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A Beginner's Guide to Amman

You’re a night owl, you prefer living the “late to bed and late to rise” mantra and you’re considering a trip to Jordan. You’re at a crossroads as you know o...

by Justin Wegiel Posted on 17 August 2012

Temple of Hercules in antique citadel in Amman, Jordan

You’re a night owl, you prefer living the “late to bed and late to rise” mantra and you’re considering a trip to Jordan. You’re at a crossroads as you know of it’s archeological wonders but you’ve got your apprehensions because you think the Arab state might not be able to fulfill your lust for life under the cover of night. Guess again. This peaceful gem, located in the conservative Middle East, has long opened up its doors to the Western world and although it may not be as sinful as it’s sultry cousin Beirut, Amman has definitely embraced the Western nightlife.

The political, cultural and commercial centre of Jordan is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and due to it’s rapidly increasing immigration it’s population of over 2 million is expected to more than double by 2025. And, like any other big city, a massive wave of immigration always brings with it a long list of delicious food options and a vibrant night life.

I’ve always been a firm believer that the best way to get to know someone’s culture is through their food. When visiting Amman a right of passage for any foodie is to head straight to Hashem restaurant. A famous local favourite, tucked away in a tired alley on King Faisal Street in East Amman, the old city, and if UNESCO had a restaurant list this would be it’s benchmark. I could easily sit and watch their falafel machine crank out those fresh ground chick pea balls all night long, it’s (expletive) hypnotizing. Our massive spread of pita, dips and falafel served with typical Jordanian tea was less than $5 per person.

Then there’s dessert. To say Jordanians have a sweet tooth is a understatement. Just watch your guide as he adds a few drops of tea to his cup of sugar and you’ll know what I mean. Any culture with such a penchant for sweets MUST know their desserts. Have a quick look for the giant crowd hanging around in front of Habiba, a block down King Faisal Street from Hashem, and you’ll know you’ve come to the right place.

Habiba’s specialty, their Kanafeh, and it’s widely regarded as Amman’s finest. Kanafeh is a traditional pastry heated with butter or palm oil, then spread with soft cheese and topped with more pastry and crushed green pistachios. Look out Jonas Brothers - the soft cheese contrasted by the sweet flaky pastry and crunchy pistachio topping – it’s like the hottest three piece band to come out of the Mideast.

Perhaps your adventure to Amman comes at a time where you’re in need of a more Western influenced menu, then look no further than Rainbow Street. Books@cafe is a prime example of the revival of the old neighbourhood. Books@cafe houses an English bookstore on the main floor and Western-influenced resto on top. Giant pizzas (hint: share if you’re thinking of ordering one for yourself), burgers and pastas done quite well. Great alternative for those crazy people possibly suffering from hummus overload.

After dinner a few high-octane Petra’s (the national beer) never hurt anyone. Jafra, across the street from Hashem on King Faisal is a great spot in the old city. The perfect backdrop to catch a sporting event from all corners of the globe. During my time in Amman Chelsea was taking on FC Barcelona in the Champion’s League semi-final and it seemed the entire city had strong ties to their favourite club. Jafra was teeming with supporters from both sides and there was defintely a great vibe on the air.

If the vodka-red bull crowd happens to be your thing, a trip to 51 or Flow might be in the cards. Amman’s top spots for DJ sets is known for late nights, sweaty patrons, uninhibited flailing of limbs, stiff drinks, and all around good clean fun.

For a more traditional approach to Amman’s nightlife head to one of it’s many shisha bars found throughout the city. Frequented by the local devout Muslims not a drop of alcohol can be found, but you will find more hookas here than a college dorm room. The flavoured tobacco comes in an assortment of flavours including apple, cherry and vanilla and enjoyed by men and veiled women alike usually served with a cup of tea.

Personally I’d recommend saving the shisha experience for a night with the Bedoiuns under a star studded sky in Wadi Rum, but maybe that’s just me. You don’t know unless you go.

Enter day 5 of our Highlights of Jordan giveaway with flights courtesy of Visit Jordan! Winner will be announced this Tuesday August 21 right here on the Looptail blog!

G-ood luck to everyone that entered our 'Highlights of Jordan' giveaway.  The contest is now closed. Please check back this Tuesday August 21st when we announce the winner right here on The Looptail!

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