Last night while scanning the internet for a new Indian restaurant to try in Amman, I came across a Lonely Planet post saying: “Through no fault of its own, Amman has become the forgotten city of the Middle East. It is also the most underrated. The streets have ancient monuments and dusty history to rival Cairo, without the grinding traffic or pollution. Its suburbs have a vibrant restaurant and cultural scene to match neighbouring Beirut, but locals have kept it to themselves.”
This is so true. As time passes and I get to know the city a little better, I see that Amman has the thriving city-life that many other places have, but that it seems to be a well-kept secret that only those looking for these experiences find. From varied restaurants to comedy shows to concerts in the ancient Roman Theater (I hope to attend my first one end of April), Amman is home to a host of wonderful experiences. And although it is not a secret per say, Wild Jordan Center is among those many gems.
Until last week, I had avoided Wild Jordan because I had previously read that it is “overpriced”, a “tourist trap”, and a number of other unpleasant things. Not wanting to fork out a large sum of money simply because I was a foreigner in a tourist location, I simply cut Wild Jordan off my list of places to go.
However, after a rather frustrating brunch at Shams al Balad (overpriced, underwhelming, terrible service), my boyfriend and I needed to get some work done. As the internet wasn’t working at home and Wild Jordan was nearby, I suggested we pop by and take a look.
On our first visit we stayed upstairs in a room called “The View” and set up our work stations. True, the tea was a little expensive (at 8 JD for 2 teas you are paying around double what you’d pay elsewhere) but with 360 degree views and glass walls around the entire room you are not paying for the tea, but for the location. The roof also opens and closes, letting sunshine in from above as well as around you. Neither of us could have pictured a better place to work/study from.
Very happy with our first experience, we returned on Thursday after a heavy breakfast at Hashem’s downtown (a must-visit for anyone coming to Jordan just for its atmosphere) because I wanted to try one of Wild Jordan’s green juices and get a little more information about self-guided hikes in the country.
The people at the information center were very helpful and provided me with a lot of information about RSCN (Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature) run parks and areas. They told me that almost every national park or protected area has short or long trails that are available for self-guided hikes, including some through gorges! Excited, I grabbed a few pamphlets and this time headed to the downstairs area called “The Hub”. It seems Her Majesty Queen Rania agrees with our view on Wild Jordan, because when I emerged from the bathroom she was seated in The Hub with a friend for lunch. I was a little surprised, but security let us sit in the same area as well. My boyfriend could not stop looking at Her Majesty in wonder; she is, after all, his queen and he was absolutely smitten.
Perhaps because Her Majesty was present, the service was fantastic and the entire afternoon was pleasant. The views from “The Hub” are almost as wonderful as those upstairs, the juices were delicious and fresh (and at Wild Jordan, all made using local ingredients), and overall very aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. Oh, and the warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream was fantastic!
As time goes by, I find myself continuing to fall in love with this city that, at first glance, seems to have little to offer. I cannot wait to explore the trails that the information desk told me about and to see more of Jordan’s natural scenery. From boardwalks in the wetlands of Azraq to hiking through rivers in Wadi Mujib to forests in Ajloun to rugged desert landscapes in Dana and jeep safaris in Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, it seems Jordan has a lot to offer these upcoming months!
And of course, I won’t stop trying to discover more of Amman, the city that offers more than the eye sees.
Edit: Some corrections have been made in this post based on the comment from the managing group of Wild Jordan Center.
In the original post, I referred to the cafe as “Wild Jordan Cafe”. It has been renamed “Wild Jordan Center”.
In the original post I also mentioned that the place is run by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. The RSCN only owns the center, not the cafe, which is managed by ATICO Fakhreldin.