Exploring Northern Jordan | STA Journey Weblog

Tristan Davis (@tristans_expeditions) is a world-traveler, journey author and photographer. He’s presently finding out a Masters in Worldwide Relations at NYU. He’s a vegetarian foodie, road meals aficionado, and lover of artwork, historical past and tradition. 

Not too long ago having explored the lesser-traveled Western Asia whereas finding out Arabic, he’s put collectively an inventory of his must-sees in the event you’re going to the realm your self. 

Exploring Northern Jordan: Amman, Madaba and Jerash

Recognized to the traditional Greeks as ‘Philadelphia’, Amman, Jordan’s capital, is filled with historical ruins, and genuine markets. I spent a month in Amman finding out Arabic final January, and ventured down from Jordan College into the Wasat Balad (Amman’s outdated city heart) each likelihood I obtained.

Beneath are a few of my planning suggestions, favourite spots, in addition to the perfect websites in Amman, and day-trips inside an hour by public transit. The close by cities of Madaba and Jerash are to not be missed on a visit to Amman!

Planning your journey to Jordan

Earlier than going to Jordan, look into getting a ‘JordanPass’, an $80-100 move to all of Jordan’s main websites together with Petra. The JordanPass additionally eliminates the necessity for a Jordanian visa-on-arrival. The worth of Petra + visa charges alone is shut sufficient to the value of the Jordan Move that you could be as nicely get it, even in the event you don’t have time to see all the pieces!

I’d extremely suggest staying within the outdated metropolis at one of many hostels there, as a lot of the websites and museums are concentrated on this space. The nicer lodges and homestays are just a little exterior of the outdated city, however nonetheless shut sufficient. To get to the Wasat Balad from exterior of the outdated city, you may take a shared taxi for simply 50 cents.

Doves flying over Amman’s metropolis heart


The Souk

Close to the oldest mosque within the metropolis, the grand Jama Hussein, Amman’s souk(market) is a real market expertise. That is the place to top off on dried and recent fruit, particularly dates and figs! The recent plums and apricots are undoubtedly a number of the finest I’d ever had, and there are additionally numerous do-it-yourself jams and preserves on the market which make nice items and souvenirs.

The souk’s central location and cheap road meals make it a superb place to seize a snack. Be certain to attempt the manaqish, a Levantine flatbread topped with olive oil and recent za’atar (thyme, sesame, and blended mountain herbs).

For one thing candy, attempt knafe, a candy gooey cheese with phyllo dough, rosewater syrup and diced pistachios. There are dozens of delicately-made Arab desserts, however knafe is without doubt one of the most iconic deserts from the Jordan-Palestine area.

Recent fruit and vegetable in Amman’s foremost souk, close to Jama Hussein

The big variety of Palestinians, Yemenis, Syrians, and Somalis in Amman makes town a cultural melting pot, with all types of various handmade items, artwork, eating places, pastries, and other people from the Center East and Africa.

Along with the produce market, there’s a gold/jewellery souk, and a clothes souk as nicely. You’ll want to cut price, as costs within the souk rely solely on what you’re prepared to pay. Generally, Jordan might be expensive, however the costs on the markets are the perfect within the metropolis.

Amman Citadel and Roman Theatre

Amman’s two most notable historical websites are the Citadel and Roman Theatre, that are shut to one another, and close to the souk as nicely. Begin right here to get a basis of Amman’s historical past, and a view over town.

The Citadel is perched above town, on the best of Amman’s seven hills.

The Temple of Hercules, Amman Citadel

Down under, the Roman Theatre and Nymphaeum (public bathtub and fountain) are additionally price a go to. The huge theatre seats 6000, proof that Philadelphia was a sizeable metropolis in its Roman heyday!

Rainbow Road (Shariya al-Rainbow)

This road and the encircling space is a costlier, expat and hipster space with cafes, file shops, picture galleries, and vintage bookshops. Hang around on Rainbow road lengthy sufficient and it’s possible you’ll catch wind of an underground occasion, or pop-up craft market coming quickly.


Amman’s mosques are small compared to different main Islamic cities, nonetheless, they’re adorned with colourful tiles and bricks, surrounded by hillside gardens, and are undoubtedly price a go to. Whereas staying with my host household, we wearing conventional clothes and went to a unique mosque every Friday. Jordan was the primary Center-Jap nation I visited on the time, and it was a very precious studying expertise for me.

Atop Jebel al-Ashrafiya, the Abu Darwish mosque stands proudly in conventional striped brick. After I was on the Amman Citadel, I observed it within the distance and determined to go to it. Strolling up the hill from Jama Hussein, it took about an hour, however the views of town and the Citadel are unbelievable.

The surreal Abu Darwish mosque

On the prime, I met some actually hospitable Jordanian guys who I spent the night with, ingesting espresso, smoking shisha, going to the mosque, and assembly their households. There aren’t normally vacationers up right here, so matters are low-cost and the persons are real. I extremely suggest visiting Abu Darwish not just for the mosque however for the views and interplay with the locals.

There are a number of different mosques price visiting, however Abu Darwish was my favourite by far. I’d additionally suggest the Blue Mosque, al-Hussein mosque, and Jama Hussein, all of which permit non-muslims in. (At Abu Darwish, you’ll have to enter with a Jordanian in the event you’re a non-muslim. However in the event you’re interested by going inside, most mosque-goers will you invite you.)

