8 Things You’ll Want to Know About Amman

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Some of the crispiest and most flavorful falafel you’ll ever eat comes from Abu Jbara, near Second Circle.

1 – The best falafel is found not at Hashem but at Abu Jbara (not the chain) off of Second Circle, behind the Belle Vue hotel. Their crispy little nuggets contain even more spice and flavor than Hashem’s, and they serve equally tasty hummus, mutabbal, and the like. What’s a bit odd is that if you sit indoors, you have to buy the falafel yourself from the shop next door, whereas if you sit outside, sometimes servers will bring it to you. It is worth the minor hassle, though.

2 – It is possible to run outdoors. Just go early, at 6 am, before the traffic and hordes of school kids come out. Also, wear as much as clothing possible. Certain areas of Amman are easier to run in than others, and you will probably get hollered at, but it’s not impossible to enjoy an early morning jog. If you can find others to run with, that’s even better.

3 – You don’t have to take taxis everywhere. Buses and servees (shared) taxis are plentiful and at no more than half a JD per ride, much, much cheaper than taxis. They travel along fixed routes and will pick up/drop off anywhere along the way. For women, being in a service taxi or bus can feel safer than being alone in a taxi with a creepy driver. Perk: You are forced to practice your Arabic, both reading and spoken, to know where the bus or servees is going. Drawback: A difficult system to navigate if you don’t have Arabic.

4 – Those narrow stairs out of the Balad may actually lead somewhere. The fastest route is usually the most direct, and although doing so is more strenuous, taking stairs that go straight up the side of the Citadel hill, or Weibdeh, or Jabal Amman, can save you a lot of winding around hairpin curves on foot. Know your stairs: More modern steps with signs or metal edges are typically municipal and do lead to a road somewhere. If the stairs are particularly dilapidated, question whether they could be a residential route leading to nowhere useful for you. So exercise judgment, or explore when you know you have the time to get lost. At the very least, your gluteus maximus will get a workout.

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Municipal stairs climbing straight up the southern side of Jabal Amman.

5 – Cool places exist away from Rainbow Street and Jabal Amman or Jabal Weibdeh, although those areas are still lovely. Toss a frisbee or take a jog around the back end of King Hussein Park, which is across from City Mall, or explore popular cafes and restaurants on Gardens, Mecca, or Medina Street, including but not limited to: an Iraqi fish restaurant or a grilled meat stand (Gardens), any rooftop cafe (Mecca), or an excellent seafood restaurant or famous Syrian ice cream parlor (Medina).

6 – You don’t have to drink Amstel every time you go out. Carakale is a local beer that became commercially available in late 2013. Right now they have a blonde ale and plans to introduce more complex microbrews after this year. The beer is sold in many liquor stores as well as bars and restaurants. Its royal cat logo is kind of cool, too.

7 – Abdali market is not the only place to find cheap, used, and sometimes high quality clothes and shoes. Walk straight through the vegetable souk downtown and go behind the Husseini mosque. You will find several stores that abide by the same philosophy as the Friday market, only they are somehow even cheaper and not nearly so overwhelming. Most amazing purchasing so far? Barely used genuine Birkenstock clogs for 1 JD.

8 – Eat ka’ak, the sesame kind. Some of the best sandwiches in Amman are the most simple: oven-baked eggs with spices, wedges of cheese, and za’atar, all on a sesame-encrusted roll (hot from the oven, if you go to the right place). You can buy these sandwiches from street stands, where they are made in front of you, or stop off at a hole-in-the-wall bakery and make your own. Two locations you can try include bakeries in Abdali, down from the buses, or Amir Moheid Street off of Third Circle.

This article is cross-posted on humanitycanwait.com.

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