It’s my first time in Jordan! In this Jordan travel diary, I’ll tell you why I wanted to travel to Jordan and about the fun sightseeing trip in Amman.
Press trip to Jordan
First things first, why did I decide to travel to Jordan? As you may know, I have a great passion for long-distance hiking and am always looking for great multi-day hikes. The Jordan Trail has been on my bucket list for quite some time (you might remember my hike on the Arizona Trail). I love hiking in the desert-like areas and the culture seems very interesting. Hiking in the Middle East must be a very different experience than hiking in the US or the Netherlands.
This website is now my full-time job and has attracted quite some visitors over the past years. That’s why I requested a meeting with Visit Jordan at a travel conference in January. After a Zoom call and lots of emails, I got to go on a press trip to Jordan four months later. The plan is to hike a section of the Jordan Trail. I am so grateful for this opportunity and absolutely love my life!
The trip from Amsterdam to Amman
April 29 is the day of my departure to Jordan. It takes me about 3 hours to get from my hometown Groningen to Schiphol (Amsterdam Airport). This is longer than usual, the railways are doing some construction. It doesn’t bother me much, I’m going on an awesome trip!
Fortunately, it all goes well and I arrive at Schiphol on time. I haven’t been able to check in at home, so I have to go to the counter of Royal Jordanian. This is Jordan’s national airline and they offer direct flights from Amsterdam to Amman four times a week. In addition, you can also fly directly to Amman with the Dutch airline Transavia, which goes twice a week.
After waiting about an hour, I’m able to check in and drop off my backpack. It only weighs 8 kilograms, I think it’s the lightest luggage they have to handle today. I could have taken it as carry-on luggage, but I have my trekking poles with me and they are not always allowed in the cabin.
I’m through security in no time and have lunch at Mcdonald’s. Not my first choice, but all the other options were a little too expensive for me haha! Then it’s time to board the plane and I am seated in seat 13J next to the emergency exit. I really like the sear number as my name is Jacoba and my birthday is May 13. Do you think it’s a coincidence?
Arrival in Amman: my first time in Jordan!
The flight takes about four hours and goes pretty smoothly. Occasionally there are warnings of turbulence, but it is not too bad. When the meals are served, there appears to be no vegetarian option, apparently, I should have arranged that in advance, but I didn’t know that. They start looking for an alternative and fortunately, there is one. I get my meal just before landing. Although I have to eat it very fast, it tastes pretty good. At least I won’t arrive in Jordan with an empty stomach!
When I get off the plane, two men are already waiting for me at the gate. What a welcome! I get some sort of VIP treatment. My visa is already arranged and I may even enter the country through the crew and diplomatic desk. That’s really fast! While I’m at the airport, multiple men are coming to greet me, both from Visit Jordan and the Trail Association. I feel really welcome.
My backpack arrives quite fast at the luggage belt and at the exit, I meet Ali, my driver for the week. He arranges a SIM card for me, which is really convenient. This way I can not only keep up with my social media during the trip but also keep in touch with my family and navigate the trail more easily.
From the airport, it’s another half-hour drive to Amman, where I stay at the Bristol Hotel. A luxury five-star hotel near the center and I even get upgraded to a suite. What a wonderful start to this unique journey! I also received a goodie bag from the Jordan Trail that I can finally unpack. A cap, a t-shirt, and a personal trail pass. I’m so excited to start the trail!
By now it’s 11:30 (way past my bedtime), so I quickly jump into bed. I am really curious to see Amman in daylight tomorrow!
Guided tour in Amman
The next morning, I am introduced to typical dishes in Jordan at breakfast. For the most part, I have no idea what it is that I’m eating, but I’m sure that will change in the coming week. In any case, the fresh hummus tastes delicious!
Around 10:30, I check out and Ali picks me up from the hotel. He is quite concerned about my hike and really wants to follow me the whole time I’m hiking. For me, that is not an option. I specifically want to experience what it is like to go on such a trek alone as a woman, which is obviously a completely different experience than hiking with a guide or someone watching me all the time. Besides, everyone keeps telling me that Jordan is very safe, then it should be fine right?
This is the first time I’m experiencing a big cultural difference. I am an independent woman who likes to go out alone and in Jordan, men seem to protect women as much as possible.
We set off and Ali drops me off a little further down the road at a French-looking square called Paris Square. Here I meet guide Anas from Through Local Eyes. He gives tours in Amman that are different from the regular ones. He takes me through downtown Amman and tells extraordinary stories. Not only stories from ancient times but also from today’s Amman. It really feels like I’m out with a local, he seems to know everyone we meet.
During the walk, I see many colorful murals, we visit a special cultural center and get to drink this Hibiscus drink. Ali joins us in the city’s busiest street, we eat kanafeh (a divinely delicious dessert of cheese and pistachio) and wander around at the market. For me, this is a new and very different experience from what ‘m used to. The crowds, the smells, the colors, it’s a feast for all my senses. A fantastic experience.
After the tour, we say goodbye to Anas and Ali takes me to the Citadel of Amman. Located on a high hill, this is one of the most special places in the city. It is a large area full of ruins from the time when Amman was called Philidelphia. I am particularly impressed with the Temple of Hercules and the huge hand next to it. This must have been a huge statue! From the Citadel you also have a great view of the city, I take hundreds of pictures. I never knew that Amman had so many interesting sights!
On to Umm Qais!
Meanwhile, I notice that I can’t really process all the (very interesting) information as much as I did earlier in the day. I’m getting a little tired. And that’s fine because we still have a long ride ahead of us. Ali gets a delicious falafel sandwich at the most popular falafel joint in Amman (even the King of Jordan comes here regularly) and we hit the road.
During the two-hour drive, I am silent. I have a lot to process from the past 24 hours and a great adventure awaits. During the ride, I already catch a glimpse of the hilly landscape I will be hiking through for the next week. I also see many dromedaries, sheep, and goats. Along the road, they sell fresh vegetables and fruits for a fraction of the price you pay in The Netherlands. I will probably eat a lot of that!
Around six o’clock we arrive in Umm Qais. I am staying here at a guesthouse called Beit Al Baraka. I get a huge room with three beds (that was the only one left) and say goodbye to Ali. I briefly consider visiting the famous Roman ruins in the town, but to be honest, I’m just too tired and the complex is almost closed for the day.
I enjoy the beautiful view from the roof terrace of the guest house. From here you can see Syria, Palestine, and even a mountain in Lebanon. Very interesting! Dinner is served in a cozy living room and it tastes really delicious. There is also a group of professors from Boston staying at the guesthouse and over tea we share fun travel stories.
It is a pleasant evening, but by nine o’clock my light goes off. I need to get to my bed. I am really looking forward to the Jordan Trail tomorrow, but somewhere I am also a little scared because the culture here is so different. Still, I have no need for a guide. My two-year-old niece always says “I can do it myself” and that’s how I feel about it. We’ll see tomorrow how it goes!
Continue reading: Hiking the Jordan Trail: from Umm Qais to Ajloun | Trail Journal
See more beautiful images from my trip to Jordan? Check out my Instagram for fun videos and a series of highlights from my stories.
Read more about Jordan
Do you also want to take a trip to Jordan and need practical travel tips? These travel guides are very helpful to prepare for your trip.
The Rough Guide to Jordan (Travel Guide with free eBook)
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