The Al-Hussein mosque at night time

Day journeys from Amman

Jerash (1 hour away by bus)

The traditional Greco-Roman metropolis of Gerasa is taken into account to be the best-preserved exterior of Italy and Greece. In my view, visiting Gerasa, Jerash’s outdated metropolis, was a good higher expertise.

The outdated Greco-Roman plaza: Think about it alive and stuffed with retailers and horse-drawn carts!

There have been only a few vacationers, so I spent a number of hours simply wandering across the plazas, amphitheaters, Hippodrome, and wine cellars. The Corinthian columns are so well-preserved, it’s surprising.

There are conventional Jordanian bands who additionally play stay reveals in Gerasa, and some occasions a yr there are jousting matches. I did the dabke, a Levantine circle-dance, with some traditionally-clad employees whereas bagpipers performed some folks tunes… it was quite a lot of enjoyable.

One in every of many somehow-still-standing doorways in Gerasa


Madaba (1 hour away by bus)

Solely 1hr away from Amman by way of public transit, Madaba boasts Greek mosaic ground maps and historic church buildings. I visited for simply someday, which was ample time to see the foremost websites earlier than heading again to Amman.

Church of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist

The story goes that King Herod (son of Herod the Nice) promised his step-daughter/niece Salome that for her birthday, she might have something she wished. Herod had not too long ago married Herodias, Salome’s mom, who had beforehand been the spouse of his brother Herod II (the Romans weren’t so artistic with names).

Salome, below stress from her mom, Herodius, instructed him that for her birthday, she wished the top of Saint John the Baptist. John had not too long ago been imprisoned for talking out towards their marriage, claiming Herod had stolen his brother’s spouse.

So, John the Baptist was beheaded.

View over Madaba from the tower of the Church of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

Saint John is believed to have enormously impressed and baptized Jesus, making him an essential determine in Christianity and Islam, and resulting in the constructing of the church within the late 1890’s. There are secret tunnels below the church, that company are allowed to stroll by. I pulled up water from an historical underground nicely (Moabite period, roughly 3000 years outdated) and the water was ice chilly and completely clear. There’s additionally an ideal view of the small metropolis from the highest of the tower!

Mount Nebo

A brief cab experience from Madaba will take you up the mountain to the nationwide park surrounding Mount Nebo. There’s a church which homes a mosaic exhibit on prime of the mountain. Entry to the exhibit is included within the small entry price to the park.

Within the Bible, it’s mentioned that as Moses was main the Jewish folks by the desert, he regarded over Mount Nebo, and there he noticed the Promised Land. On a transparent day, you may even see the skyscrapers of Amman from Mount Nebo.

View of ‘The Promised Land’

Jordan is one other underrated however genuine and delightful nation to go to, wealthy in Biblical, Greek, Roman, and Arab historical past. Per week on this nation can be an ideal period of time to see the entire main websites in Amman, Madaba, and Jerash, and in addition heading south, to spend a while within the desert. No journey is full with out visiting Wadi Rum and Petra!


Fundamental Arabic phrases (Jordanian Levantine dialect):

  • Whats up (Peace): Salam
  • Good Morning: Sabbah el-khreer
  • Good Night:  Messeh el-khreer
  • How are you?: Kayf ha-lek?
  • How are you? : Kayf ha-lek?
  • I’m nicely (Thank God): Hamdu lilleh
  • What’s new?: Shu Akbar?
  • What’s your title? : Shu Ismek ?
  • My title is: Ismi..
  • I’m misplaced: Ana die-e-aw
  • The place is the…?: Wayn el…
  • Bathroom: hammam
  • Bus station: mahata el autobeese
  • I need : Bidi
  • What is that this? : Shu hathe?
  • How a lot? : Adesh hathe?
  • Sure (formal): nam
  • Yeah: aye-wa
  • No: leh
  • Sorry: asif
  • Please/Excuse me: lao samaht
  • Thanks: shukran
  • Left: yehsar
  • Proper: yameen or shmael (to not be confused with shamael, which suggests North)
  • Straight: dugri, thugri, or el amem
  • Okay: mashi
  • Good: koise
  • Do you converse English?(dialect) Biteki Englizia?
  • I’m a vegetarian: Ana nebehti

Taxi phrases and etiquette: Jordanian dialect

  • While you get into the cab: Salam alaikum
  • I’m going to (the) _____ : Bidi aru illeh (el)
  • Please [Use] the meter: el adad, lao samaht
  • Let me out right here(dialect): bidi enzel hone
  • Thank rather a lot: ya tiki el afia (might God offer you well being)

Arabic numbers

  • 1 wahid
  • 2 ithnayn
  • 3 thelethe
  • 4 arba
  • 5 hamza
  • 6 sitta
  • 7 sabba
  • 8 themaniya
  • 9 tisa’a
  • 10 ashara
  • (Dialect tip: For teenagers: quantity + 10 (ithnosh =12 , hamztosh =15, and so forth.) For 20-90, add the suffix -een)
  • 20 ashreen (two tens)
  • 30 teleteen
  • 40 arba-een
  • 50 hamseen
  • 100 mea
  • 1000 alf

Able to discover this magical Arabian wonderland? Whether or not you’re by yourself or with a good friend, a gaggle tour to Jordan might be the right reply – serving to you to tick off all of the highlights, with a educated information and quite a lot of useful inclusions! 


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