Someone in Cairo suggested that Amman was a bit bland, but I guess compared to Cairo, everywhere is a little bland. It probably is, in the same way that life would seem bland if you had spent a couple of years sharing a cell with Mr Big and he insisted you were Mummy in the nightly game of Mummies and Daddies. A bit bland can be good.
Perhaps what he meant by bland is that the roads mostly work in the way you would expect them (people stay in lanes, use headlights at night, stop at roundabouts etc…….. mostly), the shops work like shops (you buy something that isn’t horribly inflated due to your foreignness so that you end up paying for a bottle of water the same a local would pay for a comfortable flat overlooking the Nile), and whilst Amman’s streets are no stranger to rubbish, they are a world away from Cairo’s levels of the stuff.
.We liked it immediately and it grew on us even more when we went to the suburb of Al Rjoum for an art tour that we’d found on Airbnb. From an art perspective, the tour was interesting, visiting 4 galleries in places that you wouldn’t stumble upon, displaying a mix of established and new local artists. The best bit was a guided wander through a quiet, old, low rise suburb that made us think ‘We could live here’. We were completely relaxed and felt slightly heady as it was so far away from the Cairo experience
On that tour was one other person, a man called Mike, who had moved to Amman three weeks before for a job in the airline industry. He had been working for airlines for most of his career and we had another small world moment.
One of my most vivid memories is a day in 2003, shortly after we had secured Basra in Iraq, when Richard Branson flew in on a Virgin 747 to the airport as a symbol that the mission had been achieved (and we latter learned just how wrong we were). As an aside, I got to meet and brief Richard B, a bit of a hero of mine.
Whilst the plane was on the ground, we managed to get our hands on some Stella beer from the plane and put it into the fridge normally reserved for the photographers films. That evening a few of us sat on the roof of the airport, drinking Stella that will never again taste so good. It had been a long and challenging gap between drinks. We pretended that we were in Venice, that the dark desert was the lagoon and the lights of Zubayr were Marghera on the Italian mainland.
It was a night I will always remember. It turns out that Mike organised that flight and was on it. He took the 747 photo. We like Mike!!ii’
That evening we had another Airbnb experience that made us feel at home: a wine tasting. Again, the experience wasn’t great as it was basically going to a wine bar, picking three wines from a wine menu and drinking them. No explanation. No notes. Just wine. It was also relatively inexpensive for Jordan.
The wines were from a vineyard called Jordan River and we liked them all. Later someone explained to us that this was more to do with the length of time we had been drinking Egyptian wine, rather than it being a true reflection of quality. Then again, the FTs ain’t that fussy.
On the subject of booze, mostly it is a hog-snarlingly expensive here. From a bottlo, a cheap bottle of local wine is about AU$20. A bottle of European wine that would cost €5 is about €25. It is completely ridiculous in hotel bars. We decided our budget could stretch to a couple of beers in The Mövenpick in Petra as it was only AU$10 for each beer during the 2 for the price of one happy hour. So ultimately, with prices like this, the FTs will never live here.
We ate reasonably well, and I discovered a love for Shwama, for its meat content, availability and comparative cheapness.
We also got to wander around a western type shopping mall (the novelty wore off v quickly and we remembered we don’t like shopping malls) and had a lovely afternoon in a cinema watching A Star is Born, in English with Arabic subtitles, in an almost deserted modern cinema. I prefer movies with a happy ending……..
And then we headed south to Petra.