We’ve traveled roughly 5,000 miles only to land back in “Philadelphia.” Yes, Amman (Jordan) was known by that name during the Roman era. Sorry Eagles and Phillies fans, no signs of any sister-city allegiances observed on the ground here. But we did spy the ubiquitous hat with the New York Yankees logo that seems to be everywhere in the damned world.
We finally made it to our hotel by 8:30 PM local time yesterday after our exciting tour of airports and airport lounges. Our hotel, a Crowne Plaza, is centrally located and comfortable enough. It’s a fairly typical American-style hotel that caters mostly to business travelers. We were able to enjoy a late dinner at the hotel before collapsing in our beds.
We began our visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as the country is formally known, today with a bus and walking tour of the capital city of Amman.
There are only six other people with us for the Jordanian leg of our current trip, which is nice. The tour leader doesn’t have herd a couple dozen wandering tourists. Our impressions of the city so far are favorable. Amman is quite hilly, but because we are on an organized tour we are getting driven around instead of aimlessly wandering up and down embankments as we might normally have done on our own. Quite a civilized way to travel.
Traffic seems pretty hectic but nothing like what we are expecting to encounter in Cairo. Amman feels very safe and from what we had read has very little in the way of street crime, a view backed up by our tour leader. We should note that Jordan and the U.S. have strong relations, and we are generally liked here. The U.S. has military bases in the country and has extensively trained the Jordanian army.
Amman is known as the “White City” for the color of its limestone buildings, which by law cannot be painted. The streets were generally clean and bustling. Today’s touring started with a visit to the Roman citadel and an amphitheater that can seat about 7,000 people. It’s in remarkably good condition, with a modest amount of restoration to fix damage from an earthquake. We also walked around the downtown area, visited the main vegetable market, another area loaded with gold sellers, and a couple of small museums.
The afternoon wrapped up with a traditional Middle Eastern lunch of hummus, baba ganoush, fava beans, two different types of falafel and pita bread at a locally famous restaurant called Hashem. Many cities have similar places that are local legends. It’s the kind of joint that is lined with pictures of assorted famous people who have eaten there. And it was packed.
We are slated to rendezvous for dinner at another locally famous restaurant in a couple of hours — hope I can find room to eat. (I suspect I and the others will manage to force something down.) Tomorrow we head off to Jerash, which is in the northern part of the country. It’s home to what are considered to be some of the best preserved and complete Greco-Roman ruins in the world. We shall see. We’ve seen some similar settlements in the past — Aphrodisias in Turkey comes to mind — so I’m definitely curious to see how this compares.