Archive for Amman
Elegance, charm and sophistication are some of the words that spring to mind to describe this five star hotel in the heart the city of Amman, the capital of Jordan, a fascinating city of contrasts.
With stunning views of the city, the 252 rooms present a whole palette of tones and colours and a variety of rich fabrics. All the rooms are spacious and elegantly furnished in a classical style, but if you have the chance, you should opt for one of the suites, or, for that extra special occasion, the Royal Suite, located on the eighteenth floor.
This sumptuous 150 square metre haven has hosted such great names as the late King Hussein and President Mubarak of Egypt. One floor up is the health club and at the very top there’s an indoor pool on the roof terrace — a perfect setting for a bathe and a light meal or a drink while admiring the panoramic view. When it comes to dining, you can choose between the delights on offer at the Al Madafa restaurant, or Trader Vic’s with its tropical ambience, exotic specialities and cocktails accompanied by the live music of a Cuban band. And, of course, the hotel is an ideal location for exploring this fascinating city of contrasts, between the desert and the fertile Jordan Valley.
It’s late at night and the discotheques, music bars and shisha lounges that have sprouted around Amman are buzzing with clients, belying the city’s old image as the sleepy capital of a conservative kingdom.
Jordan’s increasingly young population is helping shape this new scene, a tamer version of the Middle East’s so-called ‘sin city’, Beirut, renowned throughout the Arab world for its lively nightlife.
“You know, 15 years ago you could barely find a taxi after eight in the evening — the streets were mostly empty,” said Sarah, an American and long-time resident of Amman. “But nightlife has changed drastically since I first came in the early 1990s when there were basically two places to go other than the big hotels,” said the public relations executive as she listened to live jazz at Canvas, an upscale restaurant in a historical district of the capital.
Actor Nabil Sawalha, who owned a nightclub called the Cart Wheel in the 1980s, has also noted the difference. “Many years ago, there were very limited places to go out in the city,” Sawalha told AFP. “A few people could afford to go out for partying or dancing once or twice a month. We used to do so and return home by midnight. But now things have changed and partying has become a lifestyle for young people,” he said.
A decade ago, the upmarket west Amman neighbourhood of Abdun was lined exclusively with embassies and the stately villas of the city’s old wealth and newly rich. But the streets now share space with restaurants and cafes sprouting up to cater to a young clientele eager for a taste of Western-style leisure.
Even places in the heart of Amman’s old district, like Rainbow Street, have undergone a facelift, where venues with names like Wild Jordan, Books@cafe and La Calle now draw an intellectual and Bohemian crowd. Driving luxury cars and sporting the latest fashions, many of these young, affluent Jordanians gather almost every night at the chic new spots.
“The new generation has brought new phenomena from the West, created a new atmosphere and started to steadily break free from old traditions and Amman’s old image as a quiet city,” sociologist Seri Nasser of the University of Jordan told AFP
Source: Daily Times Pakistan (http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20102\26\story_26-2-2010_pg9_7)
Sunset on the terrace of Books@Cafe, a combination bookstore, cafe and restaurant in the Jabal Amman district.
“AREN’T you going to check out the terrace?” Madian al-Jazerah said to me.
It was just after sunset on a summer Thursday evening, and we were standing on the sprawling front deck of Books@Cafe, the combination bookstore, cafe and restaurant that Mr. Jazerah owns in the historic neighborhood of Jabal Amman in Jordan’s capital.
“I thought we were on it,” I replied.
Wordlessly he pointed to a door at the back of the cafe, set in a renovated villa just off Rainbow Street. Soon I was making my way through a series of cavernous rooms, all seemingly decorated in the year 1972 with orange, yellow and brown optic stripes or Pop Art flower motifs.
As it turns out, the real terrace was about five times the size of the front deck and populated with about 20 times as many chic young Jordanians lounging under the darkening sky. Giant red lanterns bobbed in the breeze and a sea of tables spread out beneath a canopy of pines. Waiters shuttled cocktails and coffees and tended to the “hubbly bubblies” — nargiles, or water pipes with flavored tobacco — that were being summoned to the tables as the evening wore on.
The moment was an apt metaphor for Amman: if you like what you first see, look a little further and you might get more.
Sadly, many visitors don’t bother to look for much at all. With a host of natural marvels like the Dead Sea and the desert of Wadi Rum, certified wonders of the world like Petra and biblical sites galore, the country’s bustling capital, home to somewhat more than two million residents, is often overlooked.
But treat Amman as a mere way station between destinations and you miss discovering what is perhaps the most pleasant city in the Middle East. Calling a place “pleasant” may seem like faint praise, but in Amman pleasant covers areas like religious tolerance, personal safety, an agreeable climate (at more than 3,000 feet above sea level, Amman is delightful spring, summer and fall) and the availability of French Champagne and excellent sushi. In this strife-torn region, pleasant is no small shakes.
