Today, we explored the oldest part of the city, the Citadel area, the acropolis in the centre of downtown Amman. The weather today was perfect: blue skies, 20C and a light breeze. Lucy arrived at the hotel about 1am so we slept in a bit and had breakfast around 1015. We set off for the Citadel at 11am.
Entry was covered by our Jordan Pass and once inside the gate we picked up a guide, Mahmout, who spoke excellent English, and really knew his subject. There has been habitation on the mound for thousands of years, but the main habitation groups were Greeks, Romans and then the Moslem period. All are represented up on the top and excavation work is still underway with a major Roman area identified by sonar and ready to be revealed. One of the most evocative sights are the ruins of the Temple of Hercules which had been pretty intact until the early 20th century when it was toppled by an earthquake. The pillars are still beautiful though. There had been a monumental statue but only the foot and the elbow have been discovered so far.
We then went into a cave which housed perhaps 40 or 50 dwellers back in ancient times. They tarred the roof to keep it from crumbling. The whole hill is limestone. We saw a Byzantine church (tiny doorway only remains), a mosque and the original milestone for the location from Roman times. In those days, Amman was called Philadelphia and it was one of the Decapolis – ten cities – of the area.
There is a small but interesting archaeological museum on the top. Full of articles found in historic sites around the area. Very interesting. Of course the views are stupendous. We looked down over the panorama of the whole city, built like Rome, on seven hills.
After exploring the Citadel, we walked down the narrow streets and steps to the Roman Theatre, a very large site dating from 161-191 AD and still in use today. Very impressive. There was also a small Greek Style Odeon (playhouse/meeting place) adjacent dating from about the same time and we were practically alone in there. Tomorrow we will visit one of the major Roman sites in this part of the world: Jerash.
After that we walked through the old town and called in at Jafra café again for another cup of their delicious coffee. Nice to go there with Lucy. Then we walked about .7 mile to our lunchstop. Have I mentioned how hilly Amman is?:??? LOL. .7 of a mile sounds nothing. But this .7 mile was up very steep hills and a large number of steps!!!! Puff puff.. We deserved our lunch. Which was at one of the most famous lunchstops in the city: Al Quds on Rainbow Street. They make falafel sandwiches said to be the best in the country. We had to give them a try and at about 60p per sandwich, very good value. We watched them cooking the falafel balls – wow, they rolled them out using a balling tool, so fast. Then you got about 5 balls, salad and sauce in a sesame seed toasted flatbread. Yum. On reflection I prefer Israeli style falafel sandwiches, but this was very good.
On we walked, to visit a quirky arts workshop called Ola’s Garden which we’d heard about. Owned by an artist called Ola, everything inside is her creation, from ear rings, bracelets, necklaces, scarves, bookmarks, hangings, blouses. We had a good mooch around but it was pricey so we didn’t buy anything.
At this point tiredness was setting in, so we called up a Uber to take us to the Jordan Museum. This is the new museum on the block, in a fabulous purpose built location showcasing the history of Jordan from Neolithic times to the present day. A really good museum with very well set out exhibits and some very unique displays. It was quite thrilling to see a whole room devoted to the Dead Sea Scrolls, with some on display. Most are on parchment, but they also had the copper cylinder there. This was a unique scroll which detailed where treasures of gold and silver were concealed in Jordan. Sadly none have been found and scholars believe these were apocryphal. There were rooms with some of the oldest statues, strange bug eyed people, which are the oldest human statues ever found. Of course there are Greek, Roman and Nabataean rooms. Interesting for when we visit Petra in a few days.
By the end we were ready for a rest. so we Ubered back to the hotel to put our feet up before dinner. A fabulous day so far in this most interesting and friendly city.
Tonight we ate out at a very popular and stylish restaurant called Sufra on Rainbow Street. A very pretty old house set in a lovely garden, buzzing with diners. They specialise in Jordanian food. We started out with some delicious but tiny pickled olives with lemon. We then had 4 meze plates: tabbouleh salad, hoummus with pickled aubergine and walnuts (the best), small puffy blini with minced lamb on top, fried vegetables with tahini. They brought us plenty of warm flat breads. Lovely.
For mains, Lucy had mansak which was even better than last night; Bob had a lamb stew cooked in a clay pot, and I had mixed grill. The waiter got Lucy to try eating the mansak the local way by rolling the rice in her hand and eating it like that. Finally we had mint tea and Turkish coffee. No alcohol available. I stuck to water but Lucy and Bob had a mint lemonade sherbert drink that was lovely.
Afterwards we walked along Rainbow Street which was clearly the happening place to be on a Friday night in Amman. It reminded me of the film American Graffiti or any of those films depicting 50s/60s American teen life. The street was a steady stream of cars full of young guys, proud of their cars, playing their music loudly, leaning out of the windows. A blast from the past.
Another good day.