Tagging Along with the BRAVE Germans

Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts

I was introduced to a German couple at a Fourth of July party a couple of weeks ago (yes, we attended one, albeit a 4th of July party sans burgers, apple pie, or fireworks). We met up with them again this week for Happy Hour and they invited me to sightsee with them before they return home to Germany next week. Perhaps they took pity on me when I mentioned that I LIVE for weekends when Raj and I venture out, but during the weekdays, I pretty much stick to a schedule of running, laying out/reading, yoga at home, and that’s it. Their game plan was to go to a couple of galleries, a do little shopping, and then relax at a cafe–all things I LOVE!  The best part of all, in addition to getting out and hanging out with anyone other than my dog, was that they hired a driver for the whole day. This may not seem like an extravagance, but given my fears of getting lost amongst streets, neighborhoods and houses that ALL look the same, this sounded perfect.

They picked me up along with our driver, someone who has been driving them around for weeks now, and we were off in search of an art gallery/cafe that was situated in a converted school. It was written up in my German companion’s travel guide as one of the ‘insider, not to be missed’ places of interest. Not surprisingly, our driver, as qualified as any local can be, got lost, but we eventually found it after stopping in a few pharmacies for directions (no convenience stores here, but pharmacies abound on every corner). Unfortunately, we weren’t sure what the place was when we arrived. We walked into a courtyard, gazed into what appeared to be gallery space, exited around the back to a stage, but there was no one there to help us out so we left, confused.

Next stop, the Jordan National Gallery of Art (pictured above). This is a two building gallery, separated across the street by a sculpture park. Lonely Planet ranks it as number 29th out of 146 (random number, I know) things to see and do in Jordan. The Jordan National Gallery of  Fine Arts touts itself as one of the major art museums in the Middle East. It houses a collection of modern art from the developing world and claims to be internationally recognized. The collection comprises over 2000 works including paintings, prints, sculptures, prints, sculptures, photographs, installations, weavings, and ceramics by more than 800 artists from 59 countries mainly in Asia and Africa. The galleries were nice. There was a cool cafe in the second building and I liked seeing the art projects from their kids art camp sprawled ALL over the gallery floor. You’d never see that in a museum in the States. (Note: I don’t think think I’d rank this place as high as Lonely Planet’s #29, maybe 129th.)

Following a quick drink in the cafe, we set off to City Center, the flea market center in the old part of Amman. I was extremely excited about shopping here because I know RAj would NEVER take me shopping in this area–too dangerous, too sketchy, no parking, no need to BUY ANYTHING, SAVE, SAVE, SAVE…Luckily, my brave German companions thought differently.

Sadly, I didn’t buy anything. I don’t need any scrap metal right now, but now I know where I can go when I get a hankering for sugar cane juice. This seems to be a big seller in these parts. There are huge stick of sugar cane (they look like bamboo poles) on the side of the street in buckets that they stick in a machine for what I suppose is a refreshing (calorie laden) drink.

Our last stop was Wild Jordan, the organic/locally sourced cafe that I swooned about in the post on Souk Jara. I ordered a strawberry/orange smoothie and a wonderful apple and flax-seed salad. It was a great day, but I’m sad that my German friends are leaving.

Souk Jara on Rainbow Street, West Amman

Monkey? Mouse? I don’t know. Either way, this adorable, edible creation made of bread was calling to Raj like a siren to a sailor to tempting him with her treats as we walked along the street en route to Souk Jara. Raj stayed strong and was rewarded with dessert later in the evening.

We ventured into Wast Amman on Friday evening, down Rainbow Street (named after the Rainbow Cinema), to Souk Jara, a summertime outdoor market. This area of Amman is home to most of the city’s upscale hotels, restaurants, and nightlife. We walked down Rainbow Street to the souk’s entrance, walking through a narrow corridor of vendors selling everything from homemade soaps, honey, clothing, hand crafted jewelry, baskets, food, and much more. It was crowded and hot and after walking through the souk empty-handed, we were in serious need of food (lest we forget, someone gets hangry and that’s dangerous!).

I had read about a cafe in the area that was highly rated called Wild Jordan, part of the Wild Jordan Center, housed in a chic, steel building. Inside, the center provides information on Jordan’s nature reserves, there’s a nature shop (gift shop with fabulous hand crafted jewelry, handbags, herbal teas and herbs all produced on the reserves), exhibitions, and of course the cafe, known for organic food, drinks, and smoothies (no alcohol, though). The cafe is small; it sits on a balcony that seats only about fifty people, but it offers one of the most spectacular views, looking over the valleys of Downtown and across the way to Roman ruins in the distance. As the sun was setting, the view of the ruins and the emerald-green minarets was magical. The food was good, not exceptional, but well worth the price for the views alone.

We headed back up Rainbow Street at about 10PM in search of a taxi to head home. The street was so crowded that it was difficult to stay together. Everyone and their grandmother were out and about drumming in a drum circle, sitting in cafes eating and smoking shisha, licking ice cream, or just hanging out on street corners. Despite the hordes, it wasn’t sketchy, maybe a little ripe, but not scary. We walked about a mile up towards the hotels and eventually got a cab a made it home to sip on couple glasses of Jordanian wine.

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