Saturday, February 10, 2018

Travel Talk Essential Jordan Tour, Part 1: Amman

Last Christmas holiday, I took a tour with Travel Talk Tours to Jordan, to tick one off my bucket list item: to see Petra! I chose Travel Talk because the dates worked perfectly with the Christmas holiday at work, and it was cheap. Travel Talk frequently has deals (including 50% off last minute tours right now). The base price I paid was $599, although there is an additional local payment of £160 (approximately $215) that you pay on the first day of the tour. The price also doesn't include entrance fees to the attractions, but you can get a Jordan pass for about $100 that also includes the Jordan visa fee, so that's not too bad.

The Essential Jordan tour with Travel Talk is a 7 day tour that takes you to some sites in Amman (the citadel and the Roman theatre), Jerash, Ajloun, Wadi Rum desert, Petra, Dead Sea, and Kerak Caste.
Since talking about the whole tour in one post would be too long, I'll be dividing it up into parts! First is the part surrounding Amman, the capital of Jordan and where you will be flying into.

We stayed at The Art Hotel in downtown Amman (also called Al-Balad). This is the hotel you will spend the most time at, with 2 nights at the beginning of the trip and returning here on the last night. Downtown Amman is a pretty good area to be a tourist in. You can walk to restaurants, small shops selling souvenirs and clothes on the cheap (if you haggle), the market, and some other attractions. The cheap stores help if the airline forgot to transfer your luggage like they did to mine ...
The room was good. It was clean, there was wifi and enough power outlets. The top mattress pad kind of slides though, and if you have a room facing the street, be warned that it will get rather noisy when traffic starts up in the morning!
All the Travel Talk hotels provide free breakfast. Here, it's primarily falafel and hummus. Most of the other meals are not included in the tour, though, which was fine with me. I like going out for food on my own anyway so I can choose exactly where I want to eat.

The best thing about the hotel for me was the proximity to a few great restaurants in Amman!
I first had fresh kunafeh at Kareem's in Watertown, MA and fell in love. Naturally as soon as I woke up, I headed to the most famous kanafe / kunafa shop in Amman, Habibah Sweets. It's a tiny take-out only place on an alleyway in downtown Amman, right near the hotel.
Another famous Amman restaurant is Hashem, which was just diagonal from the hotel. Apparently Hashem is legendary and everyone famous in Jordan has been here for the more-than-50 years the restaurant's been open, the king included.
Hashem has a small and simple menu, but you have to come here for the falafel and hummus while you're in Amman! Plus, it makes for a quick and cheap meal.
I wasn't sure where I wanted to go for dinner, but I knew I wanted to try mansaf, the national dish of Jordan, so I went to Al Quds just a few doors down from the hotel.
Mansaf is lamb cooked in fermented yogurt sauce, served on rice with almonds and a layer of thin flatbread, with some savory yogurt broth on the side.

The second night I went with the other people on the tour to Shams El Balad, a great vegetarian restaurant with a gorgeous patio and a more modern / hip offerings.
Shams El Balad
Grain bowls ... it's like I'm back in LA.
Shams El Balad

If you are looking for some traditional Jordanian sweets / cookies to bring home as souvenirs, or just to eat, Jabri just a couple doors down from the hotel is a great place.

On the last night, I went with some of the other people on the tour to Fakhreldin. This is a fine dining Lebanese restaurant that's very popular (but not too expensive by US standards). Generous portions, too. There were so many things I wanted to try on the menu, but alas, I could only eat so much. Loved the grilled baby pigeon.

On the last full day of the tour, we had a closer look at Amman's popular attractions. The first is the Amman Citadel. This is historical site in the center of Amman that was the site of ancient Rabbath-Ammon. It's been occupied and rebuilt by many rulers, but the main ruin you would see is the Roman Temple of Hercules.
They think an earthquake destroyed the temple, and the Hercules statue - of which only the three fingers in the photo and an elbow remained. Another noteworthy ruin is the Umayyad Palace which was built by the Umayyad Arabs. After the citadel, we also visited the Roman Theater and walked around the market in downtown Amman.

On the second day of the tour we went to visit Ajloun Castle and Jerash ruins, keep an eye out for the second part of my Jordan tour posts!



Great article honey! Keep it up x

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