The next morning I set off to explore Amman by foot. Amman doesn’t have a great reputation amongst travellers, but for one day I found it an interesting and very welcoming place. First I climbed the steep hill just behind the hotel to the Citadel, a hilltop with a view of all of Amman and yet more Roman ruins. After Umm Qays and Jerash, the few remaining standing columns and Byzantine church were not that impressive, but the view was nice and there was a pleasant early morning breeze.
From the Citadel I strolled back down into the valley on the other side of the hill and then up more steps and another steep hill to the modern art institute called Dara Al Funun, which turned out to be an unexpected highlight of Amman. The steps led past some cool shops and coffee houses and interesting street art, before reaching the entrance to the institute, where there were Byzantine ruins in a peaceful garden.
After the bustle of the city centre the place was idyllic and I sat down to enjoy the peace for a few minutes. Then yet more steps led up to some beautiful old buildings – built in 1920s Venetian Mediterranean style according to my guidebook. The buildings housed Jordanian modern art of various styles. I had a look around and then settled down on a beautiful shady terrace to a cold lemon juice from the café next door. A little fountain burbled quietly in the centre and hummingbirds buzzed around the bright red flowers. Suddenly the quiet was broken by the call to late morning prayers from the cities mosques – a magical sound that echoed around the valley.
Fully refreshed, I headed back into town. Next I visited an old traditional house in the town centre, before sitting down to lunch at Hashem restaurant. This restaurant is a simple but famous place that specialises in traditional Jordan cooking, and is hugely popular – including with the royal family who occasionally pop in to snack there. I was lucky to get a table in the alley leading the main restaurant and could watch the crowds of Jordanians and tourists making their way in and out. I had falafel (the speciality of the restaurant), a big bowl of hummus, and mint tea, which cost $5 in total. I don’t normally eat lunch so it was big effort to get up from table and climb yet more steps to explore Rainbow street during the day and do souvenir shopping.
I then headed back into town and took in the atmosphere of the souks – my favourite was the fruit and vegetable souk with its brightly coloured displays of fresh produce and interesting smells of spices.
I had been walking for five hours, so next it was back to the hotel for a rest, pack my things, and order a taxi for a 5am departure the next morning.
For my early evening aperitif, I found a nearby hotel with a roof terrace and enjoyed my last Jordanian sunset over the city with a cold Karakale beer. Whilst writing my blog I enjoyed listening to the call to prayers for the last time. In the bar I met some surprising teddy-sized friends……….
I spent my last night in Jordan in a trendy bar with a beer and a final bowl of hummus. My flight back home was early next morning. I checked the London weather forecast……… 8C and rain. It didn’t seem that I arrived just over 2 weeks ago – the time had flown past. In fifteen days, I had explored the desert in a 4×4, hiked through Petra, floated in the Dead Sea, visited some amazing Roman ruins, been scuba driving in the Red Sea and walked in the footsteps of Jesus and Moses. My trip had taken me to the borders of Jordan with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel and Syria. But most of all I remembered the smiles and greetings of “Welcome!” from the many Jordanians I met along the way. I hope their country remains a beacon of stability and tolerance in a troubled part of the world.