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Amman, Jordan

Built over seven hills, Amman was the original city of Love, or so the ancient Greeks thought who called it ‘Philadelphia’. Several civilizations including the Ammonites, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Nabataeans, and the Romans (to name a few) have all also contributed to the city whose earliest settlement dates back to 6500BC.

Now home to more then 1.6 million inhabitants, and covering a total of nineteen hills and spreading, it’s also known as ‘the white city’ due to the gleaming white stone from which the city’s buildings are uniformly made.

There is no “city centre” as such and at first it can be a tricky city to get your head around. The various different districts of Amman are rather unimaginatively entitled “1 st circle”, “2nd circle”, “3rd circle”, etc., referring to the aforementioned hills of the city.

Despite it’s historical setting in a region thoroughly drenched in history, due to a series of massive earthquakes, Amman has been almost entirely rebuilt giving it a very “new” appearance, and leaving very little of historical interest to see and do.

The city boasts a mediocre citadel, a couple of museums and quite a nice roman amphitheatre.

However, once you’ve seen the amphitheatres at Jerash, and Petra, not to mentioned the other impressive archaeological sites around the country, those in Amman just don’t seem to cut the mustard.

If there are two things Amman is good at though it’s food and shisha (the Arabian water pipe also known as a hookah, nargila, or hubbly bubbly). There are plenty of cafés serving up decent local cuisine and Arabian ambience. The “Shmeisani” district has an entire street of restaurants and shisha cafes and proves to be a comfortable place for a solitary traveller (man or woman) to kick back with a bit of munch, a water pipe, and a good book.

“Reem El Bawadi” is probably Amman’s largest restaurant, and while the food is not bad, this place could be a tourist attraction in itself. Hundreds of circular tables, Bedouin tents, elaborate water features, and a small man made pond and bridge to boot, all play host to hundreds of wealthy locals, and visiting Arab sheiks from the gulf. It’s a great spot for people watching and seeing how the locals “get down” in a wild frenzy of food, dips, and non-alcoholic beer.

Tariq El Kashef

Tariq El Kashef is the author and editor of – The Online Egypt Travel Guide