A Day in Amman - Off the Beaten Track
Written by Raghda Butros
If, like me, you like to look beyond the ordinary and explore outside your bubble, then please join me on a day off the beaten track in Amman.
Start your day with an early morning stroll alongside Khrifan St. To get there, take the Al-Bouhturi St. exit from First Circle, then head to Omar Bin Khattab St. At the intersection of Omar Bin Khattab and Al-Mugheerah bin Shu’ba St., take the small staircase next to the Afaneh Center building. Once at Khirfan St, keep the beautiful old row houses to your left and the gorgeous view of Ras El-Ain to your left. Make sure to chat to the kids, who are always happy to share a story or kick around a football with you.
At the end of Khirfan St., take the staircase (Qabartai St. Staircase 3) down to King Talal Street and turn right towards to Saqf Iss-Sail (officially known as Quraish St., but the popular name invokes Amman’s buried stream). In Saqf Iss-Sail, you can hunt for dusty old records and knicknacks at The Public Showroom. If Abu Ali, the shop owner, offers to take you down to the basement, don’t freak out, that’s where the best treasures are hidden. Pay a visit to the Jorah - literally a an open-air basement with a lot of second-hand furniture on offer. Most of it isn't very exciting, but you will sometimes come across a great find. Haggle for a good price - a few words of friendly conversation will get you the price you're looking for.
Stroll back to King Talal St. and quench your thirst with sugar-cane juice at Big Ben (formally known as Big Bin - now that’s a photo I wish I had taken!). Natural, delicious and with a myriad of health benefits listed outside the shop. Everything from better skin to an enhanced immunity - all for JD 0.50 a glass.
Carry on walking to Raghadan Plaza and take a service up to Jabal Ashrafieh, where you can visit the Abu Darwish Mosque and the shops around it. This is a great spot to enjoy a gorgeous view of the city, take photos and meet people. Ask around for Jawharet Armenia and stop buy for some delicious Armenian Sfeeha and other pastries. Walk down to the Roman Catholic church with the shimmering silver roof and check out the incredible view of the other side of the city. There is an elderly woman who lives in the building opposite the church who would be happy to give you a cup of tea and let you enjoy the 350 degree view of Amman from her balcony.
On the way back down from Ashrafieh to the Balad, pass by Bait il-Shi’er (The Jordanian House of Poetry) in Jabal Jofeh, a beautiful old two storey house with large terraces, which was once a family home, then became a well-known girls' school and is now home to poetry recitals, cultural activities and a database of Jordanian poets and poetry. From Bait Il-Shi’er, you have the opportunity to see the Roman Theater from a whole new vantage point and take photos of the Balad and surrounding hills.
Jabal Jofeh is also home to of Amman’s top start-ups, Jamalon.com. Find Hayy Umm Teeneh, ask for the Sallal clan and pay this family-run business a visit. Don’t be surprised if the eleven year-old girl who opens the door introduces herself as the Communications Manager.
Walk down to the Roman Theater and pay a visit to the Daggers Workshop, the last hand-made dagger shop in the city. From the Theater, head to the Amman Municipality Library right next door - a great old building which houses a large number of Arabic books and a very popular magazine and newspaper reading area. The building is under threat of being converted to a hotel in the near future - so pay a visit and add your voice to those calling for its preservation.
Take the staircase across from the Roman Theater and head up to Jabal Qalaa and enjoy the incredible view of the Roman Theater and Jabal Jofeh from the lookout point. While there, look around for the kids who are usually hanging out and playing in the area. Ask them to teach you how to make a kite (you may need to go and buy the materials together if they don't have any on hand). Walk up to the Citadel with them and fly the kite while enjoying a cool breeze and another great view of the Amman. Please note that the new management of the Citadel doesn't always allow the kids in to fly, so you need to use your powers of persuasion with the powers that be.
Walk or catch a ride from Qalaa to Jabal Hussein and head to Ghazi, a favorite childhood shop where you can enjoy delicious soft serve ice cream in chocolate and vanilla or lemon and strawberry (I personally prefer the latter). Walk around Jabal Hussein and check out the shops. Lots of options and good prices on clothes, shoes and random items.
Head to Jabal Luweibdeh and enjoy the village-like feel of the neighborhood where there is a lot to choose from in terms of things to do. Visit a gallery, of which there are many, spend time at the park (El-Muntazah), or walk around and enjoy the architecture. If you're on Shari'a St., try and drop by Turath, where Dr. Rami Daher can give you a lesson in Amman's urban heritage (ok, he might not appreciate people just dropping by at all hours, but you can try your luck!).
Finally, if it's a Thursday night, which I am hoping it is, walk down to Abdali and visit the Abdali Friday Souq, where you can find a huge array of things to browse and buy - from used clothes, to designer bags, to vegetables, toys and a weird and wonderful collection of shoes.
End your day in Abdali with ka’ek and baked eggs at Salaheddin Ba kery, and a glass of mint tea and a game of backgammon at Ammon Cafe on Salt St. If you get lost along the way, ask the friendly people of Amman and they’ll be happy to help. Enjoy the adventure and let us know how it went.