Mobile phones
Getting around

Part 2: Amman, Jerash, Ajloun

19.12: Munich -> Amman
20.12: Amman
21.12: Amman -> Jerash -> Ajloun -> Amman
22.12: Amman
23.12: Amman -> Desert castle loop -> Amman
24.12: Amman -> Dead Sea
25.12: Dead Sea
26.12: Dead Sea -> Mt Nebo -> Madaba -> Petra
27.12: Petra
28.12: Petra
29.12: Petra -> Aqaba
30.12: Aqaba
31.12: Aqaba
01.01: Aqaba -> Nuweiba
08.01: Amman
09.01: Amman -> Munich

19.12: Munich -> Amman
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 25C in the room.
Weather: -10C in Munich when we leave, fresh but not cold in Amman in the evening (probably around 10C).

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.

20.12: Amman
Hotel Ibis, Amman. Hot room, like a sauna. 26C 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 15-20C. 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. Wise choice, because taxis are very cheap in Amman (only 2-3 JOD to get to central 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 in Amman.

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 fashionable, 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.

21.12: Amman -> Jerash -> Ajloun -> Amman
Hotel Ibis, 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 in Amman.

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 I was 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 buildings. Some 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 stroller 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.

22.12: Amman
Hotel Ibis, Amman.
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 Amman.

Copyright 2010 Alfred Molon