The Middle-East is the new hub for stopover trips as it connects Europe, America, Africa to the Asian continent. I had several stopovers there but this one is quite special. On a flight between Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur with Royal Jordanian, I had an 8 hours stopover at Amman Airport. Most people see this as the worst part of the trip but I saw it as an opportunity to get out and explore Amman.
I board my flight from Istanbul sending off all my bags to my final destination, Kuala Lumpur and leaving on my small backpack the essentials and the minimum to enjoy a visit of Amman without hassle. When landing, I start to spot southern Lebanese cities, then see the Israeli coast, then Palestinian villages at the West Bank and finally the Dead Sea from above. I was really excited because I knew that what comes next is Jordan. I got super excited because it was my first time coming to the Jordanian capital.
Moroccan men enjoy a visa-free visit to the Kingdom of Jordan. So I was exempt. However, I found it very discriminatory that Moroccan women aged 18 to 35 need to apply for a visa in advance.
On arrival, I was greeted by a sunny end of the afternoon at 5pm. It was about time to head to the city centre. It took me about 40 minute drive from the airport with a driver and a friendly guide. My first stop was the Coptic Orthodox Church on Abdali Street but it was like hitting two birds with one stone as right in front of it stands a grand mosque: the King Abdullah Mosque. By the time I was standing, sun was setting down so it was Maghreb prayer time which coincide with bells ringing from the nearby church. Such a delight for the ears and so, I was officially in the Middle-East again!
My next stop was Paris Circle which is an illuminated roundabout at night with a cute garden. But that wasn’t it. This area is apparently one of the most talked about suburbs in town with some cool shops and restaurants found there.
I took a look at my watch and I notice that I was about 2 hours on my stopover. So that meant 6 more hours before my second flight departs. I was very relaxed as the city’s traffic emptied when we reached 7pm. So we smoothly reached Downtown area known in Arabic as Al-balad, where shops are open until late and where Ammanis come to enjoy a walk, shop and eat. The best thing to eat in the area is probably found at Habibah Sweets, a famous pastries shop in Amman, very crowded from outside as people take their pastries to enjoy at the street. It is without any doubt a place very much enjoyed by locals.
I tried Kunafa which is extremely sweet and made me wonder what were the ingredients but it was too good to stop eating and thinking about what I was actually eating. I had an ecstatic moment to be honest… But being there with my camera, I looked like a tourist but with my Northern African look. It seemed like I was an Arabic speaking tourist, so I enjoyed some chat with some locals who seem very friendly and welcoming!
By this time, I realised that I must comeback to Jordan. It only took me a couple of hours to love this place. But what comes next is surely incredible too!
After visiting Al Hussein Mosque in Al-Balad and the nearby night market, I head to one of Amman’s well-known landmark: The Roman Theatre. As I arrived at night, it was closed but the square around it is so large that from certain angles I could see 70% of the theatre from outside. I was happy I could get a sneak peak.
At 8.30pm, I arrive to Rainbow Street which is meant to be the best place to eat, drink and go out at night. By this time, I was tired and a bit cold so it was time for a well-deserved stop. There are many places to have dinner on this cobblestone street but to eat like a Jordanian, Sufra restaurant is best. I was really impressed by this restaurant which was full of tourists but half the space was also full of Jordanians so it clearly is a favourite place for many locals. The food was so authentic, delicious and festive. The same applies to the atmosphere inside: Middle-Eastern architecture and decoration with a Western zest completed by a playlist from famous Arab singers.
My dinner lasted longer than expected, simply because I wasn’t expecting that much food and as much hospitality. It was around 10.30pm and so it was the end of my stopover and time to get back for my next flight. This was my favourite stopover in the Middle-East ever! Even for only 8 hours in Amman, it felt like I made the most out of it- without even missing my second flight- by having a small preview for my future trip to Jordan.
Disclaimer: This stopover was sponsored by Visit Jordan Tourist Board. Many thanks for organising a full program during my 8 hours stop but opinions stated on this blog post are strictly my own.