An Evening in Downtown Amman
Two weeks into my move to Amman, Jordan, we decided to explore Downtown Amman as we were told that it is the best place to experience local culture. Downtown Amman or Al Balad in Arabic is the oldest part of town and it is made up by a myriad of souqs, coffee shops and tiny stores selling souvenirs and various artisanal products.
The place was buzzing in more ways than one, despite it being a Monday evening. We had to circle the area twice before we could secure parking. Thankfully, Lady Luck was on our side as we found a spot close to the place we wanted to dine at. We walked a short distance to the legendary Hashem Restaurant which is the oldest restaurant in Amman. It has been serving authentic Jordanian food since 1952. This place is very popular among locals and tourists alike so getting a table can sometimes be tricky, especially during peak hours. We sat indoors as the outdoor section was full. Inside the restaurant, photographs of important public figures and celebrities who have dined in this restaurant over the years are displayed. We also learned that the Royal family of Jordan frequents this establishment. I mean how cool is that!
Look at all the glorious food
This place offers both vegetarian and non vegetarian options so there is something to eat for everyone. We were pretty clueless about ordering as they do not have a menu but our friendly waiter suggested that we order their signature dishes i.e. Falafels, stuffed Falafels and Hummus. We also ordered some Muffarakah (potato and egg dish) and black tea. The food came almost immediately accompanied by a plate of tomatoes, onion, mint and some fresh flat bread. The Falafels were delicious but the true star was the stuffed falafel - they were so good that they were gone within minutes. They say that Jordan is home for the best falafels and I second that! The hummus was hands down the best we ever had. It was so smooth and creamy and the drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice over it was a game changer. Gosh, I am salivating as I write this. We washed down this glorious meal with a hot cup of freshly brewed black tea. This meal cost us 12 Jordanian Dinars which is very affordable. If you ever come to Jordan, you should dine here at least once so you do not miss out on an essential experience.
Hot Falafels coming right up
The only way to conclude our gastronomic adventure for the day is by indulging in some sinful Kunafa, an iconic middle eastern dessert. So we made our way to Habiba Sweets, another gem located in Downtown of Amman which also happens to be the oldest confectionary store in Amman. They sell a variety of traditional sweets and pastry, They are well known for their Kunafas and they offer three types i.e. fine, course and a mix of fine and course. The former has a soft crust made from semolina while the latter has a rough crust made from noodle like thread. We opted for the fine version and it was served hot. The combination of goat cheese, soft pastry, syrup and crushed pistachios was excellent! At this point, our taste buds were thanking us for the delightful treat.
Various type of Kunafehs made fresh to order at Habibah sweets.
Habiba sweets also sells an assortment of local delights.
With a belly full of local flavours, we decided to take a stroll along the street in an attempt to burn off the calorific splurge of the night. The atmosphere was lively and vibrant with people going about their business. The streets are lined with street food carts selling an array of food and road side vendors promoting their goods such as toys, balloons and hookahs/ shishas. The area was full of life, perfect for people watching.
A photo of a street food vendor selling local snacks. You can also see vendors selling toys, balloons and other stuff in the background.
Our final stop for the night was the Roman Amphitheatre, a which is a ten minute walk from our first stop, Hashem Restaurant.
The Roman Theatre is a magnificent remnant of the Roman legacy and it dates back to circa 138 -161 CE. Click here to read more about the history of the Roman Theatre and to view photos of this magnificent monument.
The Government of Jordan embarked on the restoration process of the Theatre in 1957. Although none of the original materials were used, its splendour remains intact. The Roman theater is now open for visitors and is used for shows and concerts. If you are planning to visit Jordan, you can keep a lookout for upcoming events via calendar.jo.
The best time to take good photographs is probably in the morning or before sunset. We went there after sundown so we did not manage to take a lot of photographs although the view was just spectacular at night. - our camera just didn't do the view any justice.
There is a square in front of the theatre were locals hang out
The entrance fee is 2 Jordanian Dinars which includes a visit to the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions and the Jordan Folklore Museum which is located within the premises. Jordan pass holders are exempted from the entrance fee. Hence I strongly recommend that you obtain the Jordan pass which is available for purchase online before your trip as it allows you to visit the top historical sites and attractions at a discounted fee. Click here to find out more information about the said pass.
I am including the details of the opening hours so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Roman Theatre Hours
Winter Hours (Nov – April ): 8:00 – 4:00
Spring Hours (April – May): 8:00 – 5:30
Summer Hours (June – October): 8:00 – 6:30
Ramadan Hours: 8:00 – 3:30
Here is a tip in case you are planning a trip to Amman - you can download the Careem app which is the local e hailing application to help you get around the city. However, if your travel plans include visiting other cities then I suggest that you consider renting a car as it is the best and most economical way to explore the country.
You can check out the above mentioned restaurants on Instagram by clicking on the links provided below:
I will be sharing more of my adventures soon. In the meantime hit the like button and leave me a comment on what you would like to read next.
Till next time. Toodles.