Amman Trail

CONTINUED FROM HERE: Backpacking Jordan

Backpacking Jordan: Day 002 (16-April-2024)

The Amman Trail

As soon as I woke up, I went down to the kitchen and made some green tea for myself. When I went out to the terrace, Paulie, the hostel cat, was waiting for me. She wanted to be cuddled. I have named her Simbi as I think she would be a good match for my cat Simba. We sat there and watched Amman slowly wake up. 

While researching about the tourist attractions in Amman, I came across the Amman trail. It seemed interesting and therefore, I simply decided to follow that.

I got ready and decided to step out. There aren’t many travellers at the hostel. It appears to me that many have cancelled their plans due to the tension across the border. At the reception, I met Manu (Short form for Manuel). I told him that his name is the Indian word for the first man. The word “Man” itself is derived from "Manu". Apparently, he had heard of this before and he likes it. So now, he uses this shorter version to introduce himself.

I walked to the park near Al-Shariaah college/mosque. To reach there I had to get down a flight of stairs and climb up to the hill on the other side of the road. First, I sat at the park and studied the trail. Locals met their friends and hangout here. 

My first destination was Mahjoub Restaurant – Jabal al-Luweibdeh. It is actually a fast-food joint. It was already 9:30am and I was famished. I went through their menu and decided upon trying a Fatteh falafel. Fatteh is made by softening pita bread with hot water and blending it well with a generous amount of hummus. The blend is then garnished with fried almonds. In this variant, I was served with four falafels on the top. It was so delicious that I sat there and finished the whole cup. 

I walked past Petra National Trust, a beautiful building whose gates were closed while I was there.  

I also stopped at Waebdeh viewpoint to get a view of the city. This trail begins at the most affluent part of Amman. On either side of the road there were huge bungalows with beautiful gardens. 

I walked to Paris square which was empty. From here, I took a turn and visited the Darat Mosaic and Ceramic art shop. They conduct pottery and ceramic making workshops. 

I then visited the Darat Al Funun – The Khalid Shoman Foundation. The foundation focuses on bringing awareness towards the atrocities on the Palestinians by the Israeli government. The museum has a wall called “War on Arts and Culture” with names of artists, activists and journalists who were imprisoned, silenced or threatened for expressing support for Palestine. 

I found an art installation called "Misbah" by Mona Hatoum captivating. The installation that first invokes happy childhood memories of lanterns, popular during the month of Ramadan, is abruptly invaded by armed soldiers. It depicts innocence and childhood interrupted by violence and conflict. 

Authoritarian regimes first target artists, journalists and politically active students and suppress their voices. But the power of art is often underestimated by them and it is art that keeps the revolution alive – You can chain the body but not the mind. 

At the art museum, I found one of the most peaceful places in Amman. This outdoor sitting area, by a fountain, under the shade of trees was a perfect place to sit and sketch. I spent a good amount of time there drawing some rough sketches. There were about 5 cats for company. 

Here, I met a poet. He told me that when I was done, I could meet him at the stairs where he creates poems on the go. However, I could not do that. I was reluctant to leave from this peaceful location but I had much to cover. So, I continued on the trail towards downtown. 

One of the most interesting things about Amman is that street art is a trend here. A lot of murals can be found on compound or building walls. Here is a collection of few of them – 

I also took the Al Kalha stairs to downtown which is filled with mural art on either side. 

One of the most interesting places to visit in Downtown is the museum of old signs of Amman. The entry is free. As the name indicates, it has a collection of old signboards. This was something new to me and hence interesting. The caretaker at the museum insisted upon taking a picture in the photo booth they had created - a car being driven by an Arab man. Reluctantly I accepted the offer but I am glad I did. The picture came out really well. 

I stopped at the famous Habibah sweet shop in downtown where I tried a Knafeh. Everyone here seemed to grab a plate of Knafeh. It is the most famous Arabic sweet. This traditional Arabic dessert is made of spun pastry called Kataifi, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup called Attar and typically layered with cheese or clotted cream and garnished with pistachio. Honestly, it was a bit too sweet for my taste. I also do not like cheese a lot. So, one Knafeh was more than enough for me. 

The Duke’s Diwan is one of the oldest buildings in Amman which used to be a post office. Today, it is a museum that preserves the old architecture. From here, one can get a beautiful view of the busy street below. 

Manu from hostel had suggested that I exchange my money at Alawneh Exchange. According to him, they had the best exchange rates and he was right. I got a good deal here without producing any document.  

I walked past the Grand Husseini Mosque which was closed. Behind the mosque is the main market. The market was chaotic, just like the ones in India. I took a walk observing the vegetables, fruits, spices, nuts and meat being sold there. I tried a sweet and sour fruit called Loquat (Also called Japanese plum) which seemed to be popular among the locals. 

I then crossed the Roman Nymphaeum (fountain) which is closed for renovation. But I could see it from the outside. 

The road further leads you to the Roman theatre. It is here that I learnt about the roman connection with the country. Jordan was part of the Roman empire from 106 CE to 634 CE. Amman was then called Philadelphia. The theatre was built in the 2nd century AD during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius. The theatre has a seating capacity of 6000 viewers. It contains three tiers. In the lowest tiers, the senators sat. The citizens sat in the middle tiers and the mixed crowd of urban poor, slaves, foreigners occupied the higher tiers. The celebrations began with a sacrifice to Dionysus (The god of celebration and theatre). The activities involved wrestling with sword or predators. A fence was erected to separate the audience from the predators. 

There is a folklore museum in the chambers below. It has a few mannequins with traditional Jordanian clothing. 

I climbed to the top of the theatre. There were a few boys and a Jordanian couple sitting there. The couple made video calls to their family and friends and showed them the view. I sat there and sketched. On the hill in front of me, I could see the Citadel where I was planning to go the next day. 

I got down and visited the Odeon Theatre which is located to the east of the Roman theatre. This relatively smaller theatre was dedicated to musical activities. 

After that long walk around the city, I returned back to the hostel. I spoke to Abed and extended my stay by two more days as I was still not sure of where to go next. Abed gave me a 10% discount for the new bookings. 

I chose to relax in my favourite place, under the bougainvillea flowers, sketching the day’s events in my journal. My first full day in Amman thus came to a satisfying end.