Begin your stay in the capital, Amman, known in history as Rabbath-Ammon and in Graeco-Roman times as Philadelphia. No more than five hours drive from anywhere in the country, it is a convenient base for your tour. Your hosts, the Jordanians, are wonderfully gracious and welcoming, and most will surprise you with their excellent English. Business and the arts are thriving, and there are first-rate hotels, restaurants, galleries and shops. Add to this energetic mix the mystique of old Amman, and all your expectations will be surpassed.
Amman consists of an old and more traditional part called "City Centre" or "Downtown" (in Arabic Balad), and a modern vibrant western style "West Amman".
High above the city, at the ancient Citadel, study the traces of Amman's many lives: the regal columns of a Roman temple in silhouette against the sky, the elegant capitals of a Byzantine church, endlessly inventive carvings in the Umayyad Palace, fascinating displays in the Archaeological Museum... and digs and ruins everywhere you step. At the foot of the Citadel, take a seat in the Roman Theatre, a deep-sided bowl carved into the hill and still used for cultural events.
For a glimpse of recent history, take a ride on the Hijaz Railway. This famous train was repeatedly sabotaged by the Arab troops of Emir Faisal and Lawrence of Arabia to defeat the Ottomans. While the days of Lawrence are long gone, the railway retains its sentimental appeal.
In a quieter vein, wander through Abu Bakr al-Siddiq Street (Rainbow St.), with its lovely villas from the 1920s and 1930s. Stroll through shops and Suqs (oriental markets) and find unique treasures to take home. Take in the music that is at the heart of Jordanian culture. Pause in the coffee houses for a game of backgammon, or savour the sweets and mezzeh (appetisers) of traditional Jordanian cuisine.
Above all, as a privileged and honoured guest, delight in the friendship of the Jordanian people and the heritage and beauty of their land.
WHAT TO SEE
Information on Amman and its attractions are available from the Ministry of Tourism, 3rd Circle, tel. 4603360, hours 08:00-15:00, Sun. to Thurs. or the Jordan Tourism Board, tel. 5678294, which provide all kinds of information, maps and brochures, hours 08:00-16:00, Sat. to Thurs. This is also the place to contact in the unlikely event you have a complaint about a hotel, restaurant, etc.
Towering above Amman, the site of the earliest fortifications. Numerous excavations show Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic remains, and excavations are continuing. Important structures are the Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace complex with its monumental audience hall, and a Byzantine church.
Jordan Archaeological Museum
Citadel Hill, tel. 4638795. Excellent collection of the antiquities of Jordan dating from prehistoric
times to the 15th century. Opening hours 08:00-19:00 April - Sept., and 08:00-16:00 Oct. - March. Fridays and on official holidays 10:00-16:00. Admission 2 JD.
Dating from 151 AD and built to seat 6,000 people, the theatre has been partially rebuilt and is again being used for performances.
Jordan Folklore Museum
Roman Theatre, tel. 4651742. A recreation of traditional Jordanian life, including costumes, home furnishings, musical instruments and handicrafts dating back to the 19th century. Opening hours 08:00-19:00 April - Sept., and 08:00-16:00 Oct. - March. daily except Fri. 10:00-16:00. Admission 1 JD, the ticket is valid for the Museum of Popular Traditions.
Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions
Roman Theatre, tel. 4651760. Costumes and jewellery from Jordan and the West Bank, many over 100 years old; mosaics from Jarash and Madaba. Hours 09:00-18:00. Entrance fee (see the Jordan Folklore Museum).
Built in the 2nd century AD and recently rebuilt, this intimate 600-seat theatre is now used for concerts.
Downtown Amman. A typical Middle Eastern market where you can buy almost anything - it is also an interesting cultural experience.
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts
Jabal al-Weibdeh, tel. 4630128. Fine collection of paintings, sculptures and ceramics by contemporary Jordanian artists, as well as work by artists of other Muslim countries. Hours 09:00-17:00, closed Tues. and Fri.
Shmeisani, tel. 5665195. A heritage and science museum geared to children, with lots of "hands-on" exhibits to try. Hours 08:30-16:00. Closed Fri. Admission 0.750 JD.
Martyr's Memorial & Military Museum
Near Al-Hussein Youth (Sport) City, tel. 5664240. Chronological display of military memorabilia dating from the Arab Revolt of 1916 to the present, housed in a monumental building. Hours 07:30-16:00, closed Fri.
