As we arrived into Jordan’s capital Amman I didn’t really know what to expect. I had visions of Petra and the Dead Sea, but I hadn’t seen any images of Amman. So as we were coming into land I was astonished to see how parched the land was. Arid, brown soil with whitish houses as far as the eye could see covering the rough and hilly terrain.
By governemnt decree all the houses and buildings in Jordan are clad in a local, white stone creating a very uniform look, pleasing on the eye.
Keen to get going and explore the town we checked into our hotel and headed downtown to the old part of the city. I had read a review about a legendary Ammanian street food restaurant called ‘Hashem.’ The gentleman at the concierge desk endorced my choice, who in turn told the taxi driver where we wanted to go.
Twenty minutes later having descended the narrow, winding streets of Amman we reached the restaurant only to find it was closed for Ramadan. Mouth wateringly disappointed, I had visualized the falafels, soft, creamy hummus and moutabel only to find the chairs stacked and not a person in sight.
So where do you find food during Ramadan when the locals are fasting for 18 hours a day?
Amidst a seriously rumbling tummy, we headed to the Intercontinental Hotel. Big hotels are the only real choice during the religious month of fasting. The hotel was on my list of places to visit as it’s Amman’s oldest hotel, but better than that, it had a great Mexican restaurant and cold beer.
To ensure we ate well for dinner that night, I did some more research and choose Nabateh o Fatteh. It was a well-reviewed restaurant in Rainbow Street, the hip part of town. With a rustic vibe and views over the city, I was convinced it would be a winner.
Ensuring the sun was well down we went at 830pm and ordered Mansaf (the national dish of Jordan) comprising of lamb and rice and what we thought was a beer. But no… it was a non-alcoholic malt drink! Undrinkable.
The next morning we headed off to see the Amman cidadel, also known as Jabel al Qala’a. It’s one of Amman’s oldest sites, perched on the top of the cities highest hill. Remains of the 12 civilizations inhabiting the prime site are evident. The summit has been used as a settlement and fortress, dating back 7,000 years. The remains were incredible, especially the Temple of Hercules. On the same site is the Jordan Archaeological Museum with the collection arranged in chronological order from Prehistoric times to the Islamic Age from A.D. 661- 1916.
Back for a siesta to avoid the 38 degree temperatures of the desert, we rested before sunset anticipating an intimate dinner for two back at the Intercontinental Hotel. However, we learnt the restaurant over Ramadan served buffets catering for 2,000 people as it’s the most efficient way to feed families and their work colleagues during this religious ceremony.
We cowardly retreated to our Mexican restaurant and enjoyed another enchaldia and beer!
It was a great experience and so different…. but it would be easier to visit Jordan outside of Ramadan.