Amman – oh Jordan!

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I decided when I moved back to Europe Jordan would be top of my places to go. Petra and Wadi Rum (the desert) looked absolutely out of this world, and of course, being so close to the Red Sea, I’d want to do some diving as well. So, when the Girls That Scuba email landed in my inbox detailing a trip seeing the main sights AND diving, I thought ‘damn – I have to make this happen!’ Sarah (GTS Founder) had also spent a lot of time the country and I knew she would have organised a great itinerary. To be honest it was her posts & pictures over the years had really, really fuelled my desire to go!

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Within 48 hours I’d managed to secure the last place on the trip, and couldn’t believe I was actually, really, going to Jordan! Fast forward to the end of Sept – many months of planning; organizing my Dive Master course in Komodo, Indonesia, saying goodbye to my hometown – work, friends, the gorgeous city, as I was leaving to move back to London, and most crucially after many months of protesting (the Hong Kong Protests started in June) I was pretty exhausted and emotionally drained.

In all honesty, I was worried how I would be in Jordan. Any pro-democratic Hong Konger can tell you the mental toll the protests were taking. Night after night scrolling on twitter, watching videos of worsening police brutality, the obvious triad/police/Govt collusion (most obviously seen from the attacks at Yuen Long on July 21st) the rule of law seemingly becoming non existent and the Government showing their ineptitude and lack of care for ordinary Hong Kongers – every day, every night, involved shedding tears of despair and anger.

293B71CA-974C-48BB-ACBF-45614577C8C7‘It will be a great break’ – is something I heard often, but you can’t just stop yourself thinking about what’s going on and I couldn’t switch off – and I also didn’t want to, my city was breaking down, and I needed to know what was happening. But I also knew I had to limit my online time, and try my best to enjoy this incredible opportunity to explore a beautiful country I’d been so looking forward to visiting, above and under the water.

 

At the airport I was exhausted and scared. I leant on a few friends who helped me just get one foot in front of the other and I made a last minute booking to a deluxe double room for my first night, as I couldn’t face the idea of a dorm. It wasn’t cheap (but the only room available) and for my sanity, it was worth every Jordanian dinar.

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Arrival was super smooth with a GTS arranged rep to meet me and whisk me through immigration and shortly I was checking in at the Nomads Hotel, very grateful to have my own space. Before going out for a little walk and dinner on the nearby Rainbow Street, I headed up to the rooftop terrace. Wow. The hotel/hostel was great, but this was reason enough to stay here! I sat watching the sun set over Amman, and it’s endless rooftops and hills – spotted the Citadel and the Pillars of Hercules which I would be visiting the next day, and then went off in search of food.

Rainbow Road is the place to hang out, eat and drink. After mooching up and down the street, browsing in a few shops, and people watching I went to the infamous Al Quads for a falafel… returning quickly for a second. So tasty, fresh… and cheap!

Wiped out from what felt like a long emotional day, early bed – eager to explore in the morning!

Breakfast was delicious freshly made hummus & falafel with coffee on the rooftop in the sunshine overlooking Amman. I felt a lot better after a proper nights sleep but was very grateful to have the day to myself to decompress a little before meeting the rest of the group. I headed over to the Citadel by taxi. Situated 850m above sea-level with some buildings dated as far back as AD 161 it was not just the impressive ruins that left me awe inspired, but the roof top views over Amman were incredible.

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From my hotel I could see the Pillars of Hercules would be huge, but until you are standing below them you can’t really grasp how gigantic they really are! I spent a few hours exploring, taking a few breaks just sitting – admiring the rooftops view and people watching below. It was an incredible sight watching a plane flying low over the city.

I then headed off to visit the Ancient Roman Theatre. Exactly as labeled – it was very, very cool standing at the top looking down, imagining what it was like back then. Sitting in the square below I was approached by a man and his son, wanting to say hello and talk a little. They were Syria and had recently made Amman their home, due to the devastating conflicts in their home country.

This was one of the highlights of the day, and mirrored the consistent warmth and hospitality of people in Jordan that I encountered. Slowly meandering towards the hotel through many cute narrow cobbled streets, I also stopped to admire the Grand Husseni Mosque, taking my time chatting to locals at the many, bustling souks (markets.)

I felt completely safe as a solo female traveller, and attention was friendly, with people just eager to say hello. I loved walking through the winding streets, the buildings beautiful, the stairs and archways often beautifully carved.

As a vegan ice cream enthusiast I of course had found a parlour that sold scoops for people like me! The server at first said that they had no dairy free ice cream, but thanks to my stubborn nature, he eventually asked his manager who pointed out the three vegan flavours to me!

Very happy with my cold cone of deliciousness I headed to 7Hills SkatePark. I’d been told about it by a friend who volunteered with Skate Pal (an NGO that works with Palestinian communities to enhance the lives of young people and promote the benefits of skateboarding.) There wasn’t much going on when I arrived – just a small group of boys hanging around, occasionally skating or cycling across the bowls. Still, it was cool to see, and very nice to know that the initiative exists. I know these groups often target young women – trying to help empower them.

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That night I met my soon to be roomie Lindsey for a gorgeous dinner at Sufra. Sat outside in the courtyard the whole experience felt incredibly luxurious, but was at such a reasonable price. We had a great evening, chatting away as if we’d known each other for years – yet also very exciting to swap life stories, experiences and future dreams – no matter how unreachable they might seem (I have in the last few years done many of these ‘unimaginable’ things.. so you need to talk about them.. then make them happen!) This first night set the tone of how it would be with everyone in the group, I could not have been luckier, I just didn’t know it yet!

With time to spare the next day before check in at the group hotel I headed over to Al Pasha Turkish Bath. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but after a jacuzzi, steam room session, exfoliation and massage in a quaint but beautiful traditional Turkish bath I was totally blissed out and headed off for some delicious lunch at Shams El Balad, (can you see a pattern here with the quality of food!) Then went off to check in at the hotel, and meet the rest of the group.

After some welcome drinks on Rainbow Street watching the sunset, we headed back to where I ate lunch – I was more than happy, there were so many things on the menu I had wanted to try!

Looking back it’s crazy to think we’d only know each other a few hours – the conversation flowed so easily – not time for small talk, getting right in there with hilarious stories, worries about diving, thoughts about life – no topic was off limits!We were also joined by Omar, the owner of Diverse Divers, and his friend Saif – who provided us with not only many facts, and also true facts about Jordan!

 

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