University of Jordan
The University has several small museums, including those for Biology and Medicine (which may be of interest to the specialist), as well as an Archaeological Museum, an Anthropology Museum and the National Folklore Museum, tel. 5355000. Hours Sun.-Thurs. 08:00-17:00. Academic holidays 08:00-15:00. Admission free.
CULTURE & ART
The English-language newspaper, The Jordan Times, is publishing a list of cultural, sport and entertainment events daily.
Jordan has a rapidly developing fine arts scene, including an increasing number of women artists. Today artists from various Arab countries find artistic freedom and inspiration in Jordan. The Jordan Association of Artists will help you co-ordinate a studio and gallery tour of Amman. The Royal Cultural Centre and various foreign cultural centres (listed below) often organise exhibitions for foreign and Jordanian artists.
Al-Mashreq Gallery, Shmeisani, tel. 5681303. Paintings and framing. Opens daily 10:00-14:00 and 15:30-19:00, closed Fri.
Baladna Gallery, Al-Shahid Wasfi al-Tall Street (Gardens), tel. 5537598. Paintings, contemporary Jordanian jewellery. Opens daily 10:00-19:00, closed Fri.
Orfali Art Gallery, Umm Uthaina, tel. 5526932. Paintings, sculpture and ceramics. Opens daily 10:00-14:00 and 16:00-20:00, closed Fri.
The Gallery, Jordan Inter-Continental Hotel, tel. 464136l. Paintings, sculpture and ceramics of Jordanian artists. Opens daily 07:30-19:00, closed Fri.
Zara Gallery, Grand Hyatt Hotel, tel. 4651433. Paintings, solo and collective exhibitions. Opens daily 11:00-19:00, Sat. 15:00-19:00, closed Fri.
4 Walls, Sheraton Amman Hotel, tel. 5920902. Art exhibitions, music concerts and plays for local and foreign artists. Opens daily 09:00-19:00, closed Fri.
Royal Culture Centre
Near Al-Hussein Youth (Sport) City, tel. 5669026, fax 5669081. This modern complex houses theatres, cinemas, conference and exhibition halls and is a regular site for numerous cultural activities. A monthly programme is available on request, and the English newspapers The Jordan Times and The Star carry details of events. The Jordan Film Festival is held here every year in May.
Jabal al-Weibdeh, tel.4643252, fax 4643253. Opens daily 10:00-19:00, closed Fri. An outstandingart centre for contemporary Arab art. Located in three old buildings placed around the ruins of a Byzantine church, with exhibition rooms, artist workshops, library for art books, poetry reading, outdoor theatre and music performance in summer.
THEATRES & CINEMAS
Foreign-language films are shown with the original soundtrack and Arabic subtitles. Times are listed almost daily in The Jordan Times. Film shows are also often organised by the various Cultural Centres. The Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation organises a foreign film show every Tuesday evening at 18:30-21:00, free of charge.
SPORT CLUBS & FITNESS CENTRES
Amman has numerous sports clubs and fitness centres. In most cases, you can pay per visit or take a short-term member ship. Some facilities are segregated for men and women. The following are a selection:
Shopping is great fun in Jordan. There is a lot to choose from that is well crafted and unique. The following shops should not be missed:
SUPERMARKETS & DEPARTMENT STORES
There are many supermarkets and grocery stores in Amman, and they are generally well stocked with local and imported foods. The largest are the Safeway and Plaza Super Stores in Shmeisani, and C Town near the 7th Circle. The ground floor is a supermarket, while the second floor is a department store offering clothing, electrical and household goods, cosmetics, leather goods, toys etc.
WHERE TO STAY
Amman has several world-class hotels. Four and five-star hotels provide laundry and dry cleaning, currency exchange, secretarial services, fax and postal services, gift shops, beauty salons and babysitting, (for babysitting, advance notice is required). The Ministry of Tourism has established ratings.
Hotels are often the venue for Jordanian weddings, which are elaborately celebrated. In the summer especially, you may hear the music from around the hotel pools, and have a chance to watch the fun from your hotel room balcony.
Jordan has many first-class restaurants specialising in foreign cuisine, especially in Amman. It is preferable to book in advance, especially in summer. Many restaurants, particularly those catering to visitors, accept credit cards. Note that during Ramadan, restaurants are closed during the day and open at sundown.
Jordan Major Cities