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Amman, Jordan: City of Contrasts


Not only is Amman, Jordan the gateway to the three official UNESCO National Heritage sites, but you're just as likely to find a Bedouin village on the outskirts as enjoy a shopping mall.

Photography by Thomas M. Mueller.

Traveling to Amman

Amman, Jordan is a city with few skyscrapers.

There are two primary ways to get to Jordan from NYC. One is Delta airlines and the other Royal Jordanian Air. The latter has planes that are almost new since they were mostly purchased in the last decade. It also has a good reputation. Unfortunately, Royal Jordanian flies every other day instead of every day, so I opted for Delta’s more frequent schedule over the potentially more comfortable Royal Jordanian flight.


Amman is indeed a city of dichotomies. In the airport, we spotted two women, the older covered head to toe and the other in Western dress with red lacy underpants peeking out over her silky exercise pants, sporting a pony tail, sunglasses and even some body metal.

Upon landing, we went directly to the Dead Sea from the Queen Alia airport since it is about the same distance as to Amman, the capital of the country. This gained us almost an extra day on our tour of Jordan as we didn’t have to travel to Amman and then backtrack to the Dead Sea and more Southern points.

Though Amman’s population has reached one million, the houses are mostly one story and a monotonous light brown. Two skyscrapers have been recently built and they are said to be financed by investors from Dubai. Several shopping malls also make the metropolis seem somewhat Western, though about 75% of the ladies shopping have their heads conservatively covered even while looking thoughtfully into the windows of lingerie shops.

Just outside of this city, modern as it can be, is a Bedouin village, which is situated almost at the entrance to Amman.

An offbeat sightseeing opportunity in Amman

One of the little known delights of the city was Silsal Ceramics. This small factory shop run by Reem Habayeb and her daughter make exquisite sophisticated pieces. One’s natural inclination is to buy immediately because the items are so beautiful. Then, the realization sets in as to how difficult the fragile pieces would be to take back to the States. Unfortunately, shipping is expensive and thereby is not a good alternative. But, simply seeing the merchandise and how it is made is a treat in itself.

“Silsal Ceramics started as a social development project to revive traditional art in the Levant area and empower women artists and artisans,” Reem says. “From a small basement, it has grown to comprise 20 people, all of whom work to produce functional art ware.”

Indeed, most of the workers at the factory were women. One of them rides an hour and a half on a bus every day to work. She is a single mother with children and feels fortunate to have a job.

Planning the trip

The travel agent from Jordan that our friend used to plan our trip was Petra Moon located in Wadi Musa in Southern Jordan. This is the town associated with Petra, the archaeological city famous for its rock cut architecture and Jordan’s most visited tourism attraction. The organization is run by an offbeat-looking American woman who largely delegated the responsibility of our trip to others. The result was marginally satisfactory in terms of an optimal schedule, guide quality and overall design. Nevertheless, we had a worthwhile experience and one that I would recommend, though perhaps with a different company.

For an itinerary for a Jordan trip, visit Go To Tours. The site gives a lot of useful information no matter which tour company you choose.

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