| Part 2: Amman, Jerash, Ajloun
Hotel Ibis, Amman. 60 JOD (?) for a
double room, breakfast not included, "business" type with everything except a fridge, a
cupboard, tea making equipment and an ironing board. The room is nicely
furnished, has free wireless Internet, but is more targeted to the
business traveller. It lies somewhere in west Amman, about 8km from the
city centre. Near the hotel there is a mall, the Amman Mall, with some
shops and a food court with a good Chinese fast food restaurant. Big
problem the first night, as the room is too hot and there is no way to
cool it down. A/C is disabled in winter, it is not possible to open the
window, and the A/C unit unit only generates hot air. We sleep
with 25°C in the room.
Weather: -10°C in Munich when we
leave, fresh but not cold in Amman in the evening (probably around
The Royal Jordanian flight leaves Munich with about one hour of delay
and lands in Amman with an hour of delay after 8pm. When we arrive in
Amman we buy the visa (JOD 10 per person, even the children have to
pay), then go through immigration. When we finally retrieve the bags
it's 9pm. We then proceed to the exit and look for the Alamo car rental
counter. There is none, we are told that there should be an Alamo agent
waiting for us at the exit. Indeed there is a guy holding a card with
my name on it. We then fix the formalities and buy prepaid phone cards
for the mobile phones. Then we walk towards the car.
The car is a Citroen C5, luckily big enough for our luggage. We load
our stuff inside and now comes the tricky thing, how to get the
navigation system to work. With the local Jordanian prepaid SIM card
inside the damn Nokia 5800 phone (which we use to navigate) tells me
that there is no valid licence. Lots of trying, then I reinsert the
German SIM card with which I bought the Drive & Walk licence.
Finally the navigation works, after a lot of effort. The phone GPS
luckily quickly picks up a signal and fixes the position. We start
driving towards Amman.
About half-way on the motorway (by the way, not much of a motorway,
lots of holes, if this is the best Jordan has to offer...) the damn GPS
navigation system starts getting crazy and tells me to make a U-turn on
the motorway or to get out at exits which don't exist. I continue
driving towards West Amman because the direction should be correct,
then leave the motorway in Amman at some point, hoping that the GPS
navigation system starts working again.
Nothing, nada, the unit keeps delivering nonsensical messages,
telling every 10-20 seconds "route recalculation". We are stuck around
10:30pm somewhere in Amman and have no clue where we are. Finally we
ask a tax driver to bring us to the hotel Ibis (he drives, we follow
his car). I give him a 10 JOD tip. We check in the hotel after 11pm.
Ibis, Amman. Hot room, like a sauna. 26°C and no way of reducing
the temperature. In the evening, after the third complaint, the staff
moves us to another more cool room.
Weather: not that cold in Amman. At
noon it would almost be possible to run around in a T-shirt,
temperature perhaps around 15-20°C. Sunny in the morning, then
overcast in the afternoon. No rain.
We get up around 9am, then leave the hotel before 10am because the room
is so hot. We first walk to the Amman mall, planning to have breakfast,
but it's too early and all restaurants and eateries are still closed.
So we decide to go into town.
Since the car navigation system does not work and we are not familiar
with Amman, we take a taxi to the Roman theatre in the centre of Amman.
choice, because taxis are very cheap in Amman (only 2-3 JOD to get to
Amman from the Ibis hotel) and parking in the city centre is
complicated. Not that much traffic in Amman, situation comparable to
any European city. Driving is not a problem, if you know the way.
Shortly after 11am we are at the Roman theatre. 1 JOD/person entry
ticket. Very nice architecture, well preserved. Semicircular theatres
are always photogenic. We spend about 45 minutes at the theatre, then
shortly before 12pm walk out. We take a taxi to the
Amman mall for some lunch, arriving there around 12:30pm.
After lunch we have a look at the mall and do some shopping. The mall
is nice, but in no way comparable to the giant malls you can find in
Dubai. There is a supermarket, convenient if you want to buy some food,
but otherwise the shops are quite unimpressive. There is a children
area on the 3rd floor, kind of a fun fair with moderate prices (25-50
piastres for most things).
At 1:30pm Shirley and the kids go to the hotel to take a rest. I take a
taxi and head into town to the Umayyad fortress for some photography.
This time the taxi costs only 2 JOD (actually 1.79 JOD). With such low
prices and the abundance of taxis there is no need to have a car
The Umayyad fortress lies on top of a hill, within an archaeological
area containing other remnants of the past of Amman, such as the ruins
of a Roman temple for example. Kind of nice, but not on the same level
as the ruins you find for instance in Athens. Actually the whole of
Amman has a number of more or less interesting sights, which however
are unimpressive if you compare them to other capitals in the region. A
good part of central Amman is pretty dirty and run down. For a moment I
regret planning to spend five days here, but then Amman is a perfect
base to explore the other sights of the area.
After spending almost an hour at the Umayyad fortress site, I start
walking towards the next place, the Hussein mosque. Not a big distance,
but finding it is complicated because the roads are not marked well in
my guidebook and the GPS of the Nokia 5800 phone keeps losing the
satellites and does not know the position. What a piece of
rubbish this phone is. I have two other dedicated car navigation
systems (in Germany) and when they lock on the satellite they don't
lose the signal anymore.
