Amman is the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and with 2.5 million residents it is the largest city in the country. We were thrilled to finally be in the historical city but also knew that being in Amman meant that we would soon be leaving the Middle East.
The ancient city, formerly known as Philadelphia, is said to be over 10,000 years old and has certainly had its share of change over the years with previous rule by the Persians, Greeks, Romans and Ottomans - to name a few.
It was interesting to learn that Amman was a relatively small city until 1948 when it experienced a population boom due to a massive influx of Palestinian refugees that relocated from present day Israel.
We spent one afternoon doing the typical tourist thing. We were told that Amman has an interesting and unique look to it, so we figured the best thing to do was get as high as we could. That meant a visit to the antiquated Citadel that overlooks the sprawling city. The hilltop views did not disappoint, nor did the historical Citadel with its Umayyad Palace, 6th century Byzantine Basilica, 2nd century Pillars of the Temple of Hercules, and great aerial views of the prominent Roman Theatre.
When we think back on our time in Jordan two things stand out: the spectacular landscapes and the Jordanian hospitality.
It felt like every person that we came across went out of their way to say, "Hello. Welcome to Jordan. We wish you a good time!" At first we thought that there must be a catch. You can't blame us though - we had just spent three weeks in Egypt where everyone seems to have a hidden agenda. But there wasn't. Jordanians are just very proud of their country and want to share it with foreigners.
When we were in Dubai during Ramadan a few months ago we met a Jordanian while waiting at a bus stop. Either the bus wasn't coming or we looked very confused because a car stopped a few meters ahead of the bus stop. The car reversed and the driver rolled down the window. He asked if we needed a lift, knowing that the bus route was going in the same direction he was.
We hesitantly accepted - we don't normally make it a practice to get into a strangers car while in foreign countries, but we did anyways because we were in a bind (buses ran infrequently during Ramadan). The friendly driver informed us that he was from Jordan, temporarily working in Dubai as an accountant. He dropped us off in front of the Burj al Arab, shook our hand and wished us a good trip in Dubai. He didn't want money, just to help us out. This was our first encounter with 'Jordan hospitality', leaving a lasting impression on us.
It was so refreshing to have people genuinely welcome us to their country. While eating at a restaurant or having a Turkish coffee, local Jordanians would randomly approach us and strike up a friendly conversation. It was usually only a few minutes of casual pleasantries and would always end with a smiling "Welcome to Jordan. Enjoy!"
It happened on numerous occasions and certainly added to our already positive experience in Jordan. Jordanians are without a doubt some of the friendliest people we've had the pleasure of meeting on this global adventure. We would rank Jordan hospitality in our top three, joining Japan and the Philippines for top honors (with Cambodia and Thailand rounding out the top five).
Our days in Amman revolved around exploring the tight and congested network of hilly downtown streets, marveling at the beautiful mosques, sampling local Middle Eastern dishes from small hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and mingling with locals in cafes. Unfortunately our brief visit to Amman ended too soon. Before we knew it we were standing in yet another airport getting another stamp in our well-used passports.
It was time to put away our sunglasses, shorts and flip flops and take out our jeans, jackets and sweaters. We were headed north in November.
Our next leg would bring us to the city that splits Europe and Asia!
November 9th, 2009