Amanda arrived from Tokyo yesterday around noon, an hour late and predictably tired and hungry after 3 connections and 15 hours cramped in coach. A cooler day than we expected, we donned our jackets and headed out for a quick walking tour of downtown. Grimy and bleak, the hills that comprise downtown Amman are cramped with grey concrete buildings, many in various states of disrepair. The west side of Amman, with its more modern buildings and cosmopolitan feel, is lauded as the “better” part of town. But today we’re downtown, and one doesn’t have to be in Amman long to realize the people make the city. Friendly and curious, quick to ask where you’re from, and to welcome you to Jordan – you might even be challenged to an arm-wrestling contest (I’m 3-0 so far). “Are you going to Petra?” is a question that finds its way into every conversation, as everyone is clearly proud of Jordan’s greatest treasure. But Petra will have to wait another day or two, for now lunch at the Jerusalem Restaurant on King Husain St. beckons. Try the rice stuffed leg of lamb (just describe it – they’ll know what you’re talking about), with olive and pickle garnish, 12 JD for two.
Interestingly, this area of Amman (we haven’t seen enough to know if the rule holds) offers fewer eating establishments than one might expect given the number of people constantly about. Shops are everywhere – clothes, fruits, herbs, nuts, jewelry, every commodity and market staple is represented, making the relative lack of traditional restaurants curious. With the amount of raw foodstuffs available however, one might assume that at-home food preparation is the norm, at least in this neighborhood.
Evening finds us back on the streets. Heading northeast along Hashemi St. from the King Hussein mosque, we unexpectedly stumble upon the Roman Theatre, probably the most popular tourist destination in Amman. Closed for the day, but impressive in the fading sun, our cameras start humming as tea vendors hover offering hot sweet tea for .5 JD. A group of local men singing to the accompaniment of a 12 string instrument (pronounced like Ode, but I can’t be sure of the spelling) and drum catch me taking their picture and invite us over. So begins the next hour, and the highlight of the trip so far. Flashes popping, everyone wants to be in a picture, and as the camera gets passed around we pose outside the Roman Theatre. Treated to tea (our offers to pay constantly rebuffed), we become the guests of these Jordanian friends for an hour of tea drinking, singing, and quick lessons in Arabic speaking. Already, only one day into our trip, we both know this is a memory of Jordan we’ll never forget.
Copyright ©2008 eric flohr