Now, with an influx of wealthy immigrants from Iraq and other Persian Gulf countries and the return of Jordanian expats, it seems the Champagne is just starting to flow. The city’s culinary scene has expanded from its famous shwarma stands and falafel joints (though thankfully the best of these remain) to embrace a host of swank Asian fusion restaurants, intimate French bistros and authentic Italian trattorias. The night-life scene evolves so quickly that hot spots open and close almost before their fabulousness can make it into print in magazines or guidebooks.
“A lot of Jordanians go abroad to study in Europe, the U.K., U.S. and Canada,” said Fadi Jaber, a Jordanian who went to boarding school and college in the United States. “When they come back, they want to recreate the lifestyle they enjoyed abroad. The places now opening would be right at home in London or New York or Montreal because that’s where these kids hung out.”
For one of the world’s oldest cities, Amman is surprisingly modern. After millenniums of being inhabited by Ammonites, Assyrians, Nabateans, Romans, Umayyads and Ottomans, the city was virtually deserted except for Bedouin nomads in the 1800s. Revitalization came with the railroad that passed through Amman on the route linking Damascus and Mecca. But the city really took shape between the 1920s and 1940s as the Kingdom of Jordan became an independent country with Amman as its capital.
So with an architectural legacy that is more Bauhaus than Byzantine, Amman is delightfully unencumbered by the weight of history.
Modern-day Ammanis tend to rank ancient monuments well below air-conditioned cineplexes on their lists of favorite leisure activities. The 6,000-seat Roman theater shares its downtown site with two faded but charming museums displaying Ottoman and Bedouin folk customs. The Archeology Museum in the Citadel is like an Indiana Jones field station, with handwritten labels and portable brass display cabinets.
“You know, visitors mention those museums, but I don’t think people from here ever go to them,” said Rima Mallalah, an artist who runs an offbeat gallery called Love on a Bike.
Ammanis prefer contemporary Jordanian and Arab culture shown at places like Darat al-Funun, a complex of several villas that have been converted into galleries and is run by the charitable Khalid Shoman Foundation. Cutting-edge video installations, photography displays, outdoor films and live performances draw the city’s cultured set.
Spread out over seven hills (the greater Amman area now covers nearly 20), it’s not a walking city but taxis are abundant, inexpensive and will take you almost anywhere — even to Petra, about three hours away — for a negotiated price.
Most of the action is in West Amman, and more important than the seven hills are the eight circles — huge traffic roundabouts that stretch along Zahran Street, the principal east-west artery, and serve as landmarks or virtual addresses for anything near them.
Rainbow Street, just off First Circle, is the nexus of urban cool with art galleries, cafes and the fun Friday flea market called Jara Souk. Nearby is Wild Jordan, the showroom and lively cafe of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, selling products like olive oil soap and silver jewelry made (mostly by women) on the society’s nature reserves.
On your first night in town, Ammanis will send you to Fakhr el-Din to sample a nearly encyclopedic menu of Levantine cuisine. Cross the street for a nightcap in the garden at Grappa, an Italian restaurant in what at first seems to be a private villa, until you discover that spilling down the hillside in the same building are two clubs, Salute and Canvas, with dancing and shots being poured in abundance. The upside of the city’s hilly topography and sugar-cube architecture are the myriad roof terraces with wide-open vistas.
On your second night, Ammanis will start talking sushi. With an elegantly sleek décor and (surprise) huge terrace, the new pan-Asian Yoshi has been a hot spot, serving updated versions of classics like crab Rangoon alongside the futomaki and other artfully prepared sushi.
Abdoun Circle (not one of the eight) is the heart of the city’s thriving night life where the chicest clubs maintain a strict “couples only” policy, meaning no unescorted men. One of the trendiest clubs of the moment is Flow, which puts some extra groove on its dance floor with a mix of hip-hop and R&B. The busiest nights are Thursdays and don’t bother going before midnight.
Daytime fun, especially if you brought the children, can be found at the King Hussein Park where the late king’s impressive car collection is on view, ranging from sleek Ferraris to the armored Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost used by Lawrence of Arabia. Next door, the Children’s Museum has flight simulators and a sandbox filled with mock archaeological finds. (Both attractions are open on Fridays — a day of rest in mostly Muslim Jordan — when many other sites are not.)
These days Amman itself is a bit like a sandbox. As Mr. Jazerah of Books@Cafe points out: “If you’re willing to dig around and let this city surprise you, it will.”
Source: New York Times (http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/travel/22next.html)