Jordan has a strange, haunting beauty and a sense of timelessness. Dotted with the ruins of empires once great, it is the last resort of yesterday in the world of tomorrow. I love every inch of it – King Hussein I
When we received an invite from the Jordan Tourism Board, I must admit that I was not aware what Jordan had in store for me and whether it would even be safe to travel to this country in the war torn Middle East, but the seven days that I spent there, changed the perception. After a week of exploring places, meeting local people and understanding their way of life, history and culture, I can now say with confidence confident that Jordan is an oasis of calm amidst all the turmoil. This series is going to be an ode to this beautiful country which is as rich in heritage as it is in heart.
This journey started with a boring bus ride from Pune to Mumbai, and a long wait there for the midnight flight. Half sleepy I met my travel companions, fellow bloggers Sid, Nisha, Anu, Revati and Deepti. After some raised eye brows on our visa letter, we got our boarding passes on assurance of having high credit limit cards and off we were to Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi was a struggle to be honest – lack of vegetarian food options and no sleep through the long layover. By the time we reached Amman, I was so tired that keeping the eyes open seemed like the biggest challenge ever faced by me. Visas were quick to come by and after collecting our bags, we were greeted by our tour guide Waleed, a handsome young man 🙂 🙂 🙂 and a perfect example of an urban Jordanian. I was excited by the first view of Amman, slightly hazy due to a dust storm the engulfed the region for past two days.
Amman, The White City, The City of Pigeons, or The City of Stairs, as it is nicknamed, is the country’s political, cultural and economic center; and happens to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. The city derives its name from ‘Rabbath Ammon’ or ‘Kings Quarters’ given by the Ammonites in 13th century BC. It was also known as ‘Philadelphia’, meaning brotherly love, named after the Macedonian ruler Ptolemy II Philadelphus. More than half of the entire population of Jordan resides in Amman and with the influx of refugees, this number is ever increasing. The city is divided in two parts: West – where most of the rich business man reside with huge lime stone houses, and East – where the lower income group resides in small, bricked houses huddled close together. Waleed mentioned that the King’s castle is also located in the eastern part of Amman as he wants to be near the people!
As soon as we were at our hotel Le Royal, located in the centre of Amman, we rushed to have our lunch. Dinner was an elaborate affair and our first experience with the Jordanian cuisine was as royal as it can get. The table was loaded with countless dishes varying from pita, hummus, baba ganush to kebabs and salads. After a sumptuous lunch and an amazing dessert, I crawled to our rooms to freshen up and wait for the rest of our troupe to join. Ajay, Shilpa, Bhaven and Sambhavna (from Think Strawberries) had arrived from Delhi and Madhu was from Chennai.
After some leisure time, we assembled in the evening and headed towards the Rainbow street for dinner. Rainbow street is the main hangout place for the young and foreigners alike and reflects the vibrant night-life of Jordan. We went to Sufra restaurant located at end of the street, a beautiful little place which served us the richest of Jordanian cuisine. People tend to bond better over delicious food and we were not an exception 🙂
After dinner we decided to walk back to the hotel and were happy to see a lot of restaurants playing live music and serving hukkah. While we were interacting with the locals, a group of men in long red robes started playing some great music and people around began dancing! It was an incredible experience to witness people enjoy their lives together to the fullest.
We even passed by a Hammam (Turkish Bath), which is a community massage and spa facility and is quiet famous. The owner of this place was a jovial gentleman who invited us for a glass of tangy rose juice and even shared how he gets the oils from Morocco and runs the business. The first hand experience of life in Jordan, around the lovely Jordanians was turning out to be a good one !
I was quite tired by the time we retired for the night, but equally happy and excited. If the first evening in Jordan was anything to go by, it was going to be a great trip ! Could not wait to see what the next day had in store for us !