Sights & Culture
Downtown Amman is hectic, shops spill out into the streets and street vendors setup tables anywhere there is space. Like many developing nations, similar types of stores seem to cluster together, near the restaurant we at at on our final night is a row of six pet food shops, all selling more or less identical items. I cannot recall seeing a single pet store anywhere else in Amman.
Amman’s previous uptake in tourism, prior to the war in Syria is evident in a numerous souvenir shops selling various tat, generally identical and generally produced in China. Any organised tour you go on will take you to at least one, and the game between vendor and guide, where the guide tells the group before hand he’s going to say what a good deal you get from a particular vendor and you should reply ‘no thanks’ is well understood by all parties, but it persists as there is no such thing as bad publicity.
Downtown has very little in the way of international shopping, this is left to the suburbs and the malls.
Restaurants & Bars
The majority of eating options in downtown are local style restaurants, offering traditional middle eastern food, heavily served with olive oil. Our guide remarked a day without olive oil is not something a Jordanian will ever experience, he himself ensures he starts his day with a shot of olive oil.
The prices are low, the ambience is friendly, boisterous and welcoming and the food is good. Alcohol is almost impossible to get at most restaurants.
Compared to the UK, there are very few bars in Amman, though Books@cafe, a gay bar and nightclub above and through a book store and Sekrab a dive bar with its menu printed on number plates deserve a mention for being opposite ends of the spectrum. Books@cafe has a relaxed up market attitude and, whilst homosexuality is not illegal in Jordan, its not exactly encouraged either, ensuring Books@cafe is low key enough most of my companions had not realised we were in a gay bar until they were told a few days later. Sekrab has a pool table, beer on tap, burgers and is aiming for a US vibe that it never quite hits due to the hookahs and a few other local anachronisms. It is however a fun bar to spent a few hours.
Museums & Galleries
The Jordan Museum
The Jordan Museum is set over two floors and its most famous draw is the Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient documents still hold mysteries and they are remarkable to see.
The museum also has a permanent exhibition on the history of Jordan, with a number of the missing relics from the small museum in Philadelphia on display as well as a wealth of other treasures. Highlighting the long history of this area and the many cultures who have been a dominant force in their development. There is even a statue, thought to be the oldest human representation ever created.
The top floor of the museum is aimed more at children, and goes through a history of famous Arabic people through history, and their contributions to fields as diverse as surgery, mathematics and astronomy. The theme is vaguely reminiscent of Doctor Who with a Tardis like introduction room with a film with Sir Ben Kingsley acting as the narrator and a famous figure of history, which then opens a hidden door to the past. There are a number of interactive displays through this exhibit as well as activities to take part in such as searching the moon or colouring in animals from an ancient bestiary.
Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts
Housed in two buildings on opposite sides of a oval park, the National Gallery of Fine Arts has a focus on local talent and does not crowd the space. The museum is well curated and the pieces are good. On the top floor is a library and cafe space, frequented by local artist and students.