Anyway, I manage to find the Hussein mosque and am there shortly after
3:30pm. Kind of nice, but quite small and not too impressive if
compared to other mosques in the region. Then I start walking towards
Rainbow street, which is not too far away, but it takes me over half an
hour to find this street.
What a difference Rainbow street makes. Relatively neat and
finally the nice side of Amman shows out. The whole street is nicely
built, clean and has elegant shops and cafes. Here is where you could
bring your friends if you are in Amman.
I spend about half an hour walking in this area, then at 4:45pm take a
taxi back to the hotel. In the evening we don't do much, besides having
dinner and spending some time in the children area of the Amman mall
with the kids.
-> Jerash -> Ajloun -> Amman
Weather: perfect sightseeing weather.
Sunny the whole day, with an occasional clouds cover which however does
not last long. Temperatures at daytime in Jerash high enough to run
around just with a T-shirt, but fresh enough so that you don't sweat
even after climbing lots of staircases. No rain. Warmer in Jerash than
Around 9am we get up, then leave the room around 10am. We head to the
breakfast area thinking to have breakfast, but the buffet breakfast
is unimpressive, especially considering that it costs 8 JOD per person.
So we simply head to the car and start driving towards Jerash.
The car navigation system with the Nokia 5800 does not work as
expected. For some reason it is unable to receive the satellites. Since
expecting this, we use the maps I have downloaded from the Internet to
get to Jerash. It's actually not too complicated to get to Jerash - all
you have to do is catch the right road and drive non-stop
to the north. The road is also marked sufficiently well.
At 11:25am we arrive in Jerash and spot some ancient ruins, which must
be those of the ancient Jerash. Indeed they are and we park the car
nearby. We walk to the ruins and then it takes some time to figure out
how to buy the tickets (8 JOD per person, children below 15 don't pay)
because we parked near the exit, not next to the visitor centre.
The archaeological site of Jerash is huge and impressive. Lots of
structures, some well preserved temples and a theatre. Very photogenic
ruins. Jerash was once a Roman town, probably an important one judging
from the extent of the archaeological site. Lots of interesting
restoration work is apparently going on. There is gladiator-type show
with actors in Roman era costumes performing gladiator games, twice
daily, the next show is at 2pm.
We spend about 1:30 hours visiting the site. Not longer because Shirley
is waiting for me with the kids (very tough to get around with a
among the ruins) and I can't make her wait too long. Without time
restrictions one could spend half a day or longer together with a
knowledgeable guide exploring the ruins, without getting bored. The
site is so huge that I have to rush in that 1:30 hours to see most of
it and I don't manage to see it completely.
At 1:30pm we head towards the restaurant of the site (there is just
one), where we have some lunch. The food is not bad, actually good.
It's a bit after 2pm when we start walking towards the car. We probably
leave around 2:15pm, then arrive at the Ajloun castle almost one
hour later at 3:12pm. The entry ticket is 1 JOD. The ruins of the
castle are on top of a hill with excellent views of the surrounding
areas. The castle is very photogenic, both outside and inside. The
rooms are well restored.
We spend one hour at the castle, then start driving back towards Amman.
Initially the Nokia 5800 car navigation system works intermittently,
giving a good dose of nonsensical advice which we ignore. Then, when
are are close to Amman the unit dies completely. Later I find out that
it ran out of battery, even if it was connected to a car battery
charger. Something must be wrong with the car battery charger.
In any case we are stuck in the middle of somewhere in Amman. After
asking a few people for advice we finally manage to be back at the
hotel before 6pm.
In the evening we have dinner, again at the Chinese fast food
restaurant in the Amman mall, then we walk to the nearby Habibas pastry
shop. The pastries look delicious, but are way too sweet. Not as good
as those of Damascus, which contained far less sugar.
Weather: cooler than yesterday - too
cold to run around in a T-shirt. a bit windy. Overcast in the morning,
then the clouds cover opens up in the afternoon. No rain, mostly sunny.
Day spent relaxing and shopping. In the morning I do some search in the
Internet and book a hotel in Petra for three nights. That's the
advantage of travelling with a notebook computer and having wireless
Internet in the hotel room: you can modify your travel plans on short
notice and don't have to plan your trip in detail in advance.
We leave the hotel late, after 11am and take a taxi to the City Mall.
This is an elegant upmarket shopping mall in western Amman not far away
from the hotel Ibis. They sell mostly expensive western goods, lots of
branded stuff. No or very few outlets selling Middle East products.
Adjacent to the mall is a Carrefour hypermarket, where they sell Dead
Sea mud products among other stuff. The mall has a food court with
mostly fast food outlets and a kids recreation area with many games
(although most of the games are for adults).
We shop for a while, have some lunch, then at 2:20pm leave the mall and
take a taxi to the next mall, the Mecca mall. This is very
close to the City mall, almost in walking distance. This mall seems to
be a bit bigger than the City mall, but is not as nicely built as the
City mall, i.e. the architecture is not as elegant. Also this mall
focuses mostly on upmarket branded western goods. I guess here is where
the well-off Ammanis go when they want to buy branded stuff. We spend
almost two hours here, then take a taxi back to the hotel.
In the evening, at 6pm we go to the Amman mall for some dinner and to
buy some groceries. Tomorrow the plan is to do the desert circuit,
visiting the desert castles and a nature reserve in a loop east of