As many other cities in the region, Amman can count its history back to the Neolithic period. It is known for spanning over seven hills, though today that number has increased to 19 hills as the city has rapidly expanded since the mid-20th century.
It became a capital in 1921 when Abdullah I made it the centre of the Emirate of Transjordan, and turned into a large city with the influx of Palestinian refugees in 1948.
My friend lives in a newer area of Amman close to a fancy shopping mall and a Starbucks. Half the houses on the street are still being build and you can feel the constant expansion of Amman as you look around.
It seems as if small enclaves are build in the dry and hilly area. So much empty space lies between the different areas. On the side of the buildings and down the hill on which they lie, garbage lies in the sun giving off an awful odour. The idea of collecting garbage seems non-existent out here.
Amman is not a particularly charming city and except from a Roman Theatre and a citadel which includes a Temple of Hercules and a Byzantine Church, the city doesn’t offer much in terms of tourist attractions, but it is real. That is, it is authentic. So much hustle and bustle in the dirty streets.
In the run-down centre near the main mosque an old man with a large teapot bows to a customer assuring a constant stream of tea. Near the Roman Theatre women are buying spices and vegetables. It all seems so oriental in the way life proceeds here. And then you walk up Rainbow Street, which could just as easily have been a street in the artistic areas of Toronto. Amman might not be pretty, but it has hidden depths that are worth the visit.
At the Roman Ruins I am approach by two young guys who ask me to assist them in a radio play for a local radio station. In the play, I have to ask one of them to borrow his mobile with which I have to call the radio station. For the life of me I can’t remember the name of the radio station, but perhaps some unlucky person will have to hear my shrilling voice in between the exotic rhythms of Middle Eastern music.
Luxury at the Dead Sea
But our days with my friend in Amman did not start out with a trip to the centre. It was Friday and everyone was off work, leaving behind the stifle of Amman for the magnificence of the Dead Sea.
My friend and her husband had convinced us to spent our money on a day of luxury at the Mövenpick Resort which lies out to the Dead Sea.
This is where well-off people and foreign diplomats spend their time off when the weather becomes to unbearable. It is also where noisy American soldiers try to charm young beautiful Jordanian girls when they are on leave. To me it was the perfect end to an amazing journey through Israel, Palestine and Jordan.
The best part however was our drive to the Dead Sea. From my visit to Baku I have former experience with the strangeness of Middle Eastern driving. Jordan was no different.
My friend and her husband drive on diplomatic plates, which has its perks. However, on this day the police requested for us to pull over as we drove down the highway towards the sea. Why they did so would be anyone’s guess as we were not speeding.
Another car had been pulled over and the owner was – to say it mildly – furious. He was yelling and cursing at the police for a good five minutes before he – red-faced – decided to park his car in the middle of the highway thus blocking two of the three lanes.
At that point the police officer checking our papers made the gesture that we should just leave, before he joined his colleagues in attempting to end the situation with the pissed-off car owner.
We just managed to speed around on the final existing lane before a bottle neck was created, and as I looked out the back window it was no surprise to see that the owner was still angrily yelling at the police while they were in all sorts of confusion about how to proceed.
As we finally reached the sea I couldn’t help feeling sorry for all the people caught in the bottle neck at the highway behind us, feeling the heat in their cars as they waited to get to the salty waters of the Dead Sea. But that thought was quickly forgotten as we spent the day dipping ourselves in the Dead Sea and enjoying the Mövenpick pool.
Amman is the final stop on our tour around Israel, Palestine and Jordan. It has been an amazing trip, full of exciting experiences and except for 400 pictures lost in Tel Aviv, we will bring back lots of amazing memories. Memories of people, of places, of knowledge about cultures and civilizations past, and of new discoveries about dead seas as well as living coral reefs.
Until next time