Amman is built on a city of hills. It sits on a spit of land close to the Dead Sea. It’s one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world and is a perfect mesh between old and new. Nevertheless, it gets a bad rap. Jordan happens to be in a tough neighborhood. It is squished between Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Few of these countries are vacation hot spots and several of them have State Department travel advisories. But this shouldn’t stop travelers from experiencing Arab hospitality or the rich history Amman has to offer.
Grandparents tend to freak out when they hear of family members heading to the Middle East. Amman is a happy exception. It is the cosmopolitan crossroads of the Middle East. It’s modern enough where women aren’t obligated to wear a headscarf, or a hijab, like they are in Iran. However, if you intend to visit a mosque, it’s important to dress respectfully and that may include a headscarf. Women are safe, but are occasionally ogled at.
Amman is best experienced from the inside out. It’s built on a city of hills and circles. From Jabal Amman or Old Amman in First Circle, on a clear day, you can see the world’s largest flagpole and roman ruins. There’s open air markets, or souqs, most days except Fridays. When you’re at a souq, you absolutely have to bargain. It’s part of the cultural experience. Amman offers fantastic souvenirs including dirt cheap saffron and exquisite gold.
If you want to experience ancient empty streets, head out on a Friday morning. Everyone is at mosque and the city is silent. You’ll get picturesque views all to yourself, so whip out the selfie stick–no one’s going to judge.
Heading from the inside out, check out King Hussein’s Royal Automobile Museum in West Amman. If you’re a car buff, this is a must-see. You can see some of the oldest cars and motorcycles in the Middle East. Plus, the King’s entire collection of cars lies here. And to say he was a gearhead is a wild underestimation of the word “gearhead”.
The best part of Amman is that it can easily be done in a few days. But there’s so much more to see. You can go to Petra in under 3 hours. You can drive to the Dead Sea in well under an hour. Scuba diving at the Red Sea is a 4-hour car trip.
Yes, your grandparents are nervous for you. And that’s okay. But if you bring them back saffron that you purchase for pennies on the dollar, they might change their tune. Amman is enchanting and definitely worth a visit.