“Welcome to my country”. This was a common greeting David and I received as we weaved around the sandstone streets of Amman, Jordan. A country known for hospitality (often shown by offering sweet mint tea) and with a vibrant history dating all the way back to 7250 BC.
The Middle East can be viewed by some as an “unsafe” place to visit, Jordan however felt safe (even though it borders both Syria and Iraq). We decided to rent a car in Amman to give us the flexibility we desired to travel around Jordan. We kicked off our first couple of days in the capital city Amman. Amman is the economic and political hub of Jordan with an ever growing population (currently over 4 million).
A little under half of Jordan’s population calls Amman home. This city is considered to be among the most liberal and westernized of all Arab cities, making Amman a great choice to dive into and experience the Middle East. This city is the launching point for Jordan’s 3 main attractions; Petra, Wadi Rum Dessert, and the Dead Sea. We’d recommend staying in Amman for at least a day before driving off to experience these attractions.
Tip: Rent an old car, streets are narrow and parking spots quite tight. The more bumps and scrapes the car already has – the better.
Note: If you are interested in buying any local souvenirs, Amman is one of the best places to strike a good deal. Coolest items we saw; Bedouin style carpets and tea sets.
Stay – Amman
Eat – Amman
Hashem Restaurant, a bustling place with fast service and authentic food. Their hummus and falafels are the cheapest/tastiest we found in Jordan – $4 a meal.
Abu Zaghleh, tucked away in an alleyway here you are eating amongst locals. We recommend trying the chicken shawarma or our favorite tandoor bread (similar to naan), perfect for dipping in zaatar and hummus.
Visit – Amman
Walk around this ancient Roman theater that was build in 100 AD. Access to this site is only a few dollars (and includes entrance to two small attached museums).
2. Rainbow Street
This street is a nice jaunt from downtown Amman (a little under one mile up hill) and offers a great view once you reach the top. Walk around here to find some nice dinner options or a cafe to enjoy a coffee as the sun sets over the old city.
3. Citadel Hill
In addition to the ruins of both Roman columns and an early Islamic palace this hilltop site has a vast view looking down into Amman.
4. Jordan History Museum
We recommend heading to the small section on Bedouin history. If you have time you can spend a few hours exploring the other exhibits (overall a fairly small museum).
Dividing Israel and Jordan is the winding Jordan River. To the north is place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Entry into the site came with a tour guide and driver that will chauffeur you around the property, baptismal site, and attached cathedral. This historical site is also split in the middle between Jordan and Israel. It was interesting seeing both countries guards standing to on their country’s edge – protecting their side of history.
Note: Your driver will take you to a gift shop on site. Here you can buy a baptismal robe to enter the water for an immersive on-site baptism (you must purchase a robe). If you are interested in taking home something from this site – you can fill a water bottle for a keepsake.
On your drive we’d also recommend stopping for a lunch overlooking the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea. If this is your only encounter with the Dead Sea we’d recommend booking an experience at Marriott’s Dead Sea Spa. Here you can cover yourself with the mineral rich mud and float in the water to experience the most buoyant natural water in the world (34.2% salinity).
Wadi Rum Desert
To the south of Amman, deep into the desert, we joined a group of Bedouins at their tented camp. Here we spent one night with them under the stars, hearing campfire stories, enjoying their sweet mint tea, and understanding their unique life in the desert. After a night in a tent made of rugs we explored the area on the backs of camels.
- Several options to stay via booking.com – read the lastest reviews before making your choice
- Do not plan on wifi – even if the camp claims to have it
- Most camps have several sleeping arrangements from shared tents to your own luxury tent with a bathroom (all are quite affordable).
- Plan to eat dinner and breakfast there – you are in the desert 🙂
- Tours are offered at each camp, we recommend booking them when you arrive to negotiate the price.
- Drink (and enjoy) the tea – turning it down when directly offered is considered rude.