With Jordan under Ottoman rule from 1516-1918, much of the architecture in the country and its capital have been influenced by its hold. A classical style of architecture marked by regal dome ceilings, creamy archways and commanding minarets, it is admired in numerous cities that fell under the Ottoman Empire’s control, from Cairo to Sofia, Syria to Sarajevo. Here in Amman it can be witnessed best at the expansive King Hussein Mosque, but will be seen in numerous historic, crumbling buildings and bridges across the city.
Pay a visit to Al-Balad
Al-Balad has gained much attention in recent years, with a photo of an outdoor stairwell open to the sky with a ceiling of coloured umbrellas popping on numerous ‘travel must-do’ lists. Though that particular art-instillation may not still be on view, the flea market area is brimming with graffiti and artworks for visitors and locals to admire. Take a stroll around the streets taking in political commentary and artistic flair, between spots of shopping and numerous tea and kunafa breaks.
Be amazed by the King Abdullah Mosque
Often referred to as the most impressive building in the city, the King Abdullah I Mosque opened in 1989 and has an impressive capacity of 10,000. Boasting a huge central blue dome hanging above an octagonal prayer hall, and an interior of royal red carpets, stained glass windows and a huge central chandelier, you need not be of Islamic faith to be moved by the spectacular setting of this mosque. The only mosque in Amman known to accept non-Muslim visitors, it is a great way for travellers to witness the magnitude of devotion and architectural beauty within this faith.
Explore the Citadel
Often declared one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited places, the Citadel of Amman is a collection of ancient ruins and excavation sites with endless historical significance. Archeological findings here have dated back to the Neolithic period and Middle Bronze Age, proving human activity on the hill around 4,000 years ago. The most notable sites here are the Temple and Hand of Hercules, Umayyad water cistern, and Umayyad Palace, all of which are best visited at sunset to escape the heat of the day, staying on to watch the temple light up at night.
Smoke shisha with the locals in the evening
From rooftop bars to book shops, pastry shops to elegant cafes, shisha is readily available in all corners of Amman. A big part of the culture and daily life in Jordan, travellers can slip into this tradition in Amman and pick up the associated Middle Eastern smoking etiquette without too much fuss. A variation of tobacco mixed with the sap of raw sugar and various flavouring ingredients, you might find yourself inhaling a hookah of lemon cake, watermelon, mint or sweet chai. Try Amman’s Lemon Shisha Bistro and Almawardi cafe, or look out for various names like hookah cafe, argeeleh lounge and hubbly bubbly. Things to do in Amman don’t get much more otherworldly than this.
Check into the city’s oldest 5-star hotel
Opened in 1963, the Intercontinental Jordan Hotel has been declared one of the oldest 5-star hotels in the city. The whopping 391 rooms and 49 suites are just a short walk from the centre of the old town, and present in a charming creamy building with an elegant foyer that will entice you in. Guests can spend hours lounging by the oasis style palm-fringed pool, eating from the fine dining restaurant, and enjoying the sauna and body treatments of the on-site spa.
Things to do in Amman
Royal Automobile Museum
From zippy new-age sports cars to vintage classics brought to Jordan in the early 1900’s, the Royal Automobile Museum is a car-lover’s paradise. Built on the command of Abdullah, the current king of Jordan, it has been standing proud in Amman since 2003.
The Jordan Museum
Jordan is playground of significant archaeological findings, and nowhere is this more easily accessible than The Jordan Museum. Sprawling over 10,000 square meters in an impressive modern building in the Ras Al-Ein district of Amman, this Amman museum is not to be missed off the list.
Jordan Folklore Museum
Part of the commonly visited Roman Theatre, the Jordan Folklore Museum offers an intimate look at life in the country in years gone by, most notably for the Bedouin desert dwellers. Admire traditional clothing, handicrafts, weapons, and musical instruments that are unique to this culturally rich region.
Tiraz: Widad Kawar home for Arab dress
The Bophana Centre is dedicated to recovering and preserving Cambodian audiovisual records, many of which were lost and destroyed during the regime of the Khmer Rouge. It features an extensive archive of old photos and regular film screenings for visitors, making it one of the best free things to do in Phnom Penh.
For more information on the Bophana Center, click here.
Jordan Archaeological Museum
The Jordan Archaeological Museum is the original setting of the The Jordan Museum, built in 1951 as a home for the important historic findings being made within the country. Situated on the Citadel Hill near the Roman Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad palace, the space still offers immense archaeological significance.
Top 5 Museums and Galleries in Amman
Step into the culturally rich playground of Amman’s museums, absorbing archaeological wonders, folklore and Arab handicrafts. Though these five museums could busy an entire week of travels, there are plenty more to uncover across this historically significant city.
Considered the national dish of Jordan, mansaf is a must try when visiting Amman. A lamb dish usually served with fermented yoghurt and rice or bulgur, it is equal parts tasty and satisfying, and can be tried at the popular Al-Quds Restaurant on King Al Hussein Street.
Best eaten at Al-Quds Restaurant, Complex No. 8, King Al Hussein St. 8
A middle eastern favourite loved all over the world, the humble falafel is even better when tried in the region of its birth. Usually made from ground fava beans and or chickpeas, mixed with herbs and deep fried, these tasty balls are commonly served in a pita bread pocket heaped with salad, tahini sauces and pickled vegetables.
Best eaten at Hashem Restaurant, King Faisal St.
Bedouin tea and coffee
The tea and coffee of the desert is both ceremonious and delicious, a favourite of the nomadic Bedouin people. The coffee is served with cardamom and the tea is a blend of dried desert plants, best sampled by the beit shar tents of Little Petra’s Seven Wonders.
Best eaten at Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp, Little Petra, Wadi Musa
The sweet treat of kunafa is a recipe to induce cravings, with thin noodles of pastry soaked in sugar syrup used to sandwich lashings of cheese. Baked and usually topped with pistachios or other nuts, one serve from Habibah Sweets will never be enough.
Best eaten at Habibah Sweets, Marwan Madi Complex, Al Hazar St. 2, Amman
Food in Amman
Arrive in Amman hungry and prepare for deep satisfaction; Jordanian food is rich and delicious, and found in abundance here in the capital city. Think falafel pockets with steaming mint tea, and freshly brewed coffee served with sweet nutty pastries.