By Alexandra Hamilton, ISA Student Services Advisor
When the sun rises over the seven hills of Amman, Jordan, the warm colors of the sandstone buildings and houses glisten just as bright as the skyscrapers that pierce the cloudless sky. This is the perfect way to describe Amman – a city where the past blends seamlessly with the present. Here are some examples of the modern and traditional tapestry that is Amman, Jordan.
Antiquity: Hashem Restaurant
Nestled in the heart of downtown Amman, Hashem Restaurant is known as the oldest restaurant in Jordan. This longevity is due in part to the traditional and flavorful menu, but also due to the restaurant’s focus on community meals. Community is the cornerstone of the Jordanian society and Hashem’s diverse customers showcase all aspects of Jordanian life. Hashem’s menu boasts Levantine classics such as hummus, labeneh (yogurt), foul (beans) and falafel. These staples are paired with piles of fluffy, fresh hobz (bread) and incredibly refreshing mint tea. Not to be confused with the brick and mortar restaurants of modern day, Hashem Restaurant encompasses a small alley. The open-air ceilings combined with the open design plan allow for plenty of hungry Jordanians, expats and tourists alike to break bread and soak up traditional Jordanian culture.
Modernity: Café Hanin
Serving up Levantine cuisine with a dash of modern sophistication, Café Hanin represents a revamped tribute to Jordanian traditionalism. A Jordanian chain, Café Hanin has multiple locations in malls and upscale shopping districts all across Amman. The menu boasts stylish mana’eesh (flatbreads), fresh-squeezed juices and assorted flavors of aargileh (hookah). Café Hanin also offers unique twists on Jordanian classics – such as knafeh cheesecake and shawarma sliders. This spin on traditional Jordanian culture also translates to the café’s décor and much like Hashem Restaurant, Café Hanin also focuses on community. Here, you can see an ousra (family) share a meal after salat jumaa (Friday prayer) or watch a couple of Jordanian business men cut a deal over a pitcher of limoun wa naa naa (Lemon and mint juice).
Antiquity: Souq Abdali
Souq Abdali is the place to go for second-hand clothes, housewares and more. Not only can you find and buy almost anything your heart desires, but you will also be immersed in a weekend event that is quintessential Amman. The Souq recently moved to Ras Al Ain and the market is now walking distance from downtown Amman. Souq Abdali is open from Thursday evening until Friday night and it is a great place to practice your Arabic and try your hand at haggling. From the eclectic graffiti on the surrounding walls to the vendors announcing their fabulous deals, Souq Abdali will stimulate all of your senses and will not put a dent in your pocketbook!
Modernity: Taj Mall
Located in trendy Abdoun, Taj Mall houses Amman’s chicest retailers. At Taj Mall, you can find all of your creature comforts from home- GAP, H&M and even Pinkberry! Although Taj Mall is modern in every sense of the word, much like Café Hanin, Taj Mall also seeks to build upon Jordanian traditionalism. This idea can be seen from the variety of stores inside, but also from the stunning design of the mall itself. From the outside, Taj Mall blends the modern glass and steel fixtures of today with the classic, Jordanian stone architecture reminiscent of the exquisite desert castles in Ajloun and Karak. Inside, amidst the fabulous selection of designer stores, you can also find boutiques that sell revamped versions of traditional garments- such as the jalabiyeh and the thobe. Although Taj Mall may not be the best environment for practicing your Arabic, there are numerous cafes inside that provide you with all of the Wifi and ambiance that you will need to crank out that paper on thaqafa ourdouniyah (Jordanian culture).
Antiquity: The Roman Amphitheatre
Since the 1st century BC, the Roman Amphitheatre has hosted some of Amman’s most thrilling performances and events. From ancient Roman gladiators to modern hip hop dance competitions, the ever-changing event calendar has truly stood the test of time. The Roman Amphitheatre, or Musrah Romaniya, is located in downtown Amman and is a short downhill climb from the equally historic Jabal Al- Qasr (The Citadel). During the day, the amphitheater primarily functions as a tourist attraction- but at night, this ancient wonder hosts concerts, sporting events and more!
Modernity: The Rainbow Art House Theatre
Established in 1954, the Rainbow Art House Theatre is a perfect fusion of classic and modern entertainment. Known as Musrah Rainbow to the locals, the Rainbow Art House Theatre hosts film festivals with genres that range from the golden age of Arab cinema to independent films that document life in refugee camps. During the o’tla (weekend), this iconic venue also features live performances from local comedians and musicians. The Rainbow Art House Theatre is located on Rainbow Street and it is a great place to rub elbows with Amman’s artistic elite or simply relax after a long day of classes.
Explore these locations yourself, during a study abroad semester in Jordan!