Marhaba, Jordan – a fascinating intro to the Arab world.

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Marhaba‘ was the first word i learned in Arabic, as i set out to explore the mystical, Martian-like land of Jordan.

It means “hello”, and is the most common form of greeting in Jordanian Arabic.

Language to me is an integral part of discovering a new destination. Instead of worrying about not knowing a new language, i make efforts to learn a few local phrases, words and colloquial terms – it goes a long way in making friends anywhere in the world, because people love anyone who even attempts to speak their language. Quote me on that!

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Safety First!

So while my family was worried about me visiting a region which is strife with wars and inhumane acts, i was preparing to understand it better and show them the prettier side of the Arab world. i was also aware that Jordan was very safe, inspite of it’s proximity to war torn regions.

Getting There

Along with fellow bloggers from Mumbai, i set off to Amman, Jordan on the 10th of May, 2016 via Sharjah – we flew Air Arabia and it was a great journey, with a stopover in Sharjah.

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Arrival and Visa On Arrival in Amman was a breeze. Groups visiting through a travel agent or independent (FIT) travelers with a Jordan Pass are exempt from the visa fee. There’s a nominal amount you pay on exiting as a group, but there is no visa fee if you get the Jordan Pass in advance.

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i highly recommend getting the Jordan Pass – it’s great value for money + gets you entry into most tourist spots without having to pay anything extra.

The regular visa fee is JD 40.

Stay Options

Amman has a variety of stay options for everyone – from hostels for budget backpackers to B&Bs like AirBNB and of course, an array of excellent luxury, business hotels, resorts and boutique hotels. We stayed at the very centrally located Crowne Plaza Amman. Look up stay options on Booking.com or Agoda (my usual favorites).

Historic Amman

After a great lunch at Crowne Plaza Amman, we set off to visit the beautiful Amman Citadel and do a quick recce of Amman.

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This magnificent site, a hill with ancient ruins is home to the Temple of Hercules, an Ummayyad Palace and a Byzantine Church. At the foothill of the Citadel lies the 6,000 seat Roman Theatre.

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Because of the city’s modern-day prosperity and temperate climate, almost half of Jordan’s population is concentrated in and around Amman. Not too far from Amman is the refugee area which houses more than 2 million people – a fact that mainstream media often ignores!

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Jerash

The history of the ancient city of Jerash dates back to more than 6,500 years back!

Her golden age came under Roman rule and the site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Recently excavated and restored, it was hidden for centuries in sand… 70 years later, it now reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising of paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.

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Jerash also preserves a subtle blend of East and West beneath its external Graeco-Roman facade. The architecture, religion and languages reflect a process by which two powerful cultures meshed anc coexisted – the Graeco-Roman world of the Mediterranean basin and the ancient traditions of the Arab Orient.

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After soaking in the magnificence and opulent beauty of Jerash, we headed back to downtown Amman for a walk in the fun and foodie heaven, Rainbow Street.

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Rainbow Street was an eclectic mix of tradition and modernism – upbeat music, fancy cars (including a yellow car with the Snapchat logo all over it – not kidding!), delectable aromas and an overall hedonistic vibe about it.

i could have walked and explored this area forever and not got bored – it was instant love!

Dinner at Sufra

While lunch was a hurried affair where i personally didn’t do justice to exploring the local delicacies – dinner was a much more relaxed epicurean feast of the senses.

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Sufra was a warm and welcoming treat which continued the tradition + modernism theme of Rainbow Street. Think ‘bistro meets authentic local fare’.

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Within 5 minutes of being seated, the servers kept the dishes flowing like there was no tomorrow – from appetizing starters to entrees to “i wish i had an extra stomach” main course to a perfectly soothing and not-too-sweet presentation of desserts, Sufra won our hearts with seemingly zero effort.

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Shukran!

That’s “Thank You” in Jordanian Arabic. At the end of just the first day of exploring Jordan / Amman, i was already in love with the place, people, food, culture and lifestyle. Needless to say, i was looking forward to the next 5 days of discovering more of this land i didn’t even know where to find on the map until earlier this year!

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Exotic Gringo (Kaushal Karkhanis)

Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, Kaushal started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'.