A new chapter of my nomadic life has just begun: two weeks ago I moved to Amman. Usually when people hear Amman, three things come to their mind: Queen Rania, Petra, and the Dead Sea. While all three are absolutely lovely, they do not give Amman itself any credit.
From the first settlements in the area that date back to 7,500 BC to its rich Roman and Byzantine history, Amman is a place where throughout history civilisations have crossed paths. While the area around Amman has always been of strategic importance, it’s only when Jordan gained its independence in 1946 that the city became the country’s official capital.
Even today, Amman remains a cultural melting pot. Jordan hosts refugees both from Palestine (many of whom have been naturalised as Jordanians) and more recently Syria; a fall out from the conflicts in the Middle East. If you add them to the Bedouins and the Circassians, you can imagine how rich the culture (and the cuisine) is, drawing influences from all over the Levant. It’s this diversity that made me immediately feel at home in Jordan – Amman adopts its visitors, becomes a “home for the homeless”.
Built on seven hills and with over 4 million people, strangely enough Amman doesn’t feel crowded. Aside from hotels and some corporate buildings there is a sense of architectural homogeneity, as the majority of buildings are not very tall and are constructed with sandy colour exteriors. Request a window seat on the plane over; flying over Amman is quite an experience.
To navigate Amman, one has to become familiar with its circles. They effectively divide the city in neighborhoods. For example, the area around Abdoun circle is where all the Embassies are, while many galleries and fun restaurants can be found around the first circle.
Weibdeh and Jabal Amman are the two best areas to stay if you feel want to be at the centre of the city’s hustle and bustle. It’s where many of the trendy restaurants and bars are as well. However, if you want a luxury stay you won’t fall out of options – all large hotel chains have a hotel in Amman. With its large avenues, Amman is not a pedestrian friendly city. However, everything is at stone’s throw away with an Uber or a yellow taxi (ask them to turn the meter on!).
The spring and the fall are the best seasons to visit Amman before venturing to places like Jerash, Petra, Wadi Rum or the Dead Sea. The temperature doesn’t go above 25 degrees (great to enjoy lunch in the sun) during the day and it gets cooler in the evening (pack a light jacket if you prefer to dine in one of the city’s many restaurants with outdoors spaces).
Amman Citadel – Amman’s highest hill, it offers a great view of the city. The most striking sights include the Temple of Hercules and the Ummayad Palace.
Amman Design Week – Once a year all of Jordan’s creative minds come together to host events and exhibitions, highlighting the dynamism of Jordan’s design sector.
Roman Amphitheatre – Cut on a hill, the restored amphitheatre is one of the most spectacular remnants of Amman’s Roman days.
Jordan National Museum – If you want a good overview of Jordan’s history, take a few hours to wander around the impressive building.
Darat-al-funun – A small renovated hamlet on the Weibdeh slope, Darat-al-funun presents temporary exhibitions from artists from all over the Middle East.
National Gallery of Fine Arts – on both sides of a park in Weibdeh, the Gallery presents the best Jordanian art has to offer from established artists.
As a friend put it the Venn diagram of places in Amman with both delicious food and alcohol is worth looking into. Always make sure to ask the restaurant you’re planning on going to whether it serves alcohol. Get ready to start enjoying more what’s on your plate rather than in your glass.
Wild Jordan – on the top floor of the Jordan Valley Foundation, this relaxed cafe has the most beautiful view of Amman. The food is inspired by the flavours of the Middle East. I particularly enjoyed their salad options.
Seed – A healthy lunch place in Abdoun. Don’t pass on the juices, they’re the best thing to brave the Amman heat.
Fakhr El Deen – One of best places to drink and enjoy a delicious Levantine dinner. Book in advance!
Jasmine House – An authentic Italian in Amman, serving delicious parmigiana and tiramisu. Bring your own wine, as the restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol. Book a table in the garden, it’s one of the most romantic places in Amman.
Sufra – Beautifully decorated and with delicious food, Sufra is an Amman must. Try the local Mansaf, made with lamb, rice, and a yoghurt sauce. Their warm appetizers are also not to be missed.
Rakwet Arab – Relaxed atmosphere and affordable food. Try their juices and the hummus fatteh made with hummus, pitta and spices.
Daimeh – the Jordan River Foundation’s restaurant is both affordable and delicious, offering creative Jordanian cuisine.
Bonita Inn – in the summer Bonita’s garden is like a little oasis off of the third circle. Good drinks and finger food.
Levant – an institution for Armenian/Arabic food. It’s salads and lamb cutlets are to keep you asking for more.
Umm Khalil – an outpost of the famous Jerash restaurant, Umm Khalil is the place to go for Lebanese food. Huge selection of hot and cold appetisers as well as kebabs.
Mar Yousef pizza: Who would imagine that people would go to church to eat pizza. This social entreprise has reinvented casual dining. Jolly atmosphere, good pizzas and fresh pastas made by Iraqi refugees.
Melograno – Abdoun’s best Italian restaurant. Their suggestions menu changes daily based on the ingredients they receive.
Yoshi – best sushi place in Amman. Beautiful terrace and fresh fish. Beware as it’s not a very affordable option.
Fatty Dabs – High quality meat and a wide choice of options, Fatty Dabs is hands down Amman’s best burger joint.
Blue Fig – Good brunch place in Abdoun. If you’re craving a burger or eggs benedict this is the place to get your fix.
Shams El Balad – Great place for brunch. Their outdoor area has a awesome view of Amman.
Rumi cafe – A hip spot with good coffee at the heart of Weibdeh.
Dimitris coffee -Dimitris coffee sources its beans from all over the world and offers some of the best coffee Amman has to offer.
Kava – Small coffee place in Abdoun with a cute patio that offers itself for reading or working when the weather cools in the autumn.
Mesh Rooftop – Amman’s greenest rooftop, its brunch menu is varied and its happy hour offers one of Amman’s most stunning views.