Walking down the streets of “Wasat Al Balad”, the old downtown of Amman, you feel like you have stepped back in time. This ancient commercial area is full of hidden treasures and historical landmarks such as The Roman Nymphaeum, The Hashemite Plaza, Amman Citadel, Umayyad Palace and the beautiful Roman theatre, which stands right next to the Odeon.
The town is the hub of markets and local businesses. Make sure you visit “Hashem” for their famous Arabic breakfast which the locals enjoy anytime of the day. Menu items consist of falafels, hummus, moutabel, foul, chilli sauce, omelette, hot fries, rocket salad, black tea with sprigs of mint and of course plenty of hot flatbread. The food arrives promptly and you will see photos of famous people on the wall near the kitchen that have visited the restaurant such as King Abdullah, Queen Rania and radio presenter Mohammad Al Wakeel!
If you are still a bit peckish, men pushing moving carts sell gigantic bread rolls stuffed with boiled eggs, zatar and cheese. Roadside stalls also offer hot chilli corn which you can find almost anywhere in Amman. Freshly squeezed juice is widely available, particularly orange which is in season at the moment. For those with a sweet tooth pressed sugarcane juice quenches the thirst particularly when walking outside in the intense heat.
The stunning Grand Al-Husseini Mosque also known as King Hussein Mosque built in 1924 is right in the heart of the town. It is one of the most extraordinary masjids I have seen in Jordan. The roads are usually jammed packed with cars and taxis sound their horn to indicate that they are available to offer a ride.
Traditional Jordanian women’s dresses are displayed in front of shops, showcasing their colourful patterns as well as men’s traditional headscarves, which are also known as “hatta”.
You can get lost in the fruit and vegetable markets and by lost I mean completely mesmerised. It is a journey in itself! Juicy red strawberries mingle between pearls of sweet grapes, showcasing their vibrancy more so than the cartons sold on the street.
Bunches of bananas hang from shop fronts and a wide assortment of vegetables are displayed under glowing light bulbs. The markets offer bags of seeds, pulses, toasted nuts and dried goods as well as a variety of desserts such as Arabic biscuits, ma’amoul, sugared chickpeas, baklava and Turkish delight. It is paradise for a foodie!
My only warning is that you might pass by a storefront displaying every single type of offal you can imagine- YUCK!!
“Wasat El Balad” is definitely a must-visit for any tourist wanting to learn about Amman’s rich heritage and culture. It is one of the many extraordinary attractions Jordan has to offer!