Amman has multiple personalities. From the traditional souks and open spice and veggie markets to the Western-like nightlife, international cuisine, and sustainable tourism initiatives, Amman straddles multiple niches and caters to every mood. A walk through downtown Amman offers you a chance to experience local life in the city—eat falafel and hummus in a small alleyway at Hashem’s, explore the King Abdullah I Mosque for an introduction to Islam, and go gift-crazy in the souks for treasures to bring back home.
When to Go
High season is usually from March to May and September to early November when the weather is most moderate. December to February are the coldest months. June to August are the hottest, and usually Ramadan is during this period, with many tourists from the gulf traveling to Amman for the milder weather and Ramadan Iftar celebrations. (If you go during Ramadan, be mindful that while it is not illegal to consume food or drink in the open during the day, it is seen as inconsiderate to fasting Muslims, so try to at least do so discreetly. Many restaurants in the city remain open, but cover their windows out of respect and as required by law.)
During the summer there are several festivals, with the biggest being the revived Jerash music festival held in the historic Roman city of Jerash, which is about a 45-minute drive from Amman. You’ll be able to walk through history in the best preserved Roman city outside of Rome, experience lively music and street food, and enjoy a concert in one of the amphitheaters. (The tourism board updates this calendar for major events, so it’s a good place to check.)
What to Eat
Mansaf, the traditional dish of Jordan, is saffron-dyed rice with slow-cooked lamb piled on top and a dehydrated yogurt sauce poured over it. Usually served for occasions like weddings, congratulatory celebrations, or funerals, it is symbolic of the Jordanian culture and a gesture of respect and hospitality. Traditionally consumed in a communal fashion, you’re meant to eat with your right hand while your left hand is kept behind your back—and never touch your fingers to your mouth—to maintain hygiene. You create a ball of rice and meat in your hand, then “flick” it into your mouth and enjoy the deliciousness. Don’t worry; in more modern eateries, mansaf is served in your own dish and you can use utensils.
Souvenir to Take Home
There are many initiatives in Jordan created to support and empower women. The Jordan River Foundation, specifically, empowers women to create and become independent, and their showroom in Rainbow Street displays their wonderfully colorful products. The Soup House, a charming little shop in an alleyway on Rainbow Street, offers quality Dead Sea products that make perfect souvenirs and gifts and gives back locally. Otherwise, there’s always room for Arabic sweets (Zalatimo is a great choice) and other savory treats.
Sustainable Travel Tip
Amman, unfortunately, is not a walking city. It’s built on hills, there aren’t the best sidewalks for walking, and it has mostly steep streets. However, downtown is a perfect location for walking around, with many charming staircases taking you from the top of the city to its very core and offering a chance to view another side of Amman. Tourism is a lifeblood for many in the city and the country, so try to buy and eat local as much as possible.
The Citadel is by far the best place to experience the “bowl” effect of Amman. It is one of the original seven hills on which Amman was built, and it offers monuments from several civilizations mere steps from each other. There’s the Temple of Hercules, Umayyad Palace, a Byzantine church, and an Ayyubid watchtower. On the modern end, it is also the best place to view what used to be the highest flying flag in the world.