Where better to start than write about my latest adventure! Not just my latest adventure but my Father’s too! Not only have we not been on holiday together in ooooh about twenty years but I was in charge of all of the organising, eeek! Armed with a Lonely Planet guide book and Trip Advisor at hand and so began the planning. The main reason why people visit Jordan is Petra! (and a week of eating falafel and houmous for breakfast, lunch and dinner for me). Easy jet now fly to Amman three times a week which makes it much more accessible. If only the public transport system in Jordan was just as accessible. Jordan is a tiny country, land locked between Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel. It goes without saying that at present some of these countries are experiencing very hard times. Jordan is seen as a peaceful country and is perfectly safe to travel. Saying that it is always best to keep your eye on the Foreign and Commonwealth website for the current travel advice.
Jordan Tourist Board has a wealth of information about the country and with their online tools helped me to decide where we wanted to visit and even populated an itinerary based on personal interest.
After researching how to get from place to place it became apparent that public transport wasn’t going to be the most flexible way to get round the country. The two most popular ways people tend to visit the country is either on an organised tour, or hire a private driver. Whilst I have been on organised tours before, and made the most amazing friends who I still travel with, the thoughts of having a private driver appealed more incase of any itinerary changes or additions. All in all, it also worked out cheaper in the end. If there are more of you travelling together it becomes even more economical. After some google searches and travel forums researched I found a couple of drivers recommended. I emailed the most popular recommended driver first. He was available, wrote in a professional manner and I hate to say it but I just had a good feeling about it. So Omran Brkawi was hired! I’m not sure how much further some of you may read this so let me say this now – if you want to hire a driver in Jordan, for anything, airport pickups, trip to the Dead Sea, or travelling for an extended time in the county message me and I’ll pass on Omran’s contact details. I cannot recommend him highly enough. He’s not your tour guide, he is your driver, but he will talk to you about his country, about his experiences, show you places which the tour buses won’t stop at. He is respectful, professional and above all he looked after me and my Father like we were a member of his own family. Anyway, enough publicity haha.
So here we go. Hopefully a brief encounter of our Indiana Jones adventure.
DAY ONE Flight: Gatwick to Amman. Accommodation: Toledo Hotel, Amman.
A five hour flight with Easyjet is probably the longest you ever want to spend on the orange airbus! Means to an end ….
Whilst I had a ‘good feeling’ about the driver we (er, I) had hired I was nervous from the outset. Nervous about the huge responsibilty I had taken upon myself – to work out the itinerary, book hotels and get us around the country. I have a huge amount of experience doing such things but I still surprise myself everytime it all works out ok. I think it’s fair to say that Dad sometimes still thinks I’m about 5 not 35 haha. This was one time I especially didn’t want to fail!
Omran was driving for some other people on our arrival day so he sent one of his team to pick us up. For the first time ever, I was greeted at an airport with a sign with my name written on it. Bucket list – tick haha. Our driver called Omran to confirm we had been picked up as planned and I got to speak with him who assured me about the rest of our trip and I felt at ease that the driving part of the trip was going to be a success.
We arrived at the Toledo, set in the ‘heart’ of Amman, on the outskirts of downtown, opposite the old Abdali Bus Station. As alot of the reviews suggested, the lobby certainly didn’t disappoint. Oppulent middle eastern decoration. The staff were professional, curtious and helpful. Our rooms were huge! They were supposed to be single rooms but Dad was given what I would consider a suite! Decoration is a bit dated, but the rooms are clean. Asking at reception where the best falafel served, he of course replied ‘in our restaurant’. On cue the restaurant manager over heard and shortly came back with falafel for me to try. Just to confirm – I had falafel almost every day, sometimes three times a day. The Toledo did in fact serve the best Falafel I tasted all week. This also might be the best time to point out that whilst Jordan considers itself a peaceful country there seems to be a tradition of having airport scanners at the entrance of some of the hotels. It’s a strange affair, but I’m not one to complain, interesting to observe and respected their rules.
The concierge recommended a local restaurant which Dad and I went to investigate. Just a few streets away. The area seems quite residential, but we were obviously just on the outskirts of it. The restaurant – Cabin – was what we would refer to as a local local restaurant. We were the only westerners there. Thursday night is the start of the weekend in Jordan so the restaurant was full of families. We had one of those moments that when you enter it feels like everything goes silent and everyone slowly turns around to stare at you. It’s that split decision what to do – we asked for a table for two and suddenly the sound of the restaurant returned! Unsure what to order I went with the fail safe and ordered what I would do at my local Syrian restaurant in Shepherds Bush. Falafel wrap with houmous and a plate of chips. Dad went with the ‘I’m having what she’s having’ line. Plates of food kept arriving – a salad, various vegetables, pickles, flatbread. Dad and I just shrugged, tucked in and decided whatever we get charged we will just pay expecting the bill to be very much “tourist prices”. A very pleasant chap started talking to us, welcomed us to his country (this is a popular greeting, even when walking down the street, men will stop and welcome us). He offered us a juice, we pleasantly refused, which we realised was against custom but he understood we had just arrived and didn’t seem offended. He use to study in Colchester, Essex. I had literally just visited there the week before so had a nice discussion about the oldest town in England haha. Low and behold our total bill came to about the equivalent of 3 English pounds.
As it was the start of the weekend, there was an unusal sight appearing on the site of the former Adbali Bus Station which my hotel room overlooked. People come from all over to set up market stalls selling second hand clothes and goods. It looked like a vibrant array of colours and I’m sure they were trading through the night. I’ve lived in London for so long that street noise doesn’t bother me, I sometimes find it rather comforting. So the market hustle and bustle didn’t disturb me but if you are a light sleeper it maybe best to ask for a room not overlooking it.
TO BE CONTINUED…….