Trip Start Feb 08, 2010
11Trip End Feb 22, 2010
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We've been in Amman for 24 hours. This is a bustling city with markets, lots of archeological sites, and great food. Historically, Amman is the largest city and capital of Jordan. This city has been ruled by many civilizations and the Greeks named it Philadelphia. In many ways, Amman reminds me of Jerusalem – the topography, the weather, and the long history.
The weather has been fantastic – in the low 60s during the day and in the low 40s at night.; also dry and very sunny. We've visited some of the city's historic sites and walked through old Amman's commercial area where we explored a variety of markets (vegetable, spice, clothing). The city is very hilly and spread out. There were very few tall buildings, most being mainly 2-5 story buildings having the same colored stone and architecture. The density of the buildings and the windy and narrow streets made it very difficult to get your bearings unless you were on top of one of the hills.
Amman seems very diverse with people wearing both traditional and western clothing. Unlike Dubai (where all the service workers were from southeast Asia), The cab drivers here seemed to be Jordanians or other people from neighboring Arab countries. Lots of people spoke English, although some of our cab drivers did not. We used cabs to get around the city.
We had dinner last night and tonight with a colleague of David's who lives in Amman (they are connected with a non-governmental environmental organization in the States). He took us to a couple of good restaurants, one of which was actually written up in a recent NY Times article on Amman (http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/travel/13choicetables.html – it was called Fakhr el-Din). We actually ate at another fast food restaurant called Reem (see pictures) on our own. We also seemed to be eating our way through Amman at various other small store fronts …. shwarma (sliced lamb sandwich in a pita), felafel, olives, cheese, pita, sweets, and of course Arab (or Turkish coffee – served with cardamon). Food (except for tonight's dinner) was very
inexpensive (as were the cab rides). Everything else seems a bit pricey.
People have been very friendly. At the airport, when our hotel van or taxi didn't show up, a number of locals helped us contact the hotel and get a cab into the city. People on the streets have also been very willing to help or offer their advice. We didn't see a lot of other tourists, but at tonight's restaurant, there were many other American and other English speaking guests.
One of the interesting observations was at one area of old Amman near the market, there were street vendors selling Iraqi items. I wished I could have gotten a picture of this, but I felt too awkward . These folks had their wares lined up on carpets on the sidewalk and spread out around the periphery was Iraqi oney – mainly bills. Each bill had a picture of Saddam Hussein. I
should have bought a couple to bring back. From our Jordanian friend, we learned that Jordan has seen nearly ½ million Iraqi immigrants since the start of the war. Most of these people arriving from Iraq were very wealthy (maybe they were the only ones who could easily get out?) and this influx has driven up housing prices in Amman very significantly. Despite the economic downturn even impacting Jordan, housing prices in Amman are still very steep.
Tomorrow, we depart for Sri Lanka via a 2-hour stop over in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Our flight doesn't leave till 3:45 pm, so we are taking an early morning trip to Jerash, about 1 hour north of Amman. There are some of the largest Greco-Roman ruins in the near east. The ruins have been compared (probably unfairly) to Pompei, because of the size and extent of intact ruins.
I'll write more about our trip after we get back.