The Citadel | Amman


Backpacking Jordan: Day 003 (17-April-2024)

The Citadel

As always, I was the first one to wake up in the hostel. When I stepped out to the terrace with my cup of tea, Simbi was waiting to be cuddled. 

I got ready and left the hostel at around 8AM. On my way to the Citadel, which is located on a small hill, right behind the hostel, I came across a small canteen that serves perhaps the most authentic falafel wraps in town. The old man at the counter welcomed me with a broad smile and asked me what I would like to have. Since he was able to speak descent English, he advised the servers to make a wrap for me. The wrap cost me .30JD - the least I have ever paid for a falafel wrap. So, that is the real price. 

I continued my walk to the citadel and got my Jordan pass scanned at the entry. The Jordan pass allows access to many historic sites across the country and also waives off the visa fee. It is valid for 2 weeks after the first use. 

Citadel, an archaeological site in the heart of Amman has many structures from the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods. Jordan’s history is a fascinating one. From the Persian period to Hellenistic era to Nabatean period and then from Roman and Byzantine era to Umayyad period and from Ottoman period to the modern times, it has seen so many changes and therefore the country displays a beautiful blend of different cultures. 

The major attraction at the Citadel is the Temple of Hercules. Currently, there are a few pillars remaining and part of a hand of the main idol. 

Since there were very few tourists visiting, I picked a good spot and began sketching. The joy of sketching at a live location is unmatchable. I find it the best way to focus on the little details which otherwise would have gone unnoticed. 

I spent a few hours sketching and trying to paint. I say “try” because a middle-aged local man sat next to me and chatted non-stop. He spoke to me about some Indian family from Kerala who lived next to his house and how they were very emotional when he moved to a new location. He was actually a guide who wanted to tag along with tourists with the pretext of telling the history and then demand a tip. He kept calling the tourists to see the graveyard behind us. Apparently, the ground behind me was a graveyard. Most of them ignored him. He kept asking me if I would be painting there for a long time or would I like to go on a guided tour with him. When I politely declined his offer, he asked me if I could give him 2JD. I smiled and said that I had no cash. Bored of seeing only yellow ochre that I was meticulously adding to the pillars on my sketch, he asked me to use some other colours. To be honest, he was a little annoying but I kept smiling and ignoring him and avoided any further conversation. Thankfully, in some time, he tagged along with some tourist and disappeared from the location I was at. 

After he left, I met a Youtuber couple from Punjab who were travelling around the world. The man seemed busy making voice over videos for his channel. He asked me – “Is this your hobby? How long will you take to finish it?”. After some basic conversation, he went ahead with his task of making videos about the place. His wife, disinterested in the process, tired of the scorching heat, kept hunting for a shaded place to sit. 

A bunch of school girls came to me and expressed their interest in seeing my work. I showed them some of my paintings and they were impressed. Soon, their teacher came and asked them to hurry up. Whoever I have met here in Jordan have always welcomed me once they learn that I am from India. 

After adding some basic colours, I decided to stop and visit the Jordan Archaeological Museum inside the premises. There are some beautiful work stored here. I personally loved this very interesting jug. Have we become less creative now due to the technological advancements that prevent us from thinking? 

This two-headed statue was made of lime plaster, reed and bitumen. This was found in the modern-day city of Ain-Ghazal in the outskirts of Amman. This Pre-historic art work is considered one of the earliest representations of human beings. 

Water nymph (Roman era)

I also visited the Byzantine church, Umayyad Palace and the residential units built for the citizens inside the citadel. 

Umayyad Palace
Residential Unit

Byzantine church

After spending a good half day there, I descended the hill and stopped for lunch at the famous Hashem restaurant. They served me a lot of food. I had a tasty Mutabal and some French fries that by default comes with vegetables, pickles and 2 huge Pita breads. The mint tea was refreshing. 

Mutabal is a dip made of roasted aubergine, garlic, lemon juice, tahini (Sesame seed paste) along with some herbs and spices. 

After a heavy meal that I struggled to finish, I retuned back to the hostel and relaxed for a bit under the Bougainvillea flowers. Simbi sat next to me and watched me continue my painting of the Hercules temple. 

I had been in touch with Jose, one of the travellers I connected with on Couchsurfing website. When a traveller with whom he had planned to do this trip cancelled due to safety reasons, he felt sad and ended up cancelling all the bookings except the flight tickets. Thanks to my Instagram stories, he was able to see that life was normal in Amman and there was no risk. We had a quick chat and discussed a rough plan to travel by road for the next one week. He was finally convinced to fly the next day. I therefore extended my stay at the hostel for another day. 

In the evening, I took a walk to the downtown again. A lot of locals spend the time shopping here. The food joints are always full. The Egyptian sugarcane juice seems to be a new trend here. Apart from that there are stores that sell sorbet, shawarma, baked items and desserts.  The lotus Biscoff seems to be popular here. They have ice creams and smoothies made of this flavour. 

I walked to the Roman theatre. At the Hashemite Plaza a lot of locals had gathered. As I have observed, every city has a place where the locals gather as the sun goes down. In Amman, it is the Hasemite plaza in front fo the theatre. Kids were skating or playing football. Older men and women chatted with a cup of tea in their hands. Many had brought home-cooked food and drinks and had settled down at a comfortable place chatting with their friends. It is in such a place that a traveller becomes a local for some time. I sat there and observed everything until I became a part of the crowd. 

Harissas for dinner

CONTINUED HERE: Exploring Amman