Amman

Friday 25 May 2018

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was in Israel – right next to Jordan. At the Dead Sea we could basically see Jordan. So it seems rather silly that I’m going back to the area only 3 weeks later. But I found a very cheap flight. And I’ve wanted to go for years. So I’m off.

I’m flying Royal Jordanian, which luckily is a One World airline. So I got to do a bit of lounge touring in Heathrow T3. Cathay have significantly picked up their vegan game since I was last here in March!

We were meant to go at 5pm. But for some unknown reason, were just sitting on the plane at the gate for another hour. And finally at 6pm, off for the 5 hour flight.

They waited until after sunset (9pm) before serving food on the plane. I guess so that people observing Ramadan didn’t miss out – they even announced that it was safe for Muslims to start eating!

We landed around 20mins late. At 12.30am.

I was pretty much first off the plane. And first in the immigration queue. I need a visa to visit Jordan. But had bought this online before I arrived. But you seemed to be able to buy them on arrival also. By 12.40am, I was out of the airport!

I had booked a taxi pick up with the hotel that I’m staying at. But I couldn’t spot anyone. So after a bit of a faf failing with an ATM, I called the hotel. And a guy came and found me shortly afterwards.

The atms were different here. They had an option to use iris scanning, presumably instead of putting a card in! Random. Never seen that before.

It was a 45 minute drive into the city. And I was surprised at the number of cars still out! It was 1am!

Apparently it was Independence Day today. Plus being a weekend. And Ramadan. Means that everyone stays up during the night and do nothing during the day.

I’m just staying at a cheap hotel tonight. Right in the middle of the old city, opposite the Roman amphitheater. The amphitheatre was all lit up. And the streets were teeming with people.

By 2am, I was in bed!

Saturday 26 May 2018

I didn’t sleep much.

There was noise in the corridor until about 3am.

Mosque at 3.40am. Literally right next door.

Mosque again at 4am.

Then I woke at 8am and had to think about getting up for the day. (6am really).

The two hour time difference is painful.

I’m being picked up at 10am. But I wanted to explore Amman. Particularly as I don’t know what time I’ll be back here in a few days time. And I chose this hotel as its right next to some of the main sights.

Breakfast was included in the hotel. I had some flat bread and hummus. They had sarongs draped across the windows of the cafe area. Presumably so people couldn’t see in and see people eating during daylight hours.

What I didn’t realise when booking this trip, was that it is Ramadan. I hadn’t realised Ramadan moved forward by 11 days each year (I just assumed it was around July – as it was when I lived in Malaysia). So that was rather silly.

The streets were deserted. Everything was closed.

I’m staying right opposite the Roman Theatre. This is thought to have been built around 140 AD and seats 6,000 people. However, it was reconstructed in 1957 and was apparently inaccurately built. It was really cool. And there were absolutely no people. It was 9am and I had the place to myself.

Right in front of the theatre is a forum, which was one of the largest public squares in imperial Rome. What remains of it now is just some columns.

From here I headed south, towards the fruit and vegetable market. I was told it was going to be closed. But I wanted to check, as it wasn’t too far away.

But it was open! Not all of it. But there were still many, many stalls, piled high with greens, oranges, watermelon and dates. Lots of nuts, seeds and tea also. It was relatively quiet – not many shoppers. All the stall men were trying to talk to me and generally being friendly. Everyone wanted to say hello. One of them gave me a free peach!

Across from the market is the Nymphaeum. A public fountain which was built around AD190. Today it is still being excavated, so just looks like a pile of rubble, some of them carved, with a couple of columns dotted between.

I passed by a mosque. There were some people sitting around outside. But it seemed quiet.

I walked down the main road back to my hotel. A few souvenir shops were starting to open up. But nothing else.

Everyone is very friendly here. Almost everyone who has walked past me has said hello. And that’s all – no hassle, not trying to sell me anything, just being nice.

I had enough time to get back and pick up my bag, and it was 10am and time to leave.

As I’m only here for a few days, it didn’t really work to join a tour group. And I couldn’t be bothered with public buses. So I’ve hired a driver for 3 days. I’ve never had a driver for more than a day before – so will be different!

We headed out of Amman, out of the old city and into newer areas, with big fancy buildings.

Amman was originally founded across 7 hills. Apparently it has expanded so much that it now stretches across about 20. The main roads appear to cut through the hills, with buildings cascading down the sides and steep staircases leading upwards

Next – Wadi Rum

And Petra

Monday 28 May 2018

Today I had planned to wake very early and be at the park for 6am (opening time), so that I could see the park without the crowds.

But yesterday was just so amazing – and hardly that many people, it didn’t seem worth going back again. So instead, I had a lie in.

Again, I was the only person at breakfast. I had some flatbread with hummus.

Then at 10am, we were off.

We are taking a slightly different route back – along the Kings Highway. This road runs from Amman, down to Petra. And passes by biblical sights and roman forts.

After about half an hour, we stopped off at the remains of Shobak castle, a crusader fort built by the Crusader king Baldwin I in AD 1115.

Now, it’s a bit of a building. A few arches. And a lot of rubble.

I wandered around my myself for a bit. It wasn’t too exciting.

Then for the remaining 3 hours to Amman.

We arrived about 1.30pm. I’m staying at a different hotel this time. The first night, I was literally there for 6hours, so it didn’t seem worth staying somewhere nice. But for tonight, I have a fancy room, with a kitchen and a swimming pool. And more importantly – solid glass windows (so no 3.40am and 4am wake up for me!).

After a bit of lazing around, I headed back out for a walk around.

I’m quite close to Rainbow Street – which sounds exciting. But it wasn’t. It was just a street full of restaurants and cafes. And they were all closed.

I headed to the Wild Jordan Centre. Which I thought was a exhibition type centre. But really it just seemed to be a large shop and a cafe. And the reason I was here – was the cafe! One of the only places which seemed to open during the day during Ramadan. This is the first time I’ve eaten during the day since being away.

I had a lentil tabbouleh and a pineapple smoothie.

Then carried on wandering around. The streets here are really hilly. And the roads didn’t come out where I expected.

I ended up passing through an area full of women’s clothes. Then an area of smoking pipes. A pet area – with actual kittens and puppies in small cages (and birds and fish). Then back up to where I am living.

I popped into a supermarket. Always exciting. I bought 3 different types of dates (including fresh dates! Never had those before!). Two types of halva. And a melon. So just the essentials (!).

For the rest of the day, I hung out at the pool. And lazed about.

The hotel didn’t serve dinner. Nor have room service. I didn’t fancy going out by myself in the dark – and most places seem to need reservations due to many people breaking fast all at the same time. So luckily I had planned ahead with my melon.

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Time to go home already.

After a quick breakfast (of flatbread and jam), by myself again. Why are there no people anywhere?! I tried to order an Uber to the airport.

The first car cancelled on me. The second one arrived then said his electric car didn’t have enough charge to get to the airport. Then about 4 more accepted, then cancelled. And finally, almost half an hour later, one arrived.

Uber is much cheaper than a normal taxi. And they don’t need cash – that is the main advantage.

It’s about a half hour drive to the airport. Which is south of the city, in the desert. The guy was probably about my age and didn’t speak any English. He was typing into his phone and it was translating. About halfway through the journey, he asked me to climb into the front because he was worried about the police!

We made it quite fine!

The airport was very quiet. Didn’t have to queue anywhere. Barely anyone around. The lounge had great snacks – hummus, pitta, olives and dates!

We left on time at 12pm. Flying over the desert. And had a great view of the northern tip of the dead sea (right where I was a couple of weeks ago!).

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