We were not quite done with Madaba. The girls had a flight back to Singapore in the afternoon, leaving us the whole morning to see Madaba. We continued looking at different sites like the mosaic at one of the Apostles Church, the Archaeology Park, and the Madaba Museum – all these places can be accessed with one joint entrance ticket. Just buy at any of the sites. All these sights are within walking distance from each other, and can be done in under three hours. I thought the Madaba Museum was pretty interesting. Apart from giving you a good view of Madaba Town, they also had costumes and jewellery of the Bedouin. For one, I found out that some Bedouin tattoo their faces. The guy at the Archaeology Park was definitely enthusiastic. He didn’t know much English, but will just say out key words to let you know what you’re looking at. And due to the dust that settled on the mosaic, he’ll without fail, dust off the mosaics and clean them with water, restoring them to their shiny glory for you.
After our whirlwind tour of the remaining sights of Madaba, we took a cab to Amman airport, which was about half an hour away. The girls were going back to Singapore for Christmas, while I was continuing my adventure in the Middle East. I didn’t really miss home for most of the time in Seattle. But seeing them get on the plane made it hard for me – all I wanted to do was to buy the same ticket as them and fly back home!
Anyways, I resisted the temptation, and hopped onto the airport bus to head back to Amman. I think they have busses leaving the airport around every 30 mins, and costs 2 JD. It drops you at a bus station on one of the ring roads. From there, I took a cab that took me to my next hostel – Jordan Tower Amman, which is located on the downtown of Old Amman. This place is a freaking steal! I paid about 8 JD (~12 USD) for a bed in the female dorm, that shared a common bathroom. I definitely lucked out – nobody else checked into the dorm room, so I had it all to myself. Ok, first off – the common areas. They have a TV, complete with sofas, and they also had a separate room, whereby they had walls lined with cushions. It was all colourfully decorated, making it extremely inviting.
Next, my room was definitely very clean, even though there was nothing there but the beds. The common bathroom was also very clean. It was winter, so they actually gave me a portable heater as well. Although they said they only had hot water at certain hours, I didn’t actually run into any problems with the hot water supply. It worked really well, and I had a really nice shower!
They were also really good with tours and arranging transportation. Like Mariam Hotel, they were not really in the business of organizing tours and profiting from them, as much as trying to facilitate tours. Basically, you told them what you want, and if you are part of a group, they’ll get a driver to drive you to where you want. If you are on your own, they would also ask around to see if anyone else wanted to go to the same places, so you can split the cost of transportation. I mainly needed their help for getting around Amman, and both times, they were very happy to write them instructions in Arabic, and also tell the taxi drivers where I wanted to go.
Last thing – their breakfast is amazing. Located in the TV area, although it’s supposed to be until 10 am, they actually serve it later, if you ask. One day, I slept in, and the staff got worried that something might have happened to me, so they checked on me. After I finally crawled out of bed at 11 am, they asked if I wanted to have breakfast, even though breakfast hours were over. Anyway, although it’s not a buffet, they have two options – Western and local. For Western, they have toast, eggs, beans, etc., and for local, they had their local breads, and delightful jams, along with Jordanian tea. I really loved their pastry and jam! Erm, in short, do stay here! It’s just beside the Roman Theater.
After checking in, I did what I do best on my own – roam without a plan. When we first went by Amman briefly on our first night, I didn’t really like it. There’s something about the whiteness of the buildings that turned me off. But beneath all its white buildings, it actually has a quiet, hidden charm, which I discovered, while roaming. Parts of it definitely reminded me of Hong Kong. On the outset, it appears that there’s nothing on the ground level of old downtown Amman, except endless money changers, and shops selling stuff for tourists. But as I just fumbled around, I saw many mysterious doors, which were open to very interesting interiors (so, they are cafes and restaurants). I eventually wandered into one, which had a huge door, stone stairs, and stone interiors. No regrets. I walked into Cafe Jafra, which had some pretty retro stuff, like a retro cash register, and retro film projector. The crowd in Cafe Jafra seem pretty well-heeled, and in their twenties. I chose a spot by the balcony that was overhanging the street, plonked myself down, and proceeded to sip a cuppa, watch the world go by, watch the sun set.
Sitting there, I really had the feeling that I was in any other cosmopolitan city. What conservative Middle East? The one thing I learnt in my travels – people will learn to live the best they can, regardless of the circumstances.
Jordan Tower Hotel
Cafe Jafra from the ground
Downtown Amman from Cafe Jafra
Interior of Cafe Jafra