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Amman, Jordan

Driving into Amman was an interesting experience. It’s a big city. All the buildings are white and/or glass. It’s a modern city with skyscrapers. We found ourselves at another very nice Marriott hotel, but nothing could seem very nice after the previous night at the Al Manara in Aqaba. Once again, I was upgraded to a suite. They also comped me a dinner, so we got to eat free at one of their restaurants. We had some good hamburgers at their sports grill before heading off to bed.

In the morning we had breakfast at the hotel before meeting our guide for the day. We were scheduled to do a tour where we see some cool sites, hear about why they are important, and eat at a few good places around the city. The only problem? It was raining pretty hard and we didn’t have rain gear. But we hopped in the car, hoping the rain would clear out by the time we had to get out.

It didn’t stop raining.

We arrived at our first historic location and it was still pounding rain. Luckily (?) the coffee shop sold really cheap plastic-bag-like single-use ponchos for a high price, which we paid with a smile. The rain was really coming down and our shoes were soaked. I’m not sure the ponchos made much difference.

The Amman Citadel

The Amman Citadel is pretty much right in the middle of town. It’s high on a hill overlooking a main street that used to be a river running through the middle of the city. The river dried up not too long ago and they turned the wash into a big street. Our tour guide told us the city of Amman was basically abandoned for hundreds of years. People didn’t start coming back to the city until almost 1900. It was sill a small town (under 50,000) when Jordan got its independence in 1946. Just 75 years later, Amman is a huge city with about 4 million people. That’s a crazy amount of growth. No wonder they have some traffic issues. Many of the people who are proud Jordanians came to Amman as refugees or had parents who did. That helps explain the pattern of explosive growth, but I still can’t imagine it.

After the Citadel we crossed the big street to enjoy the old Roman theater. We called it the “amphitheater” but our guide corrected us. It’s just a “theater”. He said an amphitheater has two sides. Amphi- means both, so an amphitheater has seating on two sides, not just one. Any theater carved into a hill is just a theater. I now know almost everything I have ever called an amphitheater is really just a theater. Lesson learned.

Theaters in Philadelphia

The Roman Theater was pretty steep and slippery in the rain, but that didn’t stop us from exploring it. We also saw the smaller Odeon Theater right next door. Amman was renamed to Philadelphia when the Nabateans took over in 300 BCE. It was known as Philadelphia for about 900 years. The Nabatean Kingdom was annexed into the Roman Empire in 106 CE. These theaters were then built by the Romans between 100 and 200 CE. They are really fun to see and explore, even in the rain.

Nobody was hungry yet, but it was time for lunch. The food was great. We had a bunch of hummus that reminded me of the time Roe’e told us about sneaking into the West Bank to get tahini to make hummus. It was some of the best hummus we have had and the pitas were also really good. But wait, there’s more. We had piles of desserts that were fantastic. I honestly don’t know how we stuffed so much food down our throats. What a day!

After lunch we visited a local spice shop. It was pretty interesting, but I opted not to buy anything.

The sun finally poked its head out after that. Our guide bought us some sugar cane juice and an avocado smoothie for Charmaine. She wasn’t interested in drinking pure sugar cane. Smart girl.

The expected and basically obligatory souvenir stop was next. They took us to some extremely high-end salt product shop. This is the kind of place where a single bar of soap can set you back $20 to $50. I tried to avoid the samples, since I knew there was zero chance I would be making a purchase of anything. They did eventually get me to try some salt scrub that made my hands feel buttery smooth, but I still wasn’t buying.

After the salt shop we had second lunch. Nobody was remotely hungry, but it was shawarma. How can anyone resist good shawarma? I know I can’t. The rain picked up again almost as soon as we had our shawarma wraps in hand, so we ate them in the van on the way back to our hotel. We pre-arranged to have a late checkout so we would be able to shower before heading out to the airport. Membership has its privileges, as they say.

Unfortunately, we had to fly back to Cairo in order to fly back to Paris in order to fly back to Salt Lake in order to drive back to Saint George to get home. I looked to see if I could modify our flights to skip flying back to Cairo (and Paris!), but it wasn’t possible on Delta. Maybe in the future we’ll fly a different airline or multiple different airlines so we don’t have to retrace all our steps at the end of a trip.

The flight path from Amman to Cairo should be a short direct flight, but that’s not how the politics play out. Instead of flying the straight line from Amman to Cairo, we flew directly south until we were over Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Aqaba before making a sharp turn to the west toward Cairo. Why? Because the airline is not allowed to enter Israeli airspace. That seems really silly to me, but I’m sure it’s not silly to anybody who lives over here. Even with flying two sides of the triangle, it’s still a really short flight.

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