched on a high hill overlooking the capital, Jebel Al Qala’a as it is known, boasts two key structures: the Temple of Hercules and the Ummayad Palace.