Sometimes you visit a place and just feel at ease, an instant connection. I felt that with Amman, as I stepped out into the bustling streets with vendors selling spices and tea, I felt that sense of raw energy that is somewhat missing in Dubai. I felt that finally I was in the real Middle East.
Being a Friday, the holy day for Muslims, most shops were closed. I was aware of this, and had planned to just wander and see where it took me. One of the first streets I encountered had nothing but pet shops! Of course I went in and cooed over the kittens and puppies! It’s a miracle I didnt buy one. I haven’t seen many people with dogs here – cats seem to be the preferred pet in the Middle East, and often you’ll find locals feeding stray cats with milk and tuna.
My first food stop was at a famous cafe called Shams el Balad. I didn’t realise it’s fame at the time, I was just attracted by its appearance and bustling crowds. It is actually incredibly expensive but for one visit was worth it. I had a strawberry lemonade, macchiato and an amazing hummus and roasted veggie sandwich in the most tasty bread. Everything was clearly freshly cooked, even the tomatoes were bursting with flavour and the herbs added to this. As always in the Middle East there is never any rush- don’t expect to be seated at a table, given a menu and asked for your order within three minutes as is common in the West. And if the waiter forgets your order well it’s not unusual.
After a leisurely brunch I continued onwards to the famous rainbow street- home to many cafes and quirky shops. As it was a Friday many places were closed but nevertheless I enjoyed the wander. I decided to head to the Jett bus station to buy my ticket for Petra on Sunday (I’m leaving at 6am on the only bus argh). I didn’t realise how hilly Amman is- but on the positive side you do get some fantastic views.
After wandering around, thinking about the stories this place could tell, I walked down the hill to the Roman theatre where I was greeted by two adorable girls who cane running at me arms open for a hug. They were so sweet. So far I’ve found Jordanian people to be some of the most friendly in the world. “Welcome” is their greeting, along with “you are safe here”. They genuinely seem pleased to welcome visitors into their country – a far cry from the perceived hatred of the West we hear about so regularly in the media.
In saying that it is a very different culture and it’s important that you respect this. Most importantly for women is to cover up. And this includes shoulders, arms and wearing loose clothing. I find this clothing more comfortable to travel in anyway. But I’m always surprised and raise an imaginary eyebrow when I do see women flaunting these rules. It’s also advisable to say you’re married, as having a husband raises your respectability. This doesn’t mean to say you won’t get unwanted attention, but a lot of this really is curiosity. Expect stares, waves, “hello”, and the thing I hate most the kissing noise as you walk past. But I find that as I become more confident in my surroundings the less frequently this happens. I don’t initiate any eye contact with men, I will give a brief response of a hello, unless they are clearly being sleazy, when I just walk on.
In the evening I had falafel sandwiches and coffee in the Wild Jordan cafe- a lovely place again with lovely views in which the proceeds go towards conservation projects.
On my way back to the hostel I passed an alcohol shop! Living in Dubai this was an amazing and welcome sight! I sprinted across the road and couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle of local wine which I enjoyed half of before I went to sleep!
Hi, I live and work in Dubai. I enjoy getting out and about and seeing what Dubai has to offer, travelling in my holidays and spare time – prepare for blog posts about this, and cooking vegetarian recipes. I am passionate about travel and animals.