Jordan – Day One!
Today officially begins our tour. We actually do make it to breakfast today so I was able to see what was available on a Middle Eastern breakfast buffet…mostly. Now please understand that I do not like American breakfast food. Not eggs, not pancakes, not waffles, not cereal, not donuts, not oatmeal, not yogurt, not at all (Sam I am!!). However, I really enjoy European style breakfast, which is mostly meat and cheese…two things I can always get behind! So imagine my surprise when, in addition to the European style breakfast they also offered my new favorite, Moutabal…smoked eggplant dip, olives, cucumbers, and some sort of fried meat pie thing. All AMAZING!!
After breakfast, we spent 45 minutes or so meeting everyone and getting our orientation for this part of the trip. We were advised about the water, the produce, the dress code, the tipping, the haggling, everything. Most of this had been emailed to us beforehand, but it was good to get a recap. After orientation, we were loaded onto our van to begin our tour. We met our driver. He would be with us for the next four days and he was AWESOME! Some of the streets we drove on were meant for horse carts at best and he maneuvered them like an expert! Our bus had Wi-Fi so that was always a huge help!
Our first stop today was the Amman Citadel. This Citadel has signs of humans as far back as 1650 BC. From its formidable position on a hill, many civilizations occupied this area and all left their mark. Phoenicians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians all left evidence of their time here. In 331 BC it was conquered by the Greeks and renamed Philadelphia. Eventually returned to Muslim control in 661 AD, the Citadel remained an important strategic site for the next 900 years. Now under excavation, it is believed that only a small portion of this sites history has been uncovered.
Our next stop was lunch at the famed Hashem Restaurant. Listed as the oldest restaurant in Amman, Hashem is famous for traditional Jordanian street food. We sat down to an absolutely delicious meal of falafel, moutabal, hummus, and of course bread. The restaurant is super popular and always busy, but if you are ever in Amman, DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE! We then got to tour the kitchen and watch as the chef made the falafel…fast! He was a master and as busy as this place gets, he has to be!
We left Hashem to make our way to another street vendor for dessert. Kunafeh. A cheese, semolina, honey, pistachio concoction that is crazy good and crazy sweet! The process for cutting the servings was an experience in itself! I am not sure I would still have all my fingers!
Next we took a walk around Amman, stopping at a fragrance shop and a goldsmith on our way to the market.
The market! What an experience! Every stall filled to the brim with fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, anything you could need. The vendors called out their wares as we passed by. We stopped to sample some fresh figs and fresh prickly pear, all deliciously fresh and sweet.
Our next stop was the Roman theater in downtown Amman. This theater is left over from the 2nd century Roman period when the city was known as Philadelphia. The theater seats 6,000 people and is still used today for cultural events.
On either side of the stage…in the “Wings” are two different museums, the Jordan Museum of Popular Tradition on one side; and the Jordan Folklore Museum on the other.
That evening, we met a friend of a friend for dinner in Amman. She picked us up at our hotel, and took us to a super cute fusion restaurant nearby. This restaurant was SOOOOOO Cute! Kitschy and completely adorable! We ordered a selection of salads (which is what all appetizers are called…so not actually “salad.”), and a “mixed grill,” which is exactly what it sounds like…several different types of grilled meat.
I don’t want to keep you in suspense…everything was amazing! The stuffed falafel was To. Die. For. and is on the short list of recipes I intend to learn! We totally stuffed ourselves and of course, they laughed at me taking pictures of everything! Still, everyone was super gracious and kind and if you are ever in Amman, please please please give Azkadenya a try! The company was absolutely amazing and totally enlightening and our evening was a complete highlight of our time in Jordan.
We made it back to the hotel, thoroughly enthralled with our first full day in Jordan and incredibly excited for Day Two.