We had just one day in Amman, the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. More time please! The people were SO friendly, and the food SO good, that I was easily able to overlook the fact that the city's not the most picturesque out there. Though it did have a lot of that boxy architecture that seems to be so endemic to the Middle East.
(View from our place, the Canary Hotel.)
Amman has some very old sights, from when it was Roman Philadelphia. The Roman Theater is well worth a visit, and there's a small attached museum with examples of intricate mosaics, traditional national dress, and jewelry. The necklaces for married women made from cloves were particularly cool.
Hashem Restaurant served us my new favorite hummus in the world. They proclaim themselves to be the oldest restaurant in Amman, having been open since 1956 and operated that whole time by the Turk family.
Though their entrance is down an alley ("Hashem Alley"), the place is hard to miss at lunchtime. Lines are long and tables are full of happy eaters scooping up bowls of various chickpea pastes and ful (garlicky, rich fava spread) with fluffy pita. The ful was good but the hummus was spectacular, with an assist from smooth, fruity Jordanian olive oil.
Along with the dips, Hashem serves hot sauce, plates of raw onion and tomato, raw mint (for tea or chewing) and two types of felafel. You can see the small type peeking out on the left side of the above picture. The other kind is larger, covered with sesame seeds, and stuffed with sauteed onions and peppers.
I'm now totally spoiled for all of these dishes.
Everything was top quality and extremely filling. We skipped dinner that evening.
In this article from the New York Times, I learned that what we ate was exactly what the King of Jordan ate when he visited Hashem. Betcha he liked it just as much as we did. These are often my favorite types of restaurants; casual places that just do a couple of things and do them well.
Another casual eatery coincedentally mentioned in that article is Reem Cafeteria, where Logan went the night we arrived to get lamb sandwiches in pita. They're open 24 hours and there's always a line. Just like Hashem, they have a tiny menu - Reem's is limited to only lamb sandwiches wrapped in pita. Two make a fine meal. The menu is only in Arabic, but Logan found a friendly Jordanian (of whom there are many, many!) to help him out with the ordering.
Amman's souqs are also fascinating places to take a wander. The Palestinian embroidery was particularly beautiful, but I just can't quite see myself wearing one of these gowns.
And, it's date season! (Or it was in late October, when we were in Amman). By the way - fresh dates are so much more delicious here.
There were also bags and bags of plump, fresh olives. We wanted to buy some and brine them, but our room didn't have a bathtub. And we didn't have 2 weeks. Oh well- next time.
And that was our one day in Amman! We presented ourselves at Trust International bus station on Sunday morning to drive to Tel Aviv. Directly across the street was Orange Bank, which had a rather unsettling advertisement on the front. We protect your money from SWAT teams?
Door to door, Amman to Tel Aviv, took seven vehicles, including four shared taxis. No country in the Middle East makes getting to Israel an easy proposition. But for all of that, handoffs and travel went extremely smoothly.
Next up: